How to Regain Self-Respect Through Creating Better Boundaries
If you’re having trouble respecting yourself, here’s how you can start.
Self-respect is the first step in building healthy self-esteem and a stable ego. When we don’t respect ourselves, we let people or institutions around us dictate our worth, manipulate us, or gaslight us into forgetting our inherent value.
Many people lose the ability to respect themselves when aspects of their life that they have previously put their value on collapses — getting kicked out of school, being cut from a sports team, losing a job, closing a company, ending a relationship, and more.
While this is fair and expected, we can’t stay in the gutter forever. We have to remember that as long we are alive, we can overcome whatever life throws at us. We can’t let failure make us feel like we don’t deserve respect and the opportunity to try again.
In the face of failure, a loss of power, or defeat, how exactly do we learn to respect ourselves again?
Learning to Respect Yourself
Learning to respect yourself is a lifelong endeavor. It’s a mindset that comes from an acute understanding of the space between who you are in the present and what you wish to become.
First, we must understand what respect is. Coming from the Latin word “respectus,” it is often translated to mean attention, regard, or consideration, perceived to be a quality that denotes the sense of worth of a person or their abilities.
There are two parts to this: the inherent attention that respect draws and the qualities that are deemed worthy of it. To form a healthy amount of self-respect, one must evaluate these two parts concerning the self.
One thing that people don’t realize is strongly related to their sense of self is our negative emotions. While we usually shy away from emotions such as anger, jealousy, or fear, they’re all necessary aspects of our growth and understanding of ourselves. Here’s why:
Understanding the Nature of Negative Emotions
Negative emotions indicate what things have power over us that we don’t necessarily like, but inherently respect. To release this power, we must have the courage to confront our internal experiences with them.
For example, we’ll talk a little about the experience of an assault victim. The experience of sexual assault is a complex one because it deals with the violation of their internal boundaries.
Someone who has experienced sexual assault will have a complicated relationship with their abuser, especially when it’s someone they know, respected, or even loved.
When an abuser does not face any consequences for their actions, the lack of justice become a haunting reminder for the victim that they will always remain a victim. A lack of retribution can wreak havoc on the stability of their sense of self.
Many people will fall into this hole of victimhood, trapped by the feeling of never being enough to receive retribution, conditioning them to believe that they don’t deserve peace.
Not being able to take ownership of their narrative and other times, inflicting this sense of injustice on other people leads to a lifetime of self-sabotage. When we lose the ability to respect ourselves, we give things outside us to dictate our worth.
It’s important to remember that not everyone we respect we want to become. However, it is a sign that there are parts of them that we wish we had in us as well. We must take isolate the qualities that we believe command respect and nourish them.
Boundaries as the Foundation of Self-Respect
At the heart of every sustainable relationship, whether it’s with yourself or other people, are boundaries. Boundaries are the personal limits that separate what is safe, reasonable and knowing the appropriate responses when they are not respected.
Here are a few things you can do to start respecting yourself better:
Honor your promises to yourself.
For any sort of positive, meaningful change to occur after a massive loss, one must have the discipline to build a sense of trust within. Your word has to mean something, even if the only person you are accountable to is yourself.
When you tell yourself that you are going to wake up to do something, you do not snooze the button when your alarm rings. You get up and do it. When you make a promise to be a better person, you have to trust yourself to fight for that version of you that respects yourself.
Even if you fall short, if you’ve committed to the process, then you’ll have no room for regrets. Teach yourself the discipline to show up for yourself, even when it’s not comfortable or convenient.
Pull back on lifestyle inflation.
When we don’t respect ourselves, we can’t differentiate what things create value for our lives versus what encourages clutter.
It can be easy to pin on the high of shiny things for our self-respect, but in your heart, you know that isn’t sustainable. You’re never going to run out of things to want. Life is never going to run out of setbacks, but your bank account might.
We live in a world of constant consumption. Our lifestyles are in a constant state of inflation, driven by the well-oiled funnels of social media coaxing us to open up our wallet at every minute of the day.
Don’t buy into this never-ending cycle. If you catch yourself taking out a loan for a fancy car you can’t afford or swipe your card for a bag that you feel will change your life even when you have 12 just like it at home, take a step back. Take ten steps back if you have to.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy the money you worked hard to earn. It just means you have to mindful of where your need to spend is rooted.
Remember that your time is your most valuable asset. Exchanged for days of our lives are the days we can never get back. Make sure that every single item you own is worth it.
Take care of your body.
You are not your body, but it’s part of you. Spend a moment every day to thank it for carrying you through some of the lowest moments of your life, no matter its appearance.
You’ll be given a million messages from the world around you that you don’t look the way you should. Social media will tell you that you don’t have a small enough waist, chiseled abs, or big enough arms. There might be a temptation to starve yourself or work out excessively because of it. Don’t.
Unless you have a medical reason that needs special diets or care, most people have bodies that can regulate their functions to the right level. Listen to your body. If you need water, drink water. If you are hungry, eat. If you are full, stop. If you are tired, take a breather. Be in tune with what you need, and you will look the way you should, no matter the size.
Speak kinder to yourself.
There are many ways we speak to ourselves in ways that hurt. Often when we come from difficult backgrounds or broken homes, we carry with us the inner critics in the voices of our abusers.
Though you are not a perfect person and you will make mistakes that need rectifying, learn to speak to yourself in a kinder voice. As if speaking to a child that is still learning right from wrong, realize that you’re the same. Becoming a better version of yourself takes a lifetime.
There is a whole world out there that will ruthlessly attack you when you make mistakes. No matter what happens, remind yourself that you are always on your side.
Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t be controlled by them.
Your feelings are valid. However, they are never the entire truth. Listen to your emotions and ask yourself what they tell about you.
Difficult emotions are necessary. Resistance is an inevitable part of interacting with people outside you. We grow when we turn these feelings inwards and reflect on why we felt the way we do.
Be curious about your feelings, even the painful ones. Understand what fundamental beliefs you have about yourself and your situation. Find the root of why you are triggered and keep sifting through it until it no longer disturbs your energy.
Be mindful of the energy you nurture.
Understand that while we can avoid toxic situations and people, there are times that we can also be the toxic person. When we make mistakes, many of us tend to self-sabotage. We don’t believe we deserve the peace of mind. We don’t have to fall into that hole.
In the same way that it’s appropriate to ask friends or partners if they have the emotional capacity to hear out your negative emotions, do the same for yourself.
Think hard about the energy you are trying to protect and nurture the kinder voice in your head. When you catch yourself spiraling into negative self-talk and doubt, catch yourself. Reverse the process.
When you can, choose joy. Choose unwavering, naive, and determined joy. Believe that everything is always working in your favor, even when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. If you keep looking towards the light, one day you will find it.
The longest relationship we’ll ever have is with ourselves. Learning how to work with and not against who we are is a necessary form of inner work. It can be painful to see yourself for the first time, but it can also be powerful.
Constant reflection is necessary. It reveals us, all of us, even the parts that hurt. It brings us to face to face with the reality of our humanity, our vulnerability and the fragility of our lives. It asks us to make peace with that.
Creating a stable sense of self through internal boundaries takes a lifetime. Thankfully, we have just enough time to do it.