Toni on the Black Woman’s Bill of Rights: Self Respect

This begins a series of posts about the various things black women have a right to, but have either been denied by others or themselves. The hope is more black women realize the many things they are doing without and the rights they are giving up needlessly. First up, your right to self-respect.

What is self-respect? It is defined as “pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.”

Pride and confidence in oneself

When you have personal pride, you are deeply proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Your confidence stems from the same. The combination means that you think highly of yourself. There is nothing wrong at all with thinking highly of yourself, where those feelings are TRUE pride and confidence. I am not speaking of bravado (false confidence meant to impress or intimidate) or arrogance (a grossly exaggerated sense of self-importance).

When you have healthy pride and confidence in yourself, you tend to do things like expect better for yourself. You also tend to want to associate with people who are worth your time, people who treat you with the respect and consideration that you feel you deserve.

Behaving with honor and dignity

Carrying yourself with “pride and confidence” is only half of what is required; you must also go forth into the world in a dignified and honorable manner. What this means is behaving in a way that does not bring disgrace and shame on yourself. If you are vulgar, uncouth, unclean, and willing to fall under any man in sight, it cannot be said you are behaving with honor and dignity. I know in the 21st century there has been a push by some to make it seem that not behaving like a slattern or a sleaze-ball is old fashioned. But just because some people want to justify their bad behavior does not mean you have to fall for their lies.

Make no mistake: People will judge you. I and others have learned, though some of us have learned the hard way in the most humiliating way possible. The best thing you can do for yourself is be determined to behave in a civilized and intelligent manner. Do not yell details of your sex life on the bus because you are too busy yammering on a cellphone to notice the strangers around you are clearly not interested. Do not drink in the streets at all hours of the night and then carry on like a howler monkey because you mistakenly feel that this is the most adequate way to spend your time. This is no way for a person with any sort of self-respect to behave.

Why you have the right to self-respect

When you respect yourself, you expect to be respected by others. You have boundaries, you have expectations, you have standards. Not everyone wants a black woman to have these things. They feel perfectly within their right to talk to you in a disgusting, ultra-familiar manner (even if you’ve never seen them before). They feel that it is wrong for you to have standards, especially HIGHER standards and refuse to settle for mediocrity. Nevermind the violent criminal offender who has children by at least a dozen other women, and several STDs.

Also, a woman with self-respect understands that she does not have to put up with slights on her honor. If someone is disrespectful to her, she is not obligated to give that person her time or attention. She is not obligated to forgive and forget. She can choose to do this, but not for the sake of continued humiliation and mistreatment. If you forgive because you do not want to hold hatred or anger in your heart, that is one thing. But some people mistakenly believe that forgiving foul behavior requires that they put themselves in the line of fire for future abuse.

You have the right to avoid that mess all together. Do not settle for hurtful or harmful treatment. Ever. Not from others and not from yourself.



So stop and ask yourself: Do I have self-respect? Efficient self-respect? And if not, what can I do to improve my self-regard?


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