Stop Putting People Up on Pedestals
There’s a better way to build relationships
We all look up to people
It’s difficult not to because there are people out there doing some amazing things.
- Some people create art, like poetry, music and movies
- Some people create a different kind of art and grow some revolutionary companies
- Some people blow your mind with how far into self-mastery they have travelled
There are many different reasons to look up to people who do something amazing with their lives.
And there’s nothing really wrong with looking up to people because they move us in some way, they inspire us, and they even help us discover parts of ourselves that we didn’t know existed — that’s beautiful.
But you see, we often cross a line when we look up to people — we sometimes put them so far above us that we sort of revere them and think them to be better than us.
- We do this with those we believe to be the most attractive
- We do this with the most successful business folk
- We even do this with those who have more money, cars and possessions
We could find any reason to put others above us.
But I wonder if we know what we’re doing to ourselves
You see, on a deeper level, we’re creating what the book, The Courage to be Disliked, calls a Vertical Relationship.
We’re finding a reason to put others above us or put them below us. We’re creating a sort of hierarchical relationship where there’s the superior and the inferior — there are those on the pedestal and there are those who are not. It may or may not be the way reality is, but it’s how we perceive reality.
Maybe this relationship works in certain environments and situations, but I am not sure whether it’s the way we should see the world and the people around us because there’s so much room for destructive thoughts and emotions, like envy, resentment and discouragement.
And there’s always this power struggle underlying many of the things we say and do.
- I see it sometimes in old school friends who try to prove who accomplished more
- I see it in people who try to live up to their parent’s expectations
- I see it in people who argue and try to prove who is right
- I see it at the gym with ego-lifters who try to put themselves above others
- I even see it in friends who anxiously wait for an attractive person to respond to their texts
Regardless of the scenario, many of us often find ourselves in the midst of these power struggles trying to find our place in a vertical relationship.
But we give up something so important in these power struggles
We give up our freedom.
Think about it — when you’re in those power struggles, you’re no longer free because you’re trapped by what others think of you and you’re heavily dependent on how they respond to and validate you. It’s like being trapped in an endless tug-o-war match — if you lose, you will be at the bottom of the relationship, and if you win, you will be at the top.
Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re in those power struggles because we’re blinded by our ego or led astray by our fears and insecurities.
And then there’s the anxiety, the anxiety that can break you down and make you feel worthless, or make you act irrationally and build up a lot of self-resentment.
I know that we have to suffer for what we want in this life, but to be free means we get to choose what we want to suffer for, and I don’t know if we can live a good life and be in the middle of these tug-o-war battles at the same time.
So, I have come to learn that there is a better way to build relationships
Instead of jumping into the next power struggle and building(or reinforcing) a vertical relationship, the book talks about building horizontal relationships.
When you look at relationships horizontally, there’s a big mental shift because you start to look at everyone as equals.
There are no more pedestals, even for the rich, famous and accomplished. There’s no power struggle to prove who is better or who is worth more. There’s only an understanding that everyone is a human being finding their way through life with the cards they’ve been dealt.
I found this perspective to be humbling and encouraging because instead of praising people and thinking them to be better than you, or discouraging people and thinking you’re better than them, you can appreciate people, you can acknowledge them and you can be inspired by them.
And you’re no longer projecting your fears and insecurities onto others and asking them to directly or indirectly validate you — you’re approaching your fears and insecurities in a way that helps you own them and take care of them without letting them affect the relationships you build.
It’s really beautiful, you know.
And it’s an honest perspective that begins in one place
Well, one place that I know of — it begins in you.
As I was writing this, I noticed that vertical relationships are a two-way perspective — it’s initiated by the first person and validated by the second person as they react to it.
- Your friends force you into bad habits and you hesitantly agree with them
- Your parents force you to follow their dreams and beliefs, and you reluctantly accept them as your own
- Your boss takes advantage of your work ethic and you willingly give in to it each time
Regardless of the scenario, vertical relationships are a two-way perspective.
But if one person had to break that mould and hold a different perspective, then that relationship changes, it won’t be vertical anymore regardless of who tries to assert their dominance with the power struggle.
Now, I know that we all have attachments that we use as reasons to reinforce the perspectives we hold, but if we wish to find any sense of peace in our lives, then we shouldn’t expect this horizontal perspective to come from others first because we can’t control them — so, it has to start with us.
It takes courage to do this because not everyone is willing to accept or understand this perspective, not immediately, but for those who do, they are the ones who really want to be in your lives — remember that.
So, don’t expect others to always validate the perspective you hold, if they do, that’s up to them to decide, but until then, you have to sort of lead by example, you have to first do it for yourself.
Because it always comes back to you
Look, I understand that it’s difficult not to suffer for the things that you strive towards and you may always find some fear or insecurity that will find you in a power struggle where you argue with someone or feel a bit of envy.
But the goal is to be aware of yourself so that you don’t put others above you or below you to satisfy something that’s sort of neglected within — the goal is to recognize this bad habit so that you can stop it from controlling you and robbing you of your freedom.
Even though this is a process that takes practice(especially if you’ve been negatively programmed), over time you will build authentic relationships with others and yourself because you stopped hiding away the pieces of yourself that make you feel alive.
So, the next time you find yourself putting others above you or below you, take a moment to step out of that power struggle and see what’s really going on and let that help you move towards your freedom(whatever that means to you).
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Invest in your existence,