In order for relationships of any kind to work, each person must be able to be who they are safely with the other. I’m talking about emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual safety. It is all about respect.
Too often people give up who they are to remain connected to another. It never works, at least not if happiness and fulfillment and your ability (and right) to be you is concerned.
Judgment is one of the primary poisons that can make being who you are risky business. People see the way you look or hear the way you sound and in the blink of an eye draw all kinds of conclusions, more often than not inaccurate ones. If you are black or Latino, Gay or Lesbian, Muslim, female, Jewish, and so on, the judgment flies. When I met my first wife she’d just left the high-paying field of modeling for a low-paying job in marketing. When I asked her why she’d made the change she said, “I was tired of people talking to my looks and not me.”
Judgment precludes respect. This holds true if you live with a disability as well. I’ve seen people who for some odd reason conclude that people who use wheelchairs must be hard of hearing. People often draw the same baffling conclusion about people who are blind.
And then there is the number one well-founded complaint I hear from people with disabilities; we are treated as if we’re children. There is no respect in that.
Respecting others is rooted in a commitment to accept others for who they are, which requires being on the lookout for when a lifetime of inaccurate teachings may be skewing your view of another, including your view of your self.
Many of us are slaves to our histories and as a result do not see ourselves clearly. If you were raised being told you were stupid or ugly or bad you may still be under the grip of those damaging inaccuracies. Equally true, if you were raised being told you were better than or smarter than or better looking than you too are under the grip of damaging inaccuracies.
Dare to discover your truth and the truth of others; doing so is all about respect, for others and your self. Others deserve the respect. So do you.
Note: The title of this essay is the title of the book I am working on about my experiences in the field of brain injury.