Back in June, I decided to switch my focus from loving myself to respecting myself. I don’t remember why, or what thought processes led me to that decision. But I do remember feeling very good as I started affirming in my heart, “I respect myself,” while chanting, while driving and whenever I caught my mind going down a dark mental alley.
As I proceeded in this way I gained the clarity that “I love myself” is very open to interpretation. It could be, “I love myself so I’m going to buy myself something shiny and new and put it on credit.” Or, “I love myself, so I’m going to eat a pint of ice cream.” You get the picture – “love” means different things at different times. Respect, on the other hand, isn’t open to negotiation. It’s not conditional or relative, but an absolute, bottom-line, fundamental attitude towards yourself.
Much good came from my new attitude.
I found it much easier, as I continued to chant and affirm, “I respect myself,” to see my struggles as respectworthy. And to respect other people, and their struggles, too.
I became more adept at separating people from their behaviour – politicians included! By which I mean that I could censure their acts – or lack of acts – and still respect them. Buddhism teaches that everyone is respectworthy, because everyone has a Buddha nature or life-condition inside them, even if it’s utterly dormant in the present moment. I could buy into that theoretically in the past, but it’s only now that I can put it into practice in my heart (and therefore have far fewer slanderous thoughts about people).
A person fully awakened to the jewel-like dignity of their own life is capable of truly respecting that same treasure in others. ~ Daisaku Ikeda
Most importantly, I started to feel differently about myself. I became more confident and less self-critical. More able to calmly speak my truth. I also experienced people treating me more respectfully, which is the outer, positive effect of my inner, positive cause of changing my attitude towards myself.
I recalled recently that as a teenager who thought and felt deeply about the human condition, I came to the conclusion that the most important factor in a relationship was respect. I saw that without respect, you have no basis for lasting love. But then the maelstroms of life erased that realisation and I stumbled through my life, tragically unaware of it. Many broken hearts, mine and others’, ensued.
Now I know that respect is the absolute, bottom line, fundamental attitude I need in my relationship with myself. For without self-respect, I can’t have a healthy, lasting love affair with my life.
And, by extension, all life.
When you respect others, others will respect you. When you despise others, others will come to despise you. When you change, the world around you will change. ~ Daisaku Ikeda