Let’s Talk About… Self Respect

By Jeremy Godwin

Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of simple ideas for better mental health by Jeremy Godwin. Each episode focuses on practical and simple ideas that you can use to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing every day, based on quality research.

This is Episode 96 and this week I’m talking about self respect.

In this episode I’ll cover what self respect is, why self respect matters, and how to improve your self respect for the sake of your mental health. So, let’s talk about mental health!

Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the full transcript.

Find links to other available podcasting services here. Now also available on Amazon Music.

Watch Episode 34 of Better Mental Health on YouTube — in this latest episode I’m sharing five simple (but mighty!) tips for better mental health.

Watch it below or visit the channel on YouTube:

This podcast episode was originally released on 12 September, 2021.

Hello and welcome to Episode 96, and thanks so much for joining me!

This week I’m talking about self respect and I’ll be discussing what self respect is, why self respect matters, and how to improve your self respect for the sake of your mental health.

Before I begin, some quick announcements. First, my weekly YouTube show has undergone a bit of a rebranding and it’s now Better Mental Health — the point was to make it much easier for new viewers on YouTube to quickly identify what to expect from my channel and also to make it stand out more from the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast. Each Wednesday I publish new episodes which feature completely different content to this podcast; this week I’m looking at Five Simple Mental Health Tips and although they’re relatively simple they are things that have a massive impact on your wellbeing. You can watch it now on YouTube and the link is in the episode description of this podcast, or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au where you’ll be able to watch it on the front page.

Secondly, a reminder that you have until the 24th of September to enter the giveaway I’m doing to celebrate the upcoming 100th episode of this podcast, which comes out on October 10. If you’d like more details you can head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/giveaway (and the link is also in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on).

So, with all of that covered, on with this week’s episode about self respect… 

Introduction

When the late, great Aretha Franklin sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T… find out what it means to me” to a man that was messing her about, what she was really doing was standing up for herself in the ultimate act of self respect — and good on her, because to this day we’re still quoting Aretha and demanding the r-e-s-p-e-c-t that we each deserve.

The thing with respect is that it starts from within, in the sense that if you don’t treat yourself with respect then it’s very likely going to be a struggle to get other people to treat you in a respectful way! And so that’s what this episode is all about — how to improve your self respect.

So let’s begin with some definitions, and let’s talk about…

What is self respect?

And to answer that question let’s first begin by defining respect. The word respect refers to having regards for the feelings, wishes or rights of others, and it can also mean having a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something based on their abilities, qualities or achievements (and those definitions came from the Oxford Dictionary — always cite your sources, people, because that is how we overcome the epidemic of misinformation one step at a time!).

So if we step back from that more formal definition of respect, let’s just call it what it is: treating someone as a human being and having a high regard for their dignity. 

And the reason why I’m talking about respect towards others is that this sense of treating someone with dignity and humanity is also what true self respect is about; it’s your ability to be that respectful person for yourself. Self respect is closely related to self esteem, which I discussed back in Episode 43, with the main difference being that self esteem is about how you think about yourself whereas self respect is about how you treat yourself. So both aspects are important to factor into your approach to managing your mental health and wellbeing, so that your thoughts match your actions and vice versa. 

Which leads nicely into the next part of today’s episode…

Why self respect matters

And it matters because you are going to be with you for your entire life, and if you don’t treat yourself with respect then you’re going to be in for a pretty tough time of it! Self respect underpins the choices that we make on a daily basis, and without that sense of being able to admire your own unique abilities, qualities or achievements (or, indeed, treating yourself as a human being who is both worthy of and deserving of dignity), it can mean that the choices you make might serve to make you feel ‘less than’ and unworthy of respect. I mean, the problem with that is that means sometimes you can end up being your own bully — which can be a bit of a challenge to overcome when the call is coming from inside the house!

Let me share a quote by psychologist Dr. Danielle Dowling which was in an article on MindBodyGreen. The quote is:

“Showing yourself respect does not make you narcissistic or conceited. In fact, it does quite the opposite. When we respect ourselves, we are more worthy of receiving love and, in turn, giving love to others… self-respect means not being overly self-critical, judgmental, or restrictive… Self-respect is all about treating yourself the way you’d want others to treat you. By focusing only on our self-perceived faults and flaws, we’re basically giving permission for the rest of the world to focus on them too!”

(Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20165/12-ways-to-show-yourself-respect-and-teach-others-to-do-the-same.html)

And you’ll find the link for that article in the transcript at: letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes

So there are a few really important points in that quote which I want to talk about. First, it’s not arrogant or conceited to be respectful towards yourself. I actually don’t even remotely understand why treating yourself with respect would or could be mistaken for arrogance because what’s the alternative, treat yourself like shit so that other people feel less threatened? Ahhhh… no thanks! Other people can think whatever they want about me; like RuPaul said, unless they’re paying your bills pay them no mind!

The second piece I’d like to discuss from that quote by Dr. Dowling is about treating yourself the way that you would like others to treat you. I mean, this is about that basic human dignity thing I talked about earlier and in fact it’s just common decency to treat others with kindness, fairness and a sense of giving… so why the hell don’t we do it for ourselves sometimes?! Honestly, if it wasn’t so tragic it would be funny! I’m guilty of it still sometimes however I’m much better than I used to be and it’s something I have worked really hard to address over the past few years; I remember back in about 2014, I was talking to a good friend of mine in Melbourne about something and she called me out on the fact that in the space of about five minutes I had said, “I can’t believe I did that” and “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that” several times, and when she pointed it out (and told me to stop being so mean to myself) it was quite a shock because I didn’t realise just how often I was saying horrible things to myself or about myself. When you do things like that, regardless of whether you realise you’re doing it or not, you’re being disrespectful to yourself. I think the general rule of thumb when it comes to self respect should be this: if you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother or to a total stranger, don’t say it to yourself. 

So how do you manage your self respect in a healthy way? Well, let’s get into the how-to part of today’s episode and let’s talk about…

How to improve your self respect for the sake of your mental health

So let’s start with my first point, which is…

Know yourself — be completely clear about who you are and what you stand for. This is something I talked about back in Episode 30, about identity, and the thing here is that knowing who you are and who you want to be (as well as who you don’t want to be) helps you to better understand yourself and embrace all of the wonderful things about you; and let me say right now that every single one of you has many, many wonderful qualities, so if you’re heavily focused on the stuff that you don’t like about yourself I want you to spend more time focused on what you do like about yourself. Do you know what one thing is that I like about myself? My ability to quote the Spice Girls at the drop of a hat — that takes real skill, and it’s a reminder that all you need is positivity (which, yes, is a line from Spice Up Your Life — you’re very welcome). So that leads into my next point, which is…

Identify your strengths and focus on them — now this doesn’t mean just ignoring everything else (and in fact I’m coming back to that in my next point), but what I mean here is that when you have a clear idea of what your strengths are you’re better able to tap into them to achieve great results, and when you do that it raises your self esteem (which was the topic of Episode 43) and those feelings help you to feel more positive about yourself — so it’s basically one big circle of love! Now, of course, I said I would talk about the other side of that and so my next point is…

Focus on growth — because the thing is that none of us is perfect (nor will we ever be, because perfect does not exist!) and that means we all have opportunities for development. You’ll notice I rarely refer to them as ‘weaknesses’ because, to me, a weakness is something that’s hard to overcome whereas a development opportunity is just that: an opportunity to develop and, more importantly, an opportunity to grow as a person. I talked about growth at length back in Episode 37 and I’ve said in quite a few past episodes that the way to better mental health is to take small steps every day to be the best version of yourself possible. So don’t just ignore the things that you might need to focus on in order to grow — I mean, we don’t all get an award for just showing up, you have to actually put the work in — but choose to look at those things objectively and kindly; you can grow if you choose to focus on growth, so just because something is not a strength today, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be in the future with enough time, effort and perseverance. And if you’re carrying around shame about things from your past, work through that (and I covered shame back in Episode 71, so check that out for more). Speaking of, my next point is…

Treat mistakes as learning opportunities — because they are! Instead of beating yourself up over whatever has or hasn’t happened, choose to treat mistakes as an opportunity to grow… because the only true mistake in life is the one that you don’t learn from. I talked about failure back in Episode 84 of the podcast and as I’ve mentioned a few times on this show, this podcast started because I made a mistake at work which got me into trouble and I saw it as a sign that I needed to move on (since I hated my job and that was making me tired and careless), so that’s turned into a pretty good outcome from a mistake because I’m now doing work that I absolutely love. So that leads to my next point…

Decide on what self respect looks like to you — and what I mean by that is we all have our own definitions and boundaries of what treating yourself with respect means, so take some time to become really clear on what that definition looks and feels like for you so that you can use it as a framework for what you do (or don’t do) in life. And that leads to the next point…

Set boundaries and stick to them — in the case of boundaries, it’s about being very clear on what you need as well as what you will and will not accept, both from other people and from yourself. It’s an unavoidable fact of life that the way other people interact with you will have a direct effect on your wellbeing, just as the way you interact with others has an impact on their wellbeing as well as your own. When you are kind to others, for example, you’re better able to feel good about your contributions to the relationship because you’re not plagued by feelings of guilt (or whatever) from unkind actions; and the same goes for the way you treat yourself. Hopefully that makes sense; I’d suggest you check out Episode 53 of the podcast about boundaries because I go into a lot more detail on the subject there. So that leads to my next point, which is…

Nurture quality relationships with people you respect — and I say this because quality relationships really do require nurturing; a garden does not grow if you only water it once a year! Having people who know you and respect you for who you are is an important part of wellbeing because it’s the desire that most (if not all) of us have to be seen and valued as a person. Put time and effort in to the relationships that matter most, especially with family members who are respectful of your boundaries, and give the gift of your time and attention to them as well. So, let’s move on to my next tip which is…

Be 100% you — and this is something that goes to the core of better mental health because when we deny who we truly are or we try to hide aspects of ourselves that we’re ashamed of, what we do is blanket ourselves in guilt and shame which can have a very damaging effect on your mental health. You are a unique individual who has something wonderful to offer the world just by virtue of your uniqueness, so be you. I talked about authenticity back in Episode 55 and I’d recommend checking that out for more on the subject, but this piece about being true to yourself leads me to my next point which is…

Choose to do no harm, be kind and give more than you take — and by this I mean doing those things for yourself as well as for others. The thing is that when you treat yourself and others with kindness then you are better able to be objective about things that you may not be completely happy with about yourself or your situation or whatever (and I refer you to my earlier point about failure being a learning opportunity). And when you give more than you take from others and from yourself, you set yourself and your relationships up for the best possible outcomes for the future; a bank account doesn’t grow unless you invest in it. And as for the do no harm bit: well, hopefully that’s just common sense. Doing harmful things to yourself or others makes for a pretty shitty experience for everyone concerned, so choose to avoid anything harmful as though your life depends on it (because it kind of does; at least your wellbeing does!). So that’s a fairly nice little segue into my next point…

Be objective about your thoughts and feelings — it’s completely OK to have thoughts and feelings that might not be the most positive in the world, but the thing that matters is what you choose to do with those thoughts and feelings. If you treat them in a rational, considered and thoughtful way, you’ll be better able to let go of the ones that aren’t in your best interests… and the more you do that, the less power those negative thoughts and feelings have over you. I mean, I’ve said it before (probably about a million times at this point!) but thoughts are not facts… and while we’re at it, neither are feelings. They absolutely have a place in our lives and this would be a boring existence without feelings, but there has to be balance between the emotional side and the more rational if we’re going to have a life that feels satisfying. So the next time your thoughts start going off like a frog in a sock (picture it if you’ve never heard that expression before!), just breathe through it and let the thoughts and feelings pass through you rather than latching onto them as fact, because they’re not. So, my next point is…

Face your fears — because the thing about fear is that if we let it control us, it can be damaging to our self respect and our self esteem. Some fear can be healthy because it keeps us safe from genuine harm (and I talked about that in Episode 10, which was about fear funnily enough!) but what we need to remember is that sometimes fear gets out of control and it holds us back from taking the steps we need to take in order to grow. That often comes from excessive worry (which I talked about last week in Episode 95) and from overthinking (which was the subject of Episode 4). Choose to face your fears head-on and work through them so that you can continue to grow a little every day, which is probably the single most respectful way you can choose to treat yourself. Speaking of, my next point is…

Say no — and it’s a topic I explored a few weeks ago in a video on my YouTube channel, which you can watch on YouTube (obviously!) or you’ll find it linked in the transcript (find it here: https://youtu.be/NIvgL8xeUTA), and also in mid November I have an episode coming out of the podcast which is all about ‘no’ (for balance, the following episode will be about ‘yes’) so consider that an exclusive preview of some upcoming topics later this year. Anyway, my point here is that sometimes you do not have the physical, mental or emotional capacity to do everything and so if you need to say no, say no. This goes back to the boundaries piece I talked about before and it’s about respecting yourself enough to know that there are only so many hours in the day and at least some of them need to be dedicated to you and your wellbeing. If you’re having trouble with that, check out the video I mentioned before or you might find Episode 89, about difficult choices, and Episode 88, about conflict, to be helpful. Speaking of conflict, my next point is…

Know that you’ll never please all of the people all of the time — and it’s one of those basic facts of life that I think we all know but which we often forget when we’re right in the middle of being judged by another person. Your self respect is an inside job and it is not reliant on the opinions of others in the slightest; if you are a decent person who does no harm, is kind, and who gives more than they take, then who gives a crap what other people think about you? I talked about this (a lot) back in Episode 21 about opinions, so you might find that helpful to review. So, my next point is…

Find balance in all things — because healthy self respect involves finding a genuine balance between your needs and the needs of other people. I talked about balance as a concept in Episode 14 and then I looked at Finding Balance in Episode 49, so you might find those helpful to listen to (or revisit them if you’ve heard them before). And so my next point is…

Talk to someone — if you’re struggling with a lack of self respect or you’re dealing with thoughts or behaviours (or both) that are damaging towards yourself, do something about it and talk to a professional, like a counsellor or therapist. This point is the one I cover in most episodes and I do so because this show is called Let’s Talk About Mental Health, not just Let’s Think About Mental Health and then avoid it like the plague, and sometimes that means you need to work with someone in order to confront your demons so you can release them. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s worth it in the long run!

Summary and Close-Out

Because when it comes to self respect and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: The way you treat yourself matters because your relationship with you is one that is going to last for your entire life, so rather than bullying yourself or feeling bad about yourself, it’s up to you to do the work and cultivate a positive relationship with the most important person in your life: you. That takes work and a healthy dose of courage, but when you choose to take steps each day to address the things that hold you back from being the best version of yourself possible — someone who treats themselves with kindness and respect — then you begin to grow a little each day, and that growth will add up over time to create some spectacular results… and it all begins with the choices you make.

The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today? 

Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by an unknown author, and it is:

“If you put a small value upon yourself you can be sure that the world will not raise your price.”

Unknown

Alright… that’s nearly it for this week. Next week I’ll be talking about healing. Healing is a journey that goes on for months and even years, and when we’ve been dealing with things from our past that have hurt us or learning how to manage mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, it can sometimes feel like it’s taking an absolute lifetime to heal… and do you know what? It probably is! Because healing is a lifelong journey and I’m not convinced that we’re ever completely ‘cured’, especially when we’re recovering from serious trauma, and so that means we need to find healthy ways to heal so that we can make the most of every day. So next week I’ll be talking about what healing is (and what it isn’t), why a healthy attitude towards healing matters, and how to manage your healing for the sake of your mental health.

I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 19th of September. And on Wednesday, catch the latest episode of Better Mental Health on YouTube or IGTV, or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au where you can also join my free mailing list for podcast transcripts and my weekly newsletter. You’ll also find the link in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re listening to me on.

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest at @ltamentalhealth, where I post extra content daily.

Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.

Jeremy 🙂

Did you like what you just read? Then please share this with someone who might appreciate it, like a friend, family member, or coworkerbecause word of mouth helps other people to find Let’s Talk About Mental Health! Thank you 🙂

Find more content at www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au

Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Simple ideas for better mental health.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2021 Jeremy Godwin.

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