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Cultivating Self-Respect

Respecting yourself can be challenging to practice if you are a people-pleaser. The fear of saying ‘no’ can keep you stuck in a cycle of neglecting your needs and giving into things that don’t serve you a productive purpose. When you let others take advantage of you, it can damage your self-esteem and lead to increased anxiety, depression, and strained relationships.

You can probably identify some examples, like these, in your life where you have wanted to say 'no,' yet felt you couldn't wait for several reasons:

  • Your neighbor asks you to water their plants when they are on vacation. 
  • Your coworker asks you to cover for them in a meeting.
  • Your sibling wants you to plan your mom's birthday again, and you are swamped with work.
  • Your friend begs you to come out two nights in a row. 
  • Your spouse asks you to compete for a task that same day. 

When you practice standing up for what you need, want, or what is fair, it increases your self-respect. On the other hand, when others take advantage of you, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it can lead to a few things: 

  • Feeling anger or resentment toward someone else or yourself.
  • Feeling hopeless reinforces the negative belief that you don't deserve self-respect.

Acting assertively and communicating your needs will help you develop a higher sense of self-esteem and self-respect. But it takes practice, and it's possible. 

woman on laptop drinking coffee


You are a helpful and empathetic person by nature. But, sometimes, you allow people to take advantage of you because you're nice, and standing up for yourself can feel uncomfortable. When you interrupt this pattern and practice boundary setting, you learn to value yourself and your time. Boundaries are integral in the development of self-respect. Here are four steps to developing a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.


Think of a time that you were mistreated or didn't like the outcome of something. What did that feel like? Maybe it was your friend canceling on you at the last minute or the waiter bringing you the wrong food. Think about how this situation made you feel physically and emotionally. Did you want to fix it but didn't know what to say? Were you afraid to say something to get what you deserved or needed? Consider your feelings and thoughts when you recognize someone is taking advantage of your time or kindness. These are important because they can allow you to practice a skill to change the outcome next time. 


Firstly, identify what is important to you. Is it your free time, workouts, alone time, or relaxation? Once you can identify these values, you're one step closer to intentionally carving out time for these things. Secondly, it's essential to understand your bandwidth. Reflect on your energy level and your calendar. How full was your day? Did saying 'yes' to too many things mean your day was too busy? You might look at your week and realize you spent 90% of your week doing things that make you feel trapped or overwhelmed, which leads to feeling anxious. The next time someone asks you for something, practice assessing your time and energy before taking on new responsibilities.   


Pay attention to the more minor things. For example: Was your friend thirty minutes late to meet you? Did your server charge you for two drinks when you only ordered one? Did your boss cancel the check-in meeting you scheduled with them without any communication to reschedule? Notice the things that take advantage of your time, kindness, or money. Be aware of your interactions, and if people begin to make you feel like you are being taken advantage of, then you can act.


A simple check-in with yourself can help determine if your needs are being met. So here are a few questions to ask yourself: 

  • How do I feel about this? 
  • Am I comfortable doing what is being asked of me? 
  • Is there something else I need to feel better or allow me to get what I need/want? 

Practice being respectful and polite when asking for what you want or communicating what you need. Here are some examples:

  • Thanks for asking, but I don't do X.
  • I have other plans that I can't change, and I appreciate you thinking of me. Unfortunately, I won't be available at that time.
  • I'd love to chat, and I only have a few minutes.
  • I don't feel comfortable doing X, but here is a way I would be willing to help. 
  • I wish I could, but there are other things I need to say 'yes' to.

To develop self-respect, you have to practice it. First, you show others how you want to be treated through your actions and words. Then, show them that you are valuable by speaking up and setting firm boundaries. In turn, you will continue to feel more and more self-respect and confidence.

Our unique approach at Shoreside Therapies focuses on guiding people toward unlocking their true potential through therapy and confidence building. You can learn how valuable and respected you should be with strong boundaries. 

It's time for you to take back the reins of your own life, set yourself up for success and become the best version of yourself! Whether it's rebuilding your self-confidence or standing up for yourself - you will learn that no one can define who you are except YOU. We offer a thoughtful and compassionate approach. Book a therapy session today on our website! We look forward to seeing you soon!

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Deva Murphy MSW, LCSW

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Deva Murphy, MSW, LCSW

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1429 N. Prospect Ave
Milwaukee WI, 53202

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