Sue and I have been talking a lot about the concept of respect the past week or so and what that means in the pursuit of our best selves, whether that’s on the trails, at work, with family and friends or even complete strangers.
That begot the question, “What is respect?” Or, more accurately, what does it mean to be respectful. I found a really simple definition used to help explain the concept to children: It is how you feel about someone and how you treat that person. Showing admiration and politeness are examples of demonstrating respect.
We were contemplating what it means if we don’t feel like people respect each other. Does this mean there is an absence of admiration or politeness? Certainly, that can be part of it. And an absence of politeness is typically more observable than an absence of admiration. Being curt, cutting someone off on the road, being dismissive…all signs of not being polite. But what about a lack of admiration? What does that look like? Disinterest, exclusion, avoidance, neglect: more signs of there being a lack of respect.
For many of us, being respectful towards others is an ongoing area for improvement: we can always do better.
But what if that lack of respect is directed toward ourselves?
Self-respect is not being self-indulgent, narcissistic or selfish. I prefer to think of it as giving ourselves the same or higher degree of priority that we allocate to others. Without guilt.
Often, self-respect and self-esteem, self-confidence or self-worth are considered synonyms. And it makes sense that there is that connection: if you have a healthy degree of self-respect, chances are your self-esteem is in pretty good shape. Similarly, if you’re confident in yourself, chances are better that you demonstrate greater self-respect. Conversely, if you have a pretty low self-worth, then your self-respect is probably not off the charts in a positive way either.
But it’s not always this way.
Are you one of those people who are perhaps more respectful towards others than you are to yourself, regardless of how much self-esteem you possess?
Perhaps some of you are wondering, “Okay, but what exactly does this have to do with running?” Others, though, I’m sure are fully aware of the connection.
For most of us, running, hiking and other activities are about allocating time to take care of ourselves (and our dogs, of course). Unless you’re a professional athlete, you’re probably not getting paid to do this. So, then, if you’re predisposed to placing your priorities on a lower rung, you may be inclined to view running as a luxury, a self-indulgent exercise that takes you away from your main priorities – taking care of others.
There are a numerous self-care and human ethics models based on the concentric or expanding circles of influence (the Stoic model and Peter Stringer’s Expanding Circle, for example). What I like and value about these is the concept of taking care of oneself is integral to taking care of others. You can’t love/respect others until you love/respect yourself.
Of course, there are times in our lives – even during any given day – when others’ priorities outstrip our own. That is why I prefer the orbits model vs the concentric circles model. But the overarching lesson I take (and often need to remind myself of) is that running or hiking on trails, cycling, committing to your yoga practice, etc. are all valuable and necessary forms of self-care – and therefore self-respect – that allow you to be your best self, to take care of you while strengthening your ability to take care of others, whether that’s family, community or the planet.
See Sue’s essay about respect here