Core Values – Respect Yourself

S.O. and I hold to some core values. Many of these values were taught to us by our parents. Others we learned through living. And a few we learned from the school of hard knocks. These values, and how we make choices about them, have a profound effect on our lives and the lives of those around us – like Pookah.

This month’s core value is: Respect Yourself.

If you do not believe you are worthy of success, you will fail.
If you do not believe that you deserve better, it will only get worse.
If you do not believe in putting forth honest work, the results will be shoddy.
If you do not like yourself, no one else will either.

That’s a lot of negative stuff.

The big secret is that you don’t need it.

Try these:

  • Your actions show the truth.
  • If you act to deserve success, you will succeed more.
  • If you act in a manner to deserve better, it will get better.
  • If you act like doing a good job matters, the results will be better.
  • If you act like you care about yourself, others will too.

Respect for yourself is the fundamental value of self-worth.

If you think, feel, or believe you are worthless, then you will act like it. If you act like you are worthwhile, you will begin to think, feel, and believe that you are.

If you have no respect for yourself, why try to improve your situation?
If you have no respect for yourself, why try to change your life?
If you have no respect for yourself, why should you respect anyone – or anything – else?

As a teenager, I hated myself. I made mistake after mistake after mistake. I lost friends. I alienated family. I was well on my way to becoming the antithesis of everything I now believe is right. For me, it came down to a fateful night, staring at myself in the mirror, and not really liking what I saw.

I made several realizations:

  • Life is meant to be lived, not merely survived.
  • If I can’t justify my actions to myself, then I can’t justify them to anyone or anything.
  • If I judge my actions unworthy, then they are.
  • Worthy actions are meaningful in your life.
  • Worthy actions are right.
  • Do what’s right.
  • I am worthwhile as a person if I do what’s right.
  • If I am worthwhile as a person, then I deserve respect – at least from myself.
  • If I act in a worthwhile manner, then I have done right. I have done something that I *know* is right. And no one, no one, can take that away from me.

So all those voices in my head – mine, family members, teachers, students, strangers on the street – telling me how worthless and bad I am can just shut the &$^% up!

I also made some promises to myself.

  • I decided what kind of person I wanted to be.
  • I decided what kind of actions I would undertake to do what’s right.
  • I decided that it was OK to make mistakes – even to fail frequently – so long as I kept working to Do What Is Right.
  • I decided that beating myself up physically or emotionally when I screwed up was wrong.
  • I decided that I had to forgive myself for my failings, first. Not ignore, not gloss over, not blame my upbringing, society, fate, Creator-of-choice. I had to face my mistakes head on, acknowledge them, learn from them, and forgive myself for screwing up.

I decided to respect myself.

My whole life changed.

I suddenly discovered that, when I could give respect to myself, I could give respect to others.

When Pookah first came to live with us, she was a starving, pregnant, abused animal. She wouldn’t get up on any of the furniture because she was afraid to. A cat. Afraid to get on a couch! If we accidentally almost came close to stepping on her, she would cry in fear and pain, then run and hide for two or three days. But each time, I would follow her and apologize in a quiet, gentle voice. I would extend my hand under the bed, couch, or table she sought refuge under, and hold it near for her to sniff. I acknowledged her fear. I showed respect for this diminuitive, fey cat. Over time, and with lots of patience, she has grown to where she DEMANDS petting, scritching, or time on the couch to look out the windows. Pookah feels worthwhile and confident enough in herself and her place in the household to demand attention, affection, and acceptance. She is confident enough that she will come out to look at visitors herself, make her own judgements about how much contact she wants with them, and go from there. This is a far cry from running and hiding at the footseps on the porch!

She could never had come this far if S.O. and I didn’t start by respecting ourselves.

My father once told me that people who want to succeed are more often held back by what’s inside them than what’s ahead of them. Oh, how infuriatingly true! I still have to sometimes tell those negative, whining voices to shut up. But not nearly as often as I used to.

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