Most people do not know what the word RESPECT means
In fact, many think that to respect someone means to obey and submit to them and not say anything that might offend them.
Here is my suggestion to you for a little exercise on this subject. Think of three people you believe you respect or to whom you think you owe respect - like your parents, for example, since most of us have learned we must respect our mother and father. So, when thinking of the people you have selected, ask yourself whether you sometimes dare to disobey them or ignore their advice without feeling you must justify yourself and without feeling guilty. Do you sometimes feel you want to give them your opinion but refrain because you know it will be met with displeasure?
I have had so many people tell me stories about situations in which they were acting, so to speak, out of respect. One of them was told to me by a woman who wanted to tell her mother she was finding her boring, that she no longer wanted to talk to her every day on the phone or see her as often because she repeated the same things over and over, but the woman refrained from doing so out of respect for her mother and because her mother was not that young anymore.
Naturally, this woman often felt frustrated after her conversations with her mother or the visits to her mother's home. She went as far as inventing excuses so she could shorten the conversations or visits. Whatever attitude she adopted, she felt guilty. She thought her actions showed respect for her mother, but she was not paying attention to her own needs and accused herself of that, feeling guilty about short-changing herself. The lying also made her feel guilty. If she had dared to tell her mother that she was tired of hearing the same thing all the time and did not want to talk to her everyday, she would still have felt guilty.
The only way out of a vicious circle like this is to learn the meaning of true respect, by starting with yourself. Having SELF-RESPECT means being able to be yourself and listen to your own needs - without letting others dissuade you, without letting others influence you to change your mind just to please them. It means respecting your PERSONAL SPACE and, by this very fact, inviting others to respect it too.
In the preceding example, let us suppose that what this woman felt she needed was to talk to her mother on the phone once a week and to see her once a month. If she had respected herself, she would simply have told her mother, without asking if that was OK with her.
The mother could disagree, feel rejected, or worse still, start crying. The reaction always depends on the degree of dependence the two people have on each other and this degree is the same for each of them. The only difference is that one of them is generally more aware of it than the other.
If you find yourself in this kind of situation, the process of learning to respect yourself may seem like an uphill battle, especially if the other person answers you sharply or with authority. If this is your experience, remember that your former way of showing respect was based on fear. It is likely that the other person will go on making you fearful because that is how she has always gotten what she wanted. You must remain firm, however, and continue to respect yourself. Then, you will start noticing fairly quickly that others will respect you more.
Remember also that it is not a sign of disrespect to make your needs known to others - even if it upsets them when you do. However, you are showing a lack of respect if you expect others to satisfy your needs and you get angry when your expectations are not met. Wanting others to think of our needs before their own always constitutes a lack of respect.
Let us go back to my example. If the woman expresses her needs, but the mother continues to call her, the mother is showing a lack of respect toward her daughter. That said, it also indicates that her daughter has difficulty listening to her own needs and continues to feel guilty because her mother keeps on trying to make her feel guilty.
I can assure you that if you welcome your decision to respect yourself and command respect, others will act in a respectful manner toward you. Therefore, the best way to measure the degree of respect you have for yourself is to observe the extent to which others respect you and your needs.