Self-respect is too often a misunderstood but vital component to living a healthy and happy life.
I’ll be the first to tell you, I had little self-respect for a number of years. Hindsight is 20/20 though. I think a lot of people fall into the same traps that I did. The overwhelming need to fit in and be loved can sometimes come with sacrificing yourself because you feel like you have to. You don’t! And you shouldn’t!
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I felt the need to address something romance related. Truth be told, I could care less about Valentine’s Day, as could my husband. He usually gets me flowers because I do love them but he told me not this year and I said that’s fine. They jack up the prices, I’d rather have the money for something we might actually enjoy. Like a meal, I don’t have to cook or clean up.
I thought about relationship advice (overdone), facts about Valentine’s Day (boring), and how you should celebrate your significant other every chance you get, not just on one day. When the dust settled though, I saw the overwhelming theme was self-respect.
What does self-respect have to do with Valentine’s Day?
As previously stated, I had little self-respect. In fact, when my husband met me I was a train wreck. So was he, but you can read a bit more about me later. My husband actually helped me learn a lot about self-respect. How? By respecting me first.
Without bogging you down with details I can suffice to say that I was not treated with respect growing up. Often my needs, wants, and desires were met with indifference or direct opposition. It made me internalize that my feelings were insignificant, so I stopped having them.
Eager to please, I kept my voice to myself and when given direction I followed. If I didn’t I was punished. Abuse can take many forms, but I wouldn’t be me without it.
The point being, some folks are in relationships that aren’t mutually respectful, yet they feel as if they cannot leave. Though there are likely going to be consequences, self-respect allows you to handle them with stride. You are equally as important as your partner, relationships are two way streets. If Valentine’s Day has you in knots because you feel as if the scales are tipped to far one way, don’t continue to put up with it.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the best thing to do.
Not all tipped scales are abuse either though. There have been many a disagreement or misunderstanding at the beginning of my relationship with my husband because neither of us knew exactly how to communicate with the other yet. I would allow him to get his way while I silently fumed. Only to discover that had I only spoken up, he was more than willing to let me have my way if he’d known it. No one is a mind reader.
Communication is vital to every relationship, both with yourself and another person. If you can’t get honest with yourself, you can’t with someone else. Self-respect is the key to the doorway that opens the lines of communication.
Those times that I sat and silently fumed at whatever he’d done to inspire my ire I can laugh at now. We were young and dumb and we’re only figuring out who we were, to begin with. How could I tell him what I wanted if I didn’t know myself?
But getting brutally honest with yourself can hurt. It opens up those wounds that you’ve allowed to sit in the corner of your mind and fester away. You have to chisel away at those wounds until they stop bleeding all over the place and they are properly healed. It’s not fun, but it’s necessary.
The only way to have a healthy relationship is to first have one with yourself with self-respect.
Isn’t that what everyone’s grandmother tells them? That and that you’d end up marrying your best friend.
I can happily attest that the latter is true for me. We were friends for a year or so before we started dating and I think our default setting is friends. That’s the best way to be in my opinion. Romance mucks all that stuff up sometimes.
We did not, however, have healthy relationships with ourselves first. That we kind of tackled together. I think that we both benefitted from having a cheerleader, finally someone in our corner to push us to the next level. It took a few, “will you still love me if I do this?” before we believed that the other was truly in our corner though.
Self-respect is earned through trial and error. It’s not always black and white. There are certainly those lines you have drawn in your own life that you know are the uncrossable ones. Then there are a ton of other ones too, that don’t necessarily trigger rage or grief but only a twinge of sadness.
But you have to learn your own lines first before you can teach other people your lines. The more times you allow someone to disgrace those lines, the more they get blurred, and you’re teaching the other person that it’s okay to break your boundaries. Self-respect is putting a solid brick wall on your boundaries and respectfully teaching others that it is not okay to cross them.
Relationships will always be murky.
It’s just the way it is. I don’t always get along with my mother even though I was literally a part of her, and the same will be for my children. We are all individuals with our own hopes and wishes and boundaries. Sometimes even when you have the best of intentions, you will get things wrong.
But if you are in the right relationship, those boundaries will be treated with respect. Sometimes you will have to bend those lines, but they should never be broken outright. And they should always be as balanced as possible.
There will be days that you give 80% and your partner 20%, as long as the opposite is also true it’s fine. Give and take is the way nature has designed all of the relationships on Earth. It’s a delicate balance to keep all systems functioning and moving forward toward a greater destination.
Please do yourself the favor of loving you first. It’s a learned skill, self-respect, but one that bears much fruit. When you learn your boundaries and teach others to learn them as well, then you can truly be happy. Just be sure to return the favor.
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