No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
– Eleanor Roosevelt.
More and more those close to me are being made to feel inferior. These are intelligent, witty, funny, sarcastic, giving, helpful, loving, lively, beautiful- inside and out- people. Too often this quote is used to brush off an offense when someone hurts us. And it’s easy to walk away when the offender is a stranger or someone we deem inconsequential. Sometimes. It’s much less easy to embrace this thought when the person who demeans us is a person we love, or loved, opened our hearts to, embraced, and for whom we’ve become vulnerable. Eleanor was right, a person can only make us feel inferior if we’ve given them permission to do so. But the problem is, by default, those whose opinions of ourselves we value most are the ones with the permission to devalue us.
I fear I’m getting too cerebral or abstract to effectively make my point. When two people meet they have several options on how to proceed or not proceed with a relationship- friendship or romantic. If they choose to create a bond, the closer two people become, the more of themselves they share- the more of themselves they give as a gift to the other person. And the more one person gives of who they are, the more ammunition the other person has to destroy them, but the vulnerability is done with the understanding of trust and reciprocation. Many times this works out: marriage, family, life-long friends. Unfortunately, the majority of the people I love the most have been betrayed after giving, in faith, who they are- dreams, fears, passions, goals, weaknesses- to someone.
The betrayal hurts. It hurts them and it hurts me. It hurts those who are left to pick up the shattered remains of a vibrant life now dulled. And so often it seems the one who did the damage walks away unscathed. The imbalance leaves the injured party with more questions than they can fully express. It leaves a hole where they used to be whole. It leaves an ache sharp and deep that steals their breath and makes their emotions bleed out. The destruction left in the wake is physically unseen, fully felt, but barely expressible beyond paltry offerings of metaphors and similes.
So yes, a person can only make you feel inferior if you give them permission, but that permission is usually granted as a ‘Terms Of Service’ type of unspoken agreement when a person opens up and trusts another with the understanding that each person won’t breach the agreement. It is not permission in the sense of encouraging or condoning someone to tear you down and leave you in shambles; it’s a part of the trust you build with another to keep your weak parts protected, your vulnerable parts covered, your insecure parts shielded, and your precious parts loved. Those who have the means with which to make you feel inferior are the exact people you shouldn’t have to fear as the ones who would. In a perfect world.