No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent
Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady and wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, is attributed with saying one of my favorite quotes: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
When I first read this quote, however, I disagreed. Plenty of people had made me feel inferior and I did not consent to it (read Don’t Let Bullies Ruin Your Life – Parts 1 and 2). What could she possibly mean? And what made her, a woman born into immense wealth and privilege, qualified to make such a statement?
After researching her life, I discovered she was more than qualified. Although she was a member of a high society, her life was not free of low periods. She lost both parents by the age of eleven, her husband – who was also her fifth cousin once removed – was unfaithful and, during her marriage, she acquiesced to the will of a domineering mother-in-law. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and enclosing herself in the comfort and luxury her wealth could afford, she became a proponent of civil rights, an advocate of women’s rights and an eloquent speaker. She did not allow the hurt she experienced to crush her self-worth or her purpose.
Like Mrs. Roosevelt, we should not let the opinions or actions of others determine how we feel about ourselves. This is not to say that people don’t do or say things to make others feel inferior. During Mrs. Roosevelt’s lifetime, there were laws enacted that designated certain groups as second-class citizens. Currently, there is bullying across the world despite the push to stop it. Words can hurt as much as a fist. Sometimes, the pain of an insult can hurt worse than a punch to the gut because it tends to travel with us like carry-on luggage.
Although there may be unfair policies and practices, although that person did you wrong or was cruel, you cannot give in. You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control your reactions to them. To allow another person’s negative opinion to affect your opinion of yourself is to be in agreement with the negativity. We should all take the stance of “Just because this law states I’m a second-class citizen, I am not,” and “Just because that person says I’m ugly and dumb, I am not.”
This, of course, is a learned behavior that goes against natural instinct. As Mrs. Roosevelt’s life illustrates, it can be achieved. We are not defined by our circumstances or other people’s opinions…unless we consent to it.