Respect Yourself

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I’ve had cause over recent months to question my own worth, my rights as a person, and my place in the world. Were it not for my lovely Dee by my side, I think that I would have hit an ever descending spiral of dark mood and emotion.  She has been my shining light.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been gradually purging my life of those who don’t enhance it, or those who don’t contribute to it in a positive way. That may sound very harsh, but in this day and age there is so much bitterness, hatred, discrimination, racism, bigotry and judgmentalism that I decided that there had to be a better way of living.

I turned my back on those who sat in judgement of others for their own entertainment or glorification. I know that to some extent most people judge others, but making assumptions about who someone really is just because he is overweight, or because she has tattoos, or because they are trying to work out whether to buy two or four slices of toast with their breakfast: that’s the sort of judgmentalism I can live without. He may be overweight, but maybe he’s already lost 10 stone and is working hard to lose more, or maybe he has a medical condition which has seen him react badly to his medication. Her tattoos may be messages of hope and support for friends having a hard time. They may be so poor that the fact the price has gone up for toast means they can’t even afford those two extra slices of bread.  Everyone has their own story to tell, and everyone has a right to be treated with respect and care.

I turned my back on those who indulge in gossip, which is simply one way people have of looking for faults in others and relishing in them or trying to feel superior because of them. So what if so-and-so didn’t put their name to a funeral notice for a member of their own family? Who are we to judge? How do we know the circumstances that led that to happen? Most importantly, what business is it of ours? What does it matter to me what Fred down the road did or didn’t do, or what Freda was wearing the other day?  I don’t know them, and it’s of no concern or interest to me.  It’s their business not mine.

I turned my back on those who, when I asked to be treated with kindness and good manners, chose instead to retaliate verbally with unfounded accusations of all sorts of wrongdoing. Instead of saying “I had no idea you felt that way, or that I seemed to be behaving like that, I’m really sorry and I’ll do better from now on”, they chose to treat my plea for help and compassion as a personal attack on them without stopping to think why I’d felt compelled to speak out.

I turned my back on those who, when faced with the outrages in the world today suggested that those who wanted to be suicide bombers should just kill themselves (when their attacks also kill scores of innocents) and could not see that exhorting any one person to kill themselves was a bad thing.  How can telling someone to kill themselves (whatever the reason) ever be justified? Where do you stop? Is assisted suicide for those in pain and / or terminally ill to be met with “just get on and do it”?

In this process, I’ve lost people I loved and respected, but who didn’t seem to love and respect me in the same way.  I’ve lost people who I thought were friends but it seems I was only of use as a friend if I continued to indulge in tittle-tattle and hate. Through those losses, I was made to feel that I was in the wrong, that my behaviour and beliefs were unreasonable, that changing my life at my age was a bad thing, that I didn’t have the right to make those decisions.

The only way out is through – Robert Frost

However, I know for certain that I have gained clarity about the things that really matter. I’ve made new friends and acquaintances who see life through the same lens, who don’t want to live their lives the way I used to.  I have found validation in my pursuit of happiness, of becoming a good and kind person.  I’ve found people I belong with,  who want to make the world a better place, who make me happy.

I was told recently that a “happy ever after life” is elusive.  Maybe it is, but I know that I’m happier with my life having made these changes than I was before I made them, and I know that now I’m surrounded by people who are kind and compassionate about their fellow humans it’s a much more likely outcome than if I’d bumbled along in my previously unhappy state.

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