We continue a series on how to effectively manage emotions, so that we can engage more thoughtfully in relationship. All of the skills we discuss are designed to support the ultimate goal of wisdom (see post titled, “Emotion Regulation 1.0”).
For several posts, we looked at various awareness skills, and then we covered several distress tolerance skills. A couple days ago, we began looking at a few interpersonal effectiveness (assertiveness) skills. Today’s skill: Self-Respect.
We noticed yesterday, that respect literally means “to see again”–from another perspective. Self-respect means to see the world from your own perspective, and strangely, few practice it consciously.
Respecting oneself first requires that you know yourself and your values, so that you can see the world through conscious awareness of your most prized values. It does not refer to demanding what you want or desire without regard to others.
Let’s use another acronym: FAST.
F – Fairness. Fairness requires that we see our worldview as equally valid and important as the worldview of others. We don’t give more credence to our own viewpoint, and we don’t give more credence to the viewpoint of others. We weigh each equally.
A – Apologize only if you’ve done something wrong. You do not need to apologize for your existence or for your opinions. You also don’t need to force them on others. People who have self-respect have no need to debate or be dogmatic about their ideas, because they don’t need others to adopt them.
S – Stick to values. In order to stick to your values, you have to know what they are. If you value honesty, be honest yourself. If you value tolerance, be tolerant yourself. If you value truth, seek it without taking sides in conflicts. Know what kind of character you prize and practice it.
T – Truthful. Once you know who you are, be true to yourself. People who respect themselves don’t need the approval of others. While they aren’t apathetic to the interests, ideas and values of others, they don’t seek to please others at the expense of their own values. Truthfulness–being on the side of truth–means not taking sides, but maintaining loyalty to whatever is true. If I am wrong, I acknowledge it, and I make amends whenever doing so wouldn’t harm someone else. If someone I love is wrong, I acknowledge that, too. Just because someone is a family member, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is right. Truthfulness requires that I think and evaluate reality from an objective viewpoint.
Conscious Awareness Required
Respecting oneself actually takes conscious awareness, objectivity and critical thinking. It also usually requires that we be willing to calmly but firmly withstand the judgment of others who try to manipulate us to do their own will, against our highest values. You can’t please everyone, and self-respecting people don’t succumb to the pressure to do so.
Knowing your values helps you regulate your emotions when your values are more important to you than your emotions. Doing what you believe is right doesn’t always feel good. It may mean that you lose a friendship or anger a loved one. But compromising your most important values feels even worse, so self-respecting people are more willing to feel the discomfort of sticking to their values than to feel the discomfort of not doing so.