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Episode 66: The Respectful Way to Disrespect

This is an edited version of a podcast episode. If you prefer to listen, click  Make Me Whole Podcast or click Podcast in the menu above to find this and all my other episodes.

Two large circles, a purple one with the word "obedience" and a blue one with the word "respect" are separated by a small circle with a "does not equal" sign.

Hey, folks! Have you ever been in a position where in order to receive the respect that you deserve, you had to double down on boundaries that others don’t want to acknowledge? I see this a lot in my therapy practice (and in my own life!). I also see how people react to their friends or family telling them that their behavior isn’t acceptable. 

Let’s talk about something that’s often misunderstood: disrespect. As you may or may not have experienced, respect is often confused with unconditional submission. We are told from a young age that nodding our heads and unquestioningly following orders is how you show respect. Well, what about self-respect? I had a boss once who would dump all kinds of extra work on me, and I did it all without complaint because that’s what team players do. Then one day, I realized that my value, my worth, my time, my energy-they all mattered! So, I drew a line. Unsurprisingly, I was told, “Joset, you’ve changed!” Yeah, I changed, and it took a lot of hard work! I was done letting my self-worth be the cost of others’ comfort. 

Setting boundaries is often seen as an act of aggression. Imagine that! Why? You all know how I feel about boundaries, right? You have to set your personal limits clearly. Not only do you have to do this at work, but also with family, friends, romantic partners, and anyone else you interact with. Remember, people will only do to you what you allow them to do. (Please note: this does NOT apply to some situations, including domestic abuse.)  Many times we let things slide thinking that they won’t do it again. We convince ourselves that if we tell them politely, they will happily change, but they don’t. And listen, with some people you need to be very direct. Put those tough conversations on your to-do list, and make sure you’re actually following through. When you decide to set those boundaries in your current unhealthy relationships, you might be labeled as mean, needy, or different. And guess what? That’s fine. You are different. They may judge you from the sidelines or make you question yourself for choosing to walk alone. But remember, there is strength to be found, even when if feels like we could never lift ourselves out of the darkness. I believe everyone has the right to their own truth, so don’t be afraid to live in yours! 

So how do we navigate this? The first step is exercising situational awareness. Recognize when someone is coming into your territory. Be very direct, and if they cross that line again, don’t be afraid to limit their access to your life. Sometimes you have to be a little “disrespectful” to show just how respectful you have been in the past. 

Alright, I’m going to leave you with this. Valuing yourself isn’t about showing disrespect to others. It’s about choosing self-respect. If others can’t see that, then maybe they don’t deserve a front row seat in your life!


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