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This is one of a series of brief articles on how
to respond effectively to annoying social
behavior. An effective response occurs
when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
heard and respected enough.
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on
"shame-based" (psychologically-wounded) people::
This article offers useful responses to
someone who seems to feel significantly
inferior.It assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit Web site and the
HOW would you describe the feeling
of inferiority? How would you define it for an
average pre-teen? Some
(wounded) people feel inferior in general, and
others feel inferior in a particular role (like
love-making, cooking, or parenting) or a local
situation (like public speaking, a new job,
If you know someone who seems to feel inferior
in some way, keep them in mind as you read.
Feeling inferior ("I'm not a good / smart /
strong / creative / attractive / fun / etc. a
you are.") often causes behavioral symptoms. Can
you name some? How about...
chuckling and/or stuttering,
a lot of "Ums,"
"Uhs," and "I don't know's," and...
pessimism and uncertainty.
Can you think of
other telltale behaviors? Note that inferiority
(shame) can cause local or chronic anxiety
Reflect - when you're with an adult or child who's
burdened by self-doubt and inferiority, what do you
usually feel? Compassion? Scorn (disrespect)?
Impatient? Critical? Frustrated? Superior?
Responsible? Guilty? "Nothing"? If you feel
"uncomfortable," can you say why?
What do you usually do? Repress your
feelings? Chide the person? Reassure them? Lecture?
Counsel or advise? Use humor? Pretend? What would it
take to feel comfortable with them? What do you
need? Paradoxically, logic ("You have nothing to
feel inferior about!") or reassuring ("You're such a
great person!") will usually make the other person
feel misunderstood, flawed, and worse.
If you know someone with symptoms of low self
esteem, keep them in mind as you consider these...
they become automatic. Then Imagine how these responses might feel...
Check your attitude.
If you feel "I-up" (superior), that suggests a
false self rules you. That attitude will
probably come across no matter what you say, and
may cause or amplify their feeling inferior.
Remind yourself that
their feeling inferior is their problem, not
yours. You aren't responsible for fixing them
(unless it's your child, or you're broadcasting
Identify what you
need now with this person - e.g. to vent, to
inform, to "help," or something else. Beware
of offering help that isn't asked for - that can
feel like a put down!
s/he is open to some personal feedback. If not,
respect that. If so, try responses like these if
they feel right...
"(Name), when you chuckle so much / avoid eye
contact / apologize so often / slump / put
yourself down / etc. I feel
"You seem to feel 1-down / uneasy /
self-doubting / apologetic / self-critical /
when we're together (or in general)."
"Why are you
apologizing? You haven't bothered me."
"(Name), when you
often have trouble giving me eye contact, I feel
"Do you know that I
respect you as a dignified, worthy person?"
"I feel at times you
have trouble respecting yourself. (Is that so?)"
"Am I doing anything
that makes you feel 1-down / put down /
"(Name), who do you
feel most comfortable with? Least
"I'm sad you have
trouble recognizing and enjoying your talents
"In your experience,
how do people gain self respect and self
How do these responses compare with your normal way
of reacting to "inferiority"? Notice the pattern:
these responses are brief, direct, sincere, honest,
and respectful. No long explanations, illustrations, apologies, shoulds, ought to's, need
to's, have to's, or moralizing. How do you feel a
shame-based person would react to responses like
This is one of a series of illustrations on
effective responses to annoying social behaviors.
This article offers ways of understanding and
responding effectively to someone who feels local or
chronic inferiority. The
ways are based on...