Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Social Emotional Learning is a big deal in schools and life today. Our kids are persevering through challenges unprecedented. Navigating human interaction as adults is no easy feat either, it seems.

Therefore, it’s not hard to imagine why there might be so many pedestal problems–even amidst total clarity, context, and awareness. But why do they happen in the first place? Why can’t we help ourselves but to figuratively prop up some people but not others? Can we break the cycle?

Here are three examples:

Putting Yourself on a Pedestal 

This one’s easy. No one likes a braggart. The one who comes off holier-than-thou is quickly ignored, unfriended, or dismissed. Nearly the antithesis of humility itself, making yourself appear better than others on a routine basis suffocates opportunity for growth and drives others away.

The line between excessive, self-promotion and simply being proud of the hard work you’ve invested, and then expressing and sharing your success and accomplishments with others for the right reasons is thin. Some can walk this line with authenticity, professionalism, and tact without losing their sense of self and identity. Others can’t.

But what about putting yourself on a pedestal… to be just a little bit higher than others?

  • They look, dress, or act in a certain way that’s different than me. There’s no way they’ll be as competent or effective in the workplace as I am.
  • I can’t believe she got that award. So unfair! But at least I got two. #Winning.
  • He’s successful. He’s a threat. I’m going around him instead of working with him.

Putting Others on a Pedestal

This one’s not so easy to recognize or immediately address. Yet, I see it happen all the time. And I’m definitely throwing my hat in the ring with all those who have perpetuated this cyclical monster.

Due to others’ status or perceived place in this world, I generate expectations, cultivate expectations, and then I’m shocked, mad, frustrated, and occasionally moved to tears when they fail to meet the expectations I placed upon them.

Why do I do that? Why does this happen in society?

Titles have a way of implying higher standards. For example, we hold adults to higher standards than kids. Adults can do things that kids can’t. With much independence and privilege, however, comes much responsibility.

It’s human nature, then, to reason why, to rationalize, and to reconcile the actions we see with the expectations, assumptions, and titles we put upon each other. And it can become a blood-sport, like a guilty pleasure to dig up dirt on others to make ourselves feel better, to highlight when and how others failed to meet the expectations we placed upon them.

Can you just hear the rumor mill pedestal problem conversations?

  • Can you believe that mega-church leader? I can’t believe he was having affairs, addicted to drugs, abusing kids, or bullying his family?
  • Did you hear all those stories about the best golfer of all-time? There’s no way!
  • Do you really think that he was the best president of all time? Look at these skeletons I found!
  • She was such a good person, great friend, and volunteer in the community. I can’t believe she died from opiates.
  • Oh, they drive that car, wear those clothes, go to that school, and live in that neighborhood. I want to be like them. But why is their life a total train wreck?
  • Really? Someone working for that company can be a millionaire in the workplace but totally broke in the home?
  • I can’t believe he had a gambling problem. He had everything you’d ever want.
  • Did they really bribe their kids into college?
  • I thought she was my best friend. Now, she barely talks to me. What’s her problem?

No one is perfect. But perfect is extreme. Maybe just assuming that someone is a really good person–somehow defying everyday, sinful life, is still dangerous.

Why did they fall from grace? Maybe it was our fault for putting them on a pedestal in the first place. Maybe they really were just human after all.

When Others Put You on a Pedestal

I don’t have much experience with this one.

But one, potential example of this has been burning in my mind ever since a friend invited me to co-facilitate a book study on The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. On page 180, the authors describe a process to deflect appreciation. In other words, this would be like resisting the pedestal propping underneath you by going to the other extreme:

I love the definition of authentic humility, as curated by Tom Reid. Being humble doesn’t mean that you throw yourself under the bus in repetitive, self-deprecating manners, either. I leave you with this, and I invite your thoughts, comments, and feedback:

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

%d bloggers like this: