“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
The last time I referred back to this quote for guidance was when I was in heavy disagreement with one of my good friends in college. We got into such a heated debate that she ended up leaving me at a crowded restaurant all by myself, my food only half eaten. I also soon left only to find myself stomping around the park across the street sobbing profusely.
When I look back at that moment and hear the echo of this quote, I imagined a sense of empowerment and reassurance would have flood over me. But the more I thought about it, the more confusing it became; the less satisfied I felt. I was crying in that park because someone made me feel bad about myself. The argument ended with their last words, not mine. I was silenced by the emptiness of their absence and a longing to tell them something that I didn’t have the power to say.
I avoided my friend for many weeks after that incident. Even today, I can still feel a hollowness in our friendship; a distance that I continue to create every time I reject her invitations to “hang out”. For a long time, I struggled to understand why I held on to this quote even when it failed to help me in my most troubling time.
This quote doesn’t give me instructions, it doesn’t tell me the ‘how’ . “How do I make someone not make me feel inferior, even without my consent”? Its not like I can just go up to her and say, “Its ok. Your words don’t hurt me because I won’t let them. I didn’t give you permission to disrespect me so therefore I do not feel inferior when I’m around you”.
After a few months of letting this quote sit on the back-burner, I think I’ve finally figured out what Eleanor Roosevelt was trying to say: its all in your head.
Its not the attitudes and words of others that hurt you, its your own attitudes and your own words that cause you pain. When Roosevelt said “no one” she really meant “you”. Now, whenever I read this quote I always translate it as,
“No one, including yourself, can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
A lot of my anxiety comes from within me, not outside factors like friends, schools, etc. Its always how I perceive the world around me that causes me to panic.
Now, whenever I feel stressed or have an anxiety attack, I will remember that the only reason I feel inferior in my time of torment is because I let myself feel this way. I gave myself permission to feel inferior and therefore can easily take away that same power. Knowing that I have these abilities makes me feel a whole lot better. 🙂