During a recent dinner with friends, I saw the following quote on a drinks coaster: Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy.

This resonated with me at a deep level, as I frequently see people around me take decisions regarding their lives and careers that make them miserable and unproductive.

Analysing the quote, there are a number of obvious aspects to it:

  • Respect yourself
  • Walk away
  • Serves you
  • Grows you
  • Makes you happy

Let’s briefly look at each.

Respect yourself enough means having integrity and self-knowledge. You need to understand who and what you are. You need to have emotional intelligence and be able to manage yourself. If you do not respect yourself, you cannot respect others! It also requires that you have a value system that guides your life and your interaction with others and yourself. It requires that you subject your thinking and your behaviour to your value system, and that you consistently scrutinise your behaviours to see to what extent they are aligned with your values. It also means that you are honest enough to walk away from jobs and careers where the value system is not aligned with that of yours.  It is not easy to do and there will always be the temptation to accept a situation for temporary gain, even though it may be against your values and even though it may not be good for you in the long run! This is what a healthy personal ethos is about! Can you be true to yourself?

To walk away from something requires courage! If you have a job prospect and it does not suite you in the long-term, or it runs against who and what you are, but it provides you with income, it is extremely difficult to walk away. It is easy to tell others to walk away, but when you are in that position, it is far more difficult to stay true to your values. Being courageous when it hurts your pocket, and creates stress and difficulty, is what differentiates leaders from “prostitutes”. I know this sounds harsh, but when you stick around for the money, you are not doing much more than prostituting yourself. Don’t do it! Walk away!

If something does not serve you, walk away! If it does not serve a purpose, it is not worth doing. Sitting in a job that does not add value to you, only brings misery and dulls the mind. This is not only true for jobs and careers, but also for relationships. There needs to be 2-way traffic. If the value only comes from you, you should do a bit of introspection and ask yourself why you are sticking to something that is not adding value to your life! Why do you tolerate freeloaders? It is not fair to you and not to your loved ones. Don’t do it! Walk away!

Growth is closely aligned to the principle of serving you. Life is too short to not grow through your interaction with others in your relationships. Life is also too short to sit in a position where you are not growing as an individual. You need to become a better person, be it through better skills and competencies, or through being a more mature and emotionally intelligent person. Hopefully both! If you are not growing as an individual, you are in a bad situation. The world around you is changing and developing, and if you are not growing as an individual, you will be left behind. You cannot afford that. Walk away!

Happiness is what life is about. Being unhappy and successful is not an option. Strangely enough, some of us do believe happiness will come with success. They are even shocked when they do find later in life that success in a career does not necessarily bring happiness. As a matter of fact, success in a career frequently comes at the expense of happiness. This tradeoff, almost always done inadvertently, is idiotic, but very tempting when you are young, and have not sorted out what you are about and what is important to you. It is also tempting when you are older and are faced with difficult choices regarding careers and the option to be happy in what you are doing. We also then end up prostituting ourselves in the mistaken belief that we are looking after our beloved ones. It is not worth it. It comes down to a life less lived. Don’t do it. Walk away!

We also need to be clear that these aspects are all integrated. The one without the other does not create value and is meaningless on its own. The irony is that we will frequently be able to deliberate on these aspects at an intellectual level, but we struggle to practically live a life where we practice what we preach.

It is also frequently at the end of a live less lived that we look back and realise that we have been so busy chasing what we mistakenly defined as success, that we have not adhered to the tenets of the above quote: Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy. It is sad, but true. Don’t fall into this trap, as it is a trap. Have the courage and respect to walk away!

Walk away!

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14 Responses

  1. Gizelle says:

    Love this! Very insightful … Wish it’ was always possible to walk away. Sometimes this is possibly where faith comes into play.

    • johanhburger says:

      Thanks Gizelle. At times we make decisions, either knowing we will have to pay far less attention to other important stakeholders in our lives, or not think through the implications of our decisions properly. Both can be equally devastating. From my own experience I can tell you I have been working at least 6 days a week, and my normal working day was about 13 to 15 hours. Then we fool ourselves by telling ourselves we pay quality time to the rest of the family. The tragedy? We believe it!

  2. Anneke Heckroodt says:

    Hi Johan. Jy het behoorlik die spyker in my hart ingedryf vanoggend. Maar die post is great, direk op die man af en baie waar.
    Dit gaan n ongemaklike jaar word, maar ek dink tog ek gaan jou woorde ter hart neem.
    Groete Anneke

    • johanhburger says:

      Ek is bly. Wees verseker daar word diep introspeksie in die Burger huishouding gedoen die afgelope ruk! Ek het reeds my huis verkoop en dink diep en aanhoudend!

  3. Johan says:

    I agree that a lot of people people misunderstand self-respect (including myself until recently). The problem is also not really the understanding of it (just read the article), but to change your behaviors and really practice it!!!
    Gizelle is probably correct in saying that this is where faith comes in.

  4. Marius says:

    Hi Johan

    Thanks for a very interesting “exegesis” of the “passage”. Would you also agree with the statement when it relates to marriage? I do agree with putting boundaries with friends, family and work.



    • johanhburger says:

      Hi Marius, when self-respect is absent in a marriage, close the door and put off the lights! If you do not respect yourself, the chances of respecting your spouse are very slim indeed!

  5. Edith Kennedy says:

    Hi Johan
    I did just that this year and it was the hardest decision I’ve had to make in a long while and twice I’ve found myself regretting not taking that lucrative job with overseas travel, but in my heart of hearts I know it would have been wrong. Everyone tells you to think with your head, but in the end it comes down to believing in yourself and trusting your instincts. Without those you don’t have self-respect. Thanks for a great article – you put into words my learnings for the whole of 2013!
    Keep writing!

    • johanhburger says:

      Thanks for the validation Edith! It is evident to all of us at the USB that you enjoy what you are doing, and that the respect is there! Keep up with the great work!

  6. Sanette van Wyk says:

    Dankie Johan

    Ek respekteer die mense wat die moed het om die ander roete in te slaan. Vir baie van ons lyk die nuwe pad te hard en vol seerkry.

  7. Renata Schoeman says:

    Hi Johan

    2 thoughts…
    1. We usually do not act impulsively. Choices is about risk:benefit – which would include what you’ve mentioned. Sometimes a little coaster is the last “Push” factor to make the “Pull” factors worth the while!
    2. I try to keep my life “uncluttered” by getting rid of “things” that is not joyful, beautiful, or useful – which once again boils to self-respect and selective use of resources (emotional, time, etc)
    Well done on the article and all the best for 2014!

  8. Nolan Beudeker says:

    “You feel you are hedged in; you dream of escape; but beware of mirages. Do not run or fly away in order to get free: rather dig in the narrow place which has been given you… Vanity runs, love digs. If you fly away from yourself, your prison will run with you and will close in because of the wind of your flight; if you go deep down into yourself it will disappear in paradise. ”

    Gustave Thibon, French Philosopher

    It is not always easy to know the difference between leaving and fleeing. It takes EQ and SQ to be discerning. There can be no revolutions if we are not prepared to stand firm and stay put despite a conflict between value systems. It takes as much self-respect to leave as it does to stay, depending on the context.

    You have certainly given me cause to pause and ponder. Thank you!

  9. johanhburger says:

    Thanks for a profound contribution, Nolan! The idea is to stimulate thinking, and gain clarity about the principle. At times one has to stay and make a contribution. Other times one has to leave. I think the context is the driving force. It is all relative, I think.