Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nobody Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent

Eleanor Roosevelt, a far wiser person than her philandering Presidential husband, said: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

A champion indigenous Australian Rules footballer was racially abused while playing on Friday night. He was very upset and explained how he was 'gutted.'

The person who racially abused him was a 13 year-old girl who escorted by security out of the grounds, and quite rightly so. The footballer, who is the epitome of grace and dignity, did not blame the young girl and did not see retribution. Rather, he sought support and education for the young girl and questioned the environment in which she was taught it was okay to racially abuse another person.

It is human, apparently, to be upset by what another person says. The footballer was made to feel inferior, or upset, because he gave the racist 13yo girl consent. What would have happened if he hadn't have given the racist 13yo girl consent?

Other people's words have no meaning until we give them meaning. It is only when we give them meaning that they affect us. Her calling him an 'ape' could have taken on the meaning of being called a 'tiger' if he had chosen to do so, irrespective of what she actually intended it to mean.

I was training two people who have had a falling out. One of them reacted to something the other person said. He felt he had to 'stand up' for himself, which means he felt he was being threatened in some way. Not physically, but in some other ego defined way.

Whether or not the other person means it in a particular way is largely irrelevant to how we respond. We have to interpret their words in a particular way in order to elicit a particular response from ourselves. We have to consent to feeling inferior. We have to consent to feeling offended. We have to consent to feeling threatened. We have to consent to feeling attacked.

In addition to attempting to address what people (e.g. bullies, racists, etc) say, shouldn't we also be attempting to empower people by teaching them how to take away consent. Shouldn't we be teaching people that what people say can be considered to be just 'white noise.'

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