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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”- Ian Maclaren
Try scrolling down your news feed in Facebook and see how quickly you click ‘Like’ on someone’s post. When you do this, you are prioritising between the important posts of your friends and the less important stories that you choose to ignore.
While it is relatively harmless (and a natural brain function) to filter information on social media. Rushed judgments can become a serious issue when they lead to cyber bullying or when judges on reality TV, ‘press’ the stop button before the candidate has even finished singing their rendition of Adele’s “Someone like you”.
It can become even more serious when rushed judgments and uninformed opinions are shared about a controversial topic like the influx of refugees into Europe.
What this filtering can do is separate some people from others, thus allowing persecutors to claim their superiority through the suppression of others.
So in this time of racism, sexism, terrorism and oppression is there a way to move away from inhuman remarks to a reframed perspective considering the self-worth and dignity of others.
I believe the answer is yes, and it starts with YOU.
Starting with Self-Worth
If I ask you now, how much you are worth, what would you say?
Right now I hope you would rate your self-worth as high as research shows that people with a high sense of self-worth tend to act in accordance with their impulses and beliefs (Baumeister, 2005). They can connect with their inner power to confront adversity and they tend to offer their help to others in need.
However sometimes we all feel down, helpless or useless. In these moments it is important to check your perspective. Do you feel useless because of others? Because you are broke? Or because you aren’t doing something good enough?
Our sense of self-worth is internal- it is our self-respect or perceived capability and cannot be taken away or conferred by others (Kim & Cohen, 2010).
But while your self-worth is only yours, there is also a common thread of worthiness through all humanity- this is our dignity.
Preserving our Dignity
Similar to self-worth, dignity, by definition, is “the conviction that each individual at birth possessed an intrinsic value at least theoretically equal to that of every other person” (Kim & Cohen, 2010).
The difference comes in that both our well-being and dignity can be affected by external factors as well as internal ones. According to one study, earthquake survivors found themselves disrespected both by others who had not been through their trauma and through the humiliation they felt for themselves (Vázquez et. al., 2005).
Dignity is valued differently among people. Some find dignity in achievement whilst others take pride in helping others. There are others still who find dignity in making peace with themselves.
It does not make a difference whether you are from a privileged background or have just enough to survive your daily life. We all have dignity within us, and it is our responsibility to respect, uplift and uphold the dignity of others. And why is this the case? Because at the core of all of us is our psychological need for unity and a sense of common humanity.
The Shared Experience: Our Common Humanity
Our sense of common humanity comes from “recognizing that pain and failure are unavoidable aspects of the shared human experience” (Neff, Rude & Kirkpatrick, 2007).
We are human, we are not perfect and we have all felt pain, sadness, love and joy. This means that despite diversity we are all essentially sharing the same human experience.
Whether rich or poor, from Tokyo or Timbuktu, we all have good and bad times. We are all born worthy and with intact dignity, however with every right comes responsibility, and it is our human bond to respect the self-worth and uphold the dignity of others.
While some people might have the love, kindness, or social intelligence in this aspect more than other and we can be grateful for the work of organisations like Refugee Relief or the many disaster relief funds. While this may be the vocation or character strength of some, it is critical that each one of us practice compassion for ourselves and others.
It starts with the simplest thing: respect.
Respect yourself, you are worthy.
Respect everyone around you, from your enemies, to strangers, to the homeless for:
“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”- Ghandi
You don’t have to like everyone, just show respect for them.
If this is a challenge, why not try a loving kindness meditation. This method has been proven to build feelings of common humanity and social cohesion.
When it comes to dignity and worthiness, it starts with you.
How will you start to respect your dignity and self-worth today? How will you start today to respect those around you? Share you tips and stories with us in the comments box below.
Watch this video about Common Humanity from the Greater Good Science Centre
Baumeister, R. (2005). Rethinking self-esteem: why nonprofits should stop pushing self-esteem and start endorsing self-control. CA: Stanford Social Innovation Review, 3(4), 34-41.
Kim, Y. H., & Cohen, D. (2010). Information, perspective, and judgments about the self in face and dignity cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(4), 537-550.
Neff, K. D., Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. L. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(4), 908-916.
Vázquez, C., Cervellón, P., Pérez-Sales, P., Vidales, D., & Gaborit, M. (2005). Positive emotions in earthquake survivors in El Salvador (2001). Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 19(3), 313-328.