“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”
– Joan Didion
Beginning long before we launched LimeLife, I’ve been mulling over the connection between responsibility and self-respect. The two become a bit of a “chicken and egg” problem for so many of us – especially women. When we don’t have a solid source of self-respect, we get stuck in the victim mentality and have a hard time taking responsibility for our lives. But on the other hand, if we do take responsibility and it doesn’t work out like we imagined, we quickly lose self-respect.
The above quote perfectly encompasses the intention of LimeLife. I recently looked into its context, and what I learned speaks to me even more clearly. Didion goes on to say that previous generations had self-respect instilled in them from a young age, on a deep level. They learned its direct connection to discipline, the ability to weigh “immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible comforts.”
In other words, the willingness to accept responsibility and sometimes choose the harder path creates a more profound sense of self-respect. With strong self-respect, willingness to accept responsibility becomes increasingly easier. It’s a cycle.
I immediately thought of my grandfather, an Italian immigrant to the US who raised his children during the Great Depression. Though he had very little knowledge of English, he chose never to speak Italian around his family. He believed his children would need to be fluent English speakers to be successful in America, so he took a more difficult path to grant them comfort later in life. He accepted responsibility for his life, and that of his children, and opened a wellspring of self-respect for all of them.
So how do we put these lessons to work for us in the new year?
Some of us might be entering 2022 feeling like we’re stuck in quicksand with nothing but a stretched-out rubber band to pull us to safety. It’s vital to take a quiet moment to think about where we can gain the most traction – in being willing to accept responsibility for our lives, or in building self-respect. The biggest success comes when we thrive on both sides, but the cycle starts when we get our first foothold.
We should also note that the quote talks about the willingness to take personal responsibility – not just the one-time action. We can take personal responsibility by applying for a new job or apologizing to a friend, but willingness is a deeper-rooted concept. When we practice it, it becomes a thread throughout all our relationships and actions.
Building self-respect is just as complex an idea, but one that can also be started with small actions. Practice assertiveness, letting others know when they’ve disrespected you and that it’s not acceptable. Make self-love a part of your everyday life, keeping a gratitude journal and doing away with self-deprecating jokes.
This year I’m challenging myself to gain traction on both sides, being willing to take more personal responsibility and growing my self-respect. It’s a deeply personal journey, but one that we can take on side-by-side. Are you with me? Let me know in the comments!