Telling It Like It Is - Forget the Bumper Sticker

We don't like having to think too hard about things. Hence the adherence and devotion to glib bumper stickers, memes and cliches. Nothing delights us more than a short, pithy saying that sums up something complex. How wonderful it is to look on the internet and see that the Dalai Lama has summed up all of life into 6 marvellous rules. Thank goodness ... I thought it'd be way more!! If only those rules had been packaged and marketed properly when I was young I'd be ahead of the game by now!!!

Well, as you may have guessed, the truth is there are a lot more rules to life than those 6. As is true of most of those bumper stickers, memes and cliches. So, I'd like you to consider very carefully the bumper sticker that says "Respect must be Earned". What do you make of that? I think it's shallow and glib, and shallowness is a peeve of mine at the moment. They are confusing respect with trust. It's OK to hold back your trust a little if you've just met someone.

If I walk into a room and meet you for the first time, I'm going to be polite to you and, presumably, you're going to be nice to me. We're going to treat each other with dignity, listen intently and not interrupt when the other speaks, say nice things etc. But wait a minute ... we'd be treating each other with respect. But we haven't earned any yet!! Neither of us has had the chance to run into a burning building and save the occupants or discuss the diseases we've cured or the military tours we've conducted. We haven't outlined our new theories of Quantum Mechanics or cures for rampant diseases. We haven't grabbed the closest instrument and impressed with our musical prowess or shown footage of us winning the 'Best on the Ground' medal in the football. So, why would they even expect to be respected? Surely we should be stand-offish and aloof until the other has proven themselves worthy of our respect ... as magnificent and treasured a commodity as it is!! The simple truth is that it doesn't work like that.

Respect is carried, not earned.

Every time you meet someone, you treat them according to the respect you have for yourself. You don't immediately enter into some ego-measuring contest (trying to keep that concept clean!) The other person gets treated to your self-respect. Insecurity can be said to be a lack of self-respect or self-worth. And we all know that many people with low self-worth tend not to play well with others. That's because they're too busy trying to make sure of their place on the pecking order.

Imagine if self-respect was like a bottle of water.

If you follow along so far, I want you to see how important this concept is. Imagine, if you will, that your self-respect is like the water in a bottle. You can fill that to whatever level you choose, but be careful ... we're NOT talking about being boastful or arrogant. We're talking about true self-worth; the one that says, "I feel good about myself, so I allow you to be you ... to live as you like and have the opinions you want and to make the choices you choose. I'll be making my choices, too." This is the 'I'm OK, You're OK' ego state that Thomas A Harris was talking about in his Transactional Analysis book of the same name (I'm OK, You're OK). More on that in a later article on Ego.

Now, what do you do in the event that the other party decides, out of a lack of self-respect, to be nasty to you? Do you remove the cap from your bottle of water and start pouring your own self-respect out? Of course not. That'd be dumb, right??

But that's what people do!!!

They sink to the other person's level, not realising that they have every right to say to themselves, "That person is showing a lack of respect for themselves, but I don't need to lower my respect for me, just because they are." The solution is easy when it's outlined like this. Keep the lid on your bottle of water and continue treating the other person according to your own self-worth, NOT according to their lack of self-worth. If that person proves themselves to simply be unworthy of your energy, bid them adieu and take your self-respect elsewhere and give it to those that deserve it. Give it to those that might even help you fill your bottle to the top!!

Practice doing this at home until you become good at keep your dignity and self-respect. Then you can try using it at work. See if it keeps you a little more balanced in situations of conflict or disagreement. And, as you become more proficient at it, make sure you compliment yourself and add a bit more water to you bottle.

Remember - Don't tip your water out!!!

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