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4 Self Respect Basics that Nobody’s Talking About

4 Self Respect Basics that Nobody’s Talking About

When I was in junior high, I asked a girl named Rhonda to go steady with me. She was funny, confident, popular. And I wasn’t. If I could talk her into being my girlfriend maybe I’d have a shot at being one of the cool kids. It was a gutsy move.

Just after the 3:00 bell rang, as I was gathering up my books to go home for the day, Rhonda’s best friend Margie ran up to me, excited.  “Mark! Rhonda said yes!” Apparently the whole school knew about it. I hurried to the bus, ducking and dodging behind lockers, scared to death that I’d run into Rhonda―she was my first girlfriend; I had no idea what I was supposed to do.

The next day Rhonda pulled me aside in the lunchroom to break the news that the whole thing had been a joke. Everyone else was laughing about it. The dorky, dumpy kid tried to make time with one of the cool people and was put squarely back into place. It was one of those moments that I’d spend the rest of my life trying to un-remember.

Things like that happened frequently, all the way through high school. By college I’d had enough and began to bite back. I lifted weights, changed my look, only spent time with “cool” people, etc. I started to defend myself, physically at times, if anyone treated me poorly. All of the crap I took in junior high I gave back to the dumpy, dorky crowd in spades.

I remember feeling my own weight, like I wasn’t a piece of garbage. I experienced self-respect for the first time in my life, but didn’t realize that it came at the expense of someone else. I needed people “below” me to feel OK. If they didn’t know they were below me, I’d put them there. All of the stuff that had been done to me, I did to others, buying self respect by stripping it from someone else.

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I lived that way for years, and paid for it, all because I didn’t understand the basics of self respect.

1. It’s Closer Than You Think

Do an online image search for “Self Respect” and you’ll get tens of thousands of memes that read something like the following:

  • “If someone disrespects you, ditch ’em”
  • “If you don’t respect me, I won’t respect you.”
  • “Protecting yourself is more important than anything else”

I know plenty of people, myself included, who have tried to think their way into self respect, who’ve embraced every idea known to humanity, and are still searching.

But we tend to look in the wrong places.

The trick to self respect is not in trying to find it, or build it up from nothing. We already have it. Disrespect would have no power, it wouldn’t make us so angry, if we didn’t have some sense that everyone’s supposed to treat us respectfully. We come out of the womb with self respect, and won’t hesitate to respond if people dishonor it.

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Self-respect isn’t something we lose, it’s something that gets buried. The trick is figuring out how to rescue it, and making sure it doesn’t get buried again.

2. Disrespect Eats Self Respect for Breakfast

It feels good to slam people, pass judgement, place others “below”. Some people do ridiculous things and it’s our job to put them in their place. We want justice. But we’re typically not willing to risk anything, so we stand at a safe distance and utter things that change nothing, showing disrespect into the souls of others ‒ and into our own.

All of this is exacerbated by the fact that we live in a culture that values disrespect, fueled by a forum that allows us to say whatever, whenever, to whomever. We indiscriminately spew all manner of vitriol on the internet without a second thought. Our music, TV shows, movies, etc. all pay homage to this new way of life that’s unprecedented in any culture before us. Disrespect has never enjoyed such a spotlight, such a part of humanity’s daily diet. It’s never been so popular, or eaten so well.

But disrespect won’t share the same soul with self respect. In a culture that so highly values the former, we shouldn’t be surprised that the latter is so elusive.

3. The Golden Rule

There is however one simple task that anyone can accomplish, something that flies in the face of our culture, and gives us the best chance of keeping our self respect intact.

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The more I give respect to others, the more I feel my own… and vice versa… unfortunately.

I have a few friends who reek of self respect, so much that you feel respected when you’re around them. And their dignity is not easily shaken.

I didn’t get anywhere in this arena until I embraced their secret.

These people are respectful when they argue, when they confront someone, when they’re hurt, offended, cheated. They’re part of a very small tribe of others who believe that it’s never OK to disrespect anyone, even if you’re merely fantasizing about it. The more they manage to unconditionally respect others, the more cement-like their self respect becomes.

Respect is an investment, not just in themselves, but in what ripples beyond them.

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They’ve decided to respect others―always―without condition, excuse, or qualification. But they’ve also managed to live with a deeper understanding of where disrespect really comes from.

4. The Mother of All Impudence

Nobody wakes up in the morning deciding to be disrespectful; it’s much more complicated than that. Disrespectful people are disrespected people – they’ve been laughed at, scorned, shamed, dismissed. They’re people who have managed to laugh it off, act like it never happened, and cached it deep in a place where it can do some real damage.

Show me a disrespectful person and I’ll show you someone who’s been disrespected, too many times.

Sure, we can return the scorn of our detractors, throw it back, or worse, internalize it; but there’s another way. Understanding where disrespect comes from, that it has nothing to do with our shortcomings, is the key to giving it no quarter.

Disrespect has to do with pain ‒ very real pain, something so bad that it incites her victims to lash out at others, to spread her hurt. It’s not about truth, or justice, it’s about retaliation, making sure everyone feels as bad as the bearer. People will disrespect us over and over again in this life, and we’ll be tempted to hurt them back. But if we’re incapable of mourning the origins of their pain, we haven’t yet understood what’s really happening.

Nothing good is easy. Self respect is NO exception.

We don’t have to “protect” ourselves from others, or go find our self respect, or try and build it from the ground up; and we certainly aren’t in need of another opportunity to be disrespectful. We simply need to find the strength and wisdom to respect others, unconditionally.

You can still confront, stand up for what’s right, have relationships with toxic people, etc. But if you’re interested in living with more self respect, you’ll have to interact with others in a way that honors theirs.

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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