Self-respect is knowing you are worthy and treating yourself accordingly.

Respecting yourself is the first step toward understanding you deserve love, consideration, and opportunities like everyone else.

“Our level of self-respect acts almost like a blueprint to instruct others how to engage with us,” says Jaime Zuckerman, a licensed clinical psychologist in Philadelphia. “When we develop healthy reciprocal relationships, we find ourselves surrounded by those who respect us, support us, and treat us how we want to be treated.”

Self-respect is loving yourself and treating yourself with care. It’s the result of staying true to your values and not being willing to compromise.

The more you engage in behaviors consistent with your beliefs and values, the more you’ll feel fulfilled and confident. This, in turn, will improve your sense of well-being, says Zuckerman.

Respecting yourself also prevents you from comparing yourself and your life with other people. This may be especially important in today’s digital world.

“Self-comparison is rampant on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok,” says Zuckerman. “When we have a low level of self-respect, we tend to engage in more social comparison, which makes us feel worse about ourselves, not good enough, and minimize our achievements.”

At its core, self-respect is a form of self-care.

“When someone has self-respect, they have accepted themselves and believe that they are deserving of belonging in the world,” says Divya Robin, a psychotherapist in New York City. “We are wired to want connection and a sense of belonging, so self-belonging and acceptance is incredibly important for psychological health, too.”

If you feel you need to work on caring more about yourself and showing more self-respect, these tips can help you take the first step.

1. Try to revisit your values

If self-respect means acting according to your values, the first step must be to clarify what your values are.

Values are firm beliefs about what’s important or desirable to you in life.

For example:

  • integrity
  • tolerance
  • loyalty
  • generosity
  • cooperation
  • wisdom
  • commitment

To define your core values, Zuckerman recommends asking yourself these two questions:

  • What do you value most in life?
  • Are your daily actions taking you closer or further away from the things you value most?

Once you do this first exercise, consider following up with the following reflections:

  • Who do you admire and why?
  • What are the things you’re not willing to compromise on in life?
  • What would you like to be known as?
  • What are some things you aspire to become as a person that you have not yet worked on?
  • What is important to you in a friendship?
  • What is important to you in a romantic relationship?
  • How do you think people with different views and experiences should be treated?

Try to work on these and similar questions by being honest with yourself. Consider leaving cultural or family expectations behind, so you can identify what matters to you.

2. Consider taking inventory of your relationships

You probably don’t live in isolation, even if you don’t have too many people around you.

Self-respect starts with the people you choose to have in your life and heart.

“Surround yourself with people who empower you to accept and embrace your authentic self,” says Robin.

Consider these questions:

  • Are the people you surround yourself with building you up?
  • Do your significant others support your dreams, opinions, lifestyle, and preferences?
  • Are you being treated by others as you wish to be treated?

“If not, it’s helpful to set boundaries in your relationships. Boundaries are used to let others know what you’re willing to accept and tolerate,” Zuckerman states.

3. Try to focus on activities you enjoy

Self-respect is also about life satisfaction, and that may start by spending time and effort on the things you’re passionate about.

Although this isn’t always possible, try to include a few activities in your routine that make your heart happy.

These activities can be related to your social life, school, or work.

Some of them could include:

  • starting a new hobby or reconnecting with one that used to make you happy
  • setting your professional goals and making 90-day plans that include specific tasks that will help you achieve them
  • reading a new book about personal growth, fiction, or career development
  • starting a blog, vlog, or personal journal
  • dancing, singing, or listening to your favorite beats
  • starting a new exercise routine
  • learning to cook
  • planning an event for the family
  • volunteering your time for a cause you’re passionate about

Doing things you’re good at, says Zuckerman, could also help you increase your sense of well-being.

4. Practicing self-care will help

Respecting yourself means taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically.

Self-care activities can include:

  • relaxation techniques to manage anxiety and stress
  • spending time in nature
  • connecting with your favorite people, even if virtually
  • revising your diet to make it fit your health needs
  • taking pauses to reset, rest, and recharge

5. Identify and nurture your needs

If self-respect is about taking care of yourself, it’s important that you identify what “care” means for you. What are your needs? What would make you feel fulfilled and satisfied?

“Check in with your needs on a daily basis, and instead of shaming yourself for having needs, nurture your needs,” Robin suggests.

It’s natural to feel apprehensive about spending too much time on yourself, especially if your responsibilities include taking care of others. But attending to your needs is essential to your well-being and can even prepare you to take better care of others if that’s a priority for you.

Self-esteem is about how much you love yourself. Self-respect is how you show that love to yourself. Usually, having strong self-esteem will motivate you to respect yourself more.

But self-esteem also tends to depend on your interactions with the world.

“Self-respect is not contingent on success or performance,” says Zuckerman. “It is more of an accepted, unchanging view of ourselves and our worth. Self-esteem, however, is based on our abilities and how well we think we can handle ourselves in a given situation.”

Respect is about value and acceptance, and esteem is about evaluation (of skills and abilities).

Self-respect is understanding and honoring your own needs. It’s knowing your worth and acting accordingly.

If you feel you can work more on your self-respect, consider identifying your values, setting boundaries, and nurturing your needs through self-care.