Aretha Franklin is singing in my head as she describes regret for making herself into what a man wanted her to be. I say to the top of her head, “I’d like to prop a yardstick under your chin.” She looks up with a quizzical expression. “Look, it’s about dignity.” She asks me what that is. She’s 22. Nobody told her about such things.
I love sharing stories and it’s quite common that I get to offer the experience of others to answer what I’m asked. Earlier that week I met with a blue collar tough guy who had told me, “The only thing I know about dignity is that it means you get to hold your head up no matter what you’re going through.”
That works but there’s more to it.
Real dignity isn’t just about pride and stoicism. It’s about having enough self worth to invest in yourself. The life you most want requires having sufficient self respect to be true to yourself.
Respect is earned. If you get up more times than you got knocked down then you have mine and you deserve to have your own. Resilience is the best form of strength and it’s one of the most respectable traits a person can have. It’s not about where you come from. It’s about where you’re going.
Your past does not define you. What you do next does. Get into it (living). You can move past your inhibitions if you’ll just stop comparing yourself to everyone else. It only makes you feel like shit anyway.
There’s a world of difference between the way we judge others and the way we judge ourselves. We don’t know their insecurities, fears, and regrets, only our own. We only grasp how they appear to feel and covet what we perceive. Our downfall is in comparing the rough drafts of our lives to the cover of their books.
Start writing the next chapter. Instead of disrespecting yourself by being bitter over the success of those you envy; use the Golden Rule in reverse. Treat yourself the way you treat those you respect. In deference to them we’re honest, interested, and involved. We listen better. We’re accountable to them and we give our best.
We feel more alive relating to them. Yet it doesn’t occur to us to ask much of them. We don’t ask unless we feel deserving. Consider this – it feels good to be valued and to be of service to those we care for and admire. Why not return the favor and ask for the support we need? Chances are you’ve politely declined it many times already – you just didn’t even think about it.
Living is about intentionality – choosing paths, cultivating your way of being, honing your skills and kicking ass. Anything else means living a life that is not only unsatisfying but also disingenuous.
How is it that some folks make it all seem effortless? How do they manage so much and fare so well? Perhaps no one told them they couldn’t. Perhaps they managed to “find themselves.” Maybe they “got their shit together.” It’s possible that they “figured it out.” Nah. That’s all a crock. Here’s the truth – people who grow up in healthy families have a solid foundation to build beautiful lives on.
The rest of us are trying to discover who we really are and what we truly want. We’re looking to be able to feel everything that those folks are free to take for granted. They’ve always known that they are lovable, safe, and secure in who they are. We want that. We need help to get it.
Favorite old expression of mine, “I know what it costs and I know what it’s worth.” My goal is to take nothing for granted and to stay in the company of those who both challenge and encourage me. Those close to me believe that I am deserving and that my efforts are worthy of support. My view of myself can ebb and flow at times. The regard of my chosen family has for me does not. This is just one more reason why they are critical not only to my success but to my being happy, joyous, and free.
Get yourself some good people. You can find them everywhere but you have to reach out to them. (Kindred spirits have a way of recognizing each other). It’s scary moving outside of the familiar but it is there that we build confidence and faith in ourselves and in each other.