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?