by Dr. Bill Austin
Hot Button: Lack of Respect
While it is important to be respected by others, it is more important to respect ourselves. Some complementary words for respect might be honor, value, admire, esteem, and consider. Lack of respect implies people intruding into and not recognizing our boundaries.
When a person experiences a lack of respect, he or she expresses feelings that range from being upset to rage. By observing the ones who become enraged, it is my suspicion they carry a deep wound that was inflicted by others who did not value them by listening and regarding their feelings. The wound might be a result of abuse. When that wound is touched, these people are flooded with rage. When they are in this rage, they are unapproachable and it is no longer safe to be with them. All reason goes out the window. For many people who become enraged, they have the expectation that their partner is supposed to make them feel valued, important, and good about themselves. The belief is, “If you loved me, I wouldn’t be feeling this hurt.”
Have you ever asked, “What’s wrong with me that I let one word, one zinger, one disapproving act, one critical remark crush or enrage me?” “Why do I give other people so much power over me?” “Why is it that I let their opinion of me be more important than my own opinion of me?” “Why do I explode over such small incidents?”A real problem for some of us
is that we put our self-worth and self-respect
in the hands of others.
“Why do I hold onto and can’t let go of hurts that I received from others?”
A real problem for some of us is that we put our self-worth and self-respect in the hands of others. We are often taught to affirm ourselves externally. “Be nice so that other people will like you. Be good so that people will think you are nice.” If we do affirm ourselves, sometimes we are called “selfish” and “egotistic.” The truth is while we value how others feel about us, we are the authority of what we believe about ourselves. If we don’t respect or accept ourselves, how can we accept that from others? No matter how much our partner demonstrates love and respect to us, we will find it difficult to accept it if we do not believe ourselves to be lovable. “Unfortunately, when we don’t love ourselves, we behave in a way that makes it harder to love ourselves. It’s a vicious circle in which we become less lovable the less we love ourselves.”1
Where does this lack of self-respect come from? In the book, Quantum Learning2, the author reports that children on the average receive 460 negative or critical comments and 75 positive or supportive comments everyday. Steve Kissell, a local comedian, shared some disturbing statistics: “Children laugh over 350 times a day while adults laugh 15.” Maybe the amount of critical remarks finally stifle the child in all of us, chain the free spirit and make us take everything so seriously because it has not been safe to let our inner child out. We are afraid to let the inner child out because we might be criticized or rejected as being immature.
What will it take for many of us to feel good about ourselves? What will have to happen for us to finally accept and respect ourselves as we are?
Not to make it too simplistic, one of the ways of dealing with lack of self-respect is to look at the way we think. We may have what is called faulty thinking. We do not have a permanent personality. We can make changes. One of the ways is to be our own cheerleader. Not to let mistakes say everything about us – be specific about our mistakes and generalize our successes.
When we are criticized, what hurts is when the criticism agrees with what we already feel bad about. It hits us where we do not accept ourselves; where there is already a lot of self-criticism and denial to cover it up.
Ask yourself, what does respect look like? If people were giving you respect, how would they be treating you?
1, 2 DePorter, Bobbi, and Mike Hernacki. Quantum Learning. Dell, 1992.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700