Dharma arrived on time and was chilled through when he entered my cozy kitchen. I quickly took his cloak, poured him a cup of steaming tea, and invited him to sit at the table. Breakfast was ready! As he warmed his front digits on the hot mug, he began to relax. The conversation started flowing. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Dharma asked me what turned out to be a lead-in question for today's lesson, "Tadpole, do you respect yourself?" "Uh, I think so Sir," I stuttered, "Although I'm not sure exactly what you mean." Dharma already knew this, I suspect, so he continued, "The frog who respects himself is safe from others, my boy. Does this help? Do you understand now?" I may be a little thick this early in the morning but, honestly, I didn't have a clue what self-respect and safety had to do with each other. My answer said it all. "No, Sir, not really."
Dharma explained to me that when you have self-respect, you don't have anything to prove to anyone. Thus, it makes it easier to be kind, generous, and unflappable when one is unduly attacked by others. So, when somebody says or does something ugly toward us, we won't feel shaken by it nor feel the need to retaliate. I must point out here that Dharma stresses that self-respect does not have to mean becoming narcissistic or self-centered. in reality, it's just the opposite. Self-respect is about gaining a deep sense of self-worth and self-love to show others that you are not only worthy of receiving love but of giving love, as well. This all makes good sense, but I had to ask Dharma how I can gain more self-love and more self-respect. What he said will, I think, benefit you as well.
1. Figure out what makes you respect yourself. Is it keeping your word to others? Maybe it's showing more kindness and compassion for others. both human and animal. Perhaps it's living a good and healthy lifestyle. Whatever self-respect means to you, figure out how you can get more of it by doing more of whatever "it" is.
2. Be honest about who you are...and who you aren't. Once you know what makes you feel good, continue with the honesty. You deserve that. being honest with others is just as important as being honest with yourself. Example: if you know that living out of a suitcase makes you crazy, then don't apply for the job that requires non-stop travel...no matter how much it pays! Be honest with yourself and honest with the potential employer.
3. Stop trying so hard to be "normal" (whatever that means!) "The only way to stand out is to be your idiosyncratic, real, quirky self. It's easier said than done, but consider this: all those folks you look up to have taken ownership of what sets them apart and leveraged it to their advantage. Besides, if you don't own who you are, you blend in. And what’s interesting about that?" Right on, Dharma!
4. Don't let others define your boundaries. The world may be paved with good intentions. But that doesn't mean we should always listen to the advice others offer us. Don't let anyone tell you what can't do, shouldn't do, or won't do. Each of us has to make those decisions for ourselves. No matter how well-intentioned that other person may be. That goes for Mom, too. It's fine to listen to their advice but, ultimately, the decision is yours and yours alone.
5. Let whatever you get done today be enough. Self-respect means not engaging in overly critical self-judgment and nasty self-talk. What we all need is a shift toward more self-kindness. One way to move forward is to accept whatever you do today as enough.
6. Apologize with self-respect. Saying, "I'm sorry" is never easy so why not make it count? The next time you're thinking about pleading your case about something you did or didn't do, why not stop for a moment (or two or three) and check in with your inner truth? If an apology is called for, offer it courageously and with feeling. That's all that's required. No back-peddling is needed.
7. Be willing to accept reality. Be willing to accept people and things as they are. I know that it can be painful to acknowledge a problem we have or flaw that we possess. Things are they are. And when we don't face reality, our problem or situation just gets prolonged. Try to deal with your issue, whatever it might be, with a little curiosity and courteousness. That is far more respectful of your energy and of your time.
8. Write love notes to your body. Our health, just like everything else is a relationship. The more we pay attention to it and nourish it, the more our bodies will thrive. Stop looking in the mirror and focusing on the things you feel need "fixing." Instead, stand in front of the mirror and find three things about yourself that you like. This might be hard for some of you. It is for me. But you can do this. Okay, I'll start first. I love my shade of green. I think my bulging eyeballs are kinda cute, and I enjoy the way I can catch a fly with my tongue on the first try, That wasn't so hard! Now it's your turn. Once you come up with your list, pick the one or two you're the most enthusiastic about. Write them on sticky notes and post them where you'll see them often. maybe put them in your wallet. Stick it to your credit/debit card. Every time you pay for something you're reminded about how nice your---- is. If you don't love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?
Dharma closed my lesson today by reminding me to treat myself the way I'd want others to treat me. "By focusing only on our self-perceived faults and flaws, we’re basically giving permission for the rest of the world to focus on them too." And when we know our self-worth, what others think of us won't matter. Because we know the truth. And truth sets us free. Self-respect really does keep us safe from others.
Wise words, indeed.
Please join me again tomorrow for another (shorter) blog. Until then,