Respect and Self-Respect

Respect is a quality of contact that is based on the belief that the other's feelings and desires are good, legitimate, and essential, as good, legitimate and essential as one's own. Respect of course then starts with self-respect. If we do not respect ourselves, we will not respect anyone else, no matter how strong our intention.. Self-respect is the opposite of shame. It is a feeling of being enough--not being perfect, not being 'better', but being enough. This feeling arises in the body when there is a harmony of thought, feeling, and action.

Another way of defining respect is taking someone seriously. The opposite of respect is to be dismissing. Respect is not the same as agreeing. Being respected has nothing to do with getting's one way or having privilege. One can be respectfully refused (and also disrespectfully acceded to!) With respect, conflicts may even be harder to solve, but the solutions are much better. Often people think they respect each other, when they only agree about a lot of things. But respect only becomes operative when there is a disagreement. Likewise, admiring someone for certain traits or qualities or behavior, while certainly natural and legitimate, is not a sign of respect because it is based on agreeableness to ourselves.

Self-deprecation with the idea of 'saving up respect' to give to others is deeply flawed. Self-deprecation is a way to avoid feeling the the sting (or for many the shame) that would otherwise attend to the rejection or disapproval of others. We give what we get, and mostly, we get what we ask for. Status and power can be made into a commodity and exchanged, but not respect. Vigilance about the interests of others is not respect. Such vigilance lacks feeling and will eventually lead to resentment and disrespecting others. Respect is a perceptual happening, not an intentional one.

If we respect ourselves we are capable of respecting others, but it is not a unilateral matter. If others do not respect themselves it is hard to respect them, although we may treat them graciously. Lack of self-respect sometimes is accompanied by discouragement and a lot of irresponsible behavior. From this, it is sometimes said that certain persons are not respected because "they don't earn it." However, people who are 'pleasers' and do what they are asked are not respected either, though they may be judged less harshly.

Respect and approval are two different things. The very act of approving of someone suggests they are not fully respected, since the approval suggests the recipient is capable of something illegitimate or lower. When a person is respected, his or her actions are respected (although they may be disliked)

An exception is an infant An infant develops self-respect from the respect it receives from the mother and other care-givers (at least this is 'Plan A'). But this respect can not be taken for granted. Parents often see in the child a potential for vicarious attainment, and this is disrespectful. A child owns his or her own potential. It is possible to love and cherish someone but not respect them.

In the past, children were taught to respect their elders. This was not because the transaction of respect was meant to be asymmetrical but because it was taken for granted that 1) elders respected children already, and 2) children were close to their own bodies still, and since respect comes from the body, they likely had self-respect and only needed a nudge to refine the interpersonal aspect.

Children in general seem not to respect adults now, but equally adults do not respect children. Children are a protected class of sorts, but their feelings and desires are commonly invalidated, in the interest of getting them 'ready for the real world.' Instead of respect, children are taught norms of behavior. Using these norms, children judge everybody else and adults judge everyone else. Diversity and individuality suffers, as does confidence.

Self-respect rests on grounding and regaining it usually requires bodywork. Yet like many things, part of the re-acquisition can come from acting like one already has it. That is, it is healthy to call attention and become curious when one is being disrespected. Why is this person being dismissive? Do they fear bad things will happen? Do they fear our motives? Do they really think we do not know what is good for ourselves? Hopefully the answers are honest and not just an insincere retreat. In any case, if this is practiced, we will start to catch ourselves when we start to disrespect others.