Today I had an experience that put me in mind of the classic Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. I showed up to do some work, and the vibe I got was that I was a too-eager nobody. As I skulked from the room, cheeks ablaze and embarrassed at my mistake, I wondered why I suddenly felt horrible about myself. I wondered why I had babbled apologies and left as quickly as possible. I wondered why I felt like the next time I go to the office I will feel anxious and wary.
The truth is, there was probably no intention on the part of the person to whom I spoke to make me feel the way I did. I don’t believe, looking back, that I was made to feel that way- something in me used the situation to reinforce a core belief of my inner-critic: that I am unwanted. I, in essence, was the one making myself feel inferior. I didn’t consciously say to myself “you are unwanted here, you are inferior”, but I retreated into that part of me that is my own harshest critic. I gave myself permission to feel embarrassed and anxious. The situation went from a simple misunderstanding to a harsh personal blow in a split second.
The recognition of what was really going on is very important for me. In the past, I’ve let things like this keep me from getting involved and living my life to its fullest potential. I’ve let whispered conversations that really have nothing to do with me take on perjorative meanings aimed my way. I’ve shuffed through parties with every effort to be invisible, lest someone thing I’m weird. I will no longer let this crippling social anxiety get the better of me. This is easier said than done, but talking myself through situations such as today’s is helpful.
Little by little, I’m coming to realize that I am the one who needs to trust and believe in myself. Without the confidence and self-knowledge, and without self-appreciation, I can’t get what I need out of social relationships. Because it’s true what they say- no one can make you feel inferior, weaker, or less of a person without your permission.