“How do I make people respect me?”

This was the burning question that a close friend came to me once.

He was sure that he needed to go to the gym every day and consume all forms of supplements so he would become physically bigger than “anybody who might disrespect him”. I tried to explain to him that respect and confidence don’t work that way, but he refused to listen.

Then, a few months later, he came to me with another problem. He’d been going to the gym religiously but, the last few weeks, some homeless guy started hanging out near the gym. He would drink all day and yell random nonsense at anybody who would pass by.

“Do you think I should beat him up?” — my friend asked.

“What? Why would you do that?” — I dumbfoundedly replied.

“Because I need to show people that they need to respect me.”

How Respect Works (and How it Doesn’t)

The thing you often hear about respect is people “demand it”.

Underdogs in movies win the respect of the crowd through violence at the expense of their opponents. Rappers talk about forcing people to give them respect. Almost every form of media has forced the idea that respect is something that needs to be taken by force.

But respect doesn’t work that way.

So when somebody wants to “get people’s respect”, like my friend, they try to do so by force. However, they never seem to get it, because their issue is with their own insecurity.

If you have to demand respect, you don’t have it. If you live your life a certain way just to prove to others that you deserve respect, you are insecure. And if you think that those who beat up homeless guys in the streets are people who should be respected, you are batshit crazy.

It is not uncommon for people with low self-esteem, like my friend, to chase things like “power” or “respect” as their timid behavior often leads them to be ignored or bullied. In their eyes, “respect” is just a way for getting people to stop looking down on them.

Respect is something that comes from your actions. Respecting others is an act of admiration towards their values and principles, even if you disagree with them or have a differing opinion. Those who are respected act from a place of moderate self-confidence and hold themselves to higher values.

In other words, people who have high self-esteem are respected.

Handsome man with a beard in a suit
Confidence a.k.a. I don’t really care about your lame opinion.

High self-esteem means knowing what you’re worth regardless of other people. There will always be those who like you and those who dislike you. You need to have clearly defined self-worth independently.

You can’t “force” people to truly admire you. Respect is something that comes as a result of your values and the way you act on them. If you have to force others to admire you, that only makes you seem more weak and insecure.

Which you are.

No matter how big you are, no matter how many people you beat up, or never let anybody “disrespect you”, you will never seem like you are respected. If you care about what any stranger on the street thinks of you, you will never be respected.

Because caring about always being respect is a sign of insecurity.

How To Actually Get People’s Respect

Let’s say you’re out with your girlfriend and some drunk guy walks up and starts hitting on her. What do you?

Do you tell him to back off? Shove him away? Ask him to fight you? What if you can’t fight? Do you still need to fight?

I mean, you could just let your girlfriend handle it on her own, but then all the random strangers around you won’t know what a badass you are, right? And self-confidence means constantly proving yourself to anybody, anywhere, at any time, right?

Wait, or is that insecurity?

You could, for example, match the guy’s level of excitement and engage him the same way that he does your girlfriend. Instead of getting jealous for no reason and acting like an undeveloped child, you could make it into a game.

Start complimenting him, asking him personal questions, and “just having fun”. The guy will probably get confused by this and awkwardly leave. You and your girlfriend will get a laugh out of it and continue your evening.

No drama. No jealousy. No macho-bullshit. Just confidence.

Take a look at people you respect. Take a look at people around you who you believe are respected. Now, imagine you walked up to them and said: “Hey, you suck!”

man with a megaphone yelling illustration
After all, boos always come from the cheap seats.

How do you think they would react?

Would they fight you? Would they start insulting you back or explaining how and why they don’t suck? Or would they not care about your opinion at all?

If you’re walking down the street and some homeless guy yells an insult at you, you can either take it personally and beat them up or you can say “whatever” and continue walking.

In the first case, your actions show that you have a need to constantly prove yourself to anybody who challenges you. Your actions show that you are willing to drop anything at any moment for anybody who might antagonize you because you are so insecure that you have a constant need to prove yourself to everybody.

On the other hand, if you simply ignore him, you show that you don’t care about every single person’s opinion because you are confident enough in yourself to know how much you’re worth.

You don’t need others to tell you how much you’re worth.

Confidence is walking with your head high even when a bird craps on your head. A confident person will smile, wipe it off, and continue walking without thinking twice about how some random strangers on the street reacted.

After all, people — especially strangers — don’t even care about you at all. They’re not even looking at you. Even if they see you, they will never think twice about you. Everybody cares only about their own reality.

Stop caring about others’ opinions. That is the only way people will respect you.

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