Dignity is valuing ourselves for who we are, what we believe in, and how we live your life. It also means treating others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, a la the Golden Rule.
Valuing ourselves begins with self-awareness: knowing our needs, desires, hopes, dreams, goals, beliefs, the choices we make and why. While the hopes, dreams, needs, wants, of others are more than likely very different than our own, that doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable. When you deny or dismiss the value those things, you strip away their dignity.
Beyond self-awareness, self-value also requires self-confidence and self-love. Self-confidence is believing that you have the capacity to cope with whatever life throws at you — both good and bad. We all have different coping mechanisms, and we are all impacted by life in our own unique way. What may be devastating to one of us might just roll off the back of others. Therefore, to respect others’ dignity, you should not undermine peoples’ coping mechanisms by insisting that they see things or react or deal with things in the way you would or think they should.
Self-love is also part of self-value. When we learn to love ourselves, we are more likely to recognize our own value and, thus, the value of others.
When we deny the needs, wants, desires, hopes, dreams, goals, beliefs, choices, self-respect, self-love and self-confidence in others, we are stripping them of dignity. That is not okay.
When we disparage, disregard, or harshly judge the character and integrity of people we know nothing about, we are blinding ourselves to their dignity. We cannot make any kind of value judgment about the character and integrity of anyone based on their appearance or gossip we have heard about them, much less based on some assumption that we have made about them. When we treat others from a place wherein we are not living by our own character and integrity or when we make negative assumptions about anyone’s character or integrity, we turn our backs on dignity.
We all have a storehouse of memories that shape and mold us — our perceptions, our perspectives, our ways of coming at the world and our ways of being in the world. And, over time, we let go of some memories and replace them with newer and more important memories – both good and bad. And we all have a set of stories that we tell ourselves about the ways the world works and about how life works and about how we have to approach life and the people in it. Those myths that we live by are informed by the memories we hold, the experiences we have, as well as the beliefs we have come to trust. This is why, as the old wise saying goes, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” You have no idea of the memories and personal myths that have come to form them as they are because those experiences and memories and strategies of getting through life are so personal and so singular to each and every one of us.
When you encounter someone who doesn’t think like you, look like you, dress like you, worship like you, eat the same things you do, like the same music or movies that you do, remember it is their personal value made up of self-awareness, self-love, self-confidence, and self-respect, and they have the freedom to be and become whomever they want. As we said above, dignity is about treating others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, and nobody likes being judged unfairly or deemed less than others.
There are a lot of problems in the world right now and to begin to fix them, we are going to need all hands on deck. And in order for us to do that we are going to need to begin respecting and honoring one another’s inherent dignity.
Living Skills offers positive psychology counseling, spiritual counseling and life coaching services in Atlanta for the LGBTQ community. Sessions available by Skype. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.livingskills.pro. Podcasts now available.