Based on interdisciplinary approaches, I understand self-respect as the conviction of a person to be an owner of equal rights. Understood as the internalization of experiences of respect, this can be embedded in a larger theoretical framework: The more people (and even children) experience being taken seriously by others as equal partners in interaction, the easier it is for them to internalize a self-image of being equal to others. This perception can be independent of existing formal rights. Even in a country like Germany, where everyone is equal before the law, it depends on the extent to which this sense of entitlement is conveyed through respect by others. If this is not the case, people may find it difficult to develop self-respect. So far, I have been able to show empirically that the internalization of one’s own equality is related to the extent to which individuals are able to assert themselves and protest injustice. Without this awareness of equal rights, people find it much more difficult to claim their own place in life and to protect it against interference by others.

Through this internalization of equality, not only are one’s own rights considered and protected, but the (equal) rights of others are also considered. Thus, my studies showed that self-respect is only related to socially acceptable forms of self-assertion and protest, but not to aggressive forms.

News: My DFG research project „Internalized equality: Antecedents and consequences of self-respect“ has been approved.

Media contributions:
  • interviewed by Psychologie heute (issue 09/2020)
  • interviewed by Psychologie heute (issue 09/2018)
Selected publications

Internalized equality and protest against injustice: The role of disadvantaged group members’ self‐respect in collective action tendencies
Daniela Renger, Silke Eschert, Mimke L. Teichgräber & Sophus Renger (2020)

Recent research shows that self‐respect (defined as seeing yourself as a person with equal rights) predicts assertive but not aggressive responses to injustice in interpersonal contexts. The present research focuses on the antecedents of self‐respect and its consequences for collective action tendencies among members of disadvantaged groups. Across three studies (N = 227, N = 454, N = 131) using different contexts and samples (discrimination of Muslims in Germany; women regarding gender inequality), experiences with equality‐based respect (defined as being treated as someone of equal worth) predicted self‐respect. Moreover, across all three studies, self‐respect predicted intentions for cooperative or normative but not support for hostile or non‐normative protest. The results demonstrate the potential of self‐respect for facilitating collective action in the face of injustice while still enabling positive intergroup relations.

Believing in one’s equal rights: Self-respect as a predictor of assertiveness
Daniela Renger (2018)

In the present research self-respect is defined as a person’s ability to see the self as someone who has the same basic rights and dignity as others. Self-respect fills a gap in previous theorizing on the self because unlike other self-concepts it can be linked to assertiveness and claim making. Self-respect was empirically distinguished from self-competence and self-confidence (Study 1) as well as from psychological entitlement, self-esteem and self-acceptance (Study 2). Self-respect predicted assertive responses above and beyond these other self-scales in two correlational studies (Studies 1 and 3) and one experiment (Study 2). As predicted, self-respect was not related to aggressive responses, but psychological entitlement was (Studies 2 and 3). Implications for future research are discussed.