No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
This quote by a wonderfully inspiring woman of the 20th century, Eleanor Roosevelt, falls right into my soul and resonates within my heart. I wish I could tell you that I’ve always been wise enough to know this truth but if I put my hand on my heart, I must admit I’ve learnt it the hard way, not without shedding a few precious tears, after a series of heartbreaks, bitter experiences and some rude shocks!
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve hesitated to try new things or new experiences because I’ve burnt my fingers so badly in my past experiences, almost certain, that I don’t have the ability to succeed. So many times, in fact, that I’ve hated myself for it. If you’ve been anything like me, I’m sure you would nod in agreement. As a consequence to that, how often have we suffered from self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy imagining, usually falsely, what a low opinion others have of us? Not just once, but countless times. In fact, many of us continue to suffer from this even though we know we shouldn’t. It seems often, like a quagmire that sucks us into the vortex making us feel lowly of ourselves in an endless spiral.
If we only had to deal with ourselves, it would have been much simpler. The problem gets compounded when we encounter certain kinds of people who reinforce this feeling of inadequacy in us, manifold, so much so, that we start believing them more than ever.
It takes all kinds to make this world. Unfortunately, some people come into our lives as lessons, who seem to think that the only way to build themselves up is to go around tearing others down. If you have encountered this category of people, I am almost certain that you may have allowed their criticism to affect your judgment of yourselves and your abilities. I know I did. And it put me through some serious soul-searching as I questioned myself repeatedly, where did it all go so wrong?
Every time we look back we can all see how often we’ve sold ourselves short and, by doing this, invited others to pass a judgement on us and our abilities. William Hazlitt once said, “He who undervalues himself is justly undervalued by others.” Isn’t it only obvious that if we have a low opinion of ourselves, we will only invite others to share that opinion?
That is precisely the point from where we need to change the course of things. We must realise that the way we feel is always a matter of our individual choice and not compulsion. Why should we ever give away that power to others – the power to control the way we feel and how we see ourselves, our self-esteem and our self-worth? Why? Because that is the very essence of who we are.
When we give away that power to others, we subordinate ourselves to someone else. How we feel about ourselves depends not just on external influences but, to a large extent, on the psychological makeup of a person, which, therefore, is controlled by the person himself/herself. The feeling of superiority and inferiority is directly rooted in the way we identify ourselves. These feelings reside within us and only appear depending on the situation we are in.
For instance, as a professional or a mother, or even a writer/blogger, I may feel overwhelmed when I compare myself to others and realise that my talent, capability, or efficiency are no match with those around me, leaving me to feel inferior and suffer from negative self-esteem. Or, perhaps somebody makes a remark or shows me by way of their attitudes, that they are far superior to me, how should I feel then? Should I accept their opinions and start believing who they think I am or should I rely on my self-worth and decide otherwise? More often than not, the most important thing that we are missing here is that it is we who decide how we want to feel. It is fair to say that there is only one person who gets to define who we are and that is us.
But this is not to say that we exist as isolated entities. There are times when we also need to take into consideration the opinions and feedback from others in order to accomplish our goals. At times we need validation by those around us for things we do. More often than not, this leads to a dependency on our part of what others think of us, of who we are and how we do things and consequently, we fall into a trap of believing we are what others think we are.
In my opinion, every time we look to others for feedback, constructive criticism or validation, we must be able to evaluate the source of that opinion/feedback before deciding whether or not to accept it. Essentially, this means being able to tell the difference between someone who is deriding us or belittling us, and the others offering us constructive criticism, as a way to encourage us to improve where we are lacking or lagging behind. It is really up to us how we use that feedback to our advantage. There may be things that we do well as much as those that we don’t. At no time, however, does it mean that we stop believing in ourselves or doubt our worth as a human being.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “No man is good enough to govern another man without the other’s consent.” Clearly, it is up to us to make the decision as to which we will hold dear, and which we will ignore. Why give away the keys to our self-worth to another when we’re better off keeping it to ourselves?
Imagine, if someone came in right now and told you were somehow less of a person because you couldn’t do something they could, would you believe them, or would you be able to refuse to give your consent to them?
(Linking this post to #Friday Reflections hosted by Corinne of Write Tribe and Sanch of Living My Imperfect Life)
It’s such a wonderful quote, isn’t it? I spend half my work life trying to teach adolescents and kids that — that words and opinions of others don’t really matter. In the end, they are just that — words and opinions. They don’t make you who you are. Great post! 🙂
Absolutely agree with you on this Sanch! And thanks much for your appreciation 🙂
I’ve been there, Esha. We just need to believe in ourselves. We all are unique in our own ways. Beautiful post.
Thanks for your reassurance Payal! Much thanks for the appreciation 🙂
No matter how many times we tell ourselves to not heed the other’s words, it still makes us brood over their comments. It’s difficult to keep up our self esteem if all we get are negative criticisms. As long as we have support and appreciation from any side to boost our confidence, and we build up our self respect, nobody’s words can affect us unless we choose to. A very thoughtful and inspiring piece, Esha !
Thank you so much, Darshana! You are right about how we realise the truth and yet fall a victim to our own gullibility. Must stand up for what we believe in and have self-confidence enough to banish those words from getting in our way!
I totally agree with you here. We are meant to govern ourselves and our feelings are a result of our choosing…noone else gets to tell us how to feel. There are times, like you said, where we can trust someone to give us counsel or guidance but only after using discernment in whether or not to let them speak into our lives. Often times we can’t control what someone may say to us, but we can choose how we respond. Great, though -provoking piece!
Thanks a lot. Glad to know that there are many others who think that way. Sometimes, we may fall for it but we must control our response very carefully. I’m totally with you on this one. Much thanks for sharing your thoughts here 🙂
Esha!!! I’ve been through that several times where I felt like shit, owing to others judgement or the attitude Papa knows best, The funny thing is that people are themselves lacking. There are so many times I have internalized this behavior and when I didn’t, I became angry like hell which affected me as well. What an empowering post.
Love the William Hazlitt quote, “He who undervalues himself is justly undervalued by others.” It something my mentor reminded me when I accepted a paltry salary. I didn’t repeat the mistake when I was offered peanuts this year.
There are people like that who have a superior feeling about themselves and they can only prosper by putting others’ down. You write so well, flawless and your words always strike the rich chords in the soul. One of the best thing I read today.
Ah, Vishal! So glad this struck a chord in you! I feel I’m successful when my words touch someone and they can relate to my thoughts and ideas expressed therein. Believe me, I have been there so many times that I can almost feel what you are saying about your own experiences…Life is funny in a strange kind of way and often brings us those very things that we have been looking for at times when we have no need for that. But we are all sensible enough to not fall for it, aren’t we? Albeit after a few heartbreaks and broken promises, but nonetheless wise. Good you didn’t accept that measly sum…never compromise on such things…they’ll realise your worth, sooner or later but you stick to your guns! And by the way, thanks a ton for the share and the appreciation. It feel wonderful to hear that from someone who writes so beautifully!
Very well said. I love that quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. Somehow I needed to read this today as a reminder. Thanks
Thanks Suzy! So glad you liked it. Hope you had a good weekend 🙂
A beautiful post that will resonate with most of us.
We are often affected by what others say or feel about us and that is the cause of the misery and pain we suffer from . I remember the tale of Buddhacwhen someone hurls abuse upon him and Buddha refuses the ‘gift’ saying that if I do not accept it, it will go back to you. The short tale tells us to remain unaffected by others’ opinions and instead find peace with oneself.
Thanks much Sunaina!Happy to know this struck a chord in you. Thats a lovely example of how to deal with unwanted ‘gifts’ that come our way so often. I must apply it sometime and feel the pressure lifting off! Thanks for sharing the beautiful story btw 🙂
I have spent a long time, which almost seems like a life time, with my remote control in others’ hands. They would press any button and I would end up feeling exactly as they wanted me to – self-doubting, inadequate feeling, inferior and also an alien because I never could fit in. Touching the abyss and rising back gave me the power of snatching that remote control back in my hands. Self-doubt hits me even now but I know now I created it myself so I have the power to deal with it and overcome it. Answering your question, if someone makes me feel inferior because they can do something which I cannot- I would give my assent to them if that could make them feel good, even hype their goodness. Weaker souls look around for validations to feel high. This prevents further tussle. At the same time I would not let myself to create a ripple inside since I know I am special and unique with or without their quality.
I’m so glad you shared your thoughts here Anamika! Glad to know that for you those days are over when others dictated how you felt. Feels so much more empowering to know that we control our responses, isn’t it? I know a lot of us look for validation and yet, there is really no need for that because we decide what we want and how we’d like to go about it. Others mean only as much as we want them to be…the sooner we get this message the better for us.