*This post is not for everyone – only for those who genuinely know how it feels to be put on a pedestal and also for those who are the ones ‘putting’ people on a pedestal….
“Judging oneself to be inferior to other people is one of the worst acts of pride, because it’s the most destructive way of being different “– Paulo Coelho
Putting a person on a pedestal is a phrase used to indicate that a particular person is special, prized or highly valued.
Fine art, especially vases were often displayed on a tall column called a pedestal. This allowed people to isolate a particular item of art from similar items, setting it apart as special, prized or highly valued.
Notice how I used the same description for both the person and the object. When we idealise another, we diminish them. They are diminished because we see them as something that they are not. We reduce them from their state of perfectly human humanity to something less – an object.
Putting people on a pedestal, is as old as time.
We often idealise another, telling ourselves a story of who we think they are by virtue of whom it is that we wish them to be. In either case, everyone loses because there is no cause or call for that competition – real or imagined – in the first place.
For me it all started, at the tender age of 12, I was still a child, trying to figure out my path in this big, big world. I was constantly told that I was smart, clever, brainy – or whatever the popular term at the time was for getting ‘good grades’. People, most especially my mum, overloaded me with praise and constantly put me on pedestals, which in turn encouraged my siblings and others around me to do the same. Before I knew it, I somehow managed to ‘win’ the award for being the ‘smart’ child. When someone needed help with their homework, revision, personal statement, job application I was the one who was called upon. I didn’t mind. In fact I loved it. I enjoyed the praise. I loved that people came to me for help. That people thought I was smart even though I wasn’t. I really wasn’t. I worked really hard to get to the places I wanted to be in life – but for some reason people saw that achievement and thought I was special, prized or highly valued. I wasn’t. I am NOT.
You see – the problem with getting put on a pedestal is that not only people use you as an excuse to fall short but also that you get an expectation set on you, and then you do what you can to meet or exceed it. Great. Everyone’s happy. But because you just did so well, they raise the expectation. You do what you can again, and everything is fine. Everyone’s happy. Then they go to raise those expectations again and again..…It turns into this awful cycle of these expectations, most times unrealistic, being placed on you, then you having to meet them. It’s like being on a pedestal that keeps getting taller and taller each time, and you start to become so fearful of it and question what happens if those expectations aren’t met.
I lived in fear of this for a long time. I was afraid to enjoy any achievement and feel proud of myself, thus failing to appreciate my talents/gifts, as at any moment I could be pulled off the pedestal by the same people who put me on there. I couldn’t even sleep at night sometimes because my mind would be racing with all the things I “should” be doing instead. The scariest thing of it all was that I was living in constant doubt. Did people really love/like me, for me – no matter what I did. Succeed or Fail. Laugh or Cry. Persevere or quit. I did not know. It became so much that I couldn’t even function anymore. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I had to do something about it.
So I quit my old life and gently but ‘loudly’ stepped down. It took a long time, but when I made it to the ground, I felt so much better. It’s not an easy climb either. Once I got off, I sometimes missed the view; it was really hard to not get sucked into letting myself get to that place again. I had to learn to pay attention to how I felt about things and I learned my limits. I can’t do everything, I can’t be who everybody wants; nobody can.
What some still have yet to learn is that pedestals are lonely places that separate us rather than connect us. And our ability to connect to others, not stand out and away from them, is what creates the true foundation for well being. Like it or not, heroes on a pedestal eventually fall and we then instinctively hyper-notice what is not so great and ordinary. The same can be said of ourselves. When we lose sight of ourselves – particularly in reflection of another – we reduce ourselves from a whole to a collection of parts; we self-objectify.
Please share the post and subscribe to Asklychee below if you want to hear more from me.
Be happy. x