Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Self-Respect

A friend gave me a xerox copy of this article, in 1988. It has probably played a huge role in helping me get my priorities right.

"The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.

To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals with one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one.

To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.

...Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life - is the source from which self-respect springs.

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts."

From 'On Self-Respect', by Joan Didion

Complete article, here.  Every line is worth re-reading.

1 comment:

Rukhiya said...

Although I've highlighted a few more and different lines from what you've picked here I can see that this piece is most aptly worded and kind of universal in appeal. If its a relief to be reading thoughts like this is doubtful but if more people realized their worth and kept their self-respect I am sure the world would be a better place.

Blog Archive