I know a Brazilian girl who is attractive, smart, and has a great personality. She’s down to earth, open-minded, and accepting of everyone. The problem is that she doesn’t know it. Or maybe she knows it, but it doesn’t matter. There is something else that hinders her ability to realize her value as a human being. She comes from a poor family. In other words, she started life with very little status, and this has given her an inferiority complex that plagues her even to this day.
The current in thinking in evolutionary psychology is that the human mind was designed by natural selection to be very cognizant of status within social groups. In caveman days, when natural selection was in full force shaping man’s ability to survive, being high on the social totem pole translated into a direct reproductive advantage. The humans that survived, therefore, were the ones who had a genetic predisposition to seek and obtain status. They were our ancestors, which means that we share their genetic quest for status. However, now that status is unnecessary for survival, the mind’s tendency to seek it is causing all sorts of problems. My Brazilian friend is a perfect example.
She is a first generation American. Her family moved to the US when she was very young. Her parents have worked tirelessly to give their daughter opportunities that they never had. So, by seeing to it that she was able to attend college, they are still poor. And because she is human and status is important to her brain, she feels inferior to people who come from more wealthy families. She dates a guy whose father is a doctor. She admitted to me once that she often feels uncomfortable around him, especially when his parents are present. It is as if she feels unworthy of him. She suspects that his family would prefer him to date someone with a better background. This is truly sad.
The fact is that our standing at birth is absolutely irrelevant in today’s world. The notion that some people are better than others simply because their families have more money is ludicrous. Yes, it is true that those born into wealth have access to better education. They often have more opportunities in life. However, to suppose that this somehow translates into human value is a tragic mistake.
If you want to see what makes for a valuable human being, go to a cemetery and read some grave stones. Rarely, if ever, will you see, “John Smith 1935-2004, Largest Landowner in the State.” They say things like, “Loving father of three” or “Friend to all people.” The point is that human value can only be based upon ethics. What do we as people hold as the core of our values? Do we respect others? Are we honest? Do we value fairness and justice? Do we seek knowledge? In the end, this is what brings love to our lives, and this, in my view, is what it’s all about.
So, to my Brazilian friend, I say this. Forget about where you come from. Concentrate on who you are as a person. Most importantly, demand that others do the same. Those who would hold your background against you are not worthy of your time, no matter how much money they may have. It is the fact that you are a good person that matters. All else is trivia. Your mind is indeed wired to respond differently, but this is not beyond your control. As a rational, conscious being, you can choose to follow your emotions or you can choose to reason your way to a positive self-opinion. And the good news is that once you start down the road of rejecting those emotions that make no sense, life becomes a much larger place. It gets easier with every passing day to cling to what you know makes for a good person and to reject status-oriented assessments of yourself. When feelings of inadequacy pop into your brain, you simply escort them out, knowing that they are artifacts of our collective human history that have no place in today’s world. Pretty soon, those thoughts will be gone for good.
The plain and simple truth is that those who emphasize status above ethics are the inferior ones. Leave them to their games and get on with your life.