Yesterday I read for the first time Joan Didion’s essay “On self-respect” in her 1968 collection of essays “Slouching towards Bethlehem”. “On self-respect” originally appeared in Vogue in 1961. Here is the text of the essay, as it appeared in 1961.

Among the more powerful lines from the essay are the following:

  1. “Nonetheless, character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”

  2. “self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.”

Didion identifies the source of self-respect; namely, character. She defines character as the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s life. Presumably, this includes one’s actions.

In the second quotation above, Didion states that the discipline of self-respect can be “developed, trained, coaxed forth”. This leads me to believe that “character”, too, can be developed, and, by doing so, one may further cultivate self-respect. Her statement hints at what I’ve come to know as a “growth mindset”, to use the language of social psychologist Carol Dweck and coworkers.

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