Back in college, I had a good friend named Leslie. Soon after joining college, Leslie got into a relationship with a guy who was quite the catch – good looking, popular and a key player in the college basketball team. The relationship started off well, and both of them were happy.

Being so in love, Leslie was so eager to keep her new boyfriend happy. Whenever the guy needed her, Leslie was there. When the guy did things that Leslie did not approve of, she was quick to forgive him. She compromised her wants and desires for the sake of the relationship and to keep her boyfriend happy.

Leslie’s strategy worked, but only for a while. Initially, the relationship was great and both of them were happy. After some time, the guy noticed that Leslie was a pushover. He could do anything and get away with it since he knew Leslie would forgive him.

He started taking her for granted and treating her like trash. The relationship, which was initially a source of happiness for Leslie, became a source of sorrow. It continued deteriorating, and they eventually broke up. Leslie never got into another relationship throughout college.

What happened? Why did the guy treat Leslie this way yet she was ready to do everything to keep him happy?

The answer is that Leslie had no self-respect. She respected her boyfriend more than she respected herself. Had she had respect for herself, her boyfriend would have respected her as well, and Leslie would have gone through college in a happy relationship.

Like Leslie, many of us deny ourselves a chance at happiness because we lack self-respect. We care more about others than we care about ourselves. We are obsessed with getting others to like us while putting ourselves and our desires last.

Like you might have guessed, this is not a very good strategy for achieving happiness. Self-respect is crucial for happiness.

Question is, what exactly is self-respect?


Self-respect basically means having respect for yourself, your body, your time, your wishes and your desires. Self being is liking yourself and being proud and confident about who you are.

People with self-respect act with honor and dignity and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe is right. They don’t allow others to disrespect them. Self-respect is not based on success, intelligence or superiority over others. Instead, self-respect is intrinsic.

Self-respect cannot be taken away, even if you are stripped of all your achievements, your titles, your material possessions, your money or even your clothing.

Very often, people confuse self-respect with ego and self-esteem. Ego and self-esteem usually stem from our achievements and are usually based on comparisons with other people. When we fail or have doubts in ourselves, our ego and self-esteem takes a hit.

Self-respect, on the other hand, is not based on this evaluative framework. Instead, self-respect comes from knowing that you deserve to be treated with dignity because you are a human being.


Self-respect is an important factor that determines many things, including how you view yourself, how you treat yourself, how you allow others to treat you and how you make your decisions.

These in turn determine how happy you will get. People stay in relationships and jobs that do not satisfy them because they do not respect themselves enough to realize that they deserve a lot more.

The unsatisfying jobs and relationships makes them unhappy, yet they do not take any action to rectify the situation. Having self-respect is crucial for happiness because:

It Determines The Course Of Your Life

If you have self-respect for yourself, you are more confident in yourself and do not concern yourself with what others think of you provided you are doing what you believe is right. You are more likely to pursue your dreams without caring about your reputation even if you fail.

People who go after their dreams are more likely to achieve them, and are thus happier compared to those who do not.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, men who are overly nice and agreeable – a symptom of low self-respect – earn up to 18% less than their less agreeable counterparts, despite being more liked.

Overly nice and agreeable women, on the other hand, earn up to 5% less than women who stand up for what they believe in.

People who have self-respect also lead happier lives because they live their lives on their own terms. Sometimes, other people, including family and friends expect you to act in certain ways, even if doing so goes against what you believe in.

People with self-respect put their foot down if they are required to do something that does not resonate with their values. People with low self-respect, on the other hand, do what others expect of them but are not contented deep inside, thus eroding their happiness.

It Determines The Course Of Your Relationships

Self-respect also determines the quality of your relationships with other people. These include intimate relationships, relationships with your parents of children, relationships with friends, as well as professional relationships.

People with self-respect set the tone of any relationship from the word go. If they notice the other person doing something that is disrespectful to them, they let them know that they won’t accept it.

They are not afraid to break the relationships if they feel that they are not being given the respect they deserve. Respecting yourself shows the other person that you expect to be treated with respect.

People with self-respect maintain their individuality when they get into relationships. They don’t give up their hobbies or change their behavior to please the other person – provided they are not doing something hurtful.

Without self-respect, people allow the other person to treat them disrespectfully. Like my friend Leslie, they give up their individuality in order to please the other person. As we have already seen, this eventually makes them unhappy and more often than not ends up breaking the relationship.

It Gives Your Courage And Determination

Self-respect is closely tied to your values as a person. People with respect for themselves know what they value most. They know what they stand for. They know what is important to them.

When they find themselves in difficult situations, they have the courage to make the right decision because they understand what is important to them. They do not allow themselves to settle for less. Instead, being clear about what they want gives them the courage and determination to go after it. They know their self-worth and are not afraid to let go of anything that is not worthy of their time.

Having respect for yourself also gives you the courage to put your needs before those of others. Growing up, we are often taught that it is admirable and prudent to put the needs of others before your own.

Unfortunately, this is not very practical. Like the popular saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. You need to first take care of your own physical and emotional needs if you want to effectively take care of the needs of others.

It Keeps You From Becoming A Doormat

One major symptom of people with low self-respect is that they are overly nice and eager to please. Problem is, the world is not a fair place. Once people notice that you are willing to go out of your way to please others, they are bound to use you.

They ask you to do things for them or be there for them without reciprocating because they know it is your nature. They use your feelings of guilt to manipulate you into doing things that you do not want to do.

In relationships, your partners become abusive and nasty because they know that you will excuse and tolerate their behavior.

Basically, if you do not have self-respect, people will walk all over you. It’s very hard to be happy when you are doing things you hate and staying in abusive relationships just to please others.


It is clear that attaining happiness without respect for yourself is not easy, if it’s not downright impossible. Therefore, if your goal is to live a happy life, you should work on increasing your self-respect.

Before we get to the tips on how to increase your self-respect, I have to mention that you won’t instantly become better at respecting yourself after reading these tips. Instead, you have to make a conscious effort to put the tips into practice on a day-to-day basis. Increasing your self-respect is like building a habit.

It cannot be done in a day. You have to keep practicing these tips and reinforcing the positive values of self-respect.

The good thing is, once the value is inculcated in you, just like a habit, self-respect will become second nature to you, and you will see a positive change in your life. Below are some tips that will help you increase your self-respect and increase happiness in your life:

Set boundaries and learn to say “No”

Part of respecting yourself is knowing what you are comfortable with and what you are not comfortable with, and then setting boundaries to let other people know what you are not comfortable with.

If people infringe on these boundaries, do not be afraid to let them know that you do not approve and will not allow it. If people want you to help them, don’t be afraid to turn them down if you feel helping will interfere with your plans.

For instance, if a colleague wants you to help him with a project yet you are busy at the moment, simply tell him that he’ll have to wait.

If people want you to do things that do not resonate with your values, firmly say no without having to explain the reasons behind your answer.

Once people realize you are not a spineless guy who can be easily manipulated, they will have more respect for you.

Stop being a people pleaser

There are 7 billion people in the world, each with their own individual likes and dislikes. Regardless of what you do, it would be impossible to make everyone like you.

So, why should you go out of your way to get people to like you? There is a saying that even if you lie on the ground for people to walk on you, some will complain that you are not flat enough.

There is nothing you can do to please everyone, therefore you should stop trying it. I’m not saying that you should be rude to others. Part of having self-respect is treating others with the same dignity you’d expected to be treated with.

Still, you should realize that not everyone will like you, and there is no problem with that. Just do what you feel is right and you will attract the right people.

Don’t apologize for who you are

In the bid to please others, people without self-respect are way too apologetic, even for being themselves. They feel inferior for who they are. You might have noticed a colleague at the office who starts every email with “sorry”, even if whatever they are apologizing for is not their mistake.

If you want to increase your self-respect, embrace who you are and hold your head high. Don’t apologize for things that are not under your control or within your responsibility.

Stand up for yourself

Like I mentioned earlier, the world is not a fair place. Everyone is not a nice person. Part of having self-respect is not allowing others to walk over you. Don’t go along with everything others say.

Have your own opinion.

If people someone tries to pick on you, don’t be afraid to stand up and defend yourself.

Embrace and believe in your choices

Regardless of what you do, people will always have an opinion.

Do not base your decisions on the opinions of others or out of fear of what people will think of you.

Part of having self-respect and living a happy life involves embracing and believing in your choices, even if they don’t resonate with the opinions of your friends. You are the only one who knows what makes you happy.

Whether you decide to buy a car before buying a home, whether you decide to quit your job and start your own business, whether you decide to sell everything and travel the world – the decision is yours, embrace it and be confident in it.

Know your worth

One characteristic of people with low self-respect is that they are they don’t believe they are worth much.

The truth is that you are worth a lot more than you think. Don’t stay in situations where you are not being appreciated just because you think you won’t find better circumstances.

Part of respecting yourself is realizing when you deserve more. If you feel like your partner is taking you for granted because they think you won’t go elsewhere, step up and tell them to treat you with dignity. If they are not willing to do that, don’t be afraid to leave.

If you feel your boss does not appreciate your worth, search for another job. No situation is permanent, and you will definitely get a better job or a better partner out there.

Do what makes you happy

Remember my friend Leslie?

She gave up her interests for her boyfriend’s interests.

Sadly, things did not end happily for her. If self-respect is important for happiness, respecting yourself should definitely involve doing things that make you happy. Don’t give up your hobbies and passions because you think someone does not like them.

Respecting yourself involves understanding that you are an individual with unique interests. Doing what makes you happy will attract the people who are interested in the real you.

Have beliefs and values and respect them

A sense of self-respect stems from knowing what is right and what is wrong, distinguishing between what is acceptable and what is not.

To increase your self-respect, spell out your own values and hold yourself accountable to these values. Respect these values even when you feel it would be more beneficial to go against the values.

Most importantly, you should not change your values to accommodate someone else, since you will not be respecting yourself.

Spend your time wisely

At the beginning of this article, I noted that self-respect involves respecting your time, among other things.

Determine the things that are important to you and prioritize your time on those things. If family is one of your values, spend time with your family even if it means rescheduling the meeting with that client who wanted to meet over the weekend.

Respecting your time also means being punctual. If you were supposed to have a meeting at 8:00 am and the other person has not arrived thirty minutes later, cancel the meeting and focus on your other obligations. Time is the one resource you cannot get back. Once people realize that you respect your time, they will also treat your time with respect.

Stop comparing yourself with others

Self-respect is not based on comparisons with others. It is an intrinsic value that comes from knowing that you should be treated with dignity because you are a human being.

If you want to increase your self-respect, stop comparing yourself with others or trying to keep up with them. The fact that your friend bought a car does not mean you need to buy one.

You should be happy for your friend without feeling like you are a lesser human being because you do not own one. Having self-respect means doing things that are matter to you instead of doing things to impress your friends.

If your happiness stems from keeping up with others, you will never be truly happy because there will always be someone better than you.

According to this article, always trying to keep up with others can lead to depression, financial worry, strained family relationships, stress, anger and frustration. Hardly the perfect recipe for a happy life.

Accept yourself

You are an individual with your own unique looks, features, values, traits, abilities and personality. Respecting yourself involves loving and accepting yourself as you are and being comfortable in your own skin.

No one is perfect, and neither are you.

Therefore don’t look down on yourself because you think you are not rich enough, not tall enough, not the right weight, don’t drive the right car and so on.

Don’t wait until you lose weight or get a spouse or get that job or buy a house in order to start loving and respecting yourself. Love the person you are and do not be apologetic about it, even as you work to improve aspects of yourself that you feel you need to improve.

Happiness is not a destination, so don’t think you will be happier once you buy a car or a house. You can be happy with what you have now, and that starts with accepting and respecting yourself for who you are.

Learn to handle criticism

In life, it is inevitable that people will criticize you – either rightfully or because they want to make you feel bad. Humans are sensitive beings, and no one likes to be told bad things about themselves.

However, you should not let criticism define your self-image. People with a sense of self-respect know who they are deep down.

When they receive criticism, they do not take it personally. Instead, they evaluate the criticism from a detached perspective and determine whether it is constructive or destructive.

If you find that the criticism is truthful and that it aligns with your values, you should use it to better yourself. If you find that someone criticized you just to hurt you, ignore their words.

Do not let them influence how they view yourself.

Learning to ignore people whose intention is to be mean to you will go a long way in helping you keep your happiness.


If your goal is to live a happy life, then you need to learn how to respect yourself. Self-respect means knowing that things like money, friends, relationships, looks, jobs and so on are not more important than your dignity.

Without self-respect, people will take advantage of you. They will treat you like a nobody, take you for granted, belittle your intelligence, abuse you and manipulate you.

Do you think it is possible to live a happy life when people treat you like a rag instead of a viewing you like an individual who deserves their respect?

If you want to be happy, you should start by respecting yourself.

Only then can you be happy without depending on others for your happiness.

This is Why Self-Respect is Crucial for Happiness

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