Do you speak kindly to yourself? When you make a mistake, do you softly wipe away the mess, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and forgive? When you fall down, do you brush off the dust and whisper encouraging words until you rise to your feet again? Do you let go of what you have done and focus on where you are going? Do you put your arms around yourself and squeeze?
You teach people how to treat you.
You teach them in the way you laugh at your own jokes, in the way you smile at your reflection, in the way you order your favorite menu item without a second glace. You teach them in the way you run, in the way your body moves, in the way you push and strengthen yourself with every step.
You teach them in the way you continuously question, in the way you never doubt what you feel in your heart, in the way you chase dreams, even if the rest of the world stands skeptical.
You teach people how to talk to you with tenderness, how to be patient and kind, how to forgive and encourage and listen and trust.
You teach them how to wait for you, how to let you speak your mind, how to hold your hand and kiss your lips and pull you close when you’re trembling. You teach them in the way you wrap your knees to your chest when you’re afraid, in the way you gently brush blush across your cheeks, in the way you lather lotion over your skin and bandage your cuts and carefully smooth over each blemish with love, not hate.
You do not settle for anger, for bitterness, for voices that silence you without letting you speak. You do not allow negativity to change your self-image, or for relationships to shape your self-definition. You do not pick at every mistake or flaw, wishing to alter who you are and have always been.
In the way you care for yourself, appreciate your imperfect, beautiful being—that is how you teach people how to treat you.
So when you fall into an argument with someone you love, when your ground is shaken, when life gets difficult, people know they are to respect you as you respect yourself. They are to be kind to you, as you are to your own heart. They should value you, as you place value on your thoughts and being. They should love you, as you have wholly and completely fallen in love with yourself—despite imperfections and failures and pieces of you that are still working on becoming who you’re meant to be.
In the way you speak to yourself, listen to your heart, encourage and push and strengthen and grow: that is how you teach others to treat you. With respect. With tenacity.