It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You don’t have to earn ANYBODY’s respect!

Lives there a person who has never heard the phrase “You have to earn my respect!”? Do you have any idea what a load of rubbish that is? Respect is an entitlement, not something you have to earn.

I addressed this topic back in April on my general blog, A View from the Other Side, and this is what I said back then:

Do you think people should earn your respect? Really? Why?

When I was growing up, respect was not something you earned. Respect was freely given, in fact, it was considered an entitlement. It was DISrespect that had to be earned. Now, if you think I’m full of crap on this, put on your thinking cap and follow along with me.

In a circumstance in which respect is not freely accorded to others, disrespect reigns. When you respect the rights and feelings of others, you don’t do things that might infringe on those rights or impinge on their feelings: you don’t cut in front of them in line, you don’t cut them off on the highway, you don’t interrupt when they are speaking, you don’t insult their politics or religious inclinations, you don’t assault their ears with loud cell-phone conversations, or impair their breathing with your second hand smoke—and they don’t do the same to you.

Common courtesy and manners, the lubricant that oils the wheels of social interaction, are based on simple respect for the feelings and rights of others. When respect is absent, disrespect reigns…and when you behave disrespectfully, you invite others to behave towards you in the same way.

Speaking altruistically, you must give respect to get respect and a society that values pleasant social interaction must be based on the simple tenet that we must all respect each other if we are to avoid conflict and make progress.

But there is another, more practical and less esoteric reason that respect must be freely given rather than earned: the sheer impossibility of doing so.

You see, there are billions of people on this planet and even if you live an insular life in a small town, you are going to meet quite a few of them. And each person is going to be different, have different mores and beliefs and feelings…and each one will have different criteria for earning respect. Moreover, those criteria will not be tattooed on their foreheads, nor will they thoughtfully hand you a list of them…in fact, if asked, they will likely be hard pressed to even articulate what it takes for you to earn their respect. And if they really thought about it diligently, it is most likely that one of the critical criteria would be that you show respect to them.

You are no different. You have some kind of nebulous concept rattling around in the back of your brain that defines what it means to earn your respect. And you hold countless numbers of complete strangers to this amorphous, undefined criteria in order to “earn” your respect, without telling them or even being able to articulate it yourself. This is grossly unfair. It is setting a standard to which you expect others to measure up without ever telling them what the standard is. It virtually guarantees failure on the part of others and virtually guarantees you a conscience-free pass to be rude and disrespectful to the majority of people you meet! I mean, if they don’t earn your respect, why should you treat them respectfully?

This attitude is the most basic underpinning of bullying. If you don’t respect someone because you believe they have to earn your respect and you have made it impossible for them to do by creating an impossible and/or invisible set of standards, then you don’t need to respect their rights or their feelings, do you? If you further create some gates that a person must pass through in order to even try to earn your respect—like they must be straight, or Christian, or politically conservative, or a certain race or ethnicity or gender—you further create a situation that you feel absolutely justified in not respecting those who are unable to pass through those gates. If they can’t jump through the hoops and avoid the obstacles you have set up, then you feel perfectly justified in disrespecting them.

When you consider that there are potentially billions of people doing this, that if you meet 100 people in the course of a week, each one of them may be doing this to you, you may begin to see how this cannot work as a way of life. If you meet 100 people and each of them has a different criteria for having their respect earned and none of them are willing to tell you what you must do to “earn” their respect, you are basically screwed. It is a hit or miss situation where “earning” someone’s respect is accidental rather than by design or intent. It is, with rare exception, impossible.

But it goes even deeper than this. Consider for a moment: what kind of a person truly believes that his respect is so rare a commodity that others must earn it? What kind of a person has so little respect within his heart that he must dole it out only to those who are willing to abase themselves to “earn” it? If you think of yourself as a “good person,” what are you doing withholding that most basic entitlement of humans, the right to be respected simply because they exist?

That’s right—we all have basic human rights—and the right to be respected is one of them. We earn DISrespect when we have done something worthy of it, but respect is your birthright. And to expect others to earn your respect is tantamount to saying that you are entitled to withhold from them a right that came with their first breath, setting yourself as a superior being above those from whom you withhold your respect. It speaks ill of your character, and reflects badly upon your moral fibre.

Many of us have bought into the notion that respect must be earned out of ignorance and lack of critical thinking. We aren’t really bullies and we deplore the lack of common courtesy we are subjected to in daily life. Curiously, while we take the position that strangers must earn our respect, we fully expect those strangers to treat us with the respect and courtesy we have made no effort to “earn” from them. It’s a one-way street in our minds—others should treat us with respect but they must earn ours—and we don’t even realize it!

If you take the time to really think about it, you have to come to the conclusion that respect simply cannot be earned. No one person is sufficiently intuitive and simultaneously fluid of personality that they can divine and appropriately react to an infinite, and infinitely changing, set of demands. You cannot please all of the people all of the time—and when it comes to earning respect, you cannot even know what all of the people think you need to do.

If you want to be respected, there is a simple way to achieve that: respect others. Respect their feelings, their rights, their existence. Give them respect as a matter of course and only withhold it when a specific person has done a specific thing that is worthy of withdrawing it. Set the bar high—determine that taking your respect away from a person is a serious thing, not to be taken lightly or in response to something small, like disagreeing with you politically. In fact, to my way of thinking, it is only demonstrating an ingrained lack of respect for others that warrants the withdrawal of my respect.

You might consider this the next time you think another person should earn your respect rather than you giving it freely and giving him a chance to earn your disrespect instead.

Narcissists do this. They believe that their respect has to be earned and thereby create a set up to justify treating other people like crap. When you don’t respect someone, you don’t feel obligated to have a caution for their feelings or even their rights. When you believe others have to earn your respect, you have created a world in which you don’t have to respect anybody until and unless they earn it from you, as if you have the right to disrespect everyone on the planet until they bow to your expectations…a pretty narcissistic attitude, to my way of thinking.

Many years ago, when I was struggling with my NHusband’s gaslighting and manipulative ways, my therapist gave me some invaluable advice: when the words and the behaviour don’t match, believe the behaviour because it is so much easier to lie with words than with deeds. And so you look at how people treat you, how they act: people who respect you will treat you as an Equal and they won’t try to manipulate you by taking a Superior or Subordinate position with you. Anyone who assumes a Superior or Subordinate position with you is treating you without respect…and when you assume a Superior or Subordinate position, you are doing the same.

A good part of what is wrong with the world today is as a result of rampant disrespect. What is wrong with our relationships with our FOO is, at its core, a lack of respect being shown to us by them. Some women are simply incapable of loving their children—love is an emotion that we cannot will—but even those women are capable of respecting their children and their rights and their feelings. They cannot choose to love us…love operates independent of our conscious choice…but they can choose to respect us.

By their very nature, narcissists are disrespectful of others. But they are not necessarily disrespectful of everyone—my NexH and my MNM both had people they admired, people they looked up to and wanted to be like. Admittedly, all of their idols were powerful, wealthy people who, for the most part, they did not personally know, but the fact remains that they did not disrespect these people even though these people had not earned their respect through any direct or conscious means. In truth, there is nothing personal in a narcissist’s disrespect of you, at least in the beginning, because that disrespect is pretty much universal: even if the narcissist doesn’t know you, s/he disrespects you…it is the default condition of the narcissist.

A narcissist disrespects anyone and everyone he does not perceive as worthy of being his role model. That means most family members (exceptions might be made for a family member who has achieved that which the narcissist wishes to achieve: fame, wealth, power—but the narcissist could just as easily be so envious that s/he despises and disrespects him or her) and virtually everyone the narcissist knows well.

The narcissist doesn’t really know what respect is. While we know that respect is part of the Equal/Equal transaction, the Narcissist sees it as a situation in which the respected person is a Superior, not just in a transaction but in life, and the narcissist is a subordinate. Respect, to the narcissist, has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with being willingly subordinate to the idol the narcissist wishes to emulate. But there is nothing selfless in this subordination: the narcissist expects to find ways to profit by her emulation and admiration, whether it is clues as to how to be more attractive to men (my NM used to copy Marilyn Monroe, right down to the bleached hair, halter dress and fake beauty mark) or to become rich and powerful (or at least to make others think you are—my NexH went to his 20th high school reunion dressed in a 3-piece suit complete with watch chain and rented a Lincoln Continental from the airport…no mundane Chevy and sport shirt and slacks for him!).

Narcissists demand respect from others—or try to con others into thinking they should be respected—without being willing to give respect to others. They demand that we earn respect from them without telling us how to go about doing that…because they don’t know. And if you are thinking this is a set-up you are right, that is exactly what it is.


Because the narcissistic view of respect is such that, in order to “respect” you, the narcissist would have to believe you were better than s/he is…and that is never going to happen. The people the narcissist respects are people whom the narcissist not only admires and wishes to emulate but people whose feet of clay—their human failings—the narcissist has not yet found or acknowledged. And so you have an NM who raises an NDaughter or NSon who may well respect their NM, ignoring (or even admiring) her faults, doing her bidding, defending her and in doing so, defending themselves. NM may even come to admire one of her Nchildren, assuming the child achieves highly in an area NM finds worthy: Charlie’s brother became a millionaire through some pretty shifty means but their NM didn’t care about how he got his money: Alvin became a millionaire and she explained away and excused his boorishness, rudeness, and bullying behaviours with “He’s a millionaire. Millionaires are like that.” Alvin did not respect Charlie and neither did their NM, they both bullied and insulted him behind his back and, on occasion, even to his face. You don’t treat people you respect that way.

Bottom line is, narcissists cannot respect anyone they deem beneath them and narcissists deem everyone beneath them except the select few they wish to emulate. Earning respect is virtually impossible even in the best of circumstances but with a narcissist, it is quite impossible: they will never let you.

Respect is something you are entitled to, just like the air you breathe. The idea that you have to earn respect is as ludicrous as the idea that you have to earn your air, that someone has the right to withhold it from you until you figure out what you have to do to earn it…and they get to change the rules as they go along.

You don’t have to earn anybody's respect and people who withhold respect from you and expect you to jump through hoops like a trained dog to “earn” it aren’t going to give it to you, no matter how many hoops you jump through—the fact of your willingness to abase yourself in order to earn their approval and respect will, automatically, render you unworthy. And while being denied air for four minutes will kill you and being denied respect will not, respect is no less an entitlement and anyone who tells you differently has a selfishly irrational and manipulative view of the subject.

If a person doesn’t respect you, it says volumes more about her than is does about you…and none of it good.

Next: The two sides of “Attention Seeking”


  1. Excellent post. I give respect and trust implicitly. Until it is violated.

    1. Excellent q! You are exactly the kind of role model the rest of the world needs!

      BIG hugs,


  2. Violet--this post is simply wonderful. I'm blown away by the power and clarity of the writing. What an important post, I wish everyone in the country could read it. There's not one person in this country that couldn't learn from it. May I post a link to it on my own blog, Raising Caliban? It's brilliant writing. Strong, unambiguous, lucid, ethical, downright moral in the best possible sense of the word. Thank you for writing it.

    1. Absolutely, Cali--post, quote, whatever. I agree that this is a message that we should ALL hear, simply because the more people who automatically treat others with respect, the more peaceful and respectful world we will have. So by all means, get the word out!

      Hugs to you


  3. thanks for sharing..

  4. Extrapolating from your wonderfully clear notion of N-As-Bully or ANYONE as "Bully" as Ignorance and lack of Critical Thinking (meaning unknowing, unaware, neither "good" nor "bad" but rather as what IS) way of dong/being in this world, so it is with Racism, Ageism, any kind of "ism" you wish to plug in there. It stems also from an unwillingness to examine, warts and all, OURSELVES. Our OWN "Blind Spots."
    We all have them, including yours truly. It's NOT that people can't or won't hear you-leaving aside Cluster Bs-they WILL. However, an unexamined heart, mind, life ensures mine will remain firmly CLOSED and completely unreceptive to input from those around me who are essentially telling me the SAME thing: The "message" gets lost in the translation of my own ego and inherent Blind Spots. I didn't take the "I" out of the equation to realize feed-back from others is a reflection, a mirror of the GOOD kind that opens me to MORE than I knew, thought, realized. It is critical to learning about me, the world and what it means to be human and live in this world.
    Yes, there IS a Legacy we carry with us from having grown up under NP abuse. I've noted Boundaries, Conflict (an inevitable part of living in this world) and Identity are areas of particular reactivity. Even when no one is trying to hurt me or jerk me, I'm on my toes in a defensive manner because that kept me alive and kept my very fragile ego alive somewhere in that mess. When I've planted my hooker heels and I'm not "budging" I'm not protecting a "Boundary" or "Respect" the vast majority of the time: I'm protecting the remnants of what WAS, a little girl who was frightened, powerless and helpless.
    Truth is, it's not about "Respect" or any of the above. It's about FEAR. Conversely, flattery is JUST that: Confuse them at your peril.

    1. Many people go through life believing it is necessary for others to earn their respect, that it is somehow wrong to just respect people without being given a reason to do so. When harbouring that belief, a person does himself and others a disservice because 1) it is impossible to earn respect and 2) we don't try to earn the respect of others, we expect it to be GIVEN to us.

      Most of the people whom I have met who believe their respect needs to be earned have never given it any thought. They heard it somewhere, like from a parent, and simply adopted the concept with no consideration for what it takes to earn respect of the thousands of differing people we meet in a lifetime--and no consideration of what their own criteria for earning their own respect might be. They do not recognize that their respect usually "earned" when someone else treats them with respect, but they perpetuate a cycle of disrespect by refusing to treat others with respect until it is "earned," which, of course, is impossible. It is a self-defeating mechanism that gives one permission to be a jerk to everybody around them causes, which causes others to react negatively (and disrespectfully) thereby spreading and perpetuating the problem.

      Some of us, especially those of us raised as SGs by a "you gotta earn my respect" kind of NP, buy into it from the perspective that we must figure out what to do to earn that elusive respect and we spend years--even decades--chosing withholding partners and friends and turning ourselves inside out trying to find that magic key that will unlock their respect. It ain't gonna happen--because it CAN'T. So those of us who chase our tails trying to earn the "respect" of our FOO, our partners, our parents, and others in our lives, need to know that we are fighting a losing battle, that it is a set up that cannot be won, and to QUIT making ourselves crazy by trying to win that which is unwinnable.

      The rest is underpinnings that may explain motivations, etc., but ultimately doesn't address the simple fact that respect cannot be earned, so quit trying.

  5. I kind of feel like there's a difference between respect and decency. I do think respect is something to be earned, but people need to treat everyone with decency. Maybe I'm tangled in semantics.

    1. If you think people need to earn respect, how to people earn yours? What do they need to do to earn it? And do you automatically tell everyone you meet "I will treat you decently, but I won't respect you until and unless you do the following..." and then rattle off a list of things they have to do to earn it? Because if you don't, then you doom everyone you meet to be disrespected by you because nobody knows what they have to do to earn your respect.

      If you believe that respect has to be earned, then you must also believe that you must earn the respect of every single person you meet, from grocery baggers to the meter reader to your doctor to your coworkers to the people you date. You must also believe it is OK for them to disrespect you until you do all the stuff they want you to do to earn their respect. How do you do that? Do you ask each one to tell you what it takes to earn their respect? Or do they offer you a list and then you decide if you want their respect or not and then, based on your decision, either toss the list aside and accept them treating your disrespectfully or follow the list and behave around them in the manner they want you to?

      Truth is, it is impossible to earn someone's respect, yours or anyone else's. If you go through life believing that respect must be earned, then you go through life giving people permission to disrespect you because you don't try to earn theirs (you can't--you don't know how). With this belief, you create a world for yourself in which it is OK for everybody to disrespect make it OK for them to treat you disrespectfully and you make it not OK for you to object or even feel bad about it.

      "Decency"? Maybe semantics, maybe not...but your "decency" and mine may be light years apart...I have lived in South Africa for nearly 10 years and let me tell you, some of the unreconstructed boers around here have a definition of "decency" with respect to how they treat the black people that I view as downright insulting. But they are clear that they don't respect them.

      How much easier is it to simply respect people until they give you a reason to disrespect them? It must be tough, going through life disrespecting others but covering it with a veneer of "decency" so you think they can't tell you don't respect them. If I were to do that, I would feel like the world's worst fake.

      Pandora, have you ever asked yourself WHY you think it is ok to disrespect every person on the planet except those who have jumped through your hoops to earn your respect? Have you ever heard of "paying it forward" and how that sets the tone for how people around you behave? Respect is not something you have a right to withhold until people do tricks for you and you finally deign to bestow it upon them, it is something we are all entitled to from the moment we draw our first breaths.

      "Decency" is not enough.

      Thank you for your comment.


  6. You never earn respect from a narcissist. You might get some admiration for doing their bidding very well , but it always comes down to what you can do for them. And some people show you clear from the beginning that you should not respect them because they are such users.

  7. I don't disagree that people should have general respect when it comes to every day situations, but when people use the phrase 'You have to earn respect' 99 times out of 100 they are saying it as in for example if you can't expect people to respect you as a mother if you don't take very good care of your kids thus 'you have to earn respect', pretty much rendering this whole blog invalid.

    1. Incorrect.

      In a case such as you mention, if you fail to take good care of your kids, you earn DISrespect. Respect should be given to you from the outset and withdrawn only when you prove yourself not worth of it.

  8. Frankly, I am tried of the phrase, "To get respect, you must earn respect," and quite often many young people think that if someone, i.e. a parent, teacher, or any authority figure tells them to do something they don't want to do they are being "disrespected." This is such a destructive philosophy, and it is used as an excuse for all manner of rudeness, misbehavior, and yes, DISrespect in the classroom, in the home, and in society in general. When someone throws around this phrase, it is usually done so in the context of DISrespect towards someone to whom it should naturally be granted (a boss, police officer, teacher, parent). It would be interesting to find the origin of this very worn out phrase and its philosophical corollary of nihilism and anarchy. My guess is that it stems from the mob or some other criminal, anti social entity.

  9. Frankly, I am tried of the phrase, "To get respect, you must earn respect," and quite often many young people think that if someone, i.e. a parent, teacher, or any authority figure tells them to do something they don't want to do they are being "disrespected." This is such a destructive philosophy, and it is used as an excuse for all manner of rudeness, misbehavior, and yes, DISrespect in the classroom, in the home, and in society in general. When someone throws around this phrase, it is usually done so in the context of DISrespect towards someone to whom it should naturally be granted (a boss, police officer, teacher, parent). It would be interesting to find the origin of this very worn out phrase and its philosophical corollary of nihilism and anarchy. My guess is that it stems from the mob or some other criminal, anti social entity.

    1. if you think anyone who happens to have authority or power in society should automatically be respected and obeyed, i have to disagree. hitler was a "boss". i like the part of the post that says "anyone who takes a superior ot subordinate position is showing disrespect" thats pretty deep shit, its whats wrong with society. one of the main points to take away from this post is that the only way to earn disrespect is to disrespect others. if everyone were treated equally society would be better. so can say i dont respect hitler because he was disrespectful to all jews....cuz ya know. im not religious but heres where some jesus stuff really makes sense, because further more i think it is clear, a person is complex and not just one thing, even hitler yes hitler may have done some things worthy of respect, like giving a kid a lollipop, lets say he had some good in him, ok this is taboo and im not the best writer, and using hitler probs aint the best example, but follow along and maybe you will get my point. ok so jesus said hatge the sin not the sinner, well my point is you can be like that with the "disrespectful" things people do , oh and i brought up jesus also because another good example of respect comes from him believing an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, and many times the disrespect cylce keeps going becasue of peoples perceived or real disrespect from others, when they can be the bigger person and voice what they feel and disagree with but always with respect and forgiveness. and when that doesnt work yea we go to war and blah ablah blah. going back to the beginning of what i was talking about, basically its not that i am not grateful for the police and school and stuff, my point is yea those people you speak of should be RESpectful to the PEOPLE who most of the time are just doing their job innocently, and if their job happens to bring shit to people its best to address the JOB as the problem and not the ignorant person carrying it out,but if you find the source of a stupid law, ie a stupid politician or something, kindly tell that person what you feel in a passionate way. i dont believe in god and i dont believe government should be god, and anyone who makes me feel in need to bow down to anyone i get very touchy. no ones word is god including mine, cuz in conclusion i humbly admit this could be pretty shit waht im writing, and i could shoose my words better, im kinda venting, i want to live farming my own food with noone to own up to.... but we all have to go to work and please our bosses and its gross. i have really low self esteem, i thikn my dad is like a narcissist. im scared, and i want to die half the time, but im sacared it will hurt. im nice but people disrespect me becasue im weird. everyone is a hyposcrite and it sucks, i hate when i find i jusdge other people when all i want is stupoid jusdgements gone from the world. sam harris is cool, he says hate is illogivcal, we dont need to punish people like god, if someone is doing something that we thikn is harming socirty we should always try to undersand why and try to fix it, not make them the monster but the act sonething to avoid, not even a monster just something to avoid, the world is full of too much fear,(i have anxiety) and it should just be basics fear that animals have to survive,i bet they dont THINK so much about it, well cuz humans and their brainsand what not think alot, but if i could change tghat about myself i would to jsut be happy and pain be only out of pure necessity , in order to ya know not keep my hand on the hot pan. and then let it go and not have everything be so serious.

  10. I believe respect is defined as a deep admiration for someone based on their qualities abilities or achievements. By that definition I neither respect nor disrespect somebody until I know enough about them to make a judgement
    Treating people with decency should be the default.

  11. I love this. Thank you Violet. I love it so much that I'm going to print it out and keep it with my treasured writings. I especially take umbrage when I witness individuals not treating children and teens with the respect they deserve. My adult children have commended me and my husband on the fair and respectful way we treated them. We also had respect for the fact that children are very intelligent and if you lovingly explain to them why certain behaviors would be detrimental to them, they will usually make wise choices. Our two daughters are fine young adults now, and miraculously, they never made a choice in their teens that we weren't proud of. Someday I pray that there will be a real cure for narcissist personality disorder, and imagine the light and love that will spread throughout the globe. My Dad had NPD, and I am still on my own personal journey of healing; I hope I can achieve that sometime soon.


I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.

Not clear on what constitutes "rudeness"? You can read this blog post for clarification: