How To Respect Yourself: Finding Self-Worth

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to Merriam-Webster, self-respect is " proper respect for oneself as a human being and regard for one's standing or position." Developing respect for yourself can be a personal experience influenced by several aspects, including past relationships, upbringing, temperament, and personality. If you struggle to find self-respect or do not have time for yourself, it may be helpful to investigate standard techniques for finding self-worth. 

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Looking to learn strategies in developing self-respect?

What a lack of self-respect looks like 

The American Psychological Association defines self-respect as a feeling of self-worth and self-esteem that regards one's values, character, and dignity. Having a sense of self-respect can lead to thoughts and behaviors that encourage autonomous actions rooted in independent thinking and perseverance. 

There is a marked difference between having self-respect and being egotistical or self-centered. Some people may equate self-respect with narcissism, which involves excessive admiration for oneself and relative disregard for other people's feelings or desires. However, healthy self-respect is not narcissistic. Understanding the difference between self-respect and self-centeredness may help you keep this in perspective.

A self-centered or narcissistic individual may try to find a way to make each situation about themselves. While they may show temporary or feigned concern for another, these individuals may want to know how a situation will benefit them. Contrarily, self-respect is about treating yourself with kindness and compassion, including establishing healthy boundaries for what you do and don't accept from others. 

Why do people lack self-respect?

A lack of self-respect can be attributed to several factors, some of which are listed below. However, the following situations may not apply to each person. 

Being raised in an unhealthy environment 

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat

Abuse or an unsafe household can have far-reaching effects on children and adults, often affecting one's perceptions of self and relationships with others. Children reared in a home where family members are subjected to emotional abuse may hear unkind or untrue statements that they continue to repeat to themselves throughout life. It can be challenging to overcome these words that promote feelings of worthlessness. With healthy intervention, however, individuals who have experienced trauma may start to build self-esteem. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Previous misjudgments or mistakes 

Some people make mistakes and grow from these experiences. However, others feel guilty about their past misjudgments and errors, thinking critically about themselves and giving up on future attempts. While it can be normal to experience regret occasionally, know that past mistakes do not define your self-worth.

Comparing yourself with others 

Some people still developing their self-worth may look at another person's accomplishments and regret not having similar experiences. If left unaddressed, these feelings of inadequacy can cause a person to respect others more than themselves. If this sounds familiar to you, take a moment to take inventory of your accomplishments. Look at the obstacles you've overcome and credit yourself for these victories and accomplishments. 

How to overcome a lack of self-respect

Self-respect may sometimes be difficult to grasp. How you perceive yourself can affect your mental health and influence your choices for your present and future endeavors.  

One of the steps to overcome a lack of self-respect is to stop basing your self-worth on what other people think of you or how you appear to others. Looking to external sources for validation instead of internal motivators, such as being kind and virtuous, can cause excessive stress and lead to unhealthy behaviors.

If you are working to overcome a lack of self-respect, it can seem difficult at first. You may reframe many thoughts to arrive at this new mindset. In these cases, it could help to have willing friends listen to your feelings and understand your desire to change. While you do not have to tell your innermost thoughts to every acquaintance, try asking positive friends for help while you work on developing your self-respect.

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Promoting self-respect: The golden rules of self-compassion 

Because people often compare themselves to others, reflection can be one of the first steps to addressing challenges with self-respect. Start by creating a list for encouragement. Write down characteristics about yourself that you like, past and current accomplishments, and what makes you feel uplifted and invigorated. Do not write down negative ideas or traits. Below are a few golden rules of self-respect and self-compassion to keep in mind. 

Don't settle for less 

Surround yourself with positive people, pursue your dreams, and approach challenges with a growth mindset. Try not to settle for a relationship, job, or situation that brings you down and lowers your self-esteem. 

Don't let someone else's opinion interfere with what you see in yourself 

While it can be difficult to be in the face of someone who disagrees with who you are, stay firm in your stance and continue on your path of autonomy and self-discovery. Try not to let another person's negative remarks about you determine what you see in yourself or shape who you are. You alone can set the standard for who you are and what you portray to the world. 

Focus on your positive traits

While acknowledging areas for growth may be beneficial for self-improvement, try not to let temporary setbacks overshadow your positive traits. If you struggle to recognize these traits, write down traits that make you valuable to yourself and others in a journal. When you are finished, refer to the list when you need to remind yourself of your self-compassion. 

Forgive yourself 

Many people make mistakes. If you have made a mistake and regret it, address it and move on. Make amends if you need to, including amends with yourself. Regardless of the outcome, try to forgive yourself and move forward. Some people may not accept an apology, but you can know you did your best and commit to doing better in the future. 

Do not compromise your values to fit another person's expectations 

Maintaining a sense of your unique personality can be healthy and builds self-esteem. Try not to fit into someone else's idea of who you "should be." True friends can accept you and show respect for what you value. 

Take care of yourself physically and mentally 

Having poor physical or mental health can affect how you feel about yourself. If you have not already, initiate a plan to practice physical and mental health choices that benefit your well-being. Eat healthy meals, exercise, partake in sleep hygiene, and challenge your maladaptive thought patterns on a regular basis. 

Popular quotes about self-respect

If you're looking for inspiration on self-respect, the following quotes may get you in the mood to practice self-respect exercises: 

  • "If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." - Jack Kornfield
  • "Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy." - Robert Tew
  • "The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself." - Michel de Montaigne
  • "The only person that deserves a special place in your life is someone that never made you feel like you were an option in theirs." - Shannon L. Alder
  • "Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives." - Louise L. Hay
  • "Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others." - Parker Palmer
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Looking to learn strategies in developing self-respect?

How to find additional support 

For some, a lack of self-respect stems from deep-rooted feelings that may benefit from professional support. Seeking the guidance of a counselor or therapist may help you work through these emotions and encounter self-respect. However, it can be difficult to find guidance if you face barriers to face-to-face treatment. In these cases, online therapy may be an option. 

Research suggests that online therapy can help people with self-esteem challenges due to mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. In one study published in Psychiatric Research, the benefits of online therapy for individuals experiencing symptoms of depression and low self-esteem were examined. Researchers found that a 12-week online therapy program increased participants' self-esteem, empowerment, and overall quality of life. 

Platforms like BetterHelp offer the ability to participate in affordable counseling with licensed, experienced professionals from the comfort of your home—via videoconferencing, voice call, messaging, or live chat. You may also be able to schedule sessions that fit your unique availability, including outside of standard business hours.  

Takeaway

Self-respect can improve mental well-being. If you want to find balance in how you treat yourself, it may require addressing thoughts that cause a negative effect on your self-perception. Whether you choose to confide in friends or seek professional counseling, you're not alone, and support may help you get started.
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