In January I introduced to readers The G.R.A.C.E. Diet, a program designed to refuel your spirit, add to your emotional resilience, and lift you from the challenges of living in this chaotic world. This began with the practice of Gratitude, offering several different practices you can engage in to embed gratitude in your daily life. Consider this your check-in: If you did begin a gratitude practice, what did you notice? How did this change you? Did you feel generally better, more positive, healthier? Did the practice shift your focus to what is right in your life versus wrong? Perhaps take a moment to reflect on these questions and recognize what might have changed in your life.
This month, I am discussing the R of the G.R.A.C.E. Diet, Respect.
Find out what it means to me
Anyone of my generation remembers Aretha Franklin belting out those letters, an anthem. As a woman I remember thinking two things, respect for me as a woman, and respect for myself.
In the early years of workshop facilitation, I remember delivering a program to HR Professionals working for the federal government. I titled the workshop: To Thine Own Self Be True. I remember debating the title with the organizers. Too biblical was their concern yet I stuck to my guns. To the surprise of the conference organizers, the workshop was packed. People wanted to talk.
The question that I asked the audience to kick off the conversation was, “What would you like to receive more of in your work life/life?” there were several different responses but the most common one was respect. “I want my colleagues to respect me”.
My response was, “How do you respect you?” Silence. Then, “what do you mean?” I mean, “How do you respect you?” Interestingly, we expect others to respect us when we do not respect ourselves. You may wish to debate this. I only suggest you pause for a moment and take a look at how you treat yourself. Listen in on the conversation going on in your head and the self-criticism that you are engaged in. It is my belief that until you harness self-respect it is very challenging to expect others to be respectful. You demand respect by giving it to yourself first. Where do you begin?
1. Change Your Self-Talk
Without realizing it, most of us are in an ongoing conversation with self all the time. As you become consciously aware of this monologue, you begin to realize that it is generally not uplifting. It is that voice that finds all the minor, mostly insignificant mistakes you have made during a day, or the voice that chastises you for the items on your TO DO list that did not get accomplished. You know the voice, it is remnants of parents, teachers, preachers, the entire choir. I call it the Self-Critic.
The thing about the self-critic is that it is relentless. While it means well, designed in some way to protect you, it wears you down (depending on how mean it is). It is not necessarily truthful and generally out of date. It beckons to be re-programmed. To do this you may have to get specific and consciously listen in to your self-talk, even write down what the critic is saying. It can be anything from comments on your self image (I am overweight, I am a slob, I am ugly) to how you perform at work, talk to family and friends and more. Writing it down helps because you can ask yourself what you would really like to hear instead (I look great, I love this colour on me, I am healthy). You get the drift. The idea is to change your self-talk from destructive to constructive comments, from tearing you down to lifting you up. I call this ‘neural re-programming’, a process in which you teach your brain new pathways changing the internal conversation. Yes, it takes work and lots of practice and it becomes a habit over time. It is the most important step in self-respect, changing how you speak to YOU.
2. Stand Up For Yourself
While visiting Portugal last year, I was invited to a gathering with some new friends. It was really a meet and greet. One of the attendees asked me a few questions regarding my work. I explained that I had dedicated my life as a coach/consultant to helping people live authentic lives. He became very confrontational with me, even suggesting that I was making a great deal of money off the ‘woes of others’. This was in front of a group of folks I really did not know well. I was annoyed. He was obnoxious. I stated that I did not appreciate this line of questioning and that I preferred that we change subjects, to the relief of the others who were growing uncomfortable. He continued his debate at which point I looked at him and said, firmly, “You have crossed the line with me, this conversation is over”. He finally got the message and stopped. Had he not, I would have left.
This is an example of standing up for yourself. Trust me, it was not easy especially since I was among relative strangers. Yet respect implies that you will not allow others to use you as a doormat, to embarrass you in front of others or to make you feel uncomfortable. So know your boundaries and do not allow others to mistreat you. Either tell them to stop or walk away. Whatever your choice, make sure they understand they have crossed the line and you have enough self-respect to speak up for yourself.
3. Treat Your Body like a Temple
Yes you hear the pundits telling you that you ‘should eat well, exercise and embrace healthy habits”. I am here to repeat this message, not to ‘should on you’, but simply to say that to do so is respectful of the body that houses your spirit. I am not here to say lose weight, I suggest mindful eating, making good food choices that will enhance your health. Exercise by simply going for a 15-minute walk daily and increasing the distances as your fitness improves. All this to say that when you develop habits that are respectful of your body, your self-respect grows.
4. Take Pride in Your Appearance
Final point, when you leave the house dress appropriately. By this I do not mean that you have to ‘dress-up’, simply said clean clothes, clothes not pyjamas, something that you feel presents a respectful image of who you are. As a mostly retired person, I fully appreciate how easy it is to don the pajama or yoga pants and run a few errands. And you do not know who you will encounter on the grocery or pharmacy run. It is simply my suggestion that you are mindful of how you wish others to perceive you, and that you feel good in your skin and your clothes when you are out and about.
Respect begets respect. Always remember that if you are not respectful of yourself, others will not be respectful of you either. By the same token, if you are disrespectful to others, the favour will be returned.
There is much to be said for respect these days as we live in a world where respect had waned, in some cases disappeared. Let’s all make a commitment to bring it back, to respect ourselves, be respectful of others, to build a respectful community. It begins with YOU and ME! Until Next Time.