It’s a pretty vague concept to begin with, respect.
We use the word to mean anything from simple courtesy to grand admiration.
I love my meanings so well-defined I can see them in neon colors glowing in the dark. So writing about it won’t exactly be easy for me.
But I want to talk about respect.
Like so many things, it all began on Facebook.
There I was scrolling through my feed, when I came across the comment: (paraphrased) “I respect women, but I can’t respect a woman who doesn’t respect herself”.
And, once again, I reached into the depths of Justin Beiber’s soul, and connected on a spiritual level with his question…
What does it even mean to “respect oneself”?
Where is the objective marker of capital-r Respect?
Who determines what “respect” is?
All these things are purely subjective. The only thing they have in common, is the person doing the subjective thinking. The only thing they have in common is YOU.
The fact is, the only reason you would perceive someone as not respecting themselves, is simply because you – actually – don’t respect them.
There’s no two ways about it.
There’s no way to pretty it up.
And – don’t freak out yet – because it goes even deeper.
The only reason you have for not respecting someone, is because you don’t respect yourself.
Look, I’m not here to call out the firing squad. It’s not the end of the world.
We’re okay, even as we grow and strive together.
But the bitter truth pill it’s time to swallow, is that the excuses you’ve given yourself all these years, aren’t going to cut it anymore. No, she’s not a “ho”. No, he’s not “acting a fool”.
The problem – what will always be the problem – is YOU.
Today, respect is most commonly seen, I believe, as a mark of civility.
It’s not okay anymore (thank goodness) to be brazenly demeaning. Outward displays of disrespectful behaviour are more likely to get you criticized than admired.
It’s expected that you will be respectful to others because that means that you see people as being equals. Or – even if you don’t – you have the decency to keep this under wraps.
But the disrespect will seep out somehow.
You won’t do it to everyone. You may choose a culturally appropriate group to feel is worthy of disrespect. (Some) Blacks, (certain “kinds” of) women, the (“lazy“) poor. LGBT persons, youth, the beautiful or the wealthy. Choose your pick. You’ve got a gigantic list to take from.
You may even choose someone who loves you, because they get the unique privilege of seeing you at your very best and your very worst.
But – at the very core – people are never disrespectful because they actually believe they are better than others. People are disrespectful because they are not quite sure others aren’t better than them.
I used to think people had to “earn” my respect by being respectful towards me.
But, Danielle-from-the-past, no one can ever EARN your respect. All human beings (and by extension, living beings) deserve your respect, simply for existing.
And if you feel disrespected, the only reason it happened in the first place is because you unconsciously choose to make it so.
Danielle-from-the-past would have rolled her eyes and laughed at the thought that anyone could choose to feel a negative emotion.
So I’ll try to describe it in words she would better be able to appreciate.
I’ll try to use logic.
Person A and Person B are both watching the same movie. Person A is crying hysterically, while Person B is wondering what the hell is wrong with Person A.
Same stimulus…but a completely different response.
If the movie were just objectively sad, both persons would have the exact same reaction, and that is: sadness. So Person A’s sadness cannot have been just as a result of the movie. Person A is the ACTUAL source of the sadness. They’re just using the movie to allow them to feel that emotion.
This applies for every single emotion we experience – both good and bad.
(For a treasure trove of amazingly insightful and useful posts about this “depth psychology” and how we produce our own suffering – written by an actual psychologist – I highly recommend the blog www.whywesuffer.com. But remember: knowledge is just the first step.)
It’s like that quote you wrote in your journal maybe 15 years ago, when you were too young to understand what it meant, but liked the way it sounded: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
If someone speaks to you in a rude way; if someone displays aggressive or uncommon behaviour; if someone walks around with their nipples showing and butt-crack a-peeping through; even if someone punches you in the face – these are all just facts. They mean nothing without your own inner emotional landscape to find some way to “feel” about it.
So, Danielle-from the past, whenever you feel disrespected, it’s your own inner feelings of unworthiness “acting up” again.
You had not fully realized this unmistakable truth: we are all brilliantly shining, amazingly beautiful beings. We ARE the universe in ecstatic motion. We are capable and deserving of the highest form of love and respect. Every single one of us. And that includes you.
I don’t think you’ve even yet FULLY realized it.
Respect comes from a deep, inherent understanding of your own worth and value. It’s something that I hear a lot of people talking about and writing about lately, something India.Arie even wrote a song about. But – for me – it’s very difficult to quite find the right words to use.
It’s something that I’ve had to fight for, not with others (although I thought so at the time) but – invariably – with myself.
But here’s what I’ve learnt about respect over the years.
Aretha’s song was wrong.
You never have to ask for it. You never have to fight for it.
You can’t convince someone to respect you. They either respect themselves enough to respect you, or they don’t.
And – most importantly – RESPECT is a gift you grant yourself. When you accept it, no one will ever be able to disrespect you.
*Written, as always, for myself first.
What are your thoughts on respect? Can it be earned? Should it be earned?
Have you ever (like me) had to ask someone to put some RESPECK on it??