Self-respect is like a Lego house. It takes many bricks to build up, one at a time, starting with a foundation. No matter how much you’ve worked on it, you can always keep building it up, adding new features that express who you are.
But the thing about this particular Lego house is that no one else can build yours for you. Others can give you an extra brick from time to time, or maybe a nice tree to put in the front yard, but only you can see the shape it’s all meant to take.
If you don’t take responsibility for your own foundation, then any brick that is offered to you will simply fall to the floor, where someone may step on it and experience the greatest physical pain known to man.
You are responsible for creating your own body of self-respect. It is a gift that only you can give yourself.
As you do, you will naturally earn the respect of others, and have more to give as well. Fortunately, unlike a real Lego project, the more you build this one, the more there is to build with.
You don’t have to fight off anyone else for that perfect 2×4 shiny red brick. Just keep building, and you’ll have all you need.
People who highly respect themselves have more respect to give, and are like magnets for the respect of others. Read on for some simple steps that will help you build your house from the inside out.
1. Work for Your Own Approval
When you’re building your Lego house of self-respect, it’s not for anyone else. That house is for you and only you know what it’s meant to be. So don’t try to build it for them.
A house made for external approval is pretty, but built on nothing. It is a freestanding facade. A house made for yourself is a house built to last.
Respect isn’t built from the outside in. It’s built from the inside out.
It’s all about personal values. We feel respect for people who act in line with our values.
For instance, if you highly value punctuality, then a person who is always on time will tend to earn your respect. Likewise, if you highly value punctuality, then you will appreciate yourself more when you show up to things on time.
You should always be fighting to win your own approval. For that, you need your choices, actions, and words to be in line with your values.
If others share your values, then you will naturally earn their respect, too.
Your actions and choices still matter when no one else is around, too. Remember, you’re not doing it for anyone else. The only person whose approval you need is the only person who’s always watching:
Mark Zuckerberg YOU.
Who are you when no one else is watching? If you’re only fighting for external approval, then you’ll start to stray from your own values, particularly when no one else is looking.
Going against your internal compass deals a heavy blow to self-respect, and as a result, self-esteem. Living a life that goes against your beliefs feels just plain bad.
Strive for your own respect first, and the rest will flow naturally.
2. Remember the Golden Rule
Pretty much every language, culture, or philosophy in history has found some way of saying it: treat others the way you want to be treated. Well, let’s not forget its equally important and oft-missed corollary.
The Golden Rule, Corollary 1 – Treat yourself the way you want to be treated.
Consider the way you treat others when you intend to be kind, respectful, or loving. Do you treat yourself the same way? Because a lot of us tend to forget that. It’s a common thing to put a higher premium on the happiness of a loved one, while discounting your own.
In order to have respect for yourself, you need to consistently show respect for yourself.
Often someone who is stuck in a toxic relationship, or a job they hate, is the last one to realize it’s time to walk away. It’s easier for family and close friends to recognize, because they respect that person and want more for them.
Sometimes the breadth of pain, and the possibility of hope, is easier to see in someone else’s situation than it is in your own.
Try this. When things don’t feel right, step outside yourself for a moment, imagine someone else — your best friend or a close family member — is in your position. Do you want to help that person? If so, then you owe yourself the same help you’d give them.
No one on Earth is worth any more, or any less, than anyone else. That includes you. So make sure to treat yourself the way you want to be treated.
3. Pull the Self-Respect Lever
One of the most important pieces of advice I’ve gotten in my adult life is to ask myself a certain question when I’m in a tricky spot. As you may know, I’m a big fan of asking great questions. And this is one is one of my favorites:
Does this raise my self-respect, or lower it?
The question is deceptively simple, and immensely effective. It has shown me the way through more situations than I can count.
Every choice you make and every action you take can either raise or lower your respect for yourself. So think about which way you want to pull the lever.
Just like your comfort zone, your body of self-respect will either grow or shrink based on what you choose to think and what you choose to do.
Remember, what you respect is what you value. And this question is a shortcut to using your values as a guide. It separates the feelings of the present moment from the cool brilliance of your core beliefs.
When you feel stuck at any point in your life, great or small, not sure which way to go, let self-respect help you find your way. Take the road that most closely fits your values, and you’ll arrive at a greater sense of self worth every time.
Life becomes happier each time you choose to build your self-respect. Use these tips to let your own values guide you. Your life is more peaceful and more fulfilling when you follow your own compass, and you’ll gain the respect of others along the way.