I think that most people understand the concept of respect, but do you understand self-respect? For me, this is a complicated, and somewhat overwhelming concept to understand and put into practice.
Let’s start from the beginning with what respect actually means. Good old Wikipedia defines respect as “Respect is a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem.” If you’re like me, that kind of definition isn’t particularly enlightening. It feels quite abstract and isn’t something I can connect with.
When I think about respect I think of two things – 1) respecting others and 2) respecting myself. I grew up in a chaotic, conflicted home and by age sixteen I’d come to a conclusion: Respect needs to be earned. Age, status, position, and authority give a certain level of respect, but, for me, that respect is only maintained if a person’s behaviour justifies it.
By age sixteen I’d decided that just because my parents were my parents, didn’t mean they were automatically respected. I thought (and still do) that my parents do not deserve respect. The way they’ve behaved and treated those around them warrants only shame and disgust. I think I tend to respect people who a) treat me with respect, b) treat those around them with respect, and c) treat themselves with respect.
Moving on to self-respect. Now that’s a trickier one to deal with and definitely something I struggle with. On a surface level I seem to respect myself, like myself, be okay with who I am. Deep down though? Nope. I’m filled with loathing, disgust, shame, and guilt. I don’t think I’m an okay person. I don’t think I’m loveable, let alone worthy of love. I don’t think I deserve friends or the love, kindness, and care they show me.
Whilst I was journaling this morning, it occurred to me that we tend not to treat ourselves with respect. Not just that though, we don’t treat our body with respect. All the ED behaviours, the self-harm, the overdoses (no OD’s for a long time). That’s not how you respect your body. I wondered what respecting your body would look like.
I think it’s about listening to your body and meeting it’s needs. Eating when hungry, stopping when full. Not misusing or abusing medications, alcohol, or drugs. Not physically hurting the body through self-harm or other unhealthy behaviours. Listening to physical pain and treating it appropriately. Seeking medical attention promptly when needed.
Whilst I feel uncomfortable about about respecting, valuing and nurturing myself, I think it’s something I can do for my body. Having DID means that I share my body with other parts or alters. It means that I can actually see my body as quite separate from myself, and in this case it’s quite useful. It provides a starting point for self-respect. So whilst, deep down, I don’t respect myself, I think I’m prepared to do all I can to take care of my body.
My body has been through years of abuse. Ten of those years were self-inflicted. Starving, binging, over-exercising, cutting, overdosing, and more. Our body didn’t deserve that then, and doesn’t deserve that now. I’m going to try something new…
I promise to try to do all that I can to nourish, care for, and look after our body.