10 ways to carry yourself with dignity and respect

Before people can respect you, you have to respect yourself first. Many of us are familiar with this, but it’s so abstract that it can be hard to apply in our day-to-day lives.

So how do you carry yourself with respect, then? In this article, I will give you ten ways to do just that, and you will be amazed at how easy it can be.

1) Look respectable.
This is one of the simplest and easiest things you can do, with almost instant results. I don’t mean that you should wear a tuxedo even if you’re only going to Starbucks (although if that’s your thing, go for it!). I mean, you don’t have to go crazy. Just be presentable enough that people won’t find you off-putting.

Trust me, even something as small as making sure you’re wearing well-ironed clothes and have deodorant on can do quite a lot. I know appearances aren’t everything, but you can’t look and smell like a troglodyte and demand respect from others. So take a good, long bath and dress well. Be extra hygienic; if you want, you can even put on perfume.

2) Stand tall, even when you feel small.
People aren’t always as confident as they seem at first glance. The large majority of us try to pretend that we are. That usually works! “Fake it til you make it” is a good motto you can apply in life, especially if you have some insecurities (we all do).

So, even if you feel intimidated by someone—like a new boss or a hot date—don’t let it show. Instead, show them that you’re chill and that you’re equally important as them (because you are)! Stand tall, try not to fidget, and look them straight in the eye. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all more or less the same.

3) Acknowledge your needs.
If you feel you need to pee in the middle of a meeting, don’t hold it. Excuse yourself and go pee! If you feel like you can’t handle your assignments alone, ask others for help or tell your boss about it so they can make some adjustments. If you’re too tired and sleepy to think, take a nap. Just make sure you inform those who might be affected.

You should pay attention to your needs and find a way to fulfill them. Please look after yourself as a loving mother would her child. Don’t feel guilty. Practicing self-care doesn’t make you unreasonably entitled. If anything, we all have the right to care for ourselves. Think of how machines need regular maintenance now and then. Self-care is just like maintenance, and if you don’t take the time to mind it, then it will force you to do so at some point.

4) Don’t try too hard to please others.
A good rule of thumb is to prioritize yourself first whenever you have to choose between yourself and others. There is no need for you to bend over backwards until your back breaks to please a teacher, a superior, or a date—you’re good enough simply as you are!

Everyone deserves respect from others, and if you must bend your knee to earn someone’s “respect,” then what they want from you is not respect but submission. And you don’t need that manipulation! You’re already respectable as you are, so don’t kiss anyone’s ass to get their approval.

5) Set boundaries and stick to them.
Tell them if you don’t want others to touch your stuff without your permission. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a new trainee at your job—your property is yours! If you don’t want someone to borrow more money from you because you already gave them some a week ago, tell them you have nothing to offer and that you request they not ask again.

Sometimes, people will keep pushing you until you set your limits and demand respect, so do just that. And keep reminding them of your boundaries (as nicely as possible), so they’ll learn to respect them. Look, boundaries are necessary. It doesn’t mean you’re selfish or rude for having them. You’re doing this to protect yourself. You respect yourself enough not to let others take advantage of you, which should be one of your primary duties.

6) Demand that your time be respected.
Do you know those people who show up an hour late? Or those who promise to submit on time and yet do it a week later? Yeah, I hate them too. I don’t know how they dare even show up smiling as if everything is fine and dandy… as if it’s nothing because YOU have no other use for your time anyway.

Time, as we know, is something that cannot be retrieved. Ever. And letting people wait is one of the cruelest offenses against humanity. So when this happens, please tell them off. It’s disrespectful to you, and they should not make it a habit. You do your part to show up on time; they should be too.

7) Don’t let someone cut you off mid-sentence.
You find it offensive when someone cuts you off mid-sentence, and how could you not when you do your best to listen when it’s their turn to speak? If it keeps happening, you should assert yourself and kindly request that they let you finish first and not interrupt you repeatedly.

Give them another warning if they do it again, but if it happens a third time, don’t be afraid to stop listening or even walk away. Respect is both given and taken. You give people respect, so you might as well be respected yourself in return, right?

8) Be assertive (but don’t forget to stay polite).
The examples above touch on being assertive, but I’d like to talk more about it here. You see, most of the time, we think that being assertive means being demanding, high-strung, or—in the case of women—bitchy. This is far from the truth, of course.

Assertiveness is about being firm in expressing what you want, and you can be as social or as mean as you need to be. And if you want to present yourself as a respectable person, you’d be polite about it. There will be some people who will find the very fact that you dare be firm scandalous, but that’s their problem and not yours.

9) Don’t chase attention.
We sometimes equate attention with respect. But that’s not necessarily true. Some respectable people are famous, but it’s because of what they do. And if you try too hard to earn other people’s attention and approval to gain respect, you’ll never get it. They will feel it and likely find you annoying or suspicious because of it.

Instead, you should turn inward and focus on living the kind of life that fulfills you—the kind that adds value to the people around you. Then attention and respect might follow.

10) Go for what you want.
If you genuinely respect yourself, you aren’t going to settle for less, especially if you’re already sure of what you want in life. When it comes to important stuff like “when are you getting married?” or “you’re too old not to have a “real” job!”, you should be willing to fight for the kind of life you want, even if it means disappointing some people and turning down some “grand” opportunities.

And when it comes to your life purpose, you shouldn’t care if people say that your dreams are impossible—you must go for it! Going for what you want is probably the highest form of self-respect—honoring your unique self and potential. It’s saying, “This is what I was put here on earth for, and I will live my life doing it.” And people can sense this—that you’re willing to fight the good fight even if you’re trembling. This kind of courage is truly admirable and demands respect.

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