The Fine Art of Dignity and How to Lose It

That time I crammed myself through the dog door, in the middle of the night, wearing soaking wet PJ’s… such a fond memory and got me thinking about dignity.

The Fine Art Of Dignity And How To Lose It


What is dignity?

  • It usually comes with age, but there’s no guarantee.
  • It’s intricately linked to one’s self-confidence and manners.
  • You can fake this one till you make it…but it only feels good when authentic.
  • It’s usually tested most vigorously during the impact of criticism.
  • It looks like poise and acts like self-respect.
  • It can’t be taken away from you but you can throw it away.

  • Along with poise, it’s an integral component of being elegant.
  • It can be cultivated, fostered and become a natural part of you.

 So how do dignified people behave?

  1. They hold themselves accountable and take the moral high road.
  2. They respect other’s right to their opinions.
  3. They are polite and treat others with respect.
  4. They’re grounded, centered and control their emotions.
  5. They defend their position with assertiveness, without becoming aggressive.
  6. They are humble, civil and good sports.

Has the word dignity crossed your radar screen lately?

*This is an edited post. I usually have my husband proofread my posts for spelling mistakes. He asked, “Where are your boundaries for sharing personal stuff?”

Hmm… I’d made reference to a family member (his side) who I’d witnessed throwing her dignity away. I hadn’t named names, but it made him ask. So I took it out 🙂


I try to live my life with as much grace and elegance as possible… but occasionally…it’s out of my hands.

Case in point… It was pouring cats and dogs 2 weeks ago. My husband was sound asleep, upstairs. While locking up downstairs, ( in my PJ’s, no slippers or robe), I heard a cat howling outside the front door of our courtyard. Curious, I left our house door open and slipped through the courtyard door to investigate. The wind slammed the outside door shut which automatically locked me out. IT WAS POURING! Such fun.

Luckily our garage has a key pad for access. By the time I got into the garage I was drenched and freezing. Sadly, the door from our garage to house was locked (I’m so efficient) with a double-key lock. You must have a key to unlock it from the inside and the outside. We installed it so burglars couldn’t reach through the dog door and unlock it. Brilliant move.

No doorbell in the garage, no key… I got down on my hands and knees, stuffed myself as far as possible through the dog door, and called for help . Then I yelled. Finally I started bellowing like a fish wife, until my husband woke up and came to rescue me.

I must have been a sight, jammed into that dog door, because he’s still laughing about it.

What does dignity mean for you?

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  1. March 5, 2015 / 3:37 am

    LOL Jennifer!! I can picture you now and think it’s also so very human and endearing of you to share the doggy door debacle. I locked myself out of our home once also, which was on some property outside Colorado Springs – and why is it that you’re never usually properly dressed when that happens? I DID have on a robe- albeit a think black summer weight robe and was unfortunately barefoot. Only one home? Me. Cell phone? In the house. I had to wincingly make my way down the lane and over to the nearest neighbor’s whom at least we were wise and dignified enough at one time to leave a key with.

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:17 pm

      Hilarious Barb! I’m so glad I’m in good company:). Why are we always barefoot?
      Sadly, we hadn’t thought to leave a key with anyone. Not even to hide one in our garage!

  2. March 5, 2015 / 3:40 am

    Oh and may I add, at least the neighbors were dignified enough not to snicker and told me over and over, they understood, oh isn’t that unfortunate, no, no, we’re just so glad we were home – they perfectly abided #3 and #4 above.

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:18 pm

      Snickering here…sorry but I can just feel your embarrassment. Xoxo

  3. March 5, 2015 / 4:04 am

    Dignity is holding oneself to a higher standard in how they treat others. The golden rule, turning the other cheek, etc. It should not be a feeling of entitlement or pride. Crawling through a cat door soaking wet was a necessity. Yelling at the grocery clerk because she gave you plastic over paper is undignified.

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:23 pm

      Perfectly said! When I see people do that to the grocery clerk, or equivalent, I almost always butt in and speak up. I can’t help myself.

  4. Janice
    March 5, 2015 / 4:37 am

    Losing your dignity in order to help someone, or something, is a worthy sacrifice!

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:24 pm

      I agree it’s always worthwhile.

  5. March 5, 2015 / 4:57 am

    Dignity is not “stand-offish” or stiff. I think that it may involve being warm and accepting whatever the circumstances. It definitely involves a moral code, self-control and respect for others. Queen Elizabeth seems to be an example of a dignified woman A dignified woman may be put in a ridiculous situation and she will “do what it takes.” She can be resourceful as well as dignified. A dignified woman will be gracious and do what she can to make others feel comfortable

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:26 pm

      Yes Joanne! I totally agree.
      Self control and making others feel comfortable is a gracious, dignified way to behave.

  6. March 5, 2015 / 5:34 am

    LOL! What a story! I can just imagine. I think I might still be laughing about the whole thing too. And for years to come.

    Dignity means having a personal moral compass that guides you. It is about self preservation and self love. I find that the compass moves and changes throughout our lives.


    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:27 pm

      You’ll get a bigger kick out of it when you meet me in Vancouver. Try not to snicker at me…I’ll know why. Xox

  7. March 5, 2015 / 5:54 am

    This is such a great post! I am reminded all of the time of loosing my dignity when I’m with my grandkids and they have meltdowns. Sometimes I feel like joining them on the floor kicking and screaming! Kids and grandkids are always teaching.

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:29 pm

      Oh yes! I wonder if they feel better after they have a screaming fit on the floor. The young are so fortunate. They just ARE.

  8. March 5, 2015 / 6:18 am

    Fabulous post! I’ve heard it said that “you’ll never regret taking the high road” and try to live by that and act with integrity. It really has improved the quality of my life in so many ways.

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:33 pm

      I agree. It’s not always, frequently isn’t, the easiest way to act. But the rewards are worth it.
      Whenever I don’t take the high road, I always regret it later.

  9. Kathleen
    March 5, 2015 / 6:24 am

    I am laughing picturing you calling for help. Sometimes, we do what we have to do…..it was actually very innovative. A man wouldn’t have thought to do that. I think we all have had these moments, and just hope no one is witness to them! I have FINALLY learned that when I am in a situation where my dignity is at risk, I just stop. This allows time to respond correctly, and not think of the perfect response hours later (I wish I would have said that). I still fail now and again, but I keep trying. My friend taught me a good response to all things difficult ….’I’m sorry, I don’t know how to respond to that’. It works every time to at least buy some time! I love these posts.

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:35 pm

      I’m stealing your friends response Kathleen. It’s perfect!!! And yes, my husband would have just pounded, repeatedly on the courtsyrd door.

  10. March 5, 2015 / 8:07 am

    I loved this post, Jennifer, and I LOLd at the thought of you halfway in/out of your doggie door. It’s hard to look dignified in that position.

    The quickest way to lose your dignity is to be stuck in the medical system. I watched my beautiful, dignified Mother fight for hers during the last six years of living in a nursing home. She fought like a tiger and WON, right up to the last day.

    Cheers, M-T

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:38 pm

      The medical system seems “designed” to strip patients of their dignity. Bravo to your Mom. She sounds like an inspiring ,amazing woman. Sort of like her daughter.

  11. Susan in NC
    March 5, 2015 / 9:38 am

    My dad suffered with Alzheimer’s for many years. As one of his caregivers I saw his life take many downturns. My dad taught me so much about dignity – he never gave in to despair, especially when his body failed him. We went through a lot of terrible things together and I was amazed at his good humor and sense of humor. When he would see me start to crumble he would pat my hand and say with a smile,”The first hundred years are the hardest.”

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing about your Dad Sharon. What a heart wrenching experience. Your Dad does sound like an amazing guy. Alzheimer’s is the “ultimate” dignity, stripping desease. Bravo for him. And you!

  12. March 5, 2015 / 10:58 am

    I think Dignity is in rather short and rapidly diminishing supply. Social media has made it much easier to lose. As the laws of Supply and Demand hold true, it is greatly increasing in value.
    BTW Darling JC: it reaches it’s highest form by a grandmother doting on her grandson!

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:49 pm

      Thanks dear GSL! I totally agree about the social media role.
      Do we really need to hear when someone is having indigestion, or worse, on Twitter, etc? What to share, how much and how intimate has taken it’s toll.
      My grandson has stolen my heart…I surender to the insane love I have for that baby

  13. March 5, 2015 / 11:18 am

    I’ve never really thought too much about dignity…I suppose one can be very dignified and proper most of the time. I think it is more about behaving appropriately for the situation and having good manners.
    The image that comes to mind when reading about your predicament reminds me of Doris Day movies…she would often be cast in the role of a “ditsy Blonde” which she did so well and the films were light, entertaining and charming at the same time. I hope you have recovered from the traumatic event!

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:56 pm

      You’re so funny! The very last thing I would consider myself is a ditsy blonde”, but I do see your connection! Good manners are crucial to dignity. You always seem the epitome of dignity.

  14. March 5, 2015 / 5:25 pm

    I think Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey is the epitome of dignity.
    Wishing I could do it as well as she does.
    For me, deportment or comportment (same thing I think) are what I always “try” to achieve. Sometimes I don’t. It’s the Italian 1/4 of me that makes me have the wit and confidence, coupled with my own form of elegance, that allows me to get through any situation with dignity. Sending love…..

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 10:58 pm

      I love her character. Dignity with a dose of grit and spunk. I’m so Sorry next season will be her last. She’s my favorite

  15. Honey Bee
    March 5, 2015 / 8:04 pm


    As I read your lovely post, a quote by wise King Solomon came to mind, “A gracious woman retains honour.”

    You have given us superb ideas to ponder.

    Blogs such as yours remind us of the beautiful virtues that are worth safeguarding. Like gracious manners, respect for others, integrity, kindness, love. They certainly make life more pleasant and harmonious.

    Thank you for elevating discourse around the web.

    Here’s to more gracious women like you!
    Honey Bee

    • Jennifer
      March 5, 2015 / 11:00 pm

      Thank you Honey Bee! Manners and decorum are what separate us from mayhem.

  16. Roslyn Tanner Evans
    March 6, 2015 / 4:44 am

    Wish your hubby had taken a photo of you coming thru the door and at rescue. Dignity is caught up with self-confidence and privacy. How you conduct yourself in given situations may be the key. It has a lot to do with controlling one’s emotions publically and how one shows respect in a disagreement or upsetting situation. Does dignity only matter around others? Such an interesting conversation.

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 12:59 am

      Well I’m really glad the stinker didn’t stop to take the picture Roslyn!!

  17. Lynn
    March 6, 2015 / 7:46 am

    Your definition of dignity is well thought out. I pondered this for a long time.

    BUT….sometimes the universe plots ways to show us that we need a laugh! Certainly this has brought you and your husband a “great” shared memory!. My husband and I try to be decent people, but continuously things happen where we have to howl with laughter.

    My motto the last few years: Things happen 🙂

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 1:02 am

      I so agree Lynn, sometimes things just happen to challenge us. Almost like a test! Being able to laugh about it is one of our favorite delights.

  18. March 6, 2015 / 8:19 am

    I can see it!How long did it take for him to hear YOU?Did you ever find the CAT????
    SO, good of YOU to go SEE!
    A STAR in your HAT!

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 1:05 am

      It took him TOO long Elizabeth

  19. March 6, 2015 / 3:07 pm

    Ah Jen, I can just picture you in that doggy door. Sorry, but it’s the stuff of life that makes for a fabulous story later. 😉 Dignity…I like your list. I strive for dignity in the way that I live my life, just as you do. There are those moments, like when I was pulled over for a speeding ticket this week, on the main road to my office, where I was not feeling dignified at all. I just put my head to the side and hoped it was over quickly. Without a core sense of dignity, I don’t know how I would look at myself in the mirror every morning and be okay with life. Great topic!
    xx, Heather

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 1:10 am

      You’re one of the more dignified ladies I have the privilege to call my friend. You’re gracious, classy and genuinely kind. Bummer about the ticket. I’m surprised he didn’t take one look at your beautiful face and just let you go. I’ve given up trying to talk myself out of them. I just grown and except my punishmnet.
      xoxo my friend.

  20. Renee @ Spirit Sorbet
    March 6, 2015 / 9:52 pm

    Dignity is a tough one ~ we tend to draw on it or ponder it when we’ve been hit with disrespect or something has niggled our not-so-funny bone. The more life experience I get the more I wished I had spoken up brash and bold when I was younger, so I’m not trying to regain ground now. I believe strongly we teach people how to treat us. Those who do not give out automatic respect, therefore, don’t understand if we walk away, turn the other cheek or keep quiet. Those types often see it as weakness or winning. Today especially, I think we need to reconnect to everything feminine which includes turning on the fierce warrior for all the rights reasons when we need. I have had far less troubles when I show my teeth … and I can still wear my lipstick !

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 1:14 am

      Great comment Renee. Thanks!
      We absolutely do teach people, how to treat us by what we will and will not tolerate. Sometimes walking away is the only answer. Our warrior can be feminine, fierce and dignified!! That’s one of my goals. Thanks so much for sharing here.

  21. March 7, 2015 / 3:27 am

    Forget dignity, you’ve got a delightful story to tell through the years. Great visuals. It’s 3Am and I’m sitting at the kitchen table eatting rye toast. Coating my stomach before I take a strong pain pill and thourouly enjoying your story in the middle of the night!

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 1:15 am

      I sure hope your arm heals quickly! I’m always happy if I can make people feel better or laugh. xoxo

  22. wendy mcleod macknight
    March 7, 2015 / 11:58 am

    Oh you are coming up with so many good topics lately! As I age, I care so little about what others think of me anymore, and I am not sure if I am all that dignified. Hmm – for me being dignified is being able to laugh at oneself, being kind above all else, and living one’s truth. AND not being afraid to make a fool of one’s self from time to time. Stuffiness is often perceived as dignity, but I think stuffiness is just, well, tedious. But then, that goes back to being kind! I love your dog door! Those are the stories I live for as they are such good dinner party fodder! Whenever I get myself in a mess now I think “I can’t wait to share this story!” Oh, and the last time that I lost my dignity was new years’s 2008 when I slid under a chair…but it was funny, except for the hangover the next day, and has become the stuff of legends ’round here….

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 1:19 am

      Have any pictures of you under the chair we can see:)?
      Stuffiness is for the birds. Dignity is not the old fashioned version. It’s not stodgy. Holding yourself accountable for your own personal behavior and treatment of others is at its core for me. Kindness is key!!

  23. kathy
    March 8, 2015 / 9:20 am

    Did this the first day in a new home in a snow storm. Was in only a robe and husband was 2 hrs away. Had the movers leave most of the boxes in the garage and was going back and forth to unload. Door locked behind me on one of my trips. Had to meet my new neighbors practically naked. They were some of the best neighbors we had. P.S. It was in Texas and we usually only get one snow a year. Of course it was that day.

    • Jennifer
      March 9, 2015 / 1:22 am

      Dear Kathy,
      That definitely falls squarely into the Murphy’s Law Category. Just a robe? Oops. I’m sorry.
      This is seriously so delightful how many of us have had similar experiences. Thanks for sharing. You’re my kind of woman!!

  24. March 9, 2015 / 12:41 pm

    Oh no…what a story! I can just picture that and you probably felt like laughing too, but were too cold shivering. I’m glad you made it inside and that it was raining instead of snowing…that would have been even worse. I think you hit on so many points and I never really thought about dignity so in depth, but it’s definitely something that only feels good when authentic and is truly how you treat other with respect and value their opinions. There’s definitely a few fights I had with my sister in my 20’s where I didn’t act dignified and regret. But we can always change. Great post!

    Hope you’re having a perfect time in Nashville!


    • Jennifer
      March 10, 2015 / 8:25 am

      Thanks Dale.
      The conference was amazing! It was full of terrific info and great women!

  25. March 13, 2015 / 9:51 am

    I think of Judy Dench and the pride of brave and passionate women supporting one another and raising one another up and the ability to laugh at life’s little down pours and to find the sun.

    • Jennifer
      March 25, 2015 / 11:13 pm

      You always say things so beautifully pve! Finding the laughter in life keeps me going.

  26. March 21, 2015 / 5:13 pm

    So funny! I’m right there with you, because I had a similar thing happen to me. The only way in was a first floor, bathroom window that doesn’t lock. The window’s old and too high for me to push it up more than about 10 inches.. enough to get my head and upper body through. With my hands on top of the toilet, I pushed my back up against the window, trying to get it open enough to let the rest of my body through. Wound up scraping my front ribs and back. The whole time my dog is barking, like she’s never seen me before.

    • Jennifer
      March 25, 2015 / 11:16 pm

      Sounds hilarious and stressful. We’re you in PJ’s! I’m sure your dog was barking moral support. Mine stayed upstairs in Her cozy bed for most of this. She thought I was insane!!

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