By Elizabeth Fedrick, PhD, LPC

 “The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” – Rita Mae Brown

This is the third day in a row I’ve fallen asleep in first period. No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep my eyes open! Now I have no idea what we are doing in math or even worse, how to do it. On top of that, we have a quiz today. I just know I’m going to fail… which means I’ll be grounded all weekend. This totally sucks because it is technically not my fault that I am so tired. I really did want to go to bed on time, but my best friend is having a super hard time with her boyfriend and has been texting me about it every night this week. I wanted to tell her that I had to go to sleep, but then she would cry and say that nobody cares about her. Of course, I care about her. She is my best friend. I would never want her to feel alone, so I had no choice, I had to keep texting her. I mean, technically, I could have studied for my quiz yesterday after school, except that my boyfriend also had a quiz in biology today and needed my help studying. He doesn’t do well on quizzes without a study partner and he really needs to keep his grades up for sports, so I had no choice, I had to help him. Which leads me to this morning. I totally planned to study after cheer practice before school started, but then my cheer coach saw that I was still in the gym after practice and asked me to help put equipment away. I thought about telling her I had to study, but before I could say anything, she thanked me for helping because she was running late to an appointment, so I had no choice, I had to help her. So, here I am, about to take a quiz I am not prepared for. A quiz that I will likely fail, which will result in missing out on my weekend plans. The problem is, none of this was my fault, I didn’t have a choice.

The common theme in the situation above was that by choosing to put everyone else first, she was ultimately putting herself last each time. The other theme was that she continued to believe that she did not have a choice in these situations. The issue is, she absolutely had a choice every time to speak up for herself and to express what she needed at that time. She would not have been a bad friend for saying that she needed to get sleep instead of text. She would not have been a bad girlfriend for asking her boyfriend to find someone else to study with. And she would not have been a bad teammate for letting her coach know that she did not have time to help. In all of these situations, she had a choice, and she chose to make everyone else a priority over herself. However, by choosing to take care of everyone else, she was the only one who had to deal with the consequences of failing a quiz and spending the weekend grounded, neither of which were beneficial for her.

The definition of respect is two-fold. It is defined as having admiration for someone or something due to certain abilities, qualities, and achievements. This definition is most commonly thought of when referencing self-respect. There is a common belief that having self-respect is the result of feeling good about ourselves, how we look, and our accomplishments. However, the second part of the definition of respect is having regard for someone’s feelings, wishes, and rights. Therefore, what is often missing from the explanation of self-respect, is that it is not just about how we look or what we accomplish that leads to respecting ourselves, but also our ability to set boundaries with others and to make sure that our feelings, wishes, and rights are considered also. In every situation, we always have a choice. We cannot control others’ actions or the requests that they make of us, but we can control evaluating if saying “yes” to them, means that we are saying “no” to ourselves. Self-respect is the decision to allow ourselves to also be important, taken care of, and to matter.


Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owns a private practice, Evolve Counseling, in Gilbert, Arizona. She specializes in various areas, including depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues, and personal improvement. In addition to providing therapeutic services, Elizabeth also teaches Behavioral Health courses for Grand Canyon University.