“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Those are profound words by the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
As a child, I was painfully shy. I never looked anyone in the eye. I wasn’t as pretty as all the other girls. We had so very little, and everyone else had so much more. I just knew I would never be as good as they were. I accepted my role. I was the smart little girl who though she could be something probably never would be because she just wasn’t raised that way!
By the time I became a teenager I had embraced my role. Though I had aspirations to become a lawyer or an accountant, I realized those dreams were simply that….dreams. I knew I was smart enough. In fact, I was smarter than many of the better children. They were better than me because they didn’t live the life I lived. They didn’t harbor the secrets I harbored. They didn’t live with a monster!
The monster in my house didn’t live under the bed. He lived down the hall. He constantly let both my mother and I know that we were nothing and never would be. Like sheep, we accepted our fate. Our independence was to be slaughtered, and we would live lives of forced submission.
But, when I was fifteen, my mother, who for ten years had obeyed, took a stand. For the first time in my life, my mother had chosen me! She stood up, and then we walked out together. We wouldn’t let him make us inferior anymore!
For three years we struggled. There were times when we had no food or hope, and yet somehow I managed through high school, graduating with honors.
My next move was to leave town. I wanted to escape to a place where no one knew my name, and no one had any preconceived notions about me. I was looking for a chance to be equal. I did not make it far, in fact only as far as a university in the next town. But there I was able to blend and appeared to be just as good as anyone else. I worked nearly full time hours and managed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English Education.
Even then I didn’t understand that I wasn’t actually inferior. It was in my second year of teaching when I came across the quote by Mrs. Roosevelt. And it was then that I realized I had spent my whole life being less than everyone else because I allowed them to make me believe I was less.
There are still times when that scared, little girl makes me hesitate before a crowd or with a new group of people, reminding me they are so much better than I am. When she does, I force her into silence because I am just as good as anyone else. It just took me a while to believe it!
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