What is Self-Respect?

Without question, the greatest measure of Shakespearean thought was his astute appreciation for human imperfection.  Judgemental beliefs about our capabilities create personality flaws that open the gateway of self-doubt.

The rising tide of personal calamity and suffering flow from the causeway created by persistent insecurities. Thus, the measure of our despair is a direct consequence of the way we think.  Our woes are our own creation. 

The compendium of Shakespeare’s artistry demonstrate how even one destructive thought can lead to abandonment and the neglect of self-regard.  The tragic realization is that we are our greatest enemies.  In his words: “Self-love is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.”

Today, we continue to read the tragedies, comedies, romantic plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare.  Almost five centuries later (457 years ago) we’re still told by educators that we study the works because he was a genius in offering insights about the human condition, our strengths and shortcomings. From Hamlet’s pondering whether “to be or not to be,” to coming “full circle” in King Lear, and Romeo and Juliet’s “wild goose chase,” Shakespeare’s wisdom lives on in common everyday phrases.

Personal Responsibility:  Blaming Others and Self-Blame

A pillar of the great writer’s wisdom is predicted on human weaknesses; one of the most despicable being to disregard yourself and your needs.  This leads us to human ignorance.   You are the keeper of your respect, you earn it by how you treat others, but you nurture it for yourself in your thoughts.   

The famous tragedies show how Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear’s self-destructive thoughts created their own downfall.  Self-respect as often stereotyped, is not that raw authoritative somewhat divine trait.  Self-regard is not about feeling big, strong, all powerful, wealthy, or that you can stand up for yourself with greater than thou authority.   While strength is a part of personal esteem, respecting yourself is ultimately your responsibility.

Being accountable to yourself means you realize that every misgiving, loss, win, and regret is caused by your actions.  Owning your actions develops self-respect.  It cannot be bought, preserved, nor predestined; it’s a knoll that must be nurtured.  Over the span of your life, you’re responsible for its growth, and this is the only way to strengthen your determination.  Hence, your resolve is the propeller of patience to get what you believe in. 

We continue to call on Shakespeare for how to lead, love, romance, die, live, revenge and pity the condition of what it is to live as humans. 

We’ve all heard, take responsibility, “own your actions.”  At times it’s difficult to understand the setbacks in life. Trying to make sense of our disappointment we resort to two things:  blame others or self-blame which is the greatest barrier to self-respect.

Self-blame and finger pointing is a double-edged sword.  It can be argued that unfairly blaming others channels our misgivings away from our interior self; we do not take personal responsibility. We outwardly find a reason, a person, a situation, an event, and thing to highlight as an excuse for our flaws. We often take the easy way out of turmoil because it requires no self-reflection, and self-reflection is hard work.  

Conversely, self-blame channels disappointments inward; it depletes our self-worth and destroys self-respect.  We internalize that our abilities are deficient rather than reflect to understand that failure is a combination of things, some beyond our control. Fixation on weaknesses pushes aside self-reflection.  We force our focus toward personal inadequacies.  This destroys the soul and creates a bottled up residue of angst.

Over time, the soul bed is shrouded from the remains of self-blame and we move further away from self-respect. Often the climax of our frustration from lagging self-respect manifests in feelings of “being taken for granted,” Or “being taken advantage of.” The inherent message here is that you realized something was wrong but continued to let it happen. 

Happiness Depends on Self-Respect

Self-respect is not taught, endowed, appointed or genetic.  It is nurtured by experience, and the way we feel in specific contexts.  We exude confidence when we feel comfortable.  It is in this comfort zone that we breathe the air needed to infiltrate self-respect starting with our selves.

If you fail to respect yourself, how can you expect others to hold respect for you?  Standing up for your beliefs, and values even when in conflict with dominant values, is a display of self-regard.  Depending on social position, some are respected for what they believe in, while others have respect torn away for pointing out the obvious. It comes down to how others perceive you, and how they perceive you depend on the extent of your self-confidence. 

Compromising self-respect and believing in yourself can trigger change for the greater good, but that’s dependent on your resolve to fight for a cause.  Often we give up, gazing elsewhere to repair the broken fragments of respect. On the one hand we must hold a high self-regard to challenge mainstay ideas while at once realizing that the same self-regard is threatened by such a challenge. 

It’s not easy. 

Yet, the roots of happiness are embedded in personal responsibility to nurture self-respect.

Ultimately respect for self and other, commonly known as mutual respect is a matter of ethics.

The unwritten ethical code of respect is embedded in the common phrase “treat others as you want to be treated,” and its practice is anything but common.   The difficulty to practice the simplest of wisdom is proven in potent institutional forces. 

Dismantling forces that deny some yet paradoxically claim that all are equally respectable continues to be on every political agenda, at least on the surface. 

Those denied respect, are assured that others are actively seeking it out on their behalf, and the waiting game is patiently played. 

We are tasked to tease out strategies, find solutions, form boards and panels, derive committees committed to finding the right process:  for what goal:   To enable the free flow of mutual respect.

Equal As Humans:  Unequal Between Humans

Every scientist must abide to the laws of ethics, to seek objective and unbiased information following the laws of scientific inquiry.  Yet, the simple endeavour of deciding on a topic of interest to a scientist is a subjective practice marred in bias.  A scientist simply chooses what is important to her from her experiences, this is inherent bias.  Still, a code of ethics allows for utmost objectivity, knowing that complete objectivity is not possible. 

Self-respect operates by the same logic.

We might value equality, but it is one thing to fight for equality of men and women and another thing to fight for equality between men, between women, between cultures, or between social classes. 

Power positioning places certain women in a much higher and influential role than others. In the Canadian education realm, equality for women means equality for those who hold a dominant position as women, insofar as Canadian statistics.  This is not equality. In pointing out the between differences of equality, while respecting the trajectories of inequality, those who recognize the between levels of dominance are seen as troublesome rather than self-respecting. 

The fate of our life depends on self-regard, even in the face of hostility.  Being brave enough to point out stark injustices that most are afraid of challenging is scary.   Yet change requires reactionary conflict and must challenge harmony. When those on the margins hold enough high esteem, they demand justice, and the demand for justice is both a trigger and threat to self-respect.

So we choose our battles. 

Often, the souls lacking self-respect are the ones to criticize, ridicule and bring down others.  And perhaps this is their defense mechanism, that in bringing down others, they self-elevate.  We all have those stories…to be continued.