Inner voice telling us "I don't like myself" is an increasingly common phenomenon in our society. How to start accepting yourself and increase your self-respect? How to befriend yourself and finally feel good in your own skin?
Respect is about the way you treat others and they way you think about them. Self-respect concerns the same things but in regard to yourself.
Disrespecting someone usually involves not accepting that person for who they are, having a sense of superiority over them or even showing them contempt, e.g. "there is something wrong with him" or "I'm better than him".
Not respecting someone means not giving them the right to be who they are.
I know what it's like to have such a self-concept. Even before I reached 18, I had a terrible relationship with myself. I didn't give myself the right to be who I am. I would also think that something was wrong with me. I assumed that there was something in me that is bad, deplorable, harmful. I would feel, on a regular basis, angry with myself. Anger, sometimes covered by shame, and a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about the future (driven by black scenarios of what is going to happen) - that’s what I used to feel the most back then.
The fact that I treated myself like this was like a virus, which effectively destroyed my self-esteem.
Who disrespects who here?
In order to understand the mechanisms behind all these "self-concepts" (self-respect, self-compassion, self-acceptance, etc.), we must adopt a slightly different approach than the generally accepted way of thinking about one’s personality.
For more than 100 years, various psychologists have suggested that our mind consists of various parts (one of the most famous people who proclaimed the multiple mind paradigm was Carl Jung). According to this point of view, our personality is not a homogeneous structure but more like a puzzle - when all its pieces put together, they form a coherent and meaningful image.
The personality of each of us has different parts - internal critic, perfectionist, activist, inner brat, lump, etc. Of course - each of us has a different internal family, unique only to us - just like a fingerprint is completely unique to every individual person.
Between all these parts there are various relations - just like there are relationships between members in a family. Some are fond of others and and support each other, while others are in conflict and fight with each other. Some judge others very critically, which makes others feel burdened with such negative judgment.
Looking on self-respect from this perspective, it can be assumed that you’ve got some part (or group of parts) in you that is respectful (or not), and some part (or group of parts) that is respected (or not).
- Your workaholic part of personality may not respect your inner lump
- In turn, your lazy part (or the one that just needs some rest) may not respect the part that thinks only about work.
- Your development-minded and positive part may not respect the internal critic (in other words, you might criticize yourself for criticizing yourself - doesn’t it sound familiar?),
- That part of you that wants freedom may not respect the part that depends on your partner and cannot live without him.
In short, if there are parts in you that push you to unwanted behaviours, it means that you also have other parts in you that judge or don’t accept these negative or destructive behaviours.
However, most times, it is not just one part of you fighting another that makes you feel the burden of your inner conflict or the lack of self-respect. It's usually a set of several parts of you that very harshly judge other parts. They despise them and want to get rid of them. They don't give them the right to be who they are and play their role.
How do you know that you have such evaluative parts in you? Perhaps you used to say to yourself things like "You did it again! You are hopeless" or "I am fed up with how lazy you are". Most often, it is the voice of your internal critic, however, sometimes it can be a feeling of shame or guilt that comes to surface.
Once you know that you have evaluative parts in your personality (which you respect or disrespect) and evaluated parts (which you respect or disregard), the path to self-respect becomes easier. It turns out that every part of our personality does everything in its power to help you.
Just like every cell of our body takes care of the well-being of the whole system, all parts take care of our psyche.
It doesn't always work out well, for example, our internal critic clips our wings, but usually his goal is to protect us from getting hurt or motivate us into action. These critical and disrespectful parts also have a positive intention. They are convinced that other parts (those that are not respected but criticized by them) affect us negatively. So they try to take the power away from them, annihilate them, lock them in the basement of the subconscious - in order to avoid this negative impact.
Once you understand that the nature of each part is good and its intention positive, it will be easier for you to respect these "bad" parts of your personality. In fact, they are not bad and criticizing them does not help at all. Only a deeper understanding of why this part does what it does and discovering the real purpose of its actions will allow you to help this part change its ways.
How do you feel when someone disrespects you?
Most probably, this is not the most pleasant feeling. Now think about how the parts feel when you don't respect them. You make them feel rejected or criticized, thus getting stuck in an emotional pit. Beating yourself up only makes change more difficult and it gets harder to free yourself from destructive emotions and behaviours.
Today try something different. Every time you notice something in you that you don't like very much, try to assume that this part of you wants what’s best for you, it has just chosen a not exactly right, or strange, way to achieve its goal. Be patient towards this part, show it understanding, and trust that its intention is every inch good. Handle this part with greater respect.
If you act in this way, you will see that your internal world will be more open to change, which you would like to implement in the future.
5 stages of returning to self-acceptance
Of course, it will not always be easy to move from being at war with various parts of your personality to suddenly accepting or even befriending them. However, there is no need to expect from yourself that you will be able to do it just like that. Psychologist Christopher Germer in his book "The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion" distinguished 5 stages of returning to self-acceptance:
- At the stage of aversion, we intuitively respond to our feelings with resistance, avoidance, suppression or denial.We don't want to deal with them. We think they should be gone once and for all. You might know what effect such attitude has on our emotions. The more we want to get rid of them, the more they do whatever they can to make us feel them.
- At the stage of curiosity, we become curious of our problems. We want to know more about them, even if we still feel anxious. We allow ourselves to take a closer look at that.
- At the tolerance stage, we endure and tolerate our pain, still wishing it would disappear. We're not trying to get rid of it anymore. Although we still don't like our feelings, we are capable of enduring them.
- At the stage of allowing, we begin to allow our feelings to come and go. We openly let our feelings stay with us and flow. We accept what we feel and we no longer fight it.
- At the friendship stage, we not only allow our feelings, but we actually see value in them (even in those difficult or negative ones). We see the benefits of experiencing our situation, such as that we can learn from it. We see our emotions as something valuable and are grateful for them.
Even just knowing and understanding the various stages of self-acceptance development can be helpful. You stop seeing the phenomenon of self-respect as an either-or situation (I respect myself or not). On the contrary, you start to see it as an ongoing process.
What we get when we combine a multiple mind paradigm with 5 stages of self-acceptance development?
We get a map that allows us to approach the work on self-respect in a very precise way. It turns out that every relationship we have with each part of our personality can be considered through the prism of the above-mentioned stages. You probably feel aversion to some parts now, you are curious of others, tolerate a few, you allow some of them, and you have friendship with the rest.
Looking closely at your internal critic, for example, you can check how you feel about him. The answer to this question will show you at which stage of self-acceptance you are and how you can continue working with this part to take a step further.
Finally, I wish you that you would show patience towards these most difficult parts and start looking at them with curiosity. I also wish you that you allow yourself to feel everything and then make friends with all your emotions. Deep self-acceptance and self-respect is the foundation of your happiness in life.
Let me know in the comments at which stage of self-acceptance you are at the moment and how you feel about it!