If you think a bit about these two questions, you realize that they are co-related. Well, I’m guessing, nobody begins life thinking to oneself, “I have no self-respect”. However, it is possible to live one’s entire life without actually realizing, “I have no self respect!”. Then suddenly, one day, it hits you. Either, someone draws attention to this, or you arrive at the conclusion on your own. What does it all mean? How does one ascertain whether or not one values oneself?
In some parts of the world, along the ‘growing up’ phase you learn through ‘good teachings’, ‘religious beliefs’, or by following ‘family traditions’, that the “good human being” is the one who makes supreme sacrifices, thereby pleasing others (even if it means hurting yourself, risking your own life, or giving your time indefinitely). In return for “being good” – and whether one explicitly states it or not, or is even consciously aware of this expectation – the person who makes the sacrifices begins to assume and believe that s/he will be loved immensely by all, due to their “good, caring and selfless” acts towards those individuals – the ‘takers’. But in that very thought/belief lies a supreme flaw (which nobody teaches you, nor draws attention to)! Just pause for a moment to dwell on this.
In life, where there’s “give”, there’s always “take”. This rule applies universally. Think of fundamental accounting principles (of Debit the receiver, Credit the giver), or recall classroom physics i.e. Newton’s Third Law of Motion (that every action has an equal but opposite reaction). The difference in real life though, is that complex human nature creates a tendency in people to usually take more than they wish to give. Hence, many will try to grab as much benefit as is possible for the least amount of giving as is possible. In extreme cases, if one can get as much for free as is possible, then oft times there’s even secret self-admiration for being so clever. In the same breath, such shrewd people may even consider those they grabbed from as total fools, idiots! As we often see, the very people for whom you did good, tend to call you a fool.
Now, speaking of human relationships, is it possible that you pride yourself as being the supreme ‘giver’? Think again. Is it even possible for you to be that supreme giver who has an endless amount of everything, including energy, to give, give, and give without expecting anything in return from those you give to? You’re only kidding yourself, because even for the richest, the most generous, or the biggest philanthropist in the world, endless amount of giving (in any form) is just not possible. Therefore, pause to remind yourself that “I am not a Supreme Being (God)”! Remind yourself that you are not endowed with an endless stream of everything, hence you have no luxury nor liberty to ‘sacrifice’ endlessly. You are not the supreme giver! By this token, nobody can, or should be allowed to expect you to keep giving without having to give you in return!
But ask yourself, how did people you interact with get this absurd idea in the first place – the notion that you should give endlessly without return expectations? Either you put that idea in their head/s by continually giving, and without expressing your expectations in return; or, your actions lead them to believe that i.e. by always being available whenever they called out to you (for help, or for anything else). Therefore indirectly you yourself are responsible for allowing them to believe that you are available anytime, every time, and always… for anything, and that it is okay with you, even if you must bend backwards to make them happy, or give of your time. In some ways, it also implies that you will set aside all your other priorities (or that you have none) to make time for them. When others think – consciously, or subconsciously that “It is okay with you”, that point is the beginning of your downfall! You don’t want to lead anyone into believing this of you. Wisdom lies in the knowledge that nothing in life is for free… not from your kids, nor from your parents, nor from your best friend, spouse… from no one, hence you’re not expected to give anything for free, because you aren’t God (Don’t kid yourself about that last bit)! Your life is not free for all to take as and when it suits them. People don’t have time nor inclination to think for you, nor for your good. They are neither being selfish, nor are they callous. They are just being human – like all of us. Each of us – I, or you – has to place a price for anything we do for others, or for anything you give others… whether it’s your time, your effort, or your love. I’m not suggesting that you ‘buy love’. Those who receive from you – your time, energy, your effort, your love – should be made aware of this fact by you and by you only. Then they will value you, your time, your energy, your effort, your love.They will stop taking you for granted. They will respect you for who you are.
People ought to be made aware of the value of what they receive from you. Just as when you go to buy the best strawberries in the market, or the best jewel, or the best anything… there’s a price one must pay for the best. If the price is not stated upfront, you wouldn’t know how valuable the item is, or even how good the item is. Usually, the better anything, the higher its value, right? How do you measure the worth of anything? When you are told its value or when you see its price tag. If that is not revealed at the beginning of the transaction, the person receiving the item may even be holding the most expensive diamond without knowing its value, and may even throw it away thinking it’s just another piece of rock. Only when you know the price of something would you decide whether to treasure it, or to trash it.
I set off by starting to explain this concept in a very different way. However, I hope those who will read this piece to its end here, will dwell on this simple analogy. Often, a lifetime goes by without realizing or respecting one’s own self-worth. But when you do realize it, value yourself for what you have been endowed with, for what you have achieved. Nobody else can know your value and what you’re worth, except you yourself. When you know what you’re worth, just watch, even others will begin to see your worth. Be proud of who you are. Others will be proud to be associated with you. Introspection, self-discovery are the first steps to discovering the beauty around us. When you have fun discovering the diamond that you are, others will stop throwing rocks at you. 🙂