Self-Respect: The Road to Freedom

As young people, we often look for respect in our peers, our parents, or our relationships. And that’s okay. It’s natural to want to be respected by the people who matter the most to us. But what about self-respect?

woman in oceanMost people associate self-worth with simply having confidence and feeling good about yourself. However, self-respect is deeply rooted in the value that you see in yourself. Naturally, confidence will come with it. The ability to have self-respect will only come when you feel that you deserve it. You will find that knowing your self-worth allows you to form healthier relationships with people. You will also be able to decipher the difference between being a good friend and a pushover. You will set these limits in order to protect your emotional well-being. After all, if you love something, you will never allow anyone to hurt or destroy it.

So why are we sometimes our biggest critics?

We often forget that it is our duty to protect and love the body that was given to us. We compare ourselves to others who have made themselves poster children for “What a Girl is Supposed to Be.” In doing so, we try to become something we’re not. We try to live up to someone’s expectations when really we should only live up to our own. We neglect who we are to become what others want. Yet, if you dare to peel back the layers, you will soon value what is already there. Remember, self-respect is always followed by confidence, individuality, and self-love.

When it comes to building healthy relationships with our friends, families, and partners, self-respect is a crucial part of that process. If someone does not love you the way you love them, you are not worthless. Additionally,  you shouldn’t “belong” to someone to the extent that without them, you feel incomplete. A healthy relationship, whether romantic or platonic, is when two people depend on each other, but there is always room for individual growth.

A relationship without individual growth is claustrophobic and unbalanced.

Yes, it is okay to lean on our friends for emotional support, but they should not be our only rock. In other words, we cannot seek validation through our dependence on that person.  We all have the human tendency to want someone to lean on — to be our pillar of strength. I find that relationships work best, though, when two people, together, master the strength within each other.

How we view ourselves and our relationships all depends on how much we respect ourselves.

Self-respect is not an act of selfishness; it does not mean that you value yourself more than others.

It means that you love yourself unconditionally so that you are able to let others do the same. You cannot expect more from people than you do from yourself.  So, with all that said, how can we learn to respect ourselves? Firstly, there must be an acceptance of self. Sure, someone else might be stronger than you or smarter than you, but this does not mean that you are worthless. Instead of focusing on their talents, tap into yours. We often forget that we are each unique individuals with special traits, talents, and abilities.

I know that it takes great strength to be able to find completeness and self-worth within yourself. I also know that truly loving yourself is a life-long process.  I have come to the conclusion that there will be times in life when you will feel down. This is all okay, too. Pick yourself back up! Give yourself a pat on the back!

When you learn to love yourself unconditionally, you will begin to live freely, confidently, and fearlessly.
Shama Nathan is a high-school senior and freelance writer. Currently floating in the Caribbean Sea. Follow her on twitter @purplehearts144

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