Why it’s important to have self-respect in life and at work

John Drury


written on October 6, 2017

Knowing your strengths, limits and how to set boundaries is integral to successful leadership.

Many of my clients are busy executives who struggle to say “no”. If the phone rings when they are in the midst of an important task, they find it almost impossible to let it go to voicemail and call back later.

They are quick to complain about interruptions from team members, but reluctant to close their door or carve out time each day when they can get things done undisturbed. Usually that peaceful time is after everyone leaves for the day. They can somehow justify to that missing dinner with the family is just what it takes to have a successful corporate career.

Poor self-management is not the main issue

The problem here is not poor self-management or personal organisation. It’s the inability to set firm boundaries and stick to clear priorities. It means they are quick to respond to other people’s demands and way too slow to make time for the important activities required to achieve business goals.

I consider this not an issue of self-management, but self-respect. A healthy level of self-respect enables you to have the confidence to set firm boundaries. It means knowing what you stand for and what your values are, and being accepting of both your strengths and weaknesses.

Self-respect is an inner quality that each individual must take time to develop. It comes after experiencing  setbacks and failures throughout life and knowing how to rebuild.

Juggling the demands of a growing family and busy leadership roles can do strange things to people. It’s easy to be tricked into thinking that the way to be successful is to try to please everyone. Self-respect is more important than always being seen as a really nice person. Sometimes it means you have the courage to negotiate and reschedule an important meeting in order to be free to attend your child’s school assembly.

What does ‘self-respect’ look like in practice?

At work, having self respect means possessing the inner strength and confidence to turn off your phone, shut off your emails and close the door. Or to ask your staff to guard you for two hours while you work on an important project interruption free.

It helps you make and keep appointments with yourself in the midst of a busy day to go for a walk, take a break, or work on your longer-range plans. Self-respect is what helps you find a way to focus on the important and not just the urgent matters of the day.

It means facing your fears of being rejected and of not being good enough. Those who become successful at some point learn to stare these fears down and act with courage to do the most important things that make their life and business grow strong.

Healthy ‘self-respect’ checklist

  • You have become clear about what you want to achieve from your business, career and your life
  • You know your strengths and are confident in what you can do well
  • You accept your weaknesses and know how to work around them
  • You have firm values and live true to them
  • You make and consistently keep appointments with yourself
  • You take pride in being well-presented
  • Your “yes” means yes, and your “no” means no
  • You expect others to respect you and they usually do.

If you are feeling out of control like the department manager referenced at the start of this article, then it’s time to do some work on you. Nothing will change until you do. Business success is always a personal growth journey. The good news is that developing self-respect is within your power. A mentor can assist you, however, self-respect is the gift you have to give yourself.

John Drury is a business mentor, keynote speaker and author.  

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