How to Maintain Self-respect in Your Relationships

Heidi lays alone in her bed completely exhausted. Her pillow drenched in tears. Curled up in a fetal position, she whispers, “I’m tired of being taken advantage of by people I care for.” The consummate giver, Heidi goes the extra mile in her marriage, with her kids, and for her boss. What does she get in return? More requests, demands, and complaints, with little appreciation or support. Years of this pattern has taken a toll. Heidi feels disrespected by the people she relies on for support. Resentment builds. So does feelings of loneliness and a wish to escape. Heidi is vulnerable. Enter Tom, a guy she met at spin class. He is impressed by Heidi’s aggressive workout and commitment to give her best. Heidi likes the attention and positive comments, something her husband Kevin doesn’t give. Conversations over coffee, lead to lunch, and eventually to a brief affair. It ended when Tom lost interest. Lying in bed, Heidi ponders how she ended up here. Empty. Lost. Disconnected from herself, she wonders, “How did I lose my self-respect?” Was it the affair? Probably not. I’d say it began long before when Heidi lost connection with herself. A disconnect with yourself is a telltale sign you lack self-respect. Life out-of-balance. Perhaps, like Heidi you have not tended to your own needs. Nor have you been clear setting limits with others. Respect from others begins with self-respect. Here are four ways you can maintain self-respect in your relationships. [Tweet “Respect from others begins with self-respect.”]
#1: Establish time to take care of yourself
Heidi spent all of her time taking care of others. She spared very little time for herself. Consequently, her tank was half-full. No wonder she was stressed out and exhausted most days. Later, when she finally started working out, Heidi was way out-of-balance. To maintain self-respect in your relationships it is important that you take care of yourself. It’s time to invest in you. Doing things that fill your tank is self-gratifying. It increases a positive mental attitude and brings the best version of yourself to others.
#2: Set boundaries with others
When it came to setting boundaries with others, Heidi struggled in two areas. First, she was not firm in her expectations of others. Secondly, Heidi tolerated disrespect. If you are taking good care of yourself it is easier to set boundaries with others. Self-respect is a disposition that commands respect. People become alert to your power. How? It happens when you use your voice. I’m referring to being assertive in a respectful but firm manner on how you expect to be treated. “No” is a good boundary to start using. A polite, firm “no” is your way of saying to people that you have limits.
#3: Find a place where you have freedom to express yourself
Heidi did not find a place where she could be free from expectations of others. She needed a place to find her voice, a place to express herself. Later, she found it by seeking counseling. I find my place in some unlikely forms. For example, I belong to a group of fellow business owners who meet monthly to support each other in our personal and professional lives. I can open up and be vulnerable with a group of men who listen and support. This may sound weird, but I also find the basketball court to be a place of freedom. I enjoy the challenge of competition and the banter I share with the guys. On the court I can be comical and motivational. I can also hold my ground with the alphas in the group. Do you have a place to feel free just to be yourself? If not, I encourage to find it.
#4: Satisfy your need for connection
Heidi lacked meaningful connection in her life. Her husband and kids were takers not givers. When she sought it in an affair, it left her feeling more empty. We are hardwired to connect with others. Maslow describes it as a basic need for belonging. Deep within we hunger for deep meaningful relationships. Busyness robs us of connection. Electronic devices fills the empty space. The most important place for connection is at home. Set this expectation with your family. Create time to connect without media. Play a board game. Go on an adventure walk. Have a nerf gun battle. Go through picture albums together. Do a puzzle. Cuddle in front of the fireplace.

Now it’s your turn

Think about the four ways. Which one do you need to focus on the most? What’s your plan to begin today? To learn more about this topic and how Heidi found respect in her personal life, marriage, and family, read my book: Bringing Respect Back: Communicating Without the Conflict