Are you chipping away at your self-respect?

Do you accidently bump into someone at the grocery store and then plead for forgiveness with, “I’m so sorry”? Do you intentionally wash lights and darks together when your significant other asks you to do the laundry – hoping they won’t ask you again if you do it ‘wrong'? Do you feign illness in order to get out of an obligation? These are just a few examples of how you may be chipping away at your self-respect.

While you may be doing your best to fulfill your wants or needs, in the long term this pattern of interpersonal interaction can act as a metaphorical pickaxe, chipping away at your self-worth and self-respect.

DBT teaches 4 strategies that help bury this metaphorical pickaxe and help rebuild your self-respect:

  1. Be fair to yourself and others. If you’re not, it will likely catch up to you and you’ll feel it in your sense of self. Don’t take advantage of others and don’t let others take advantage of you. Your kindergarten teacher was on to something: “Follow the Golden Rule,” and “treat others as you’d like to be treated.”  Relationships are about give and take. Give up the need to be “right,” instead, do what is effective.
  2. Do not overly apologize. Yes, when you make a mistake, apologize – this is an important part of maintaining or repairing a relationship. Do not be sorry for being you, for asking a question, for being in someone’s way, for not knowing someone else’s every need, or for having your own basic needs. Being overly apologetic is a fast track to whittling away your self-worth.
  3. Stick to your values. Let your values guide your decision making. You may first have to explore your values, identify them, and remind yourself which values are most important to you. You can then decide how to act in accordance with those values. You decide on your actions, not anyone else. Do not compromise your values to keep the peace in a relationship. Yes, it can be difficult and may even risk a relationship to stick to your values, but failing to do so can lead to a disconnected sense of self. If you develop a pattern of compromising your values for reasons that aren’t important, it’s likely you will feel like you don’t know yourself anymore.
  4. Be honest. Having a pattern of telling white lies, exaggerating the truth, acting helpless, or not taking responsibility for your actions will erode your self-respect. Fess up when you’re wrong and, once again, give up the need to be “right.” Instead, do what is effective.

Nobody is perfect – occasionally, we all tell a little white lie, apologize for something that isn’t our fault, or exaggerate the truth. It is unlikely that these sporadic mishaps will greatly impact our self-respect; however, if they become a pattern of interacting with others, they can certainly begin to wear down our self-respect and self-worth.

Next time, we will explore personal values.

Until then –