Most people never change. This isn't a revelation, especially to those who, year after year, resolve to make New Year's resolutions, only to be abandoned by mid-month. Yes, I know, you may know a friend of a friend who successfully quit smoking, lost weight, started meditating or dumped their cheating boyfriend. Don't be fooled. Their success isn't because they kept their New Year's resolutions - it's because they found their self-respect.
The variable between having what you believe you're worth or not is self-respect. It embodies your body, mind and spirit. Do you believe you deserve black lungs, uncertainty and a lying spouse? Maybe. A lack of self-respect can go undetected for years, metastasizing from the inside out. It starts in childhood and, without a nurturing environment and parents cognizant of the example they set, the prognosis is grim.
Remember the mean girls in high school? Looking back, it's obvious their parents didn't expect or model self-respect. Their ugly behaviour was fuelled by a lack of self-worth and an inability to appreciate the infinite value of each and every human being. Only once our children learn to respect themselves will they be able to respect others by treating them with kindness, compassion and honour. Until then, it's likely the mean girls will grow into mean women surrounded by people who are worthy of them.
If your parents didn't excel in self-respect, all hope is not lost. Entire industries have been founded on self-help. Physicians' waiting rooms, libraries and bookstore shelves are jam-packed with self-help magazines, books and DVDs. Lifestyle gurus can be found on most television stations, and their wares can be purchased online 24/7. Open up a book, talk to a friend, consult your doctor and get a referral.
Watching the late Elizabeth Edwards discuss her husband's affair on The Oprah Winfrey Show earlier this year was incredibly painful. Not because of the topic but because we were bearing witness to a woman in acute denial. Which is why the strength and dignity shown by Elin Nordegren and Sandra Bullock in 2010 was impressive. We've all been in their shoes, maybe not as a casualty of an affair but of betrayal and disrespect. What I would give to be more Bullock than Edwards.
No one wants to believe people can't change, and to suggest so seems almost, well, un-Canadian. After all, we are a caring people and a forgiving bunch, always ready to say, "I'm sorry." We rally around our friends like they're superstars when they start a diet or break up with a boyfriend. And we're there to pick up the pieces when they can't fit into their skinny jeans or reunite with their "changed" ex-boyfriend.
If we believed most people had the ability to change, self-improvement reality shows wouldn't be so popular. Watching ordinary people overcome their personal battles to change part of their lives is motivating and inspiring. Beating the odds is what keeps us tuning in week after week.
Real change isn't impossible, but it's rare. So rare that we celebrate and elevate people who make positive life changes. Many will fall; a few will rise. This year, make one resolution. Find your self-respect, and the rest will follow.
Tracey Widman works in human resources in Toronto.
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