Self-Worth: This is why people treat you the way they do

We’ve all experienced someone treating us poorly. Classmates from our youth, family members, work colleagues, and even people we thought were our friends.

It might be hard for us to accept, but more often than not, we have participated in this mistreatment and it’s a direct reflection of our self-worth.

We have either allowed their behavior or we have failed at teaching others how we expect to be treated.

Today could be a turning point for you like it was for me when I first stepped into this perspective, with a life changing realization that will impact you and those around you.  

I invite you to consider the following:

“People treat you the way you allow them to treat you”

I learned this tough lesson way too late in life.  I was 30 years old when a mentor shared this with me.  And it hasn't left me since.    

Up until then, I had thought that if I was nice, polite and thoughtful, people would be nice, polite, and thoughtful in return.

When someone wasn’t considerate, nice, polite, or thoughtful, I would often think it was a reflection of something I must have done.  My self-esteem played second place to the esteem I had for others (even if this was a misplaced esteem). 

I’ve since expanded my mentor’s definition to take into account that though we may not allow certain poor behavior from others, it might still occur at the onset of a relationship.  Thus the above changes to: 

“People treat you the way you teach them to treat you.”

Earlier this year, I was reading Brain Pickings’ weekly newsletter, when a quote from the novelist James Baldwin was presented:

“You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you.  If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.”

The author elaborated how Baldwin believed that personal identity is not something we are born with, but it is something we claim for ourselves.

Why didn’t someone tell me this along with all of the other life advice I had been given (some by the way not so useful)? Maybe something along the lines of: “It is important to get a college education, travel when you can…and make sure you claim your identity and teach those around you how they should treat you.”

Well, it’s never too late and you can begin to make better choices today. 

So what keeps us from teaching those around us how we expect to be treated?


Feeling unworthy of having our own unique personality and identity

Often, we believe we have to follow the herd.  We feel we can’t separate ourselves too much because we aren’t that “special” or “unique”.  And of course the famous statement “Who do we think we are?” creeps up here. 

We often do not feel that our personality and identity is worthy enough to be acknowledge for its own specialness and uniqueness. 

Whenever I am in this place, I always turn to Marianne Williamson’s quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

What is great about liberating yourself from your fears on worthiness, is that when you do this, you serve as an example for others so that they can do the same. 

Not knowing how we want to be treated

Do you know what true respect looks like?

Do you know what someone honoring another person’s feelings looks like? 

Life completely changed for me when I decided to have a clear vision of the life I wanted to live and how I wanted to participate in it. 

Visualize how you would like to interact with others: What are your conversations like? What do you share? In what way would you like to be supported?

Get clear of how you would like to go about in the world, because like Baldwin said:

“You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you.  If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.”

Fear of being seen negatively by others

I really struggled with this one for many years. 

Culturally, I was raised to always make others feel comfortable and at ease.  Making others “feel bad” was a terrible act, and it was usually described as a result of selfish, demanding, or “difficult” behavior. 

I lived terrified of making any of these mistakes.  I would never want to be labeled as “selfish”, “demanding”, or “difficult”. 

Because of this though, I often played small around others so that I did not make them feel uncomfortable.  Not only that, but I also experienced great nervousness and anxiety when expressing my wants and needs, especially if they differed from that of others. 

It wasn’t until I actively cultivated and lived my self-worth that I stopped caring about what other people would say about me with such a heightened level of anxiety.  How did I do this?  We go to this next, though also check out these two videos from a couple of years ago that I did on Al Dia con Leticia Mendoza when I first started doing her show.  

Living our Self-Worth

So how do you teach others how you should be treated?

Well, all of is basically an effort to provide you with the tools to be able to do this.  Yet, here are the top 3 things that teach others how to treat you that YOU CAN START DOING TODAY. 

Showing others how you treat yourself

No one will give you greater respect than the respect you give yourself.  If you don’t respect yourself, and take the actions that represent this respect, others will not do so.

Do you eat when you are hungry? Or do you starve yourself to take care of others?

Do you take time to treat yourself? Or do you mostly worry about what will make others happy?

Do you make sure you get enough rest? Or do you disregard the needs of your body to be a “better” mother, daughter, or friend?

Allowing others to observe the boundaries you set with other people

When others see the boundaries you set with other people, they will have a better idea of the type of behavior you will allow and not allow. 

Deciding what behavior you will allow from others in your life

What you allow will persist.  Small mistreatments snowball into larger issues.  What’s worse is that by then, you are emotionally so triggered that addressing these ends up being a lot scarier than it should.  If you address mistreatments early on, you are better able to do this from a more calm and poised place. 

Ultimately, no one has the right to limit you, tell you who you are or tell you what you can be. No one has the right to define you. No one has the right to mistreat you. 

Yet, it is our job to make this clear to others.  And it’s OK to do that.

Let me know how it goes!  I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment or question below.  If you enjoyed this post, I would be honored if you share it with your friends, family, and community.

Lots of love,