“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt (1901–1962)
Amongst the common blessings of fellowship with others, where we share problems and complaints we thought were isolated to us, and then learnt there is nothing new under the sun, is also the curse that we compare.
We begin to say to ourselves as we look at others’ lives, “Their kids are better than mine,” or “Her marriage is more satisfying,” or “He’s got a better job than me.” We can begin to say these things, and many more, unconsciously. We know it as a private sense of envy, and envy is always based deep below on the fear of inferiority. We want to appear bigger and more impressive than we feel we are. Our self-perception is too small. But such a pattern of thinking is destructive and we hardly recognise it.
What we see here in our pattern of thinking is that it is only us, ourselves, who has denigrated ourselves. We have granted permission and given free consent to feeling inferior in comparison to others.
The truth is comparisons with others are irrelevant. But we have learned to compare and to rate ourselves against ‘established’ human standards. Another truth is we have established these standards and most of the time these standards are grounded in an unfair-for-everyone perfectionism, not realism.
Rising to a Better Standard
Well, of course, we know there is a superior standard to that of the human standard. That standard is God, not that we are to compare ourselves against an impossible yardstick.
Rising to a better standard is simply about two things: 1) accepting our imperfections and the prevalence of mistakes and errors because we are human, and 2) having the courage to learn God’s will and apply it as much as we are able without making unnecessary excuses.
Rising to a better standard is about understanding we are as flawed and as magnificent as the next person. Nothing much separates one human from another, certainly as we would compare ourselves as humans to God incarnate, Jesus Christ.
When we understand what little difference there is between us—whoever we are comparing ourselves with—in comparison with God—we laugh at our inferior feelings.
At last we can say, “There are 7 billion people just like me.” We are all capable of brilliance and atrocity.
Why would we volunteer to put ourselves down? Wherever we compare ourselves to others we experience the opposite of follies—narcissistic pride and unworthy humiliation. Both exist at the extremes.
Nurturing a healthy self-esteem is as simple as rejecting comparisons with others, whilst embracing our worthiness in God, due the obedience of Jesus of Nazareth. Only God can make us feel really special to be a sinner who needs not to compare.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.