Did you know if you cover your entire body with enough layers, you get instant self-respect? That’s what some people would have us believe by saying things like, “if you wear short skirts, you have no self-respect”.
Let’s get real here: self-respect is not measured by the length of our skirts. It’s not measured by how many people we’ve slept with, either. These are both very personal decisions that may factor into your own evaluation of your self-respect, but make no mistake, what someone wears or their “number” has nothing to do with the respect they have for themselves.
To put it simply, self-respect is how you evaluate your worth and how you like yourself. It’s usually based on what you do, while self-esteem is generally based on what you think; for some, like me, these two ideas work together to formulate how we feel about ourselves overall.
For me, self-respect is being honest with what I do. Being honest with myself is very important in that it ensures I remain true to my integrity. This means I’m being true to myself and not an idealized version of myself. To implement this in your own life, be aware of what actually works for you versus what you wish worked. If you know social gatherings make you feel uncomfortable, decide whether it might be better for you to attend with someone you know, avoid it all together, or tackle it head on. If someone around you makes a rude joke (whether it be about sexism, racism, or another form of bigotry), know that it’s okay to speak up right then and say you don’t appreciate it, just as it’s fine to approach them later after you’ve had some time to process things. As long as you are staying true to what feels right for you, then you’re maintaining a sense of personal morals. Self-respect about being true to your integrity and dignity, whatever that may be. You know what you are worthy of, and only you know what you need.
I encourage you to make decisions based on what will make you happy. These things can’t be evaluated by others, regardless of how they may try. Don’t worry about what your mother or your significant other or your best friends think – what makes you feel good? If you wear an outfit, it doesn’t matter if others like it. All that matters is that it makes you feel happy and worthy in your own mind.
It can be challenging, but maintaining self-respect stems from doing the things that feel natural and right to us. Will the things that feel good to you be the same as someone else? No. And that’s totally fine. Be mindful of whether each decision you make builds your perception of your worth or diminishes it. Sometimes it will be the latter. Whatever it is, try not to be too hard on yourself. Self-loathing is a terrible road and all of these self-isms can leave you terribly confused.
In life, you will make mistakes, many of which will have a lesson attached. If you do something that alters your self-respect, evaluate, make corrections, and go on trying to love yourself. No one can measure your self-respect, or tell you how to feel, or make you abide to their rules. Just be honest with what makes YOU feel worthy, dignified, and happy and follow that road!