Have You Lost Your Self Respect?

have you lost your self respect?Have you ever compromised your values to smooth out a conflict?  Been worried about how someone would judge you and pretended not to hold important ideals?  Have you lied or glossed over the truth out of fear of rejection?

We all smooth over the truth and bend in our standards or principles from time to time in order to reduce conflict and make relationships work.  But if pleasing others becomes a habit and smoothing over disagreements and arguments becomes more important than your own personal beliefs, you may find that you’re compromising your self-respect.

It’s possible to lose sight of your values slowly, over time.  If you’ve had negative experiences with confrontation, one concession may lead to another, until you’re no longer sure where you’re values lie.

In order to re-connect with what is important to you, ask yourself who you admire.  What is it that you admire about that person?  What specific qualities are admirable?  What qualities and actions would you like to emulate?

In DBT people are taught the skills of self-respect effectiveness.  Self respect effectiveness is respecting your own values and beliefs, while getting what you want and need in the world.  It involves:

  • Acting in ways that fit your values and
  • Acting in ways that make you feel competent and capable.

Sometimes we give in or behave in ways that get us what we want or need indirectly.  We may lie, act helpless or give in to someone else so we don’t create an argument.  These things work to get us what we want and need, but in the long run, they make us feel worse about ourselves.  Using every now and then won’t have too big an effect, but using often will.

Have you made a habit of avoiding conflict or getting what you need by making compromises to your values?  What values have you compromised?  If you’ve been able to regain your self-respect, how have you done that?  What makes you stick to your values?  Please comment below.

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8 Replies to “Have You Lost Your Self Respect?”

  1. In my relationship early on, when children came to live permanently – fully formed stepsons, – I found that I sometimes started by trying to respect the primary relationships of the parents and children – as a step parent, you really do have to give way, and not try to be “in charge. In retrospect, i know that I was young, had no parenting experience and – the big thing – had never anticipated parenting with a partner who – surprise – held different opinions. And we had not worked out any ways of negotiating differences. And perhaps this approach.

    What happened is that over time the sensible backing off – – became concession – for peace, so that partner and children weren’t angry with me – even when I disagreed… and i grew angrier and more and more miserable, feeling that I had no support and that the family relationships were out of balance…. it got so I dreaded going home – from an equally stressful job – The worst results – I got too angry at the kids, yelled too much — hated myself for this – and ultimately became pretty estranged from my partner, who was, in my view, the perennial vacation father who never made the transition to everyday parenting ( he was happy to let me be the nagging mom). I do not know if “holding my ground” would have worked, so to speak. It might have been that the choice was living this way or leaving, which I didnot do.

    Anyway, what also happened with us – I felt humiliated that I couldn’t “make” the family the way it should be… it didn’t help that my timing was out-of sync with friends. I suddenly had an 11 and 13 yr old; they were dealing with babies. Everyone celebrated their life change; while even my mom was perplexed, not happy, over my situation.

    Now, If nothing else, I’d tell others to insist on some sort of family counseling – with skilled persons focused on setting up workable systems to handle the everyday stuff that can overwhelm. Deal with deeper issues if needed, but move fast to get a workable day-to-day system, so that everyone feels their needs are being met most of the time. Super nanny has quite a bit of wisdom! And if your partner, spouse, significant other cannot commit to a little work to make your lives happier – I think I WOULD leave.

    I had/have a good understanding of my own background, the kids’ early experiences, etc – but found that understanding why we were messed up wasn’t sufficient, – we- really needed some practical advice….

    One thing I do know from my own background – which is probably typical of people who “lose” who they are — knowing when to speak up, and how to be clear without attacking someone else – or feel
    ing attacked, simply because someone has a different view. Judging from the level of public dialogue today, I would guess this is a common issue!

    How did I get beyond my guilt at not holding tight to my values? Talking to friends, and a therapist, to put things in perspective. Understanding that i wasn’t an axe murderer just a person who had screwed up some things, but done pretty well with others. Oh, bye the bye, this all does have just a little to do with judging oneself – and learning to lose your perfectionism — or at least to make the subject of jokes, not goals

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. You articulate, so well, how giving in to make peace can lead to resentment and anger. It is also clear that families are complex, with no one-size-fits all answer. I appreciate you sharing your experience and happen to agree that self-judgment has a significant affect on our relationships and self-respect.

  2. I did at one point, I lost a lot. I lost my friends and contact with my family. I allowed myself to slowly give in to a very dysfunctional family and a very abusive husband. I was not hit with fists but over 14 years his explosive temper and willingness to go nuclear if I ever disagreed with anything or didn’t approve of everything and didn’t do all the chores and all the parenting of my step daughter. He wore me down and I eventually stopped trying to fight back or stand up for myself and as time went by I too started behaving in this dysfunctional hateful way. I would behave in petty spiteful ways and manipulate others. I engaged in behaviors that to this day make me cringe in humiliation. I was truly lost. I felt like I was almost beyond recovery.

    It was the occasion of the death of a close old friend that reconnected me with my old friends and gave me the perspective to see how far I had gotten from myself and how deeply unhappy I was. It let me see the cost to others because when you lose yourself they lose you too. This began a painful and worthy journey of self realization, confrontation with the truth and healing. Along that way I left my husband and found me and my self respect was waiting for me just beyond honesty and understanding.

    The journey continued to a point where, in dealing with my step daughter whom I love and have raised since she was four, I had to stand up for myself, draw boundaries and demand consideration. I told the truth and kept to my values and so far she will not speak to me. I think about the choices I have made around self respect and holding to my own values, one of which is other people do not get to treat me badly, and the fact that in some ways I have lost contact with my child. Yet I know I could not have done it another way.

    Losing one’s self and one’s self respect is so terribly painful, I am not sure I can live through that again. I know I don’t want to. My entire life has changed and now my path is taking me down roads that I feel are right for me. I may not always know where I am going but I am no longer lost.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. It seems that losing self respect is often a gradual process, in which, slowly, over-time, we find ourselves feeling and behaving in ways that are not consistent with who we are. I’m impressed by your ability to reconnect with your values and stand up for yourself and what you believe in, even when it’s painful and their are negative consequences, like losing contact with your step-daughter.

  3. I came back to read yours, and Susan’s comments,and thank you. I suspect this post of yours may draw fewer responses than some because this isn’t about laying blame on others, but much more about facing one’s own “compliance” in the slow erosion of self-respect, and the determination it takes to reclaim this. Somewhat like Susan, asserting more of my own values led to a disruption, but not a permanent tear, in my relationship with my stepsons, which was very painful. It is very possible that Susan’s daughter will come back to her once she can see the past with different eyes.

    This also reminded me about an epiphany I had in the work world. When young, I used to think about courage in terms of “big” actions – you rescue someone from a burning building, etc. The real challenge of living turned out to be maintaining integrity in the transactions of everyday life. How you speak to coworkers, whether you own up when you’ve made a mistake, whether you do your work properly or take short cuts, whether you are there for friends in need. Is there a female term for mensch?

    1. Thank you again for sharing the wisdom of what you’ve learned from your experiences. You make a wonderful point that it takes courage to maintain integrity in everday relationships. In the face of disapproval, abuse or criticism it’s easy to compromise, thinking that just one small concession doesn’t matter. It the short run it doesn’t. But over time we can end up far off center.

  4. Lost My Self Respect? In some ways yes.My life has always always been stressful! From being raised by an alcoholic bully ex military father to an enabler,people plser,bad tempered mother that gives until She has nothing left emo or physically..Add two Sisters that one is an attention seeker,jealous,insecure because of my Mom’s and I clse rel,the other youngest jealousy,insecure again of my mom’s and I unpredictable but close rel.Add that to two bros. both aggressive,abusive,egotistical,jealous insecure again (my Mom and I’s rel)) like my father with no respect for Women at all! I Thank God I grew up and finally have no contact with sisters/bros.! Now i have been Divorced many yrs. from Abuser Husband,alot of abusive rel with Men,Sexually abused,incest,raped in last rel not ex husband.Alone now going on 9 yrs, had other opportunities but wasn’t the right time,Now two grown daughters one – Autistic probs! 24 7!Rude! Very Disrespecrful! Low IQ No exaggeration.The other disrespectful! rude! both
    in their early 20s.Grandson 5 yrs. old very Spoiled! Possible Austism from his Mom,no Father raised by My Parents.Why?My Mom doesn’t think I’m ready to take on the responsibilty because of my bpd/mood disorder! And She has legal custody! Ok so Mon – Fri I look after my Grandson while My Mom works fulltime.I house clean thoroughly every day,teach my grandson abcs 123,crafts art u name it besides his school.Put up with my Father’s impossible unpredictable rages and alcoholic tendicies but enjoy when he is working. And I still people pls on top of it! Why? To keep the Peace,just like I did as a Kid growing up in this god forsaken family!My days start 7:30 am and sometimes till 8 or 9 pm.On top of that my Mom pays Me because I am on a fixed income,which My overbeearing Father never lets Me forget!!! But weekends I am free,sometimes only one day.Oh and recently My best friend of many yrs. has been very rude and hurtful towards Me and I just read a msg putting Me down from her again.I TRUST NOONE!! My Mom Sometimes but rarely I never know When She’ll become Angry and overreact or put Me down,but She is getting better at being aware of her behs.Recently my psychiatrist told Me my Mom is BPD like Me,but if I told Her She would hit the roof! Because it’s ok for Me to be referred to as Men ill but noone else.So this xmas for the first time,I am having it at My place nowhere else. (Smile)My Dad won’t come and I doubt my Mom will but at least I’ll have my two daughters,and grandson.Now I have to wait till 2013 for DBT but life skills has helped alot! (Smile) And no I don’t live with My Parents,butI might as well…hah! hah! Oh and deal with the outfall of my Parents upset because my bros/sisters ignore Us…So how is your life??

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