As a young girl I learned from my mother, teachers, magazines, and friends that having self-respect was very important. If I were to grow up and lead a respectful life, I had better get busy getting self-respect. And so the search began and I looked outside myself in this search. It was here where I made the wrong turn. It was here where I misplaced my self-respect.
What then is self-respect if it is not some moral code or universal law to follow? How do I find it? Joan Didion in her essay simple titled “On Self-Respect” says self-respect is:
“…the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life..”
Didion continues to explain in this essay that self-respect is the ability to hear our own inner voice and have the bravery to follow it. It doesn’t mean life won’t have its tangles or disappointments. It doesn’t mean we won’t have fear or failure. She says:
“anything worth having has its price. People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk…”
In having self-respect, we are able to weigh our own hopes and desires against the aspirations of others. We take action because we have the deep desire to do so, despite the fear we may feel. At the same time we are willing to face failure and take the responsibility for the consequences of our actions. Many call this simple having character. Or as Didion says:
“Sticking to our decisions and see where they lead us…”
According to Didion, self-respect is that “daily ritual” of getting to know ourselves. It’s about learning when to say yes and when to say no in life. Self-respect is not about always being right. It’s not a place where we arrive at but rather it’s a continuous journey. It’s about getting a good nights sleep instead of allowing our ego to yell at us about missed goals, love not given and work not done. It’s about forgiving ourselves of our failures, or as Didion calls as “private reconciliations”. It’s about loving ourselves despite our falls. It’s about being human. It’s about being vulnerable.
I believe self-respect is the foundation that vulnerability should be built upon. Without it the house will crumble and the self will get lost the clamoring pulls, desires and wants of the outside world. I am currently trying to engage in the daily discipline of self-respect now that I have a better idea of what self-respect is. And I feel the windows of vulnerability opening regardless of what the weather is outside.