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I am often overwhelmed by all of the alerts and calls to action that come through my email, and I wonder about my own message. Is everyone as inured to my lectures about feminism and media literacy as I am to their barrage of equally worthy appeals? And what are the chances that someone who doesn’t agree with my position will be won over, if they even bother to read what I have to say? We each have our own soapbox these days, but we are mostly preaching to the choir now that the public space is virtual and everybody can customize their path through it to find only “likes” and avoid anything they don’t like.

Even among my friends in the feminist-humanist movement, there are vast differences of opinion on key issues. And it is so unfulfilling – after the flush of ego exhilaration wears off – to keep debating and preaching and cajoling in this realm of competitive opining. I want to share something with you that is unequivocal, nonpartisan, positive and universal. Thus I have decided that if I could convince you, all of you, each of you, of just one thing it would be to value yourself.

I am not talking about acquiring confidence or even self-esteem, and certainly not a sense of superiority or entitlement. Valuing oneself has to do with appreciating one’s own uniqueness and feeling committed to exploring that potential. Smugness is really antithetical to valuing oneself, because it implies you’ve “arrived” and can coast the rest of the way. Smugness is not a survival skill. A degree of humility and flexibility is needed to adapt as times change.

Care enough about yourself to be open to criticism, advice and differing perspectives. What is the alternative? To ride high until you crash and burn, until someone bursts your bubble? You owe it to yourself to keep that ego in its place and your wits limber.

Besides, on what basis do we judge if we are succeeding or not succeeding, to the point where we will either boast and coast or whimper and hide? Usually someone else’s. There are any number of external measures by which the world will judge you, and crush you. When you value yourself, you don’t have to get caught up in all of that. Don’t put yourself in a mindset that can be crushed by what other people think, say or do.

I implore you – do not ever, ever let yourself be crushed by the judgment of others or your own thoughts. Have a good cry and then get up and battle on (maybe take a nap in between – always works for me). You have something no one else has, and you may not even know what it is yet, or what to do with it, but when you decide it’s worth your while to look into that, you‛ll feel rewarded with or without the approval of others.

Value being alone with yourself to think your own thoughts.
Value your privacy.
Value your dignity.
Value your gut instincts.
Value your individuality. You are not a statistic or a label, you are you.
Value your physical self and your inherent beauty.
Value your intellect and common sense.
Value your values. Never let someone else convince you to set aside your good judgment or ethical standards.
Value your capacity to grow and change. Trust your ability to manage and even find something better if your work or personal relationship jeopardize your safety or have become offensive to you.
Value yourself enough to say No, when serving others detracts from your own important pursuits.
Value yourself enough to say Yes, when people who see your value ask for your help.

That’s it. That’s all I want to convince you to do/think/feel. Because I’m convinced that when we value ourselves, think for ourselves, stand up for ourselves, stop allowing ourselves to be bullied, demeaned and manipulated, then the R*E*S*P*E*C*T quotient goes up in the world, and that’s good for everyone.

Sing it, ‘Retha…

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