In counseling, we frequently hear concerns expressed about a lack of respect hurting relationships. Many people think that if their partner would just conform and do things the way they want them done, that they would then feel respected. Respect is an important foundation of any healthy relationship. But it begins with self-respect. Ask yourself, Am I easily offended? Do I justify my anger at my partner by thinking things like, if only s/he would change then I could be happy, feel respected, etc? The reality is that the better we feel about our self the less likely we are to be offended and angry at the behavior of others.
It is very empowering and freeing to NOT be dependent on the behavior of others to feel respected or loved. When our self-respect and self-esteem are high we are far less reactive to the behavior of others. When our self-respect and self-esteem are low and someone does something that we see as disrespectful we can feel a loss of control and respond with anger.
In the long run, it is our behavior, not our partner’s that determines how we feel about our self. The more we guard our integrity by making good choices, rather than choices of convenience or appearance, the better we will feel about our self. The better we feel about our self, the less likely we are to over react to our partner’s behavior. When we feel good about our self, we are more likely to be patient, understanding and generous with our partner.
Choices of appearance are those you make to make yourself look good or keep yourself out of trouble. Choices of convenience are based on what feels good in the moment, rather than on what you know is right or good. Whenever we make choices that go against our values, when we do what we believe to be wrong, we hurt our self-respect and self-esteem.
The greater our sense of self-respect, the less we will crave and demand respect from others. The more we are in control of our self, our behavior and feelings; the less we will feel the need to control and manage others.