“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt – Self-Esteem
What is the best way to raise your self esteem?
All students know at some level what it feels like to be humiliated. When this happens, the person who is hurt has a decision to make, he/she can either buy into the criticism and be made to feel small and insignificant or he/she can resist feelings of inferiority and defeat the criticism through positive thinking. It takes energy to build and maintain a strong self-esteem in the midst of criticism and humiliation, but it’s energy well spent and leads to the development of a strong character.
Join teachers Dan and Steve Fouts for a conversation on self-esteem using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Dan Fouts: 0:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We’re teachers who created the Teach Different podcast to model how to have unforgettable classroom conversations using a simple 3-step method with quotes from some of the world’s great thinkers. This method works in any subject area or level, including diverse learners and English language learners, teachers, administrators, social emotional learning specialists, and parents. If you’re looking for a unique way to think deeply, connect with others, talk about things that really matter, and bring a great conversation back to your school, you’ve come to the right place.
Today’s guest, I guess we can say, is Eleanor Roosevelt, an amazing figure in American history. In celebration of Women’s History Month we thought it would make a lot of sense to profile someone of her stature. Her resume is just incredible. Obviously she was first lady for fourteen years with president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. That puts her in an exclusive category. Now, with presidents only serving two terms, no one will ever achieve that feat. She was very active in women’s rights issues as an American diplomat, serving on the UN Commission for human rights. She was actually at the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights document in 1948, I believe, that became a guiding document expressing the principles of human rights. It was a moral statement for all the world to follow. I was just reading that she was the first woman to have press conferences from the White House. Eleanor had a lot of firsts.
Today, we have one of her best quotes that many of us have probably heard before. It’s a quote about self esteem that we think will work in history, social science, literature, and a variety of subjects in school. It’s also a great social emotional learning theme – self-esteem. Everybody is concerned with self esteem, for themselves, and for the students that they teach. If you are a parent, self esteem is one of your top priorities for your own children. We’re going to say the quote now, when we get to the counterclaim, and then again at the end before we get to the essential question. Her quote, and you may have heard this before, but it’s an amazing one, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
We have a couple people with us today who will be listening and may chime in. If you do choose to chime in, please say your first name, where you’re from, and what you teach. If you are in the classroom, you’re welcome to participate in whatever way you feel comfortable. In your own words, what is Eleanor saying?
Steve Fouts: 4:25 – Claim
When I read this quote the first thing I thought about was a type of philosophy that I studied as an undergraduate in college. It’s called stoic philosophy. The essence of the philosophy is that 99.999% of the world is completely out of your control. What you need to do to become wise is figure out what you do have power to change. The stoics came up with this idea that you have the power to change your attitude toward anything. It doesn’t matter what’s happening in the world, because you choose your own moods, your own hopes, your own aspirations. That was the first thing that I thought of when I read it. It seems like she’s saying don’t let people bring you down. You can pick yourself up at any point. You can’t blame others for your own condition, because you choose your condition on a daily basis. So, why not choose to be hopeful, or to not let people get to you? I see this as a hopeful quote.
Dan Fouts: 5:55
Steve Fouts: 5:58
What’s your take on it, Dan?
Dan Fouts: 6:02
I agree that it’s hopeful. It’s very empowering, actually. If someone is trying to bring you down, humiliate you, is saying something mean, you have to consent to that to have it damage you. You have to listen to it and agree to it before it has an effect on you. It’s almost like there’s a shield over you that protects you. What protects you is your decision about whether or not you’re going to take people’s criticisms, or them telling you that you’re inferior. Are you going to take that or not? Are you going to consent to that, or are you not going to consent to that? If you don’t consent to it, then no matter what people say, you’re protected by your own self-esteem. Steve, is that what you meant by hopeful?
Steve Fouts: 7:11
Yeah, you have the power to decide your own happiness when it comes right down to it. Eleanor Roosevelt was fighting against injustice as a proponent of human rights. Think of all the people in history who have fought against societies and systems that are looking down on certain people as inferior. If you grow up in that environment, the idea that you can mentally overcome it, not let it affect you, and choose your own path, is inspiring. When you’re introducing this to students, depending on the age group, you’ll want to talk about the words inferior and consent to make sure everybody agrees on the definitions. That might be a conversation in and of itself. I think those are two really important words to define when using this quote in the classroom.
Dan Fouts: 8:39
Yeah, I definitely agree. We have a really interesting chat comment from Angela. She says, the gateway to true power is what you allow into your sacred being and what you refuse to accept in your inner spirit and soul. That is beautiful. What are you going to allow to penetrate your shield? Are you going to let that negative remark penetrate your shield? Are you going to let your soul be polluted by what other people say about you? Are you going to protect your inner spirit and soul? That’s a beautiful way of saying it, Angela.
Steve Fouts: 9:33
It’s almost like you have a guardian within your soul that is your protector, keeping stuff out. Maybe not all people are as good at this as Eleanor was. I’m probably stating the obvious, but we’re all affected by others? But, we also know what it’s like to pick ourselves up and move on. This is what makes this quote so inspiring.
Dan Fouts: 10:16
Back to thinking about this in the classroom for younger students, or really any age. A teacher may ask the students to share an example of an experience when someone said something hurtful and they didn’t allow it to hurt or impact them in a negative way. They were able to say sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. When were you strong enough to not let the words pierce your inner spirit and soul? I think it would be fascinating to hear a five year old answer that.
Steve Fouts: 11:09
This can get emotional. These are big questions. It would be interesting to hear the students’ share how they reacted to certain events, and other students will appreciate hearing those stories.
Dan Fouts: 11:35
There has to be some vulnerability with your students. This conversation may be harder in a middle school classroom where being vulnerable is challenging, and possibly in a high school environment, depending on your class or students. I think they would share some safe experiences where they were able to fend off negative comments through the power of their mind. If I were a student, I would love to hear people my age talk about how they did it, because a lot of students might not have the power to do it. Hearing other students share their stories might empower others to believe that they can do it too.
Steve Fouts: 12:16
Teachers can share their own story. I would bring up something like getting cut from the eighth grade basketball team.
Dan Fouts: 12:26
I remember that bothered you.
Steve Fouts: 12:29
Yeah, I pretended like it wasn’t going to affect me up to the point when I actually got cut. Then I came home, and it was difficult.
Dan Fouts: 12:42
You got over that quickly
Steve Fouts: 12:44
I did. I think it was only a day or two, but it didn’t feel good at the time. But anyway, I’m just sharing that it can be helpful to have stories ready when you’re using this quote. You want to get the students to talk about experiences that they’ve had that fit. Why don’t we move on to the counterclaim?
Dan Fouts: 12:21
I’ll repeat the quote first, just so it’s fresh for us. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This is one we want to believe in, and we do, but what would be another way to look at this, Steve?
Steve Fouts: 13:43 – Counterclaim
Anybody can jump in if you have an idea. I’m going to start off with a reality check, when it feels like the world is turning against you, there are things that are happening that are really getting you down, you feel like you don’t have friends, or that these are struggling times. I think a counterclaim to this would be that sometimes you need help with your own self concept or self-esteem. Maybe you need help getting the rest of the world to affirm your accomplishments and give you positive affirmation. That’s a way to build your self esteem. I don’t feel like I’m contradicting her, but I’m acknowledging that there are other ways to build self-esteem.
Dan Fouts: 15:10
So, you’re saying it’s not just about your attitude or the power of your mind to overcome negativity, but there are other things that you have to have in life to build your self esteem. If you think of a metaphor of a car, having a lot of gas in the tank can get you to your destination, but you need more in the tank to lead a happy life. You’re saying you have to rely on outside forces, right?
Steve Fouts: 15:50
Yeah, some people struggle with asking for help. Some people are overcome and overwhelmed. I think if you read a quote like this, it will inspire you, but it may also make you feel alone. Like the only way to get better is to buck up and not agree to all the negativity. I think it might be helpful for people in that frame of mind, who don’t feel like they can be vulnerable and ask for help with their self-concept. I don’t think it’s bad to be vulnerable and seek help.
Dan Fouts: 16:40
Yeah, that’s interesting. I didn’t think about it from that angle. If you read the quote, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor is saying it’s about your positive mindset. But, that’s a lot of responsibility to make sure you maintain your self esteem and happiness. What about, as you said, other people? We can ask students what builds their self esteem. Some of the things they might say, I felt successful when I did well on a test, or when I got the best grade in class, when I got the most playing time on the team. My teacher acknowledged me in class, shared something that I said, and it made me feel amazing. What was great about it is that I didn’t have to overcome negativity to feel good about myself. I actually got to enjoy a compliment, and that made me feel good about myself. In that conversation is the opportunity to ask them the question, what’s going to make you feel better about yourself, overcoming negativity, or striving for compliments? What’s more powerful as a way for you to feel a higher sense of self-esteem? See where the conversation goes.
Steve Fouts: 18:54
I just thought about how sometimes in life you get pumped up by other people, when other people look at you and think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. Some individuals manage that by being humble, and not getting carried away by a bunch of positive comments.
I’m thinking of a slightly different way to say this quote that may get at some of these themes. You could also argue no one can make you feel superior without your consent. If you remain humble and balanced, and you don’t get carried away by the crowd, that demonstrates strength of character.
Dan Fouts: 19:51
That’s an interesting tangent, but as we know with these conversations, tangents are welcomed. Students are going to go off on tangents, whether you like it or not. Just to read a quick chat comment here, “I wonder if this may be the reason why journaling and diaries can be helpful. Today, using vision boards is helpful. For me, reflection on what was successful over the years was, and is, healing and joyous when the bad times cycle and the periods of life intrude on me.” It might be helpful to remind yourself of what made you happy, what made you feel good about yourself, and successful. That’s the benefit of diaries and journaling. That’s a really good comment.
Steve Fouts: 20:38
There’s a whole cannon of knowledge about appreciative inquiry, about how you get better as a person. Don’t worry about your faults, don’t talk about the problems and the solutions, just get your mind focused on what works, what has worked in the past, and just fixate on that. It’s kind of a way to get better as a person.
Dan Fouts: 21:26
Back to your tangent, Steve, when you said no one can make you feel superior without your consent; you could play on the idea that being humble is really important. That’s an opportunity to teach the definition of words. What does inferior mean? What does superior mean? How are those words different from one another? What words are used against us or in front of us that make us feel inferior, or make us feel superior? Rolling with the tangent a little bit, we find in these conversations that you end up really fixating on certain words. The kids get experience interpreting words and language, and it makes them much more attuned to the careful use of words in their speech. Any other angles on this?
Steve Fouts: 22:58
I just got the Google Form ready.
Dan Fouts: 23:01 – Essential Question
Okay, awesome. In terms of how this conversation would go, one way to wrap it up would be to ask a teacher generated essential question, what is the best way to raise your self esteem? This is a question that I think the kids would be in a good position to answer after this conversation. You could use this question as an exit slip, you could have them write out their answer, or encourage them to start a diary or a journal for the rest of the year. What’s the best way to raise your self esteem? It would be interesting to hear how kids answer in the midst of this pandemic,or after the pandemic is over. How would they say they would increase their self esteem?
Thinking about how this would connect to curriculum. The historical connections are irresistible here. If you’re teaching about women’s suffrage, or getting the right to vote, you could use this conversation as you studied the journey towards equal voting rights. Imagine what women had to deal with in overcoming all of the negativity for hundreds of years, of people saying they weren’t appropriate citizens to be able to vote. Think of the negativity, and trying not to listen to that.
Steve Fouts: 25:06
Another powerful struggle in American society is the African American struggle for freedom and rights, being surrounded by negativity and being told you’re inferior. There are so many curriculum connection opportunities in U.S. history. You could use any movement where people felt society looked at them in a demeaning way, but instead of allowing it to get them down, they remained steadfast in their purpose and goal.
Dan Fouts: 25:45
Really good. This conversation would work with any minority or marginalized group in society. No matter what racial or ethnic background your students are from, they can connect to this on a personal level. If you get them to connect with this quote on a personal level in a conversation, then when they study an oppressed or marginalized group, they’ll have a personal experience they can draw from to connect to that historical event. You hope they have a deeper appreciation for that group.
Steve Fouts: 26:16
They can identify with the emotions of the people. They could have done this, or done that, but they chose to do this.
Dan Fouts: 26:26
That is teaching different by the way. It’s taking the conversation and using it to make what you’re already teaching better. Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized with a great conversation to bring back to your school. If you see value in this 3-step method, Teach Different offers workshops and online zoom trainings for schools. We’d love to connect. Email us at email@example.com. In the meantime, don’t forget to teach different with conversations and make a difference every day.