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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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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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