March 19 – Winning the self-respect competition

“The most important things is your self-respect. It doesn’t matter what people think about you, but what you think about yourself.” (Robert H. Abplanalp)

I live in a very competitive world, the fact that I tend to be a competitive person only magnifies that fact.  Measuring how I am doing in life against those around me can be an exercise in futility or triumph, depending on what I see in the mirror.

Recently I have read two articles written by working mothers bemoaning the levels at which some people take holidays like St. Patrick’s day. What used to be a fun day where people just wear something green has grown over the years. Now there are leprechaun visits to prepare for, cupcakes and goody bags to be made with Pinterest perfection, and so on. The moms who wrote the two articles I read were both talking about how exhausted they were with the whole process.

One (linked here) went the way of begging other moms to gear it back a little, to turn down the volume of enthusiasm over holidays like St. Patrick’s day, Valentine’s Day, Easter and the like. She wanted to see a world where Christmas and Easter are the pinnacles and the other holidays are “phone it in” holidays with a more minimalist approach to stop what she sees as the insanity. She ended her blog post by saying “for the sake of overwhelmed parents like me, I beg you. Stop the madness.”

The other article (linked here) celebrated the fact that there are people of varying levels of skill in things like holiday preparation, and craftiness. While she was able to see her own limitations she also said that she doesn’t “want people to dial things down so I can feel secure. My friends don’t need to hide their talents so I can feel better about myself.  I want to live in a community where women can showcase their strengths and pursue their talents at home and in the workforce without the fear of being or looking ‘too good.’”

These two blog posts are about basically the same issue, busy moms trying to “keep up” with those around them for things like holidays, school parties and the like. Both talked about their own struggles. The difference for me was in how the two decided to craft their reaction. The former begged others to come back down to a level she could sustain, while the latter celebrated the differences, congratulated those who could do the things she could not, and enjoyed the world of diverse abilities in which she lived.

When I reflect on those two posts in light of today’s quote, I see something important. To me, the writer of the first post seems to be so caught up in worrying what others think about her, that the is completely overwhelmed. Like the short legged, younger sibling walking to school, she is begging the others to “wait up”, and to “slow down”. The competition has gotten the best of her and she doesn’t seem to like that very much. The second, though, has taken a different approach. She has the self-awareness to know there are differences, and that she is good at some things, while other moms are good at others. She wants to be in the world where there are fun events, and she has the confidence to participate at whatever level she can.

To me this is a contrast in self-respect, and self-confidence. When I truly respect myself, when I am absolutely in love with the guy in the mirror, it doesn’t matter to me what others think. I will go strongly into the world just as I am with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. But, if there is something I don’t love about that guy, then my shoulders will slump and I will walk in the shadows of life. Nothing externally has changed, and my actions don’t necessarily change, but my attitude does.

The most difficult competition I face every day is not between myself and people around me, it is between the me that I am, and the me I want to be. When I am winning that race, everything else seems far easier in life.

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