There’s No Such Thing as Inferior… Or Superior

I watched a very thought provoking movie the other day that mixed well with a book I have been reading lately. The movie: Peaceful Warrior. The book: The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. In the movie, the main character is a college gymnast who is training for the Olympics. He is very talented, but a bit misguided. He “randomly” finds himself in contact with an old gas station attendant who becomes a kind of mentor to him. Now, I won’t spoil much more of the movie for you, but I want to draw a parallel between what this gymnast goes through, and one of the interesting points Maltz makes in his book.

Maltz was a plastic surgeon who spent most of his working life altering the way people looked to fit their “needs.” In the process of doing so, he began to notice changes in his patients. Some of them would have a relatively minor surgery, and experience a drastic change in their personality. On the other hand, he would have some patients who received exactly what they said they wanted, and experience no change at all in their personality. This discrepancy led to his book, originally titled Psycho-Cybernetics, which focuses on the psychological development of a strong self-image, and allowing that image to manifest changes in people’s lives.

Now to the point: Dan, the gymnast in Peaceful Warrior, struggles constantly with the idea of being either superior or inferior to his gymnast peers. He is always either overly confident in himself, to the point that he pushes friends away, or afraid of the possibility of being inferior to them so much that he forgets to develop his own self-image. His mentor in the movie asks him often “Who are you?” Dan rarely has an answer.

In the beginning of Maltz’s book, he explains that the only way a self-image can be effective in making positive change, is if it is made by the self and the self alone. In other words, other people cannot define you. You must define yourself. And in order for that to happen, you cannot see yourself as inferior or superior to anyone else. Because if you do, then you are using their definition to define you.  For example, I wrestled with precisely this issue growing up playing basketball. I always saw myself in terms of others. I was either the best player there, or the worst player there. I was either everybody’s favorite player, or nobody’s. And for this reason, I never truly defined myself. I never knew what kind of player I wanted to be.  This had a debilitating effect on me because I never experienced the successful basketball career I imagined as a child. Had I learned this lesson at a younger age, I can honestly say that things may have been different. But if they had, maybe I wouldn’t be the person I am now, writing this blog.

Peaceful Warrior

You are no one else but you

THE TAKEAWAY: If you ever catch yourself trying to prove that you are better than someone else, or justifying why someone is better than you, take a step back. Looking at yourself from the outside in can help you realize that you are just you. You have the ability to define yourself to be whatever you want: Are you a helpful friend? Are you polite to everyone you meet? Are you an angry person?  Are you smart? Dumb? Happy? Rude? Sad? Motivated? Friendly? – Because to be honest, it doesn’t matter who you are – as long as you define yourself. 


4 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as Inferior… Or Superior

  1. Yes, let’s appreciate everyone for what makes them unique rather than what makes them better or worse. Then we can all be at peace with ourselves.

  2. I didn’t see the movie but i read both books. I recall the journey of how Dan wrestled with himself and his mentor, and as i labored through the pages I desperately wanted to help Dan with his struggle to define himself. I wanted to help the caterpillar become a butterfly but all i could do was watch. If i split the cacoon of painful change, i would then forever disable the strength of character that Dan would need in order to fly in his new state. Mentorship requires the ability to allow your apprentice to struggle as they develop their wings. It is the struggle that pumps fresh blood and life into the newly formed wings. No pain, no gain, …. No fight, no FLIGHT.

    • Wow Alex, another great analogy as always. I too understand how difficult it is to hold back when you want to help someone learn. Thankfully I have someone like you to do that for me. Thank you for always being there.

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