Feeling Superior? Feeling Inferior? It’s All The Same!
What, you say? How could feeling superior and inferior to others be the same thing? Well, I’ve come to the conclusion recently that they are, and it’s helped me feel a greater connectedness to everyone, an essential ingredient for our evolution. Let’s explain.
Here’s a quick exercise: (really do this) visualize a few people to whom you feel superior (yeah, I know we’re not supposed to feel that way, but get over yourself for a moment and admit that you do). Once you’ve got these people in mind (could be someone you know specifically or a general group of people with whom that you come in contact), try to tap into the feeling you get around these people and describe it.
What’s that feeling like? Is it tied to some characteristic where you’ve ranked yourself higher in your mind? Do you see yourself as smarter, richer, more attractive, more self-assured, of a higher class, more experienced? How does this self ranking and feeling affect your interactions with these people? Do you hold back from sharing who you really are with them? Do you restrict your interactions with them? Does your sense of superiority preclude you from really getting to know them as a person?
My point here is not to make you feel guilty over the barrier you place between yourself and those people to whom you feel superior. Instead, I simply want to consider how you feel in relation to them and how your internal judgments keep you from connecting with them.
Okay, let’s look at the flip side: (again, do this!) visualize a few people to whom you feel inferior (come on, we’ve all got a few of these too). Is there anybody you idolize or put on a pedestal? Anybody with whom you have a hard time speaking because you get nervous? Anybody you hold back from interacting with because you don’t consider yourself in the same league? Again, tap into the feeling you get around these people and describe it.
What’s this feeling like? Is it tied to some characteristic where you rank yourself lower in your mind? Do you see them as smarter, richer, more attractive, more self-assured, of a higher class, more experienced? How does this self ranking and feeling affect your interactions with these people? Do you hold back from sharing who you really are with them? Do you restrict your interactions with them? Does your sense of inferiority preclude you from really getting to know them as a person?
Yes, I realize that most of us sense a difference in the internal feeling between superiority and inferiority. Many of us may say that when we feel superior to someone, there is no fear on our part in interacting with them, rather it’s more a personal discernment where we choose not to interact with them. You then might say that when you feel inferior to someone, you have discerned that you might love to interact with them but you are afraid.
But is this perception of a difference really true? Or, is it a story that we tell ourselves out of self protection?
Could it be that we tell ourselves we are either inferior or superior to people for the same purpose? Could it be we create the feeling we experience in order to justify concerns we may have on truly letting these people “know us” as we really are?
One more exercise: take the people that you felt superior to previously and this time visualize yourself as inferior to them. Consider in your mind that you are not worthy of their friendship. Truly try to create that feeling and stay with it for a moment. Now, take the people to whom you previously felt inferior and generate a sense of superiority to them. Consider in your mind that they are not worthy of your friendship. Stay with that feeling for a moment.
Were you able to create the feelings in both situations? If not, go back and try again. (I might add that if you’ve been reading this entire article on an intellectual level and not trying to tap into the feelings, you may not “get” the point I’m making here.)
If you were able to create the feelings, then you may begin to realize at a deep level that you are neither superior nor inferior to anyone, you are simply allowing your thoughts to create the feeling. How else could you feel superior to someone one moment and inferior to them the next? The feeling that we experience of being superior or inferior to others is simply a story we tell ourselves.
Why do we create this story in our minds? To wall ourselves off from other people. We know who we really are at our deepest and most intimate levels. We know where we are living up to our highest possibilities and where we are not. This person that we are that we know so well, we frequently fear sharing with others. The rankings we create in our minds regarding other people and how they are better or worse than us have nothing to do with them — it’s all about us.
This awareness deepened for me recently during a meditation contemplating why there were certain people with whom I felt uncomfortable talking. I realized that there were feelings of inferiority with some of the people and superiority to others, but in both cases the outcome was the same – I was unable to “be myself” around them, to let them get to know me. As I realized that all the judgment was really about me, I was able to break down my internal walls and be more open around everyone.
When we can release our external judgments towards others as being inferior or superior to us, then we move closer to seeing them as they really are — simply another human being walking their path and worthy of our letting our hair down and letting them know our true self. As we come to realize that any judgments about others as really being about ourselves, then we have taken a major step towards our own healing. As we release these self judgments, we began to open up and connect more freely with others. We begin to lower the barriers and allow others to really know us as we are and we feel a deeper sense of connectedness.
When we can begin to do this, we move to a sense of freedom that we have not previously experienced. We are free to show up in the world as we really are and fearlessly connect with everyone from that deep place with only love — both for them and for ourselves.