17 Honest Lessons On Self-Respect Every Teenage Girl Should Know

When I sat down to write this post about self-respect, I Googled “Joan Didion curiously exempt,” to find a quote from Didion’s essay “On Self-Respect.” The first result was, of course, Vogue magazine: the publishing powerhouse had originally printed her essay in 1961. Upon opening the tab to read her words, Kendall Jenner’s made-up babyface greeted me. Kendall is 19 and she’s constantly being told—by the media, her family, strangers on Twitter, bitter models-turned-writers, the world at large, and now me—how to respect herself. Here are a few honest takes on self-respect that I wish I’d understood when I was a teenage girl.

1. “Drama” is a word that concerns things and people that aren’t worth your time

Don’t even stoop to use it to say how much you hate it: if you watch any reality TV, you know how annoying it is to hear the stars say “I hate drama!” as they do everything in their power to create it. Anytime things feel overblown and unnecessary? They probably are, and they’re likely distracting you from the real issue at hand. If you can help fix a problem with a simple solution, fix it. If not, move on to the next thing. Dedicate your time to things that are worthy of it. Time is the most valuable currency you have, and you alone are the only person who can determine what one unit of your time is worth. You are your own stock.

2. People will judge you for everything you do, so you should do the things that mean something to you

Enjoying ‘frivolous’ things doesn’t make you less serious. Of course most people know that you can like both traditionally masculine and feminine things without those taste preferences dictating how smart you are, right? Some people will react poorly to you expressing your enthusiasm for things they deem unworthy of their own: let them.

3. Your appearance—the quality of your clothes, your hairstyle, the amount of makeup you wear—is far less important than how you feel about your appearance

You wake up flawless and everything you do from there on out is about how you feel that day. You wanna show skin? Show it. It’s yours. You want to wear a bunch of eyeliner? Do it. Doesn’t matter if it’s good quality or lesser quality, as long as you feel confident wearing it, whatever ‘it’ is.

4. Your parents are not always right; but if you’re lucky enough to have parents who treat you decently, they do deserve your attention (even if you have to fake it)

I was really, really mean to my mom when I was younger. It came from a place of a bunch of bad internalized feelings, I think, but now I wish I’d given her ten times more love and respect than I did—even when she was wrong, my mom did a lot for me, and I should have paid more attention when she asked me for something, or tried to tell me stuff. Let your parents tell you stuff, even if it’s something you think you already know. It pays to fake it—they’ll be happy and you’ll have less regrets about being a brat, trust me.

5. Alcohol and weed are just ways to be less sober, don’t get caught up in talking about them (or condemning them) like they’re super interesting and exclusive

The simple act of using them is neither bad nor impressive, but going on and on about using them is kind of a boring way to spend your energy. You don’t need to judge yourself or others for drinking or smoking or doing whatever. There’s just usually better stuff to talk about.

6. Your body is yours to take care of and you can do what you want with and to it—you are not the sum of your parts

You can appreciate your body and show it off and that’s all great and positive, but don’t play yourself into thinking that its appearance is *the* thing that matters. You don’t lose anything when you have sex for the first time, or when you have sex in general. You have experiences. Self-respect isn’t about abstaining from experiences, but about being thoughtful about doing what you want. That’s it.

7. Emotional abuse is real; it’s a vicious cycle and it often starts with you having to convince someone to be with you

I’m not one to default to poetry, but my girl Ari Eastman summed this idea up pretty nicely:

8. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” is a timeless piece of advice that translates pretty nicely into 2014’s “No Flex Zone”

In my mind, ‘No Flex Zone’ is about staying in your own lane and not faking some overblown persona to get ahead. You can talk trash with your friends, sure, but don’t be rude to people for no reason, or be super extra “you look so, so, so pretty!!” fake nice just because you feel like it’s the way to get ahead. Just be yourself.

9. Hating can be ugly, petty, and unproductive

You are what you consume, and if you consume a bunch of stuff that you love to hate—music, bad posts online, people’s Instagrams who you hate deep down—you’ll get sidetracked by that stuff.

10. When people make assumptions and comparisons about you that pit you against another female like, “oh, you wouldn’t like her,” or “you’re so pretty, prettier than *insert name of other girl here*,” it’s more than appropriate to correct the hell out of them and tell them it’s not a competition, thank you very much.

Comparisons are not the best compliments you can give or receive; in fact, they are often the worst insults. It’s okay to point that out. In fact, it’s pretty constructive for everyone involved.

11. Romantic love doesn’t always come with respect

Sometimes the other person will be perfectly affectionate, caring, cute, timely, loving, all of it—but they still won’t be respectful. If someone doesn’t show you that they value your time, thoughts, and boundaries, then they don’t respect you. The feeling of love in and of itself isn’t about respect, but relationships should always be built on love and respect.

12. People who are older than you might not always know better than you, they might just know “different,” and knowing about differences will make you wiser—so listen to them (even when they’re being awful)

When confronted with the awful, know this: ignorance is bliss, but being able to recognize ignorance, consider it, learn from it, and grow in spite of it can be wisdom.

13. Men will make comments about what you should do, how you should dress, and what you should say

Keep in mind that (95% of the time) this commentary says way more about them than it does about you. You can look at that other 5% as reserved for the commentary and criticism you actually ask for.

14. The way people treat you is not a reflection of your value

If someone treats you like shit, don’t rack your brain trying to figure out why they did it: they acted the way they did for their own reasons, not because of what you are or what you deserve.

15. The way you care for yourself is a reflection of how much you value yourself

Caring for yourself means doing what you need to do in order to be happy and stay sane. If you spread yourself too thin by trying to fix everything all at once all the time always, you’ll feel just as jumbled and crazy as all those words do. Take care of yourself first.

16. To quote Didion: “. . .Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.”

Taking responsibility for your own feelings, emotions, beliefs, actions, mistakes—all of it, that is character. It’s essential to self-respect. Knowing yourself builds character and strength; it’s not weak to admit you’re wrong, it is weak to do nothing about it.

17. Self-respect is—as you should and probably did assume from the term—determined entirely by you, yourself, and your. Damn. Self.

No one can tell you exactly how to respect yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. You get to determine that and, while there will be plenty of people trying to categorize and label you, it is up to you to determine who you are and what your place in the world is. Cherish that and take that responsibility seriously. No one can take it away from you. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Crissy is a writer living and lol’ing in Los Angeles. She’s on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, for better or worse.

Keep up with Crissy on Twitter and frizzyfilazzo.tumblr.com

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