My path to confidence has been a long, painful, confusing road. There were bullying executives, self-centered boy friends, sociopath stalkers, and business partners with drug and sex addictions. During those tough years I was understanding, giving, sympathetic, tolerant - nice. I was trying to "rise above" with positivity and "compassion."
Counter to what our current self-help philosophies espoused, none of that gave me strength. None of it allowed me to feel within my power - because none of it came from a place of self-respect. Rather, I was a master of rationalization and plausible avoidance under the guise of positivity and compassion, because I didn't want to see the ugliness.
For me, now, self-respect is where you start. You don't need spa days, ice cream, and shopping sprees. That's coddling yourself. That's continuing along the lines of your already competent skills of happy denial. Rather, you need to look at things through the lens of objective reality. I don't mean harsh, bitter negativity, and I don't mean rose colored glasses either. I mean look at things exactly as they are - not as you wish, hope, or fear they might be.
Why do we avoid looking directly, clearly, at the bullying executive, the selfish boy friend, the unethical business partner, the child with behavioral issues? Because it's uncomfortable. Because we don't know if we can deal with it. Because it's hard. And if we do look at it - our response may be to complain, shame, and try to force them to change - not us. More denial.
I define self-respect as facing the things you are afraid of and seeing them for what they are - and then acknowledging what you can and can't do about it. For things you can't change (like who other people are), you let it be. For things you can change, you focus your attention there. Magically, when you face the hard things and you focus on what you can change, confidence blooms - because deep inside you know you are in charge of and taking care of you.
Magically, when you face the hard things and you focus on what you can change, confidence blooms - because deep inside you know you are in charge of and taking care of you.
The self-centered boyfriend, you leave. The sociopath stalker, you get a restraining order from. The unethical business partner, you get a lawyer. The bullying executive, you have a conversation about your boundaries and what you're prepared to do if they cross them.
This is not about being mean, getting defensive or being a bully. It's about standing up for yourself when others take advantage. It's about realizing the world isn't always pretty, and that's ok. Accept it and decide what do you want to do about it?
From this place of awareness, acceptance of reality, and self-respect, you can have real compassion without being a doormat. You can be understanding while saying something is unacceptable. You embrace "both/and" rather than "either/or" - meaning life is no longer a zero sum game. You don't have to lose to make the uncomfortable things "win" (and go away). There is no win/lose. There is only what is (reality) and what you are prepared to do about it (empowered choice).