It was a Christmas buffet at a popular hotel.
A family of 4 sat down to eat, elegantly dressed mother, stately looking father and two children. All of a sudden, the man shouted at his wife “ODE” which in Yoruba means fool and left the table in anger.
The wife immediately ran after him dragging the children in tow. It left a bitter taste in my mouth and I couldn’t but wonder what she did to make her husband disgrace her so publicly.
Thinking back to that incident, I have never quite fully understood why a person who is continually abused physically by their spouse will continue in the relationship and even post pictures on social media depicting a happy marriage, why two women will fight physically over a man, why a woman or man will debase themselves because a relationship that meant the world to them is over. Why a man or woman will stay with a partner that insults and talks down on them. Why one will work with a boss that reduces them to tears with their insults and sarcasm. Why an educated woman will get into a scuffle with an illiterate driver on the street, why a man will regularly drink himself to stupor and misbehave.
In searching for answers, I discovered that people who allow these things not only suffer from self-esteem issues, but they do not have self-respect. I have always had esteem issues and I know most of us have had it at one time or the other in our lives but I have never been bereft of self-respect.
The Merriam -Webster dictionary defines self-respect as a proper respect for yourself as a human being. I like the insertion of the word “proper’’ because it helps to qualify what self-respect is not. It is not being conceited, egoistic, rude, non-respecting of other people beliefs and values.
Self-respect is further defined by Jesse D Matthews Psy D, a psychiatrist as the belief that you are worthy of love, attention and respect and that you are no less than anyone else”.
To me self-respect means -The ability to know my worth and not let anyone abuse me or debase me, to like myself, to insist on being treated rightly by others and standing up for myself and my values, to not let anyone talk down at me or my choices, to hold myself to a certain standard , to be true to myself and have the right boundaries in my relationships.
As is with most of our behavior, we learn to either have a good dose of self-worth (self-respect ) from our childhood, from how we are addressed or talked to as children either by our families, teachers or friends. If we grow up in a family where we are accepted and valued we will have a high dose of self-worth. If however, we grow up in a household filled with criticism, abuse and intimidation there is every likelihood that we will not respect our person, that we will learn to think little of ourselves, to allow people to treat us anyhow because we unconsciously think we do not deserve the good things of life, to tolerate bad behavior and be quick to excuse it or to believe we deserve it.
You will know if you have self-respect when you
(A) set boundaries with others, essentially drawing a line with regard to how you will and will not be treated. This is especially true in our relationships. People should not talk anyhow to you because you are in a relationship with them. Your spouse should not use words like – must I tell you everything, look me in the eyes when I am talking to you, You are stupid or foolish, ode, etc
(B) Do not allow anyone to disrespect you to feed their ego.
(C) Do not beg to be loved, liked or needed. I have always maintained the fact that I will not beg anyone to love me or stay in a relationship when it is obvious that the other party wants out. It is very demeaning to be in a relationship where one is being treated as if they are being done a favor and it is the highest form of a lack of self-respect to beg for acceptance, approval or love. This came to the fore for me sometime in my marriage, I was suddenly consumed with tracking Mr. Aisi’s moves and I found myself waking up in the midnight to check his phones for the information I sought. One day I sneaked into the toilet with his phones around 2am whilst he snored away and scrolling through his phone, I suddenly came to myself. I Omotara was the one snooping about like a thief looking for God knows what.
It was demeaning and I couldn’t justify the reasons for demeaning myself in such a manner. After that day, I never went through his phone again because I knew that I was worth more than that, I knew who I was, what I brought to the table and was convinced that no one not even the man I loved passionately had the right to make me behave less than who I was.
(D) Confront bad behavior that is detrimental to your wellbeing. People will make bad choices and hurt us but it smacks of a lack of self-respect if we allow people to maltreat us without confronting them with our displeasure over their actions or inactions.
Respect is a vital ingredient in every relationship, moreso in the relationship we have with ourselves. It’s important that we are able to look at ourselves in the mirror and love the person we are, be happy with our choices and behavior, take pride in our achievements .To self-respect, is to like ourselves, to treat ourselves like we will treat someone we value and esteem.
If you lack self-respect you are likely to find yourself in abusive relationships where you are pushed around, manipulated or taken advantage of. The saying “Respect begets Respect” is also true in the relationships we have with our selves.
So, today remind yourself of your worth, establish your values, draw your boundaries , expect and demand your respect.