How Do We Respect Others and Ourselves?

Respect of Individuality

“We ask of others to follow our dreams, to be like us. Why?” This is the inspirational quote about life that begins the verse for this image in my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. It is a question I have asked myself for years, having always been compared to others and expected to be like them. My dreams were thwarted in favor of another’s. This, along with the denigration of who I was, gnawed away at my very soul. It degraded my self-esteem and my self-image. It set the stage for a very difficult life and it was one of the reasons for my heavy drinking, as I tried to numb out feelings of inadequacy.

One of the most important things we can do in life is to respect and celebrate one’s individuality. This type of recognition helps that person flourish and grow to their intended heights. To respect another’s uniqueness is to acknowledges a Creator’s handiwork.  It recognizes another as a Being in this world, just like you or me.

Often, it seems, people are not recognized for their individuality. Like the first line of this verse, people are asked to be like us. This may be because we fear those who are different than us. It could also be a reflection of our own inadequacy or feelings of low esteem. We tend to negate others when we are not feeling very good about ourselves, in an effort to build ourselves up. Of course, this is done at the expense of another. If we are having difficulty respecting others, perhaps it is time for a self-appraisal, a time to honestly look at why we are unable to respect that person.

Having performed my own inventory as a part of my sobriety and having grown and healed some as a result, I have realized it is not necessary for me to be like others. I have learned it is important for me to be the individual I am, to let what is inside shine for the world to see. In fact, I now realize it is my job, if you will, to follow my dreams.  It is my responsibility to be the individual that I am, to do what I need to do to increase my own self-respect.

Ah, being responsible for my own esteem, my own individuality…  What does this mean? It means I need to focus my efforts on learning to respect myself in my actions toward myself, as well as the way in which I talk to myself. If I do not respect myself, how can I think that others will respect me? And if I am respecting myself, I will give off that energy, people will feel it, and I will attract respect.

Does that mean that if we run across someone who does not respect themselves then that is a reason to disrespect them also? Actually, it means we need to extend even more understanding, love, and compassion to that wounded person. It means we show them respect until they can find it for themselves.

How is your level of respect for yourself? Have you found it, or are you still searching for it? As you assess how you treat others, do you treat them with respect for who they are, regardless of how different from you they may be, regardless of whether you approve of what they’re doing? That gets into judgment, which is our next topic…

Let’s celebrate the talents and skills and differences of each other, encouraging others and ourselves to greatness, daring to stand out, to be unique, to be individual!