The thing is, very few people these days are taught to have self-respect. Instead, we are taught to have contempt for ourselves and our fellow humans. We are taught that we only deserve love and respect when we qualify – when we achieve, when we lose weight, when we triumph over others. We are played off against each other for a sense of worthiness. But if you can learn to respect yourself, not because of your achievement or sex or how you look, or because of the race or family you were born into, or because of your behaviours – the way you exercise and what you eat – if you can have respect for yourself because of the simple fact that you are a human being, born to this earth, and you deserve love and respect, it becomes very easy to have respect for other individuals too.
When you respect and cherish yourself, you can have respect for other people without feeling threatened or diminished, because when you have self-respect, having respect and admiration for others doesn’t make you feel inferior. It makes you feel accepted. It makes you feel like you’re home. It frees you to value your fellow human beings, not to judge them. And you start to reach a place where you can appreciate whatever luck and privilege you have been blessed with, without judging others who might be less fortunate.
I have been working on my insecurities, and I’m not threatened by the idea that someone else wants to live free from oppression and be treated with respect. My sense of self is not so shaky that when other people demand respect, my own sense of worth starts to crumble.
Because having respect for others does not challenge the respect I have for myself – the opposite is true: respect begets itself. It is not selfishness dressed up in fancy clothes, it is practical, it is meaningful. It sacrifices nothing that is worth keeping. It all starts at home. Care about equality? Have respect for yourself, even though you struggle, even though you’re not where you want to be.