From the Vault: respect yourself

This was originally written a little over a year ago, but it just came across my radar from a person on Twitter. Because I think maybe it’ll land on someone who needs to hear it (or could otherwise benefit from hearing it), I’m reposting it now, From The Vault.

Laws of Modern Man 233

I posted this on Twitter earlier this week, because I believe it’s good advice, but about 1 in 20 or so replies accused me of being selfish or narcissistic, or — worst of all — an Objectivist.

I’m not a big fan of getting into “Someone is wrong on the Interent,” but I wanted to clarify a little bit in a way that Twitter does not allow.

What I get out of this quote is this: if there is a toxic person in your life who does nothing but bring you down and hurt you, then you should respect yourself enough to remove that person from your life. Life is too short to maintain toxic and negative relationships.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t make an effort to work on building and maintaining positive, healthy, fulfilling relationships. It doesn’t mean that you don’t make an effort to be kind and generous and just take take take. It means that if you’re constantly “making up” or something like that with a person, you’re not in a healthy, fulfilling relationship. You’re in a toxic relationship, and time you spend maintaining toxic relationships is time wasted that could be spent — invested — into relationships that bring you joy and make you a better person.

Know and recognize the difference between healthy and toxic relationships, positive and negative people, and respect — and love — yourself enough to choose the ones that make you happy and inspire you to grow as much as you possibly can. People who drag you down because it makes them feel better about themselves are not worth your time.

Where I think people may have interpreted this as selfish or narcissistic is in the clumsy wording of people or activities “serving” you. I’d take people out of that portion of the advice and apply it directly to the forehead.

Or, you know, just apply it to the “activities” part and think about where you’re investing your time and energy — your most precious and limited resource — and what yo’ure getting back from it.

Mostly, though, this quote encapsulates advice I’ve given my children and applied to my own life: respect yourself enough to leave a romantic or platonic or business relationship that is causing you more harm than good. To borrow a quote from Green Day: “You can’t go forcing something if it’s just not right.”

22 thoughts on “From the Vault: respect yourself”

  1. The problem Will is that your explanation(with which I agree) does not match the original words. Walking away from anyone or thing that doesn’t serve your needs includes walking by the dying man on the street because it does not serve your needs to help him. That phrase means to be selfish, The best things in life do not serve you but others.

    1. I don’t know, it could be argued that helping others helps one’s self. You’re paying in to the karmic pot, so to speak. We live in a society. That means, despite what some politicians might have us believe, that we have a few responsibilities to one another. If nothing else, it’s part of that “do unto others as you would have other do unto you” idea.

  2. You have no idea how applicable this is to my life right now. I know it’s silly looking for self confirmation from some guy I don’t know from the internet, but you’ve absolutely delivered here. Sincerely, thanks Wheaton.

  3. Thank you so very much for the very eloquent reasoning! Several years ago I had to make the decision to cut myself and my daughter away from the toxicity that my mother had become. If only I could have used your words, it would have been so much easier—–all I could come up with is ‘Life is too short to try to keep everyone happy, esp. if all they do is try to drag you down!’
    Again, thanks for this and so many of your comments—first time I’ve responded, but have enjoyed so many.

  4. I think some Objectivism and corollary logic would do well here actually. First, true serving, growing and happiness come from within, not from others. Relying on others in this fashion is a recipe for abject misery. Second, if you respect yourself you do not let toxic people/things into your life in any meaningful manner.

  5. Semantics aside, I find the message clear enough.Only taken to the extreme it can be understood as a harmful way to justify selfishness. I think that finding an equlibrium between what we give to others and what we keep for ourselves is the key to live a happy life and sometimes we, people, need words as plain as those to realize of it.

  6. I think some people just go out of their way to figure out something offends them. This is just a very self-empowering statement, in a sense something very personal.

    My first thought was how this related to my wife and daughter getting out of a very toxic previous marriage and her having the courage to make that very difficult choice.

    I approve Wil’s message :)

  7. It really feels as though some people are disagreeing simply because they wish to be, in their minds, the morality police. This quote seems so straightforward, and in no way suggests that one ought to walk away from a dying person on the street. Does anyone believe that walking away from someone in dire need would make them feel happy and satisfied? For anyone to claim that says much more about their need to feel superior than the quote itself.

  8. Just about anything can be interpreted into a bad meaning… Most people thankfully look at the intent and go from there.

    Your advice does a fine encapsulation of it’s intent – nicely put Will!

  9. You are a wise man with a heart as vast as the Federation’s territory, Wil Wheaton.

    Speaking of knowing when to give up. have you given any thought – even a millisecond – to my request?

    I’d love to have you take part in my 5×5 series. I’m trying to spread some positive energy across the web and you know the value of positive energy better than anyone, right?

  10. We all learn what we need to learn at the right time and place. This says what is needs to say. I had to “respect myself” out of lifetime relationships. What a relief. Who needs anyone in their life who can’t stand up with them through the hard times? I don’t expect anything from my friends or family that I am not able to return. The know it too.

  11. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement. I haven’t had much luck with battling my depression, but removing toxic people from my life has helped dramatically. One person in particular who manipulates others to do what she wants and if you don’t, she actively tries to take you down. Unfortunately she has gotten far with her manipulation, but I hope to not be apart of that and don’t condone her behaviour.

  12. I first saw this as I was back-reading your blog last September, right as I got an out of the blue WTF Are YOU Doing Calling ME, After 18 Years Of Silence and/or Neglect, You Selfish, Racist, Sexist Misanthrope That Was Once My Father phonecall, crying and telling me how he wasn’t an asshole anymore and how much he suddenly missed me. Through careful listening and pondering of several clues he dropped (some on purpose, some because he’s a dumbass), I slowly realized that he had driven off literally every friend and family member he had until he was *forced* to finally contact me, thinking I was going to rescue him from his sad lonely life in coldass Reno and move him to sunny San Diego and take care of him, who has done almost nothing for me or my life since I was a child. So I bloody well hung up on him, and my Vulcan husband answered like a Klingon when he called back: “YOU are upsetting her, she has explained to you that she is mentally ill and you are selfish for putting her through this to make yourself feel a little better for all the years you ignored her. But from what I’ve always heard, that is to be expected. DO NOT EVER CALL HERE AGAIN, or I WILL file a restraining order. You’re DONE.” And that, as they say, was that; the Voice Of Doom had spoken.

    I knew I/we had done the right thing, but there was still that sad little girl’s voice in my head, thinking “But… that’s my *Daddy*, or he *was*, long ago. Shouldn’t I forgive and forget?” Then I saw Law 233, and thought “No. He is NOT doing this to me AGAIN, I owe him NOTHING,
    the same nothing he’s always had for me. The father of your heart and spirit that helped make you who you are was your BFF’s Dad, and his hippie ass would yell a hearty ‘SCROOM! SCROOM *ALL*, MAN!’ at this whole situation (Goddess, I miss him; like a cross between Tommy Chong and Reverend Jim, just a far-out groovy frood), tell me that 233 is one of the few laws he could get behind, and to follow it.” And so I did. Now it’s part of my SlideShow, and it comes up every so often (there’s like 9,000 pics in that bitch!), usually just when I need to read it most.

    tl:dr version: Thank you for this Law/motto. I now live by it, and it’s made a better woman/person/Klingon out of me. Sometimes, the only person that can protect you is YOU, and if someone thinks it’s selfish, well then, where the hell were they when you needed them, and why do you have them around talking crap NOW?!

    SCROOM!

    Storm the (Somewhat Verbose) Klingon

  13. I feel bad that you had to explain yourself because of that post.

    I feel like “narcissism” is kind of an excessively strong word when applied to this situation. You tend to lose a lot of respect from people and yourself (this is all from my personal experience) when you don’t do anything to help your situation and let yourself be stuck in a situation you hate or are discontent with. Especially when you CAN do something about it.

  14. I’m a little late to the party, but I just want to tell you that I appreciate the heck out of this. Thank you. This has been a lesson I’ve been learning (the hard way) and I just…thank you…. :) You are a rockstar Wil Wheaton.

  15. When I read this, my relationship with my mother came to mind, too. And if I looked just at the present, I might cut it. Christmas was such a Horror. All the energy I wast by forcing my mouth shut, and swallowing her remarks! But I think the past Needs to be taken into account, too. after all, when I was a kid, she was a mostly decent mother, and the one who tought me to read, got me my first library Card, tought me so many things! She cared, talked a lot with me, drove with me to my first Trekdinner, and convention, did so many things. It wasn’t all perfect, but who is. Age changes People, and characters are not getting any easier, but as I know it will happen to me, too eventually…so, is she toxic? She is certainly making my life harder. Certainly causing friction, stomach ache. Can I handle it? Yes, for now , yes. I wonder if such difficult relationships aren’t what makes a life, a life?
    But I can easily accept that some People are much worse, and cutting them off is the Right Thing to do.

  16. This is a tough one to follow and at times to even recognize. Its great advice and a skill set that can be developed over time.

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