By Charles Houff, LMHC, CIP Berkshire
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T…Tell you what it means to me…” 40 years ago, Aretha Franklin had a huge hit singing about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Everybody’s heard the song. “All I need…All I’m askin’ is for a little respect…” Aretha knew how important respect is.
Of course, respect from others doesn’t really work unless you respect yourself. Self respect is an essential ingredient in any kind of success—personal, social, academic, or professional. The good news—self respect is something you’re in charge of.
Everyone starts out with a healthy dose of self respect. We all know how insistent a baby can be when it’s crying out for attention. And little kids do their thing like they have every right to do whatever they want. They are who they are with no apologies.
But it isn’t long before self respect starts to shrink. Wanting to perform as well as possible, kids start comparing themselves to their siblings and schoolmates and their media idols and they find all the ways they don’t measure up. Worse yet, many kids are teased and taunted in school—even bullied—as they make their way through the grades. So by high school self respect has often been replaced by self-consciousness, defensiveness, even self-loathing for many of us. So what can you do? Well, you just have to reclaim that self-respect of yours.
Basically, self respect means that you like yourself. Many of us are better at thinking of things that we don’t like about ourselves than things we do like. As a therapist, I believe this is one of the strong supports that therapy provides. Therapy can help us find—and strengthen—things to like about ourselves. This means liking ourselves for who we are, not for what we can or cannot do. Who we are has to do with how we live—our principles and character—and how we treat others—with consideration and kindness, for example. When we develop these qualities, we start to like and respect ourselves. And when we respect ourselves, we are more in control of our own wellbeing and less dependent on what others think.
This may sound like a major makeover for some of us, but the sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll start to feel different. So ask your therapist to help you learn how to RESPECT YOURSELF.