BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 2017
Self-respect is more than a foolish mind game. We must combine healthy thoughts with self-respecting action.
Stuart Smalley: “You are a good guy; people like you.”
The thoughts we recite, churn in our minds impact feelings. Whether we recite self-glorifying mantras or ruminate over worries, the thoughts influence the flow of chemicals, creating a different feeling experience. What we think matters. But what should we think and how do we direct our thoughts? Thoughts, feelings and behaviors are the foundations of experience. All three need to be in balance, integrated into life, and connecting sources to others.
Many modern agents of happiness suggest we should only think positive thoughts. I don’t prescribe these theories of positive thinking. Disrupting emotions and thoughts have purpose, motivate action, and draw attention to important threats in the environment. I have learned to recognize negative thoughts, investigate their purpose and only then challenge, replace or accept.
We develop through phases. The struggling mind of an addict may require a different approach than a successful executive. The drug user has different demands, living one day at a time with immediate needs is more essential at this level; but through progression, decisions expand giving greater emphasis on tomorrow. We shift awareness with growth, moving past emotional demands so salient in youth, to future oriented decisions, and then expanding our concern to include a larger group of others. But when life in the moment overwhelms, the moment to moment struggles require intense action, thinking of starving children in war torn Afghanistan may not motivate anything but distraction from critical problems at hand.
We may start building hope through positive mantras. If we are stuck in self-deprecating ruts of depression, inaction and self-loathing; flood your mind with encouragement—recite whatever motivates. But when healthy lust for a flourishing life returns, growth requires more than kind self-talk. Words are fruitless if we fail to act. The benefits of self-praise plateaus when feeling good smothers motivating emotions that ignite action. An injection of heroine feels good to some, creating feelings of security; but fails to propel the user to develop connections that create security. The addict slinks into self-absorbed state of ecstasy ignoring the world. Feeling good doesn’t stand on its own. Positive speech plays a significant role in how we feel and how we feel plays a role in how we live. But self-discipline action is the next step, taking us beyond thought into real life, blessing the future.
"If we are stuck in self-deprecating ruts of depression, inaction and self-loathing; flood your mind with encouragement—recite whatever motivates."
We seek simple solutions to complex problems—thought is a simple solution. We stumble upon a small insight, hoping to transform our complex existence. A solid foundation requires more than a single brick. If you desire self-respect then build a self-respecting life though healthy action, with behaviors in congruence with ethics. We can’t stuff our mouths with junk, engage in unhealthy behaviors, act rudely to others, and then fool ourselves into self-respect. The chasm of difference between action and desires can’t be crossed with simple soul-relieving lies or greatness. Our actions and thoughts conflict.
Self-respect demands healthy values, acknowledging strengths and weaknesses, and working to be better. True self-respect requires integrity—embracing values and living according to those values. Self-respect comes from living a life we respect!