Per the Oxford dictionary, self-respect is defined as a noun: pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity. It is quite literally the consistent act of treating oneself with respect. Many these days use the term "self-respect" interchangably with "self-esteem" and while the two are quite obviously connected on many levels, they are not, nor ever have been the same thing.
Self-esteem is how we come to view ourselves, through positive as well as the negative influences that touch us throughout the course of our lives and how we allow them to shape our self-image. Self-respect is the way we choose to treat ourselves, to carry ourselves and the message we send to those around us about how much we feel we are truly worth. This message is not necessarily a conscious choice. Through insecurity, many human beings have an innate ability to deceive themselves into thinking that if they proclaim their self-adoration loudly and often enough, others will believe it, agree with it, and make it easier for them to believe it, too. This is a self-esteem issue.
Self-respect is when one holds themselves to a certain level of conduct and conscience that is often higher than many around them. They do not give in to herd mentality, choosing instead to look at the person in the mirror and realize this is whose opinion truly matters at the end of the day. They find themselves surrounded by others whose conduct and outlook are very similar to their own. This comradeship comes from the knowledge that those around them are going to be honest, just as they are, and that honesty comes as necessary, and not as a means for making others appear subordinate, but rather to help to improve or simply to acknowledge accomplishments and admirable traits. Individuals who have a healthy amount of self-respect do not become "Yes men" but rather know when to disagree and when it is best to step back and let others learn for themselves.
The self-respecting indivdual does not feel the need to always be right. They find value in the times they find they are mistaken. Apologies are made, if necessary, and the lesson is appreciated. Individuals who treat themselves with respect very naturally treat others with respect, even if they do not agree with or possibly like them. It all goes back to the definition "a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity."
So why the rant about self-respect? Simple. I hear quite often from people who rant as well, who groan, roll their eyes and sigh wistfully at a society that appears to them to be losing its self-respect "en masse" in favor of being popular and, to quote one gentleman, "whoring themselves to an uncaring public for the sake of attention and a moment of false adoration." This again, is a self-esteem issue. It also often comes with a growing refusal to accept personal responsibility, to deny accountability and to seek martyrdom and feed the rampant collective victim mentality that clogs our court system and leaves younger generations without the strong role-models they often crave.
And so you may have reasoned out the primary reason for my "rant".. or as I prefer to see it, my "adamant observation".. The next generation and those to follow. I am far from a stereotypical mother figure, but I have a protective streak that extends to the young and the elderly. Being even further from the Kumbaya, love they neighbor type, I do see potential in our children, and our soon-to-be adults. Unfortunately, they have grown up with parents who were "rediscovering" themselves, befriending their children instead of being parents and competing with them in areas of self-validation and sex.
The next time you witness someone harping about how "screwed up" today's kids and young adults are, how disrespectful, misguided and "lost" they seem, keep in mind that they were not born that way. They did not suddenly spring forth, fully formed and thereby, ungrateful. Griping is not enough. It MAY recognize the problem, but indifference makes every complainer part of the problem. Setting a healthy example is part of the cure. I know there are good examples. I have heard from them. I have stood with them to tell a child "No, that is not acceptable." and sat and listened to pre-teens who are swimming in hormones and confusion, teens who are even deeper in the undercurrent and young adults who are still figure out who they are and trying to understand the demands or lack of guidance from the adults in their lives. They All have dreams. Nine times out of ten, there is a very practical, very real way to achieve those dreams. All it takes is listening, encouraging, coaching, and remaining an adult who reminds them "There will be some work involved."
Self-respect and values are learned, not just through the things we are told, but by the actions of those
who matter most in our lives. Live the self-respect you wish to see in your children, in others' children,
in many of the insecure and possibly very lost adults across whose paths you may wander.