I feel that growing up, we are conditioned to care a lot about pleasing others. This is not so much an explicit goal of our guardians, but a byproduct of how we are raised. We have to fit in with society, please our parents, please our teachers/bosses, do what is expected of us, not get into trouble and conflict, and get along with everyone else.
I fully advocate treating others with respect, but I think that a lot young people are not taught enough how to turn that respect on themselves. When I was young, what I heard most about was the difference between good and bad (with their arbitrary meanings), the difference between success and failure, and the difference between like and dislike. I was taught how to keep up with desired standards. I was also told to “respect the people around me”, but not one person ever bothered to explain to me what “respect” meant.
I used to have low self-esteem. But even kids who are not chronically down on themselves go through periods of self-doubt: when they fail to accomplish something; when they feel socially excluded; when someone mistreats them; when someone they love/care about disappoints them or betrays their trust.
It is so easy to internalize negative feelings and experiences that we forget to treat ourselves well. We forget that we deserve what we want as much as anyone else does. We forget that we can always improve. We forget to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and flaws, while we so readily forgive people we love to the point of prioritizing them above us.
Remember: The first person to love you unconditionally should always be you.
Here is a list of how respecting myself improved many situations for me:
1.) I don’t feel victimized by other people’s bad intentions.
Whenever someone else says something rude and disrespectful about me, I no longer take it personally or get too butthurt about it. This is because I have no reason to weigh everyone’s opinions equally in how I evaluate myself. If someone genuinely wanted you to improve, they would criticize you respectfully, not trash you and try to bring you down.
Even those with more power over you – your boss, someone who is older, someone with more friends, or someone with more wealth – are not justified in mistreating you.
2.) I am no longer afraid of failing.
If and when I fail miserably, (such as flunking a test or not getting called back for an interview), I reevaluate my approach. I no longer over-identify with my failures, or even my successes, as a testament to how much I’m worth. I don’t extrapolate failures to believe I’m doomed for eternity. Rather, both successes and failures are always a result of what I do. I enjoy the learning process and continue to challenge myself.
3.) I don’t feel threatened by other people’s good fortune.
When someone else has something I don’t have but strongly desire, I understand the source of my envy. However, I don’t waste time loathing myself or the person I currently envy. If anything, I use it as motivation.
A lot of people become easily deterred by false “signs” that they don’t deserve to pursue what they want, such as their dream job, a pretty girl/cute guy they want to date, or a fulfilling relationship. Their friend might express a sliver of doubt in their ability to get into medical school, and they lose confidence in their abilities altogether. They over think and trick themselves into believing that the girl/guy they like won’t like them back, and then don’t make a move to begin with. They always assume the worst and let their fears discourage them.
It is okay to pursue what you desire, although you will have to work hard for it. Fortune rarely falls onto people’s laps. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks.
5.) I don’t let romantic losses change how I feel about myself.
When a guy rejects me or does not reciprocate my feelings, I don’t stop loving myself. It is a bruise to the ego that can be soothed with chocolate and a bubble bath (or whatever it is that makes you feel better.) This applies to men, too. Don’t take it too hard if a girl you like doesn’t like you back. Keep looking.
This also applies if someone you are dating mistreats you or cheats on you. Sometimes, people betray our trust. You do not deserve to be treated like this and don’t think less of yourself when it happens to you.
5.) I no longer obsess over my looks.
I still always try to look my best. I take care of myself, exercise, eat right, and dress nicely. But like some of the other things I mention on this list, I don’t attach too much value to my physical traits. Constantly obsessing about your looks won’t make you happy. People who truly love and accept you won’t do so because of your looks and other possessions. Treat yourself the same way.
6.) I don’t pity myself every time something bad and out of my control happens to me.
Regretting every bad thing that happens to you will keep you perpetually upset. Which brings us to…
7.) I realize that I am not the only one who experiences ups and downs in life.
Everyone does! No one’s life is perfect, even if it may seem that way. People just don’t advertise their problems. Why should we? We are trying to forget them! Be grateful for the positives and chill out.
In conclusion, how much you like yourself should never be contingent with how other people treat you. Always treat yourself well. You deserve to be as happy and confident as everyone else just because you are a human being.
– Respecting yourself is not the same as thinking you automatically deserve more privilege than everyone else. This is the exact opposite of feeling inferior to everyone else. It results in you despising others – another negative mindset.
– On the other hand, prioritizing your own needs and emotional health over your job, boss, or some other person does not make you selfish. You have every right to take care of yourself. There are some people who will make patronizing comments and try to make you feel guilty every time you do something to better yourself. These people obviously do not want what is best for you. It is always good to be generous and altruistic, but not at your expense. There are people who will take advantage of your good intentions.
– Treating everyone with respect does not mean you have to like or tolerate everyone. There is a difference between showing respect and actually having respect for someone else. It is okay to politely call out someone’s bad behavior if need be. However, treat others the way you want to be treated; and respect yourself the same way you would respect others.
– Self-respect won’t make you immune to negative feelings. It will significantly reduce the emotional impact of problems you come across, and make you less likely to fall into depression. It is okay to feel initially hurt and disturbed by negative behavior and comments, but don’t let those feelings stay with you. Ignore them and let them expire.
I also recommend reading How to Respect Yourself and How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex, and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps