Self Respect

Without respect for oneself what is a human? We all want to feel that we deserve respect, the respect of others and perhaps most importantly, to be able to respect ourselves.

But self respect must be deserved and justified, if a person behaves in any way despicable then what might seem to be self respect is closer to narcissism, self love.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet Polonius says:

“This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man"

What is required for self respect?

This page was started 2020/10/13, last edited 2021/02/10
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©


False self respect, unjustified self love

Narcissism, self love, as exemplified by US President Donald Trump, is delusional self respect. If one is to have any justified respect for oneself that respect must be earned and deserved.
If one is to have self respect and be justified in that respect surely one must:
  • Seek the truth;
  • Take care to speak/write only the truth;
  • Seek knowledge;
  • Aspire to and respect wisdom;
  • Continually examine one's beliefs and discard any that are not justified by the facts;
  • Be of some value to one’s community and society;
  • Support good causes and oppose bad;
  • Be considerate of the needs and desires of others;
  • Be altruistic rather than selfish;
  • Be compassionate;
  • In this age of the destruction of the natural world that we all rely on I would add that to have self respect we should work toward protection of our shared environment, especially we all have a responsibility to do what we can to minimise the greatest threat to life on earth as we know it, climate change.
About 30 years ago, when I was working for the South Australian Department of Mines and Energy, I remember the Director giving the staff a talk. The main message of the talk was that the one thing we should base our lives on, the one thing that would never let us down, was high ethical standards. So long as one holds onto one's ethical ideals one will always have an anchor that can be relied on. That struck me as very true and very valuable advice.

So long as we hold onto our ideals we can also hold on to our self respect.

Hornsdale Wind Farm, South Australia
Wind farm
Considering the number of lies, and the magnitude of those lies, that Energy Minister Angus Taylor has told about wind power it is very difficult to see how he could justifiably have any self respect.

Self respect, similarly to respect from others, must be earned

Achieving great wealth or high position, in themselves, are not justification for self respect. They do not preclude self respect, but they are irrelevant; what matters is what the person did along the way, whether it was deserving of respect, or whether it was despicable. Certainly Australia's billionaires Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, who made their money by mining coal and obstructed action to reduce greenhouse emissions, could not justify holding any respect for themselves (nor do they deserve any respect from others).

Dishonest climate change denying media commentator Andrew Bolt and Australia's corrupt Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor could not justifiably have any self respect. Similarly, no politician of any of the major parties who does not cross the floor to vote according to his or her conscience could not justify any self respect.

With what is known about climate change and related problems at the time of writing (2020) a person working in the coal industry could no more justify self respect than someone working in the tobacco industry or even the child pornography industry.

Related pages

I have written a number of pages on ethics in the broad context, and in the Australian context elsewhere on this site.