The difference between confidence and respect

The difference between confidence and respect is quite an important one. Why, you might ask, can those two not go together? Isn’t it a similar thing? Shouldn’t I be confident and respectful at the same time? Of couse you are right. You should be both things and this won’t be an article on dimming your light or on being quiet all the time. But too often I see women (and men too) go around, thinking their nasty, improper, disrespectful behavior is somehow a sign of great confidence. The fact that they are talking louder than everyone else, don’t let anyone finish their sentences and ignore other’s ideas and suggestions somehow makes them think that they are super-confident leader types, who are meant to rule the world. Bad news folks. You are not. And this is why the difference between those two terms is this important – because we don’t need to belittle other people in order to be great. But too many women do this, in front of peers, colleagues, potential lovers, bosses. The fear of being too small and incompetent, the fear of actually being meek, lets them overcompensate and miss out on the big picuture – empowering ourselves and other women.

The small difference

Confidence is internal. –

  • You can be a confident person, and don’t have to prove it to anyone.
  • You are personally aware of the worth of yourself, of your thoughts, of your ideas.
  • You can strengthen yourself internally.
  • You do not need others to state your value, but are able to see, and live, it for yourself.
  • You can accept and embrace feedback.
  • You can correct your flow of action, when you feel that you are on the wrong track.
  • You can admit mistakes, without being crushed by them afterwards.


Respect is external. –

  • You grant respect to other people.
  • You can value the strengths and competences of someone else without being threatened by them.
  • You can happily co-exist with the people who surround you.
  • You help others in getting further on their way.
  • You don’t belittle people for their values or opinions.
  • You don’t shy away from conflicts, because you are aware of the presence and importance of different opinions.

3 reasons why people act disrespectful instead of confident

The boundary seems thin – yet, many people are not aware of how they mistake the lack of respect for confidence. There are 3 very common situation where this happens.

  1. They feel less valuable than the other person – this one is the easiest one to “correct”. I can understand the thought behind it. If they need to be viewed as the best in a certain surrounding, but can’t convince themselves to be the best, what better way to “fool” the others (might some think) than to show of how super-confident they are? Of course, that’s not really the way. Disguises like these are mostly pretty transparent to anyone, but the person who puts up the show. I am pretty convinced that often times people who feel the need to hide behind this mask aren’t even aware of how much they belittle themselves by doing so. This only underlines the importance of analyzing your behavior closely. Why are you acting a certain way? Have you found yourself in such a situation? How did you react – confident, knowing your worth despite the feeling of insecurity, or disrespectful, belittling everyone else around you in order to seem better? Being confident does not mean that you can never be insecure. But a lack of respect surely means that you can not really be confident.  
  2. They have never learned to be respectful – that’s a tricky one. Respect is something that you show other people. If no one has ever shown you how to do that, it might be difficult to execute in the first place. A good starting point is always – do you treat them how you want to be treated yourself? It is highly unlikely that you want to be in the presence of someone who doesn’t let you say a full sentence, thinks his opinion is right, because he expresses it in the loudest voice, and can’t embrace honest feedback, but rather belittles you for the attempt. We are used to a society that teaches us that or the loudest or the majority is always right – no matter the actual facts. It might be difficult to take a step back, consider other options, be not affected by outer judgment and calm in your own self. But it can be done. Then you will have a reached a state of both confidence and respect.
  3. They are deeply convinced that disrespect is a sign of power – little to say here. It is not. If you have to show off your greatness on the costs of others, it can never mean that you are in power of the situation. You are just the loudest, not the best. And the loudest seldom make good leaders.

It’s not always easy and no one said it would be. But we women are many on the course of becoming more empowered, more confident, more sure of ourselves. Let’s take care that we are able to do this in a respectful way. No one is helped, if we all turn into loud, hysterical, seemingly “dominant” versions of our former selves. How about rather encouraging each other, resting in oneself and being the best version of us that we can be?


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