No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent | By Eleanor Roosevelt? Quote Investigator:

No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent

Eleanor Roosevelt? Reader’s Digest? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a remarkably insightful statement about self-esteem that is usually credited to Eleanor Roosevelt, the diplomat and former First Lady:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

This is one of my favorite quotations, but I have not been able to determine when it was first said. One quotation dictionary claimed that the saying was in the autobiography “This is My Story” by Roosevelt, but I was unable to find it.Did Eleanor Roosevelt really say this? Could you tell me where I can locate this quotation?

Quote Investigator: This popular aphorism is the most well-known guidance ascribed to Roosevelt. Quotation experts such as Rosalie Maggio and Ralph Keyes have explored the origin of this saying. Surprisingly, a thorough examination of the books the First Lady authored and her other archived writings has failed to discover any instances of the quote [QVFI].

Yet, the saying has been attributed to Roosevelt for more than seventy years. The earliest example located by QI appeared in the pages of the widely-distributed periodical Reader’s Digest in September of 1940

[RDFI]:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt

Thus, from the beginning the phrase was credited to Roosevelt. However, no supporting reference was given in the magazine, and the quote stood alone at the bottom of a page with unrelated article text above it.

Recently, QI located some intriguing evidence, and he now believes that the creation of this maxim can be traced back to comments made by Eleanor Roosevelt about an awkward event in 1935. The Secretary of Labor in the Roosevelt administration was invited to give a speech at the University of California, Berkeley on the Charter Day of the school. The customary host of the event was unhappy because she felt that the chosen speaker should not have been a political figure. She refused to serve as the host and several newspaper commentators viewed her action as a rebuff and an insult.Eleanor Roosevelt was asked at a White House press conference whether the Secretary had been snubbed, and her response was widely disseminated in newspapers. Here is an excerpt from an Associated Press article

[ERNC]: “A snub” defined the first lady, “is the effort of a person who feels superior to make someone else feel inferior. To do so, he has to find someone who can be made to feel inferior.”She made clear she didn’t think the labor secretary fell within the category of the “snubable.”

Note that this statement by Roosevelt in 1935 contained the key elements of the quotation that was assigned to her by 1940. One person may try to make a second person feel inferior, but this second person can resist and simply refuse to feel inferior. In this example, the labor secretary refused to consent to feel inferior.The precise wording given for Roosevelt’s statement varied. Here is another example that was printed in a syndicated newspaper column called “So They Say!” the following week. The columnist stated that the following was the definition of a “snub” given by Roosevelt [OWFI]:

I think it is the effort of a person who feels superior to make someone else feel inferior. First, though, you have to find someone who can be made to feel inferior.Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.Sometime between 1935 and 1940 Eleanor Roosevelt’s commentary was reformulated into the elegant aphorism that was published in the Reader’s Digest. Roosevelt may have done this herself. Alternatively, someone else decided to render her remarks compactly and stylishly [RDFI]:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt

The next month, in October of 1940 the saying appeared as the first line of an editorial in a newspaper from Iowa. The words were placed between quotation marks, but no attribution was given [LPFI]:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

That is a good thing to remember. If you feel uncertain of yourself, it is a good pointer to remember. If you feel uncertain of yourself, it is easy to make you feel inferior by making a slighting remark. But if you feel confident you can laugh it off.At the end of October the maxim appeared freestanding in an Alaskan newspaper where it was credited to Roosevelt [FDFI]:

Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

In June of 1941 the aphorism appeared on a newspaper page dedicated to the topics of “Home, Church, Religion, Character” within a column titled “Sermonograms”. The words were credited to Eleanor Roosevelt [HNFI].

In February of 1944 the saying appeared in the widely-read syndicated column of Walter Winchell where it was again credited to Roosevelt [WWF1]. In February 1945 the maxim was repeated in Winchell’s influential column. On this second occasion Winchell employed a word from his specialized vocabulary,

Continued: No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent | Quote Investigator

 

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