We’ve all heard it, “You have to love yourself before you love anyone else.” Actually this isn’t true. In fact most of us love other people much more easily than we love ourselves. Frequently we even love our pets more easily. So, though we can love others without loving ourselves, the truth is, unless we learn to love ourselves, we can’t feel true contentment. Maybe ‘love’ is too strong of a word when it comes to ourselves, but we certainly need to find self-respect. Too frequently the belief is that we can earn self-respect by making enough money, pleasing others, getting promoted, losing weight and so forth. ‘Already Well’ is a therapeutic perspective developed by Dr. Denee Jordan that says that self-respect is actually a learned skill that many people are never taught. We are taught that we should have self-respect, but not how to get it. Actually it is self-respect that underlies success and not the other way around.
Acquiring self-respect is a decision to look at your life and identify all of the time and energy you have spent struggling, loving, hurting, suffering, discovering, working, succeeding, failing, and feeling frustration, joy and disappointment in order to be alive in the present moment. It is no small feat to be a surviving Human Being in our present society! In fact, it is amazing! Self-respect involves the recognition of all of the effort you have put into living your life! Nobody but you knows what your experience has been! Notice, that there is no mention of just looking at the ‘good’ parts of your life. All of your life has had value! Let’s use obesity as an example. ‘Already Well’ encourages the overweight client to add up the pounds she has lost and gained, the money she has spent on weight-loss treatments, the time she has spent worrying, and feeling isolated and depressed and says, “Wow! You are amazing! It is wonderful that you can invest all of that emotion, energy, and time into trying to feel better! You actually have demonstrated tremendous ability!” The only thing missing for this woman is self-respect. She has already demonstrated the ability to do the work! Remember self-respect precedes success! This approach is sincere and it works!
Self-respect requires that we look at our lives, in the present moment and know we have done the best that we learned how and give ourselves credit for our efforts, without exception. People might say, “Yes, but I know better.” ‘Already Well’ says, knowing is not enough, we only do what we learned. If we learned better, we would have done better. The second part of finding self-respect is being honest about who we are and accepting ourselves as completely as possible, including the things we think are ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. People might say, “That’s crazy! If I accept myself, nothing will change.” Though it may seem counterintuitive, self-respect paves the way for positive change. Self-respect is not a judgment that everything is the way you want it; it is a decision to accept and honor yourself as you are, so that you can move forward positively!
Ok, so is respect the same as love? There are many definitions of love and respect is certainly included. In the beginning of the article we say that we can, in fact, love other people without loving ourselves, but, to be clear relationships are much healthier when we do. When we do not love or respect ourselves, it manifests in all of our other relationships. It can manifest as irritability, hyper-sensitivity, or being extra critical of other people. All of our interactions are distorted to a certain degree, but it is our own happiness that is impacted the most.
Finding love or self-respect doesn’t necessarily involve you changing anything in your life right this minute. It involves you having the courage to give yourself credit for all of the remarkable effort you have put into living; knowing that up to this point you have done the best that you learned how. Want to do things differently? Try coming from a place of self-respect and self-acceptance first. It will make all of the difference. It is true that other people will not treat us any better than we treat ourselves. If you are looking for love or more happiness in your life, loving yourself is a perfect place to start. We attract people into our lives that mirror our perception of ourselves. Give yourself respect, compassion, and gratitude and it will be returned.