“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”E. Roosevelt
Love this from Eleanor Roosevelt.
There are all kinds of reasons why people might consider others inferior. Class, gender, looks, race, nationality, religion, accent, sexuality, relationship status, neurotype, name, outfit, wealth, education, job title, organisation. To name but a few.
I’m hoping that putting them there, together, in one list, shows them up for how ridiculous they are.
We all do it, though. We judge others, as we judge ourselves, based upon learned beliefs around what makes a person special. In a society built on patriarchy, hierarchy and inequality, there is a lot to unlearn. The day I stopped believing in superiority, is the day I started to question hierarchy and the day I started to feel free to be myself, again.
For me, it was a long relationship with mindfulness that exploded the belief that some people are better than others. Just because they’ve achieved more, done more, learnt more. Just because they look better, sound better, dress better. Are they really better than me? Are they more worthy? And if they are, does that make me more worthy than others?
No, of course not.
I’m a bit nervous writing this next bit in case potential consultancy clients think that my lack of belief in hierarchy means I’m a renegade that will blow open their years of work in establishing the controls that make the organisation ‘work’.
Well, I might. But that’s not the point.
You can still have respect for hierarchy without believing that the people at the top are better or more worthy than those at the bottom. (Although please, let’s create something that doesn’t have a top and bottom.)
You can still respect that it is there for a reason for structure and that it can help to hold things together. You can still respect that someone’s role is to set the goals and vision of the organisation, whilst another’s role is to deliver against that vision.
But the respect you deserve as a leader is respect that is deserved by every human. Leaders have not earnt additional respect nor worth. They just play a slightly different role in the bigger picture of getting things done.
My ask to everyone is to question yourself if you are ever thinking someone is superior to you. Whatever the reason you think it, be curious about it, is it really true? (Spoiler – it’s not.)
And if they’re not superior, then you’re not inferior.
And if you’re not inferior, then, surely, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.