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Quotations about Self-Respect

Self-respect is the fruit of discipline, the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. ~Abraham J. Heschel, "Essay on Youth," 1960

He that respects himself is safe from others;
He wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence. ~Frederick Douglass

A man can stand a lot as long as he can stand himself. ~Axel Martin Fredrik Munthe, 1928

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible comforts. ~Joan Didion, "On Self-Respect," 1961

In my day, we didn't have self-esteem, we had self-respect, and no more of it than we had earned. ~Jane Haddam (1951–2019), unverified  [This quotation was submitted to me anonymously c.1999 and I've not yet been able to locate the original source. However, it is consistent with Papazoglou's published views regarding self-esteem, so I'm willing to guess that it's accurate, if not in exact wording then at least along the lines of something she said or wrote. —tg]

Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased. It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations. It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth, we have spoken it. ~Alfred Whitney Griswold (1906–1963)

If you lend me your ears, I shall doubtless take your hearts too. That I may not lead you into any wrong, let me warn you of this. Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect. Be true to your own mind and conscience, your heart and your soul. ~Theodore Parker, 1852

In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character... ~Joan Didion, "On Self-Respect," 1961

...character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life — is the source from which self-respect springs. ~Joan Didion, "On Self-Respect," 1961

No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect. ~Bernard Shaw, "The Psychology of Self-Respect in Surgeons," The Doctor's Dilemma, 1906

I care not so much what I am in the opinions of others, as what I am in my own. I would be rich of my self, and not by borrowing. ~Michel de Montaigne, translated by Charles Cotton

And so all of us... have promised to act honestly and straightforwardly all our lives, and not to be disconcerted in any way, not to be ashamed of our enthusiasm, our fervour, our mistakes, and to go straight forward whatever may be said of us and however we may be judged. If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you. ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Constance Garnett

Would that there were an award for people who come to understand the concept of enough. Good enough. Successful enough. Thin enough. Rich enough. Socially responsible enough. When you have self-respect, you have enough; and when you have enough, you have self-respect. ~Gail Sheehy, Passages, 1976

There is no present advantage in anything that may someday force you to break your word, or to lose respect for yourself, or to hate, suspect, or curse another, or to pretend to be other than what you are, or to lust after what you'd be ashamed to seek openly. ~Marcus Aurelius (121–180 CE), translated by C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks, 2002

But please do not think me overbearing and conceited. The respect of my fellow-men I hold far more lightly than self-respect. If I despised myself it would be no compensation if every one saluted me, and if I respect myself, it does not trouble me if others hold me lightly. When I am not forcibly compelled I cannot let my own actions be guided by the caprices and fads of other people So long as it is possible my actions shall be guided by my own judgment... The only thing I demand is freedom of the soul. ~Max Nordau, 1887

I may grow flowers in my garden which you do not like, but the pity is if I allow you to trample them out. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Life, 1912

Moral virtue simply consists in being able, anywhere and everywhere, to exercise five particular qualities... Self-respect, magnanimity, sincerity, earnestness, and benevolence. Show self-respect, and others will respect you; be magnanimous, and you will win all hearts; be sincere, and men will trust you; be earnest, and you will achieve great things; be benevolent, and you will be fit to impose your will on others. ~Confucius, translated by Lionel Giles

...people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. ~Joan Didion, "On Self-Respect," 1961

Flatter yourself critically. ~Willis Goth Regier, In Praise of Flattery, 2007

Self-respect is spending a half-hour deciding what to wear when it's been twenty years since anyone noticed. ~Robert Brault,

In order to preserve your self-respect, it is sometimes necessary to lie and cheat. ~Robert Byrne, The Third — and Possibly the Best — 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1986

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