“No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent” - Meaning Behind the Quote

Updated April 11, 2024

Has anyone ever told you that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”? Who said this quote, and what does it mean?

This saying is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, an American diplomat and activist. She was the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first lady of the US from 1933 to 1945.

In short, the idea behind this quote is very similar to a Stoic concept we frequently discuss here– you have the power to control your perception. Essentially, if you are upset by how another person is treating you, what is disturbing you is actually your judgment of the situation and not the situation itself.

Let’s take a deep dive into the meaning of this quote, its Stoic themes, and what you can do to actually put this idea into practice in your life.

“No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent” – Who Said It?

The quote "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady of the United States. In this quote, we find a powerful message about self-esteem, personal power, and the role of individual agency in shaping your own feelings and self-perception.

This quote appears in her book "This Is My Story," published in 1937. However, historians and scholars note that several variations of the quote have been found in earlier writings as well. While the specific wording of this quote originated with Eleanor Roosevelt, it's worthwhile to note that similar sentiments have been expressed by a number of great minds throughout history.

Who Was Eleanor Roosevelt?

Eleanor Roosevelt was born in 1884 and passed in 1962. She was an American political figure, diplomat, and activist, best known for her role as the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 during the four terms her husband served as US President. Marriage wasn’t the only way that Eleanor Roosevelt was connected to the US political world, though– she was a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt and was born into the prominent American Roosevelt and Livingston families.

Eleanor Roosevelt transformed the role of the First Lady through her active participation in American politics and her involvement in social issues. Unlike her predecessors, she held press conferences, wrote a daily newspaper column, "My Day," and spoke at national conventions, to name a few. Her efforts were crucial in promoting the New Deal policies of her husband's administration, particularly those related to civil rights, women's rights, and the welfare of working people.

The Meaning Behind the Quote

At its core, the quote suggests that feelings of inferiority are not imposed by external forces but rather are accepted by the individual.

It emphasizes the idea that you have the power to control how you respond to the things that people say and do to you. In other words, someone can attempt to belittle or demean you– they can try and bring you down– but it's ultimately up to you whether or not you agree with them.

This perspective encourages us to recognize our own worth and to refuse to let others dictate our value as individuals. When you are struggling to deal with the opinions and actions of other people, you can use this quote as  a call to self-empowerment and resilience, urging people to maintain their dignity and self-respect in the face of criticism or negativity.

Beyond this, the broader implication of this quote is about emotional independence and autonomy. You shouldn’t give others the power to control your emotions or how you feel about yourself– after all. These are some of the few things that actually are in your control.

In reality, embracing the essence of this quote can be a tough ask indeed. In order to really never let someone “make you feel inferior without your consent,” you have to have a strong sense of self and the ability to maintain emotional boundaries.

Stoic Themes to “No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent”

If you’ve been a student of Stoicism for some time, there’s a good chance you recognize the Stoic ideas lodged within this quote. Let’s take a closer look at the concepts that the ancient Stoics often promoted, which are implied by this famous saying by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Control Over Your Own Mind

The ancient philosophy of Stoicism teaches us that true power lies in controlling what is within our power– our thoughts, feelings, and reactions.

The quote directly reflects this by suggesting that individuals have the choice to accept or reject feelings of inferiority. Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and, in particular, Epictetus, often remind us that we need to focus on distinguishing between what we can control and what we cannot.

no one can make you feel inferior without your consent quote epictetus quote and image

"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." 

– Epictetus

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." 

Marcus Aurelius

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." 

– Seneca the Younger

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them."

– Epictetus

Emotional Resilience

Another thing we have learned from the ancient Stoics is the importance of cultivating a mental strength that allows us to remain undisturbed by external circumstances.

By suggesting that you can choose not to feel inferior regardless of other people’s words and actions, the quote echoes the Stoic practice of developing resilience against external opinions and occurrences.

no one can make you feel inferior without your consent quote seneca the younger quote and image

"A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials."

– Seneca the Younger

"You have the power to strip away many superfluous troubles located wholly in your judgment, and to possess a large space of freedom and tranquility by merely assenting to no other than yourself."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well."

– Epictetus

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult."

– Seneca the Younger

"The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way."

– Marcus Aurelius


Another notion that the Stoics placed a great deal of importance on was that of autonomy and the idea that we are all sovereign over our inner lives. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, we find the assertion that one’s sense of worth and dignity should not be at the mercy of others’ judgments or actions.

no one can make you feel inferior without your consent quote marcus aurelius quote and image

"If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Our actions may be impeded... but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting."

– Marcus Aurelius

Freedom From Needing the Approval of Others

Though it may be easier said than done, the Stoics argue for freedom from dependence on external goods or opinions for our sense of happiness and self-worth. Roosevelt encourages us in her quote to detach from the need for external validation. Instead, we should seek and maintain an internal source of self-esteem and confidence.

no one can make you feel inferior without your consent quote marcus aurelius quote and image

"I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others."

– Marcus Aurelius

Virtuous Living As the Path to a Happy Life

While the Eleanor Roosevelt quote we’re discussing does not directly address virtue, the underlying message is that one should not let external occurrences define their worth. This is very much in line with the Stoic belief that living a virtuous life according to reason is the path to true happiness.

no one can make you feel inferior without your consent quote marcus aurelius quote and image

"Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it."

– Epictetus

"It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. What does it matter how much a man has laid up in his safe, or in his warehouse, how large are his flocks and how rich his dividends, if he covets his neighbor's property, and reckons, not his past gains, but his hopes of gains to come? Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough."

– Seneca the Younger

"True happiness is... to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future. The result of this is that we do not depend on any external things for our happiness but rather on our own character."

– Seneca the Younger

How to Practice This Concept In Your Life

It’s great to peruse inspirational quotes, but they won’t do much to help you unless you can practically apply them to your life. What can you do to learn to let go of what others think of you and cultivate your inner strength? How can you ensure that you are focused on what you can control rather than what is out of your control?

Increase Your Self-Awareness

One of the first things you’ll need to do if you want to stop letting people “make you feel inferior without your consent” is to work on building your self-awareness. As you walk through this process, you will be amazed at just how unaware you were of your thoughts, actions, and motivations.

Only once we have developed a greater self-awareness can we really make positive changes in our lives. After all, if we aren’t aware of how we are thinking and acting, we can’t make good decisions about how to move forward in our lives.

  • Set aside time each day for self-reflection: You can use Stoic techniques such as the evening reflection or premeditatio malorum to gain insight into your thoughts, emotions, and actions.
  • Journaling with Stoic prompts: Keep a Stoic journal where you record your thoughts, reflections, and observations. Use Stoic prompts, such as "What is within my control?" or "How can I live in accordance with virtue today?" to guide your writing and deepen your understanding of Stoic principles in relation to your own life.
  • Mindfulness from a Stoic Perspective: Practice mindfulness from a Stoic perspective by cultivating an awareness of the present moment and your inner experiences. Use Stoic mindfulness techniques, such as the view from above (imagining yourself from a bird's-eye view) or the dichotomy of control (distinguishing between what is within your control and what is not), to develop a clear understanding of your thoughts and reactions.
  • Seek wisdom from Stoic texts: Study the writings of ancient Stoic philosophers, such as Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, for insights into self-awareness and personal growth. You can then reflect on Stoic teachings about the nature of the self, the importance of virtue, and the pursuit of eudaimonia to deepen your understanding of Stoic philosophy and its relevance to your own life.

Practice Self Reflection and Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without immediately reacting to them.

This awareness creates space between external events and your response, allowing you to choose not to internalize negative opinions or criticism.

Cultivate Your Emotional Resilience

Life isn’t easy, and dealing with the thoughts, words, and actions of others can be one of the toughest parts of making it through the day. At the same time, it’s possible to become more emotionally resilient than you currently are, giving you the strength to allow unwarranted criticisms to roll right off you.

To do this, you can develop coping strategies for dealing with criticism and rejection, such as positive self-talk, seeking support from loved ones, or engaging in activities that boost your mood. Furthermore, you can work to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than letting them tear you down.

  • Understand the Stoic dichotomy of control: To cultivate emotional resilience, work to embrace the Stoic dichotomy of control. This idea teaches us that some things are within our control (e.g., our thoughts, emotions, and actions) while others are not (e.g., external events, other people's actions). Focus your energy and attention on what you can control, such as your attitudes and responses, rather than worrying about all that other stuff.
  • Practice acceptance of impermanence: Another thing you can do to build your emotional resilience is recognizing that everything in life is subject to change and that adversity is an inevitable part of the human experience. You can work to cultivate acceptance of life's ups and downs, approaching challenges with a sense of detachment.
  • Use Negative Visualization: You can also practice negative visualization by contemplating worst-case scenarios and reflecting on your capacity to endure them. This Stoic exercise helps build resilience by preparing you mentally and emotionally for adversity, helping you build gratitude for what you have, and reducing the fear of loss.
  • Adopt the Stoic virtue of courage: Though it might be easier said than done, work to cultivate the Stoic virtue of courage by facing your fears and challenges with determination and resolve. Remember, courage isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to act virtuously in spite of fear, embracing discomfort as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.
  • Practice self-compassion and self-care: Treat yourself with kindness, compassion, and self-care during times of difficulty. Practice Stoic self-compassion by acknowledging your inherent worth as a rational being capable of moral agency, regardless of whatever else is going on.
  • Focus on virtue and moral integrity: Prioritize living in accordance with Stoic virtues (wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage) as your foundation of emotional resilience. You can cultivate moral integrity by acting with honesty, fairness, and integrity in all aspects of your life, regardless of external pressures or temptations.
  • Develop a sense of purpose and meaning: Finally, you can also reflect on your values, goals, and aspirations to cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Align your actions with your highest ideals and pursue endeavors that are meaningful and fulfilling, drawing inspiration from Stoic teachings on living a life of virtue and flourishing.

Learn to Assert Healthy Boundaries

Another important step you can take to work on building emotional resilience is to learn to assertively communicate your needs and boundaries to others. You can do this through self-reflective practices, recognizing your own sphere of control, and working to understand your values and priorities.

Shift You Focus Toward Constructive Feedback

There’s a big difference between needless criticism and constructive feedback. Just because someone is saying something you don’t necessarily like to hear doesn’t mean they are trying to hurt you– it’s possible they are giving you useful feedback that you can use in your journey of personal growth.

To practice this concept, work to shift your focus from seeking others' approval to seeking constructive feedback that can help you grow. The idea here is learning to value growth and learning over the need to be liked by everyone– trust me. You won’t be liked by everyone no matter what you do.

Engage in Stoic Exercises

There are lots of Stoic teachings about control and acceptance that can help you develop emotional resiliency in the face of cruel or petty people. One important thing is to constantly remind yourself of what is within your control (your actions, judgments, and desires) and what is not (others' opinions, words, and actions). The more often you make this distinction, the better you will be at focusing on your own path and integrity.

You can find a bunch of Stoicism exercises in our guide on How to Practice Stoicism in Daily Life.

Embrace a Growth Mindset

Some psychologists propose that there are two different types of mindsets an individual can have:

  1. A fixed mindset
  2. A growth mindset

With a fixed mindset, you believe that you abilities, talents, intelligence, and personality are pretty much set in stone. This means that there isn’t much incentive to face challenges or obstacles, as who you are is who you are going to be for the rest of your life.

With a growth mindset, on the other hand, you believe that you can develop your abilities and talents through effort, dedication, and learning. A person with a growth mindset is much more likely to embrace challenges as they understand that this is how they can grow and improve themselves.

Though it might feel like a pretty big shift, you can work to view life as a journey of continuous learning and self-improvement. An important part of this is understanding that perfection is unattainable and that making mistakes is a part of growth– this will help you maintain a balanced perspective on yourself as you move forward on your path.

Strengthen Your Inner Spirit

It’s so easy in the modern world to place all of our self-worth in the hands of others. Whether you’re hoping for some positive feedback on social media or a pat on the back from your boss, we will ultimately never be happy if we give other people the steering wheel to our self-esteem.

In order to strengthen your inner spirit, you’ll want to work towards recognizing and embracing what makes you unique while also constantly working to improve yourself. If you’re able to cultivate a strong sense of identity and pride in your individuality, it can make you less susceptible to feeling inferior based on others' judgments.

Similar Quotes to Inspire You

Sometimes, you simply don't know when a quote is going to hit you right where you need it most. Let's take a look at some other quotes that convey similar messages as the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

“There is but one thing of real value - to cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger in the midst of lying and unjust men.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“A man should be upright, not kept upright.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“What then is worth being valued? To be received with clapping of hands? No. Neither must we value the clapping of tongues, for the praise which comes from the many is a clapping of tongues.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt (in my own eyes).”

– Marcus Aurelius

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one ever was truly harmed. Harmed is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Is it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of all those applauding hands. The people who praise us—how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region in which it all takes place. The whole earth a point in space—and most of it uninhabited.”

- Marcus Aurelius

"If small things have the power to disturb you, then who you think you are is exactly that: small."

- Eckhart Tolle

"Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace."

- Dalai Lama

“Never dull your shine for somebody else.” 

― Tyra Banks

“I do not care so much what I am to others as I care what I am to myself.” 

― Michel de Montaigne

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. “

― Suzy Kassem

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

– Lao Tzu

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

— Dr. Seuss

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

— Steve Jobs

“Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.” 

― Cynthia Kersey

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”

— Oscar Wilde

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.” 

― Marianne Williamson

“If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.”

 ― John Lennon

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”

– Brené Brown

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”

— Albert Einstein

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” 

― Charlotte Brontë

“No name-calling truly bites deep unless, in some dark part of us, we believe it. If we are confident enough then it is just noise.” 

― Laurell K. Hamilton

“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” 

― Tina Fey

“Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.” 

― Tina Fey

“When it comes down to it, I let them think what they want. If they care enough to bother with what I do, then I’m already better than them.” 

― Marilyn Monroe

“I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.” 

― Amy Poehler

“You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.” 

― Olin Miller

The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” 

― Virginia Woolf

“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”

— Coco Chanel

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.” 

― Richard P. Feynman

“Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t worry about who doesn’t like you, who has more, or who’s doing what.” 

― Erma Bombeck

“A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.” 

― Mae West

“Some people say you are going the wrong way, when it’s simply a way of your own.”

— Angelina Jolie

Embracing Stoicism to Build Inner Strength and Emotional Resiliency

The quote “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” may not have been written by a Stoic philosopher, but one can safely assume that the ancient Stoic philosophers would stamp their seal of approval on the saying.

This idea is pretty contrary to some of the more popular notions of the modern day and can help us build emotional resiliency and inner strength. The more we are able to focus on the things we can control– aka our thoughts, feelings, and actions– the more we won’t let the things we can’t control get under our skin.

Are you looking for more resources to help you incorporate Stoicism into your everyday life? If so, make sure you check out our Stoic Quotes blog for more articles, quotes, and philosophical musings!

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Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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