I have always been fascinated by how, as human beings, we form ourselves into social hierarchies.
These are subconscious and often involuntary positions that we allocate ourselves in society and which often change depending on who we are surrounded by or interacting with.
We are taught early on in life the concept of social elevation via the metaphor of looking up or down on others. God is up in heaven, looking down on us. Satan is down in hell. We were told in fairy tales that the king and queen sit up on the throne, looking down on their subjects etc. It is even why they always put the penthouse apartment on the top floor because all the others are beneath them. This concept manifests itself in today’s society in ways where we often place beauty, wealth and fame on a pedestal whereas we will frown on those we don’t respect as much such as their lower socioeconomic status, lack of education or lack of social competency. We have seen this throughout history where one race classes itself as being superior to others.
Where we psychologically rank ourselves in the world has a strong bearing on how we act and treat others. It dictates our level of self-confidence and self-respect which is the platform from which we engage with the world. As humans we have an innate desire to be respected and appreciated. The question is whether we should just demand respect just because we exist or generate it through our actions?
Although we are tuned to admire such things as beauty and fame, it is competency as a human that we truly respect, and this comes in many forms. We respect the doctor that cures our ill health, we respect our favourite teacher, we respect our highly skilled sporting hero and we even respect others who have the courage to follow a different path to pursue a passion. We respect them because of the positive outcomes they produce, the time they have dedicated to produce these competent skills and even courage it has taken to develop them.
Our willingness to steadily improve our competencies in whatever form we feel we need is what directly affects our levels of self-respect. Without self-respect we will always struggle to generate respect from others, no matter how much we demand it or feel we should have it as a given right. What is always incredible is that even the smallest incremental steps that we take toward improving areas of our lives can have a dramatically large effect on our well-being and the best thing is that we all have the capability of doing it in some way.