What Is The True Meaning Of Dignity?

By: Joanna Smykowski

Updated July 15, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

Source: pixabay.com

Dignity is a word we often hear about. We are taught when we are young, that it is something that we should have. It is one of those abstract words that we rarely get the true definition of yet; we need it to have a fulfilling life.

Despite the fact that dignity is a part of our self-image, we often do things in our lives that take away from it. Part of this is that we do not know the true meaning of dignity, and part is that we do not understand how complex it is. Here are some things you need to know about dignity, and where it comes from.

What Does the Dictionary Say About Dignity?

The Merriam-Webster's dictionary has three definitions for the word dignity.


  1. Formal reserve or seriousness of manner, appearance, or language.
  2. The quality or state of being worthy, honored or esteemed.
  3. A high rank, office or position

Definition number one reflects what we think dignity looks like. We associate the idea of dignity as being the opposite of concepts like immoral or indecent. This implies that dignity in this sense, has a wholesome demeanor, a modest display, and is eloquent. This definition describes dignity as being very purposeful, deliberate, and trained. It implies that dignity can be obtained by simply acting or presenting oneself in a certain way.

Definition number two describes the concept of dignity inwardly. It consists of subjective ideas like worth, honor, and self-esteem. It is a definition that is a bit more fluid than the previous and almost accurately describes the true meaning.

Definition number three is limited to society. It is not focused on describing the concept of dignity that originates from within ourselves. It simply refers to social status.

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Why are Dictionary Definitions of 'Dignity' Wrong?

The problem with the first definition of dignity is that it relies on the outward perception of our personality, looks, and communication skills. It ignores the idea that dignity must come from within. It gives a false idea that dignity is something that we can "turn on" at any moment. It also forces us to see our dignity as a product of what other people praise about us when in reality, the true meaning of dignity is much deeper than that.

Definition number two, while touching on the keywords that are close to the true definition, ignores the fact that concepts like worth, honor, and self-esteem are developed inside of us. Dignity cannot be given to us by someone else, and when we look to others to create it within us, it often backfires.

While definition number three is a perfectly acceptable definition of the word by society's standards, it does not help us uncover the true meaning of dignity that lies within us. Having true dignity should never rest solely on one's rank or position in society.

What Is the True Meaning of Dignity?

In reality, the concept of dignity is much more than what we look like, or how others see us. It is an intricate web of positivity that develops inside ourselves. It is something that we must be mindful of every single day.

Dignity requires:

  • Self-worth
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-love
  • Self-appreciation
  • Self-care
  • Self-confidence

Notice how all these elements of dignity begin with the word "self." This is because dignity can only come from within. No matter how much appreciation or love someone else gives us, it will never be a solid foundation for our dignity. Only by understanding each of these concepts can we hope to grasp a true understanding of the meaning of dignity.

How Can We Develop Our Sense of Dignity?

Discovering the true meaning of dignity, and building a healthy sense of dignity within ourselves, takes time and patience. It is often a complex process, but it can be done. To be successful, it is important to take time to work on the elements of dignity one by one.

Self-worth: Self-worth is a measure of how much we value ourselves. It requires understanding what makes us special, and why we matter. Self-worth is often something people try to get through others. We try to understand our value regarding our career, how much money we have if we are romantically involved with others, or through some social status.

We can discover our self-worth by actively seeking out what makes us matter when all outside influences go away. One way to do this is to eliminate behaviors, thought patterns or people who do not make you feel like your best self. Try to make every aspect of your life align with your values and appreciate who you are at your core.

Self-esteem: Self-esteem is very closely related to self-worth. It stems from the attitudes, feelings, and opinions that we hold about ourselves. It is often the internal voice that tells us "you are not good enough." When we have low self-worth, our emotion-based self-esteem is affected too.

Self-esteem can be improved when we silence our inner critic and find reasons to challenge its logic. If your inner critic is yelling, "You never do anything right!" You can sit down and write a list of all the things that prove that thought wrong. Even if the list is as plain as "I get to work on time every day," that's okay. Even one challenge is enough to start rewiring how you feel about yourself.

Self-love: Self-love is the concept of loving yourself just as much as you love someone else. When we have someone in our lives who are hurting or has been hurt, we often go out of our way to comfort them and care for them. However, when it is us who are hurting or being hurt by someone else, we largely ignore the effect it has on us.

Increasing our self-love requires us to put ourselves first sometimes. We must prioritize our well-being physically, emotionally, and mentally. Often the first step to self-love forgives ourselves from past mistakes. We must also learn how to turn off the sense that we are not good enough to be loved, or that we do not deserve to be loved by ourselves.

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Self-appreciation: When someone goes out of their way to be kind to us, we show them appreciation in many ways. Sometimes the situation requires a simple "thank you." Other times, we may buy them a gift, or spend quality time with them as a sign of our gratitude.

Appreciation is not just for others; we can show ourselves appreciation too. Anytime we do something that is successful or drives us forward, or when we simply do something that makes us feel good, it is important to take a few moments to thank ourselves for taking the opportunity to do that thing.

If you struggle with doing this in your mind, sit down and write a thank you note to yourself just as you would a friend or family member. To start, focus on things you did well, times you showed yourself love, and how you have overcome challenges in your life.

Self-care: Self-care goes hand in hand with self-love, but it is the action step behind self-love. Love is something that we can feel, but caring requires us to do something. We can show self-care physically by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising.

Emotional and mental self-care can be achieved by practicing kindness with ourselves, doing meditation, or simply taking time to reflect on the great things in our life. There are countless ways to practice self-care every day.

Self-confidence: Self-confidence is the idea that we can achieve whatever we set our hearts and minds to. It is not based on the belief that we will be successful in everything we do, but understanding that even if we are not successful, we will be okay. It requires positivity, motivation, and an inner desire always to be moving forward.

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Self-confidence is achieved by developing a "can do" attitude. It requires understanding that failures are just a part of a bigger journey and that setbacks do not necessarily require us to give up completely. Self-confidence is a balance between perfectionism and feeling as if there is no control over what comes your way.

How Will You Know When You Have Dignity?

Dignity is something that does not show up overnight. It is an ongoing process. When you can bounce back and hold your head high with confidence in light of anything that happens. It is loving and appreciating yourself just as much as you love and appreciate the person dearest to your heart. It is the ability challenge the negative voices that come from within us and outside of us.

Dignity is something that must be taken care of. It must constantly be replenished with new motivation. It is a fact of life that some days we will feel that we are not good enough or that we do not matter, but these are the days which require you to look inward at the elements of dignity and strive to work harder towards them.

The REAL True Meaning of Dignity

The true meaning of dignity is that it looks different on each of us. Proverbs 31:25 understands this completely, "She is clothed with dignity and strength; she can laugh at the days to come." No matter what your religious beliefs are, this statement holds a lot of truth.

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When you can shroud yourself in dignity that you have created on your own, what happens in the future will not shake you. True dignity is a strong foundation which you can stand on every day in the life. Real dignity cannot be taken away from you no matter what happens.

Sometimes we need help when building our sense of dignity. If that is the case for you, speak to a professional at BetterHelp today. Our experts will get you on track to achieve your goals, and create a better tomorrow!


What is the real meaning of dignity?

The real meaning of dignity is self-respect, self-worth, and self-love that you develop based on who you are, what you've done, and the values you hold.

If you browse the dictionary, you will find several definitions for dignity, as well as other related words. The definition for this word of the day starts with the etymology, also called the word origin. The word dignity came from the Latin word "dignitas" meaning worthiness, merit, or rank. Later, it came to Old Anglo French as "dignite." Finally, the word dignity was adopted into Middle English as "dignitee."

Now, the Cambridge English Dictionary gives several definitions of "dignity." The first refers to behavior that is calm, serious, and controlled. The second is a person's importance and value that makes them respect themselves, and others respect them. Another is the quality of being worthy that someone might have.

Words related to the word dignity include synonyms for dignity, such as greatness, poise, self-respect, virtue, status, and grace. A related phrase is "beneath one's dignity." This phrase means that something that isn't suitable for someone of your status. For example, if you were the CEO of an organization, you might feel that carrying bags of concrete was beneath your dignity and should be done by an employee of a lower rank. However, the concept is not absolute – it depends on how you think and feel about it as well as the situation. In this example, the CEO might get dignity from the fact that they do what is needed when required.

If you use a word finder or look through an unabridged dictionary, you might find even more definitions and related words and phrases. However, the real meaning of dignity goes beyond word games or word of the day. In its most essential meaning, dignity is something you develop in yourself.

What is an example of dignity?

Nurses practice delivering care in the right ways to preserve their patients' dignity. For example, a nurse might take extra precautions to ensure that a patient suffering from incontinence gets appropriate privacy, practical help, and personal hygiene so their patient can continue to feel self-respect and self-worth despite this medical problem.

How do we show dignity?

Showing dignity for yourself means communicating assertively to make sure your needs are met without stooping to the level of aggression or passive aggression. To show dignity for someone else, be kind to them, and treat them the way they want to be treated.

What are the four types of dignity?

There are four concepts related to dignity that show up as four types of dignity. These types are:

  1. The dignity of merit
  2. The dignity of moral stature
  3. The dignity of identity
  4. Menschenwurde

The dignity of merit is dignity related to your status. The status may be a position in society, an award, an achievement, or a title, to name a few. Some of these statuses are earned while others may be inherited, such as the title of monarch. This social rank would make you a dignitary. The dignity that comes from your position in society can be taken away or lost, but you can still feel dignity that you once held the position. This is especially important for older people who have retired and lost their former status.

The dignity of moral stature is based on your moral deeds. If you see yourself as a good person, you have personal moral dignity. Others may also see your virtue and respect you for it. But if you do things that are immoral, especially if you think they are immoral yourself, then you can lose some of this type of dignity.

The dignity of identity is another definition of dignity. It refers to how you perceive your mind and body, and your self-image plays a part in that. If you see yourself as healthy, mentally fit, and both physically and mentally competent, you have the dignity of identity.

Menschenwurde refers to the dignity of every human. If you are alive, you have Menschenwurder. You can't lose it unless you no longer exist.

Why is dignity so important?

If dignity isn't the word of the year, it should be. In fact, it should be the word of the day every day. That's because dignity is such a crucial part of life. Without dignity, it's hard to be courageous and confident in pursuing your goals, whether at work, at school, in your community, and in your relationships. And, without dignity, we would feel shame about who we are.

What is the difference between dignity and respect?

Dignity is the quality of being honorable or honoring someone. Respect is a quality of the person who elevates someone else. If you show someone respect, you can increase their sense of dignity.

What is another word for dignity?

Another word of the day is "honor," a synonym of the word dignity. Honor is high respect or esteem, doing what is morally right, regarding someone else with respect, or fulfilling an obligation.

What is dignity of a woman?

The dignity of a woman is often diminished in today's society. Dignity for a woman requires that she be able to live without fear, without being coerced, and away from violence and discrimination. By upholding women's honor and dignity, we create a better world.

What does human dignity look like?

Human dignity is the intrinsic value of a human that says they are worthy of respect regardless of age, status, ability, gender, race, and religious beliefs. When we treat others with dignity, we make their lives better, and at the same time, we grow as individuals. When we hold ourselves with dignity, we can feel worthy and able to be a part of society.

What is the difference between dignity and self-respect?

Self-respect is a part of dignity. Dignity also includes self-worth, self-esteem, self-love, self-appreciation, self-care, and self-confidence.

What is your dignity?

Your dignity is both a source and an outcome of your inner strength and positive feelings about yourself.

What is dignity examples?

Here are several dignity examples:

  • You listen to others carefully and empathetically.
  • You ask for others' opinions and share yours in healthy ways.
  • You stand up for yourself without infringing on others' rights.
  • You feel confident in making your own decisions and make space for others to make theirs.
  • You speak to other adults being mindful of their age and expect to be treated as an adult by them.
  • You show respect and appreciation for others as well as yourself.

How do you protect someone's dignity?

Protecting someone else's dignity is an important part of caring for them. This is important for anyone you care for, whether they are a child, have a disability, are ill, or anyone who comes into your life. To protect their dignity, talk to them with kindness. Help them get any assistance they need without pushing them to do something they think is wrong or humiliating. Honor their wishes and their privacy. Show empathy without assuming you know exactly how they feel. Then, if anyone else threatens to harm, judge, or embarrass them, stand up for them in whatever way is comfortable for them.

What does personal dignity mean?

Personal dignity is your inner feelings and attitudes of self-love, self-care, self-esteem, and self-appreciation. It's the way you think and feel about yourself. It's also your behaviors that enhance your sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Being kind to yourself helps you have more dignity.

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