Respect...11 years later

11 years ago I was in England for the month of May. It was a college literary tour and one of the best months of my life. My professor required that we keep a journal throughout the trip. It's always been more easy for me to be open on paper than in person, so I was quite open in my journal about the struggles I was experiencing at the time.

He wrote this note at the top of one of the pages:
"You have to respect yourself if you want people to respect you, and you're worth more to others if you respect yourself."

My instinct was and is to say: Of course I respect myself. I always have, I always will. I feel great about myself. I know I am a loved child of God.

But I think the real answer is, I still struggle to truly respect myself. I am generally so focused on monitoring other people's happiness levels that honoring myself (and my genuine happiness levels) is the last thing on my mind. I hate the thought of being or appearing imperfect - I despise the thought of disappointing the people in my life....of not doing my best....of ruining other people's lives with my crappy self. And I will sacrifice just about anything about myself if it means another person will feel better.

Isn't that so weird? Or not. I don't know if it's weird or not. I just know it's true. I could be succeeding at so many things...and be building many great and positive relationships...but my brain will focus on my failures and what I should have/could have done better.

And at my core, sometimes/a lot of the time, I feel like I don't really deserve genuine love and respect. I feel like there must be a lot of things wrong with me to be where I'm at in life. I'm so afraid/convinced that I am fundamentally unlovable. That there is some massive flaw in me. That I will always trust the wrong people and end up alone, afraid and despairing. That I will self-sabotage the good things and invest in the destructive things. I don't know why my brain is so hard on me.

I'm learning to understand myself more - to challenge the negative thoughts and patterns - to develop new ones - to set boundaries - to stop fixating on other people's happiness and emotional responses - to believe the people closest to me...dear family and friends...who say: "I love you. I care about you. You matter. You don't have to be perfect. I will always be here for you." But it takes time to rewire. Probably a lifetime. 

Respect means: *a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Synonyms: esteem, regard, admiration, reverence, honor

I wish I would have understood what Dr. Scholtz meant in 2004. I feel like I'm just beginning to get it in 2015. I wish I would have digested it more at the age of 20 instead of just brushing it off. It's interesting to me that in spite of my nearly perfect grades and a "on the surface" happy college life, he recognized that perhaps - at the core - I didn't hold myself in as high of regard as I appeared to for the rest of the world.

I'm writing this in the hopes that you - someone else out there with the same struggles - will know you aren't alone. You aren't crazy. You aren't running in a hamster wheel of lifelong distress. Everybody has "stuff" - patterns in their minds that aren't that healthy - but not everybody has the same "stuff." If your particular stuff is like mine - I want you to know that we're going to be okay! We're going to figure this out. And thrive. It takes a lot of courage to admit that sometimes our brains tell us mean, self-defeating thoughts. That sometimes we make real, giant mistakes in getting so caught up in seeking love and approval. It takes courage to admit that for some of us - following our heart/gut gets us into trouble...and instead we have to seek out guidance, find support, be practical, and differentiate from our out of control "please don't everyone abandon me" emotional responses. 

In the course of our lives, there are really pivotal turning moments. Moments when we realize the old way didn't work. Moments when we realize that if we want to find peace, we have to try a new way. I think I'm there now. 

This verse keeps showing up in my life...2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

My faith leads me to believe that God is utterly in the business of renewal. Of bringing hope from the ashes. Of rewiring people. Of giving them a brand new life.

I don't know where the road will go. 

But I feel a strong desire to follow a new path. One careful step at a time. 


  1. This really resonates. "God is utterly in the business of renewal....Of rewiring people." I love these words. Strength to you for the journey, and thanks for sharing this, as it helps to strengthen mine!