Saturday, August 28, 2010

Respect yourself

All of us have challenges in our relationships. It's easy to point fingers of blame at those who oppose us, offend us and annoy us. It's difficult to look at ourselves as troublemakers in our own lives.

In some instances, a little offense is the best defense. But as a way of life, not so much. If I'm often taking offense at what people say or do, it's time to look at my reactivity and control issues. Who am I to think I can get everything I want, when there's a whole world of people who want things, too? I get through my days better and sleep through the night when I let the small-minded stuff go. I'm clearer about what I really need.

It all comes down to respect. Respect for others is important, but I argue self-respect comes first. You can't truly respect anyone until you respect yourself. When we don't properly respect ourselves, we drive ourselves hard, or we let ourselves off too easily. We don't allow ourselves to rest, or we get lazy. We judge ourselves, or when that's too painful, we tell ourselves we have the right to blame somebody else for our problems.

One of my favorite songs on my MP3 is the Staples Singers' "Respect Yourself." The Staples aren't letting anybody get away with blaming anybody else. Respect yourself by taking responsibility, not by expecting somebody else to do it for you. When my energy is flagging during a run and that song comes on, my legs lighten, my breathing eases and I hold my head up high. With my new attitude, I know I can make it.

I pride myself on my physical flexibility, which allows me to easily do almost any physical activity. For instance, I used to be able to get out of bed in the morning and touch my toes. In the past year, I haven't been able to do it. Like cold silly putty, it takes a little while for my muscles to warm up before I can lengthen them. Intellectually, this isn't such a bad thing. I am pushing 50, after all. If this is the worst thing I can say about my physical condition, I'll take it.

But I've noticed something more insidious: I'm judging myself, and therefore disrespecting myself, for not being able to touch my toes first thing in the morning. Something within, some combination of ego and early conditioning, tells me, Why, you used to be able to do that. You ought to still be able to. When I began to notice I was judging myself, I started to think about how self-judgment was infiltrating other areas of my life. I haven't been successful in my job search, not to mention that I haven't been that successful in my career as I'd like. I'm not a good mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend. You see the potential for a downward spiral. For disrespecting myself.

I also found, to my amusement, that I was judging myself for judging myself! So then I gave myself some kudos for honesty and a sense of humor about my foibles--a value and a talent I've been working on for most of my adult life.

See how easy it is to respect yourself? Just begin where you are. Don't worry too much about where you've been. As your relationship with yourself improves, you relationship with others will improve, too.

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