Self-Respect vs. Entitlement in Dating

June 12, 2017

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”

~Joan Didion

A young woman describes meeting a guy during an Uber ride. Before he got out of the car, he punched his number into her phone. She envisioned a blossoming serious relationship. But he’s not answering her texts and she feels misled. They “knew” each other for ten minutes.

Another woman complains that a guy she “knows” is interested in her isn’t making any moves. Despite “maintaining eye contact during conversation” he isn’t asking her out. “What the hell?!” she angrily cries.

I wish I could say these scenarios are unusual, but I’m noticing a sharp uptick in this kind of tale. Why are these women willing to accept so little, not only as encouragement, but as a pledge of sorts? Why do they view the most casual social interactions as indications of desire for commitment? It’s cringeworthy – where’s their self-respect?

At the same time, others project an aura of entitlement. They feel that “the world” owes them the things they crave, whether it be attention from the opposite sex, validation of their choices, or even financial success. Their sense of what they deserve is divorced from any notion of working towards a goal. They don’t want the bother of earning rights and privileges.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that people with low expectations and low self-respect tend to pair off with people who exhibit entitlement and grandiosity. The deep insecurities present in both personality types are complementary, and self-perpetuating.

If the opposite of this unholy pairing is the mature joining of two individuals with healthy self-respect, then it’s important to define what that is. Self-respect is defined as having pride and confidence in who one is. It’s the “regard for one’s own standing or position.” It is composed of:

  • Pride
  • Dignity
  • Morale
  • Sense of worth

These beliefs comprise real self-confidence. Entitled individuals often give the impression of being self-confident, but it’s a faux self-confidence of bravado, arrogance and the aggressive pursuit of personal gain. The selfishness is a consequence of the lack of self-respect, not the cause.

Ironically, only when you truly respect yourself can you show respect for others. Treating others with respect is defined as “a courteous regard for other people’s feelings” – the very same principle as self-respect, but directed outward.

How can you tell if someone has a real sense of their own worth or if they’re just posturing? Beyond the first impression, you’ll find real clues and indications:

DeservesEqual treatmentSpecial treatment
Responsibility for outcomeSelfOthers
Perception of othersCourteous regard, empathySuspicious, controlling, potential for personal gain
Attitude toward honestyFull disclosureLies or Omission/Don’t ask, don’t tell
Role of shameNoneOvertly used against others, covertly experienced against self
BoundariesSets and observes healthy boundariesSets excessive boundaries for others, few for self
CharacterStrives to improve characterIndifferent to character and self-development
Dating preferenceSeeks self-respecting partnerSeeks weak partner who is easily manipulated

Dating strategically – and intelligently – requires two different assessments of respect:

1. Do you respect yourself?

  • Are you willing to hold out for the person who shows genuine interest without game playing?
  • Are you able to brush off rejection or a lack of follow through by guys you barely know, or do you get obsessed over “winning” his interest?
  • Do you set healthy boundaries and communicate them, making it clear you are unwilling to be treated poorly?

2. Does he respect himself?

  • Is he a straight shooter?
  • Does he have boundaries of his own?
  • Does he exhibit a “courteous regard” for your feelings?

This isn’t complicated – in fact, I was ambivalent about writing about this because it seems so obvious. But I continue to read and hear about dating problems where there’s an apparent lack of self-respect on the part of the person wondering what went wrong.

We need to accept that a guy may have changed his mind, or was just flirting, or decided not to follow up for some other reason. We have to be resilient, and not get derailed by these small dating blips.

There are things you deserve that you shouldn’t have to earn. You’re not entitled if you expect honesty and courtesy from dates. But no one owes you attraction, or commitment. Normal eye contact during conversation does not indicate sexual interest. Beware any guy who throws the ball into your court at your first meeting.

Be conservative in your expectations. Respect your own feelings. Don’t make yourself an object of someone else’s ego gratification.

We seem so intent on taking action now, wanting answers right away. Try a little patience. Wait and see. You are always better off, strategically speaking, waiting for a good opportunity than going all-in with a loser.

Let’s discuss!