Respect is a peculiar word. It is peculiar in the sense that from birth we are taught to have the utmost respect for those around us, but we are never really taught exactly how to have respect for ourselves. My journey towards self respect was one that took on many forms and related to many different aspects of my life, affecting not only the big decisions but also creating a ripple effect that connects to a permeates even the smallest inconsequential details of every day life.
Firstly, let us ascertain exactly what the term self respect means. According to a number of online dictionaries, self-respect is defined as “pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honour and dignity”, and to a certain extent this broad definition is absolutely true.
It covers the general attitude of having confidence in oneself and maintaining a degree of ‘good’ behaviour, but it could be argued that the definition does not address the more personal, intrinsic and individual nature that such a term carries with it. For example, an individual can be as well behaved as the most innocent Boy Scout in public, as confident in their professional abilities as any expert in their chosen field, but in the closed, solitary confinement of their own home and mind, the picture could be something very different and that is what many broad definitions of self-respect consistently fail to acknowledge.
In simple terms, being respectful is an altogether different character trait than have self-respect.
With this differentiation in mind, I feel that self-respect is less about the effort of behaviour and regard you show towards your peers, and much more about the true nature of your character when all of the other pretence is stripped away.
A lack of self-respect can manifest in many different forms for both males and females, and common examples often cited include abusing one’s own body with mind altering substances like alcohol and illegal drugs, and engaging in numerous instances of casual, sometimes unprotected sex with multiple partners with little regard for potential health risks or unplanned pregnancy, therefore displaying a lack of respect for both your body and your future. However, I think these parameters are equally as redundant as the wide, non-specific definition of self-respect that we examined at the beginning, and the examples given arguably say more about an outsider’s societal attitudes than they do about the individual in question’s sense of self.
In conclusion, in these more enlightened times, it would be fair to state that self-respect is something so individually pertinent that it cannot be surmised in a simple, bite size definition. What could determine self-respect for me might not ring true at all with another person holding different values or life experience. They key thing is that you are happy and confident in your own definition. Your mind is the perfect barometer; only you will know if you are truly content in your feelings and actions. That is, only you know if you truly have self respect.