The ask for self-respect is often seen as disrespectful by others. Women and femme-identified humans are especially coerced to oblige those around them. The obligation is to be obedient and do what is “appropriate” no matter if it is dehumanizing. In my new book, Roar Like A Goddess, I share ancient mythology where even goddesses experienced some disrespect in their human avatars. But a goddess never swallows disrespect silently: nor does she shrug it off or use spirituality to bypass her feelings.
As I have stated in Roar, “The Goddess is telling us disrespect is never okay. Because if we allow it once, then you are giving the signal that you are going to be okay with more disrespect in the future.” We have seen the behavior of allowing disrespect in our homes, often to keep the peace; in our workplaces to keep a job; and even publicly in the media to maintain the status quo. What can we do about it?
Importance of self-respect:
Self-respect is the gift we give ourselves, not what we gain from others. Some women are carrying internalized feminine guilt and think respect is gained from proving one is worthy of respect. This is not true. By holding a high paying job, making sacrifices in domesticity, having a thin body, or a happening social life does not guarantee respect.
“In a male-dominated culture, with male gods, male politicians, and a male-driven economy, women are obliged to play by the rules set by males in a game chosen by males.” ~ Acharya Shunya
An example is when April Ryan, a longtime White House correspondent of twenty years and a woman with a notable career, was publicly disrespected by White House Secretary, Sean Spicer, in 2017. Though she has a notable career, she was still publicly demeaned like a child, told repeatedly to stop shaking her head.
Durga: The Self-Respecting Goddess
“In an unique way, goddess archetypes can help modern women construct their own narrative about who they are and claim an identity that is not imposed or judged by a colonizing masculine mindset.” ~ Acharya Shunya
Durga does not seek validation because she understands that she is the mistress of her universe. She is in charge and with that power, she constructs her own narrative. She does not engage in an illusory fictitious self, being what others desire. Durga teaches us to embrace our wisdom, balance, and intuition to not go to the extremes of rebellion or passivity. With courage we can be like Durga, a combination of fierce and soft, nurturing and tough. However, it begins with introspection, identifying the ways in which such fictions cloud our respect for self.
4 Signs of lack of self-respect and what to do:
1. We do not stand up for ourselves – Every woman has a right to preserve her self-respect and to not become a pushover whose voice is erased.
Try: Allow your voice to be heard, internally and externally. Acknowledge what you need then speak up for yourself and injustices around you.
2. We have gotten in the habit of readily agreeing with people – Often this stems from the need to have approval from others. “When we fall into the habit of seeking approval, we not only lose our self-respect, we also lose our power.” ~ Acharya Shunya
Try: Being agreeable will not make you more likable. Start peeling off the masks, one by one to discover who you truly are, what you want and do not want. Become a self-valuing person, who does not prove and explain these values, but lives from them.
3. We feel guilty in expressing and receiving our needs and desires – This often feels like general unworthiness, and not giving ourselves the “me time” we crave.
Try: Accept who you are, as you are. Honoring our needs and desires is honoring our true authentic Self (also known as your inner goddess.) We start by not saying yes to everything, and using discernment to choose what you actually want to do.
4. We let people treat us with disrespect – Even friends and family, those who are friendly, can border the line of being disrespectful by mocking, teasing, and pranking us in ways we know aren’t funny.
Try: Establish boundaries by determining what makes you uncomfortable or upset then implement those boundaries. This may look like talking to the person or choosing to distance yourself from them. Be mindful of the company you keep.
Self-respect is an important part of your life. It allows us to fully accept who we are without the limitations of trying to please others or be someone else. With self-respect we set boundaries and stick to them, not allowing others to walk over us because we have a high expectation of how we want to be treated.
This blog was first published on Elephant Journal