A key component of self-esteem is self-respect. Having self-respect means that your sense of worth doesn’t take a hit when you fail. You may feel embarrassed, sad, frustrated or even ashamed, but you don’t feel unworthy as a human being.
When you respect yourself, you recognize your needs as legitimate and do not subvert them to someone else’s needs because you perceive that person as more deserving or valuable.
In their book Self-Esteem, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning list the types of emotional needs that must necessarily be met for psychological health:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Yet many of us with insufficient self-esteem willingly forfeit having these needs met, instead focusing on meeting someone else’s needs. Or we adopt a twisted notion of what it means to be loved, excusing a partner’s infidelity or even abuse. In the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie is troubled by his sister’s relationship with an abusive boyfriend. He asks his teacher and friend Bill “Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we’re nothing?” Bill replies, “Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.”
So true and so resonant – this is a quote that has launched a thousand Tumblrs.
Sherry Argov, author of the bestseller Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl, stresses the importance of self-respect and boundary setting early in a relationship:
“He doesn’t get a monopoly on the rent space in her head. He doesn’t get Park Place, and he doesn’t get Boardwalk. He gets one of those little purple properties next to Go.”
Andrew at Rules Revisited has mixed feelings about the book (H/T: SayWhaat):
“The truth is that men are attracted to bitches, but we don’t love them because they are bitches; we just love women that happen to be bitches.
…What are “bitchy” girls doing right? If women like men who are assholes, not because they are assholes, but because they are confident or strong in some other way, then what is the analogous quality in “bitches” that attracts men? And the answer is simple: bitchy women have strong personal boundaries.
…Personal boundaries are the limits at which you “draw the line” and prevent other people from infringing on your personal world, that is, your personal rights and emotions – essentially, they are the limits of “what you will put up with.”
Your personal rights and emotions – or, in other words – your emotional needs. When you ignore or compromise on those essential and legitimate needs, you signal that you are willing to accept poor treatment because that is what you deserve. What’s more, you attract men who prey on weak women who will give them sex and other perks without demanding anything in return. A guy with healthy self-esteem wants the same in a partner, and he will disqualify a woman who does not demonstrate self-respect. There’s another reason guys look for self-respect, according to Andrew:
“When a man encounters a woman who has strong boundaries, he knows that she values and respects herself, and he therefore makes the reasonable inference that she is a woman of good character.
When you communicate personal boundaries, a man concludes with some assurance that you haven’t spent your youth putting out for assholes, i.e. disrespecting yourself and tolerating disrespect from others. You enjoy sex only when your emotional needs have been met.
McKay and Fanning provide a template to help you ask for what you want. They recommend that you “formulate an assertive request.”
I want _____________
It’s important to specify a concrete and actionable want. For example, “I want you to show me more respect” is not specific enough. You’re much more likely to get what you want if you say, “I want you to arrive at the time we agreed to meet.”
Other examples of effective boundary setting include:
“I prefer to make plans in advance, and I do not answer any texts after 10 p.m. “
“I want to make our relationship official before we have sex.”
“I am uncomfortable with you talking to your ex now that we are dating.”
“I’d love for us to go out tonight with some of my friends. They’re interested in meeting you, and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen them.”
“I understand that you aren’t looking for a relationship, so I prefer not to hear from you again.”
Andrew rightly notes that strong boundary setting is all too rare among women.
“…Strong boundaries are a primary and therefore critical indicator of a woman’s deep, inner worth – the kind of woman that men are not only willing to commit to, but actually want to commit to. There are plenty of women out there who are attractive, but there are very few who have the substance to go with it. Sound, healthy boundaries set a woman apart from the crowd instantly.”
Sure, lots of guys will call you psycho for saying any of those things, but guess what? Those are the wrong guys. Those guys are looking for girls who think they deserve a douchebag. Don’t be one of those girls.
You deserve to have your emotional needs met. Everyone does.
Ask for what you want. Sometimes you’ll get it. If you don’t it’s a feature, not a bug. Setting boundaries is the best way to filter out the wrong men and signal your worth to the right men.