Thursday, April 14, 2011

Respect or Fear? A Foundational Truth

Definitions of Respect:
1.  esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.
2. deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect's right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.
3.  the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.

Definitions of Fear:
1.  a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
2.  that which causes a feeling of being afraid; that of which a person is afraid: Cancer is a common fear.
–verb (used with object)
3.  to regard with fear; be afraid of.

My last post,  Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word,  was about not having been respected in my life in relationships, and not having had any self- respect.  I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t have any self-respect, then that would draw disrespect toward me in my relationships.  And in my mind I felt that even though I had given and shown a great deal of respect toward others, it never was reciprocated, because of my lack of self-respect and having chosen the wrong people with whom to be in relationships.

I received a comment on my Face Book page in regard to that post that was a real eye opener for me. The commenter said  “really, if respect is an unknown entity to somebody - how can you expect to get it from them? that includes yourself; so please acquire a good dose of it & spread it around liberally. you're sure to find some deserving targets.”  Angie L.

I had to do a double read on this, because it was so profound for me.  How could I expect respect, give respect or self-respect if I did not even understand what respect was?  Because it hit me at that moment that I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT RESPECT WAS.  My sense of respect, that which I had always given and shown to others was not respect at all, but was fear.  And this was a real moment of truth for me.  And the way in which I feared those I thought I had respect for, varied greatly depending upon the person and the circumstance.

If I had what I thought was respect for authority, basically I feared that authority because I had always experienced abuse by those in authority over me.  My fear was based on pain and humiliation and fear of death.

If I had what I thought was respect for friendships or others with whom I was in relationship, basically I feared being rejected or abandoned by them.

In each of these cases, my fear is what drove my behavior in those circumstances, whether it was submissive behavior, or deference to their wishes or opinions, or even whether it was that constant apologizing I was always doing.  It was all based on some form of fear, not due to any form of respect.

So, before I can get down to the business of learning how to respect myself, I have to get down to the business of learning what exactly respect means and how it translates into self-respect.  I looked up the definitions, now I have to really take a good look at them and try to imagine them applied to ME.  Because until I ‘get this’, I won’t get respect from myself or anyone else for that matter.  This is an important foundational truth for me and important for my healing process.  And I’m kinda stoked about it!

Thank you Angie!!!


  1. Great post. How does a child who has never known respect become an adult who has self-respect? It was a long process for me. I was taught as a child to give others respect/fear as you stated in your post Carla. I didn't know the difference either until I looked at all of the people that I feared.

  2. Patricia, thank you for your comment! This is one of those key pieces of truth for me. Finding out where all the fear is hidden inside me, all the places where I name it as something other than fear. What a long process! But I love it when I have another piece of the puzzle put into place, that much closer to the big picture! :)