What’s the line between self-confidence and self-respect?

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ooooooiiii asks:

I have a gf of 6 months. We’re both 21. I have a lot of self-confidence so if I find my girlfriend flirting with another guy in-front of me, I actually don’t care much because I know she’ll come back to me. I also trust her. My friend thinks this directly hurts my self-respect. They think by letting her flirt in-front of me, or letting her go out with guys and coming back late is losing self-respect and I should stand up for myself. The problem is, like I said, I have a lot of self-confidence so I don’t really get irritated or think about it much. Although I do demand the freedoms I give her though.

So what’s the line between self-confidence and self-respect?


Demetrius says:

First, before I get into your question let’s talk about what self-respect ACTUALLY means, and what people mean when they refer to someone else’s self-respect. Let’s go with the Google definition for what it actually means:

self-respect - pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.

Sounds good right? That’s a definition I think we can all agree on. The problem is that when people use the term “self-respect”, oftentimes they’re not referring to how you feel about yourself, they’re referring to how they feel about how they think you should feel about yourself. Let’s take your situation specifically. You very clearly state that you have a very high level of self-confidence and that you trust your girlfriend. Because of that you don’t mind if your girlfriend is flirty with other guys, or stays out late hanging with dudes. If you tell me that, I’m going to take you at your word because self-respect, self-confidence, self-anything is subjective and self-reported. No one can tell you that you don’t have self-respect, unless they legitimately can read your thoughts. Barring the sudden appearance of mind-reading powers in humans, anyone telling you that you don’t have self-respect is just guessing or trying to impose their opinion off you, on you. People can tell you that they don’t think you respect yourself, or that you don’t seem confident, but that’s different from telling someone what their own subjective level of self-worth is. There’s no way for me to say “If you do X, you have no self-respect” and be absolutely, 100% certain that I’m right because it’s an opinion about your opinion about yourself. I think your friends telling you that your behavior lessens your self-respect says more about their opinions about you than anything else.

When your friends tell you that your girlfriend’s actions directly hurt your self-respect, they’re saying one thing when they really mean another. Your friends are telling you that your girlfriend’s behavior lessens your own self-respect because your friends don’t respect your tolerance of her behavior. It has nothing to do with how they think you feel about it, it has more to do with how they feel about it. Your friends are doing that thing people do where they express their own opinions on someone’s behaviors, but rather than saying “Just my opinion, but I do not respect this”, they say things like “Have some self-respect”. It’s a great way to passive-aggressively tell someone your opinion on their respectability while making them defend their behavior and, because it’s subjective and a matter of opinion, you can’t prove them wrong! That’s completely different from saying “I don’t like this or respect this and I think that you should stand up for yourself”. If they were better at communicating, your friends could also make the case that they think your confidence is blinding you to the fact that your girlfriend is engaging in behaviors that they find disrespectful to you. Again, all these things are not “self-respect”, they have more to do with friends’ opinions of you.

I don’t think there’s a line between being so self-confident that you lose self-respect. Maybe the inverse can be true, in that it’s hard to have confidence if you don’t have self-respect, but no one has ever, in the history of ever, said “This person is so self-confident I’m concerned that they don’t have any self-respect!”. I think that having a high-level of self-confidence can make you naive, or blind you to some things that should be valid concerns, but I don’t see how those things are tied to your self-respect. I’ve met plenty of self-confident, self-respecting people whose decisions in life I didn’t necessarily respect, but again, it’s self-respect, not someone else’s opinion on your respectability. Someone else’s opinion of your respectability has exactly zero to do with how much you respect yourself.

Oh and for the record, I appreciate your self-confidence and self-respect, and if your girlfriend flirting with guys in front of you is cool with you, keep doing what you’re doing (or not doing) and leave it at that. Personally, I’d be way less cool with her behaviors, but that’s just me. If your relationship works for you, and you have no problem with your girlfriend’s behavior, even if your friends think you should, I don’t see how that lessens your self-respect. Your opinion on how much you respect yourself is the one that matters the most.

Good Luck Out There.

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