Rethinking Self-Respect: Or, How to Stop Being a D*ck to Yourself
You want to know why people struggle with concepts like self-discipline, self-esteem, and self-respect? It’s that damn prefix. Disciplining someone else or respecting someone else is pretty straightforward (though I grant you I have no idea what esteeming someone else would look like), but once we put that “self” thing in front of these phrases, they go from being simple to abstract. When it’s someone else you’re all, “well, if I respect him, I call him ‘sir’ and offer to pay for his lunch,” but when it’s self-respect, you think it’s something different.
Except no, it isn’t.
Here’s an exercise to illustrate this point: Take these “self” things literally. Pretend that your so-called “self” is really another person, and this person lives inside your body. Let’s call him Self just to make it easy to remember. Whether you know it or not, you have a very real relationship with this dude named Self. Whether you realize it, you talk to him all the time – and you’re usually a dick.
When he gets a parking ticket, you call Self an idiot. When he drops a bag of groceries, you call him clumsy. When he’s too nervous to talk to the hot girl at the bar, you call him a coward, and when he’s grinding it out at his job to pay the bills, you call him poor.
Holy crap, are you feeling bad for Self yet? It sounds like this bro gets bullied EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY – by you. And how long has this been going on? Months? Years? Jesus, this guy should hate you by now (self-hatred).
You see, whether you realize it or not, you have a really tight relationship with Self. He listens to everything you tell him, and he can never get away from you. What you say to him (and by the way, you speak to him telepathically) deeply affects how he feels. So, instead of just blurting out every neurotic thing that pops into your head, how about your start talking to Self like he’s a friend?
Instead of getting on him when he gets that ticket, imagine that Self is a buddy. “Oh man, that really sucks,” you’d say. “Don’t worry about it. It’s only $50, dude. Forget about it.”
When the grocery bag falls out of his arms, you’d say, “The guy at the store over-bagged it. I saw it myself. Not your fault.”
When Self is having trouble closing the deal at the bar, you could offer tell him, “Bro, you got this. Remember that time in Amsterdam? This is nothing compared to that.”
And when Self is putting his nose to the grindstone, how about a dose of, “Dude, you’re killing it. You should be getting paid way more. How about we look for a place that will value your time a bit better?”
A crazy thing will happen. Self will start feeling better about you, and you’ll start feeling better about him. He won’t disappoint you as much. In fact, he’ll succeed much more because encouragement breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success. This is what self-respect looks like.
It’s not all fun and games with Self, though. You’re not always his friend. You see, sometimes you’re his boss (self-discipline). There are days where he needs to get work done, but he just wants to play XBOX. But, instead of calling him a lazy freeloader, take a step back and think of the kind of boss you’d want to have.
When he makes a mistake at work, don’t blast him for it. Understand that everyone makes mistakes at work. Just forgive it, fix it, and move on. When Self does something right, don’t be the kind of boss that dismisses it because it was expected. Give him a thumbs up and recognize Self’s awesomeness. When Self doesn’t feel like working, offer to buy him that XBOX game if he gets these three tasks done. Just like being a good friend to Self, being a good leader at work will inspire him to do better. Encouragement and understanding breed confidence and success.
Here’s the thing, though: Flipping the script on your relationship Self is difficult. Unlike other friends or colleagues, you speak to self telepathically – which means that if you have a disapproving thought, he hears it. The best way to improve your relationship, then, is to improve your thoughts. Start small. When Self makes a mistake, start working on developing a knee-jerk reaction of encouragement rather than criticism. It’s tough, but try it every single time until it’s a habit. Instead of, “You idiot,” work on ingraining, “It’s all right.” Do it over and over again until it becomes second nature. Then move onto the bigger stuff.
It’ll take some work, but you’ll be amazed at how much less stressful life is when there isn’t a quiet war going on inside your head.