As a part of my sweeping breath meditation, I've been exploring a lot of my feelings towards people in many situations throughout my life. Some of these feelings are rather dark feelings. Examples might be my envy of other people or my feeling of superiority towards them. Of course the feeling of superiority was a very very difficult one to pick up at first. It's kind of like the cosmic background radiation. It's there but it's small compared to other phenomena. My feeling of superiority was there but it was small so it was unnoticeable at first. Feelings like anger are much more easy to notice. They pop up and they go away. On the other hand if you have a feeling of superiority towards someone it probably lingers quietly and continues throughout that relationship. In that sense it becomes unnoticeable, rather like the air in the room. It's always there so you don't notice it.
I think I first noticed my sense of superiority looking back at my relationship with my siblings. Very simply put, I felt I was better. I felt superior for this reason or that. The reasons I felt superior were many and none of them were good reasons but they seemed good enough to me at the time.
What I mean here is you can feel superior to someone because you think you're more intelligent than them, or you can feel superior to someone because you think you're morally right, or you can feel superior because you're physically adept at some sport, or you can feel superior because you're suffering and they're not. I know that last example sounds strange but I found in myself times when I felt like a victim, and because I was a victim I felt I was better than the aggressor. Maybe this is connected to the moral sense “I'm not doing any bad things”, or maybe it's a sense of self-righteousness, but being a victim puts you in a vulnerable spot where you can easily feel superior to the aggressor. This is not to say that your superiority is correct or true, it's just a feeling of superiority, and it's a dangerous feeling.
Of course there's another problem with the feeling of superiority. That is once you start to feel superior to someone it's easy to carry it over to other people and other situations in your life. It's very quiet. You could say it's insidious. It creeps its way into your mind and pretty soon you walk around just naturally feeling superior even if it's in a small subtle way.
There is the opposite to this, which is feeling inferior to people. I think that's just as bad. Whether you feel superior or inferior to other people around you, you're putting an unusual amount of importance on yourself to measure yourself and compare yourself. This self-importance puts you at the center stage of your own life.
I've heard a lot of psychologists and psychiatrists say that you should put yourself first, but for me I think that's a dangerous path. One thing I tell my son is " it's not about you".
Of course your life is about you and you are at the center of it and you have to take good care of yourself. I would never say otherwise. But it's better to act as if it's not about you. The easiest way to wrap my mind around this is to live my life like a steward. I am a steward of my life and I'm going to turn my life to somebody else, as if it's not my own. That somebody else is my future self. When I live this way, I'm practicing stewardship, and I'm living my life as if it's not my own. The argument whether my life is my own or not is not important here.
The important point is the phrase, “as if”. That means that I pretend that my life is not my own, I make my decisions and guide my actions as if my life is not my own. By doing this I can erode the base of my supposed superiority. I'm not Superior to anyone or anything. Feeling Superior is the dangerous point that I want to get rid of. But I don't want to replace a sense of superiority with a sense of inferiority. I want to replace them with a feeling of humbleness, or humility.
In my image, humbleness does not place you below other people or things. It places you equal to everybody and everything. There is no ranking, and there's no hierarchy. The minute you have ranking and hierarchy the lower ranks appear humble, but they only create a desire to climb the ladder of rank and end up superior, so having ranking in your mind is dangerous. You end up back where you started. If everybody is equal, then you can truly feel humble. Then there is no special treatment for anyone, and things are fair. From my standpoint, this looks like a rather lofty goal, but those are the best goals, after all.
Now if you're interested, it was quite difficult for me to find my sense of superiority. My relationship with my brother was distant and yet complex. I looked up to him because he was my bigger brother and I wanted to follow him and play with him but he would have none of it. I always felt some envy because he was bigger, stronger and had better physical skills than I. He could ski better than me, skateboard better than me, and swim better than me. So I had to see through the envy. There is also a little bit of disappointment or perhaps even anger due to the distance he put between us. So I had to see through that anger and disappointment. Once I had seen through those two feelings I could see my sense of superiority.
It was a cheap shot though. He had a reading disability, and it was diagnosed late, so they couldn't intervene and help him in his studies very much. As a result he was not academically inclined. Right off the bat, I felt intellectually superior to him. He was always amusing and funny, but his jokes always had a cutting side. He always cut people down. So I felt morally superior to him. He was terribly material oriented. He wanted things in status. That contributed to my feeling of superiority. Of course none of those are good reasons to feel superior. Or rather they're not a viable basis for superiority, they are a basis for feeling superior. And that feeling of superiority weakens me.
If you feel you're better than others, then guess what? You're not going to try as hard. That's not to say the sense of inferiority is going to make you try harder. Whenever I found myself feeling inferior to others, I usually gave up and didn't try. So inferiority and superiority cut us off at the knees, because they take away the root we need to grow and become better. That doesn't mean they completely stop us from growing, rather these feelings act as anchors pulling us down, slowing us down, adding resistance and impedance to our personal growth.
But it's hard to find your sense of superiority to others because it's usually a low hum and it's hidden behind other stronger feelings. If you want to eliminate any sense of superiority that you may have, and it's a long slow battle.