"You are no better than anyone else; but you are just as good."
Growing up this was a phrase that I would hear my parents utter occasionally throughout the years. At the time, it seemed like one of those little pearls of wisdom that you don't pay much attention to like the motivational, "Can't and never could." You hear it, you repeat it, but because it is more abstract, you don't necessarily file it with the more practical advice like "Look both ways before you cross the street" or "Measure twice; cut once."
The gravity of the statement and it's impact on my life never really hit me until I was in my early 20's. I was relaying a random story to may sister-in-law about my day where I had to interact (and correct) someone in a position of power. To me it was no big deal, but as I was telling the story, I could actually see her eyes widen as she became anxious just listening to the details, causing me to stop mid sentence, look at her befuddled and ask, "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
She said, " Oh my God, I could never do that."
"Do what?" I replied still unsure what the problem was. I hadn't been rude or condescending to the individual, so why was my story putting my sister-in-law on the verge of a panic attack?
"Talk to someone above my class. Someone that is better than me."
"No one is better than me," was the automated response that came out of my mouth. "I am no better than anyone else but I am just as good,"
"See you, your sisters, and brothers are all like that. I am so jealous of that. That is something your parents taught you. I wish I could think that way. I wasn't taught that way. I was taught that we all have a place."
It was the first time anyone had pointed that out to me. It wasn't arrogance on my part; it was a simple truth to me. If I wanted something (or someone) I went after it. I was never one to back down from a challenge, be afraid to ask questions, or stand up for myself or others. I often wondered how others could sit by idly as someone was bullied, would never talk to their single crush, or could remain quiet when they knew how to do something that someone else of authority might not know how to do without offering help. I had always attributed it to shyness or being an introvert, but maybe it was something more. Maybe it was something that they were taught.
This recently came up again when I was talking to a friend about leagues. My friend was telling me about a girl he liked but that he wouldn't ask out because he deemed her to be out of his league. This was a wonderful, intelligent, handsome man. It made me sad to think he was limiting himself and made realize how often people are their own worst obstacles.To me, no one is out of anyone's league. While there are always reasons a relationship may not work - having nothing in common, opposing religious views, wanting/not wanting kids - being in different leagues shouldn't be one.
I am lucky enough to be blessed with great girlfriends and fantastic guy friends. Some of which, at one point or another, have liked each other. I would always encourage the guy to ask the girl out, especially if I knew she liked him. Still many of the guys would give the league excuse. Meanwhile, the girl would be sitting home alone on Friday and Saturday nights wondering what was wrong with her.
Look, we've all seen those beautiful models with those not-so-handsome guys or some totally hot guy with some girl that would be categorized as a "Plain Jane." Why? Because they didn't believe in leagues. The truth is what the league mentality really boils down to is a fear of rejection and low self-esteem. If you are interested in someone and they are interested in you and you connect then leagues,whether social, physical, or some other won't be an issue. Instead, you will introduce each other to new experiences and grow as a couple.
To me, leagues are used as a defense mechanism or an excuse not to try. If you want a better job, work for it or get the schooling necessary. If you think someone deserves better than you, then be better. Be the kind of man or woman you think that person deserves. I'm not saying to change the person that you inherently are, because the person you are with needs to like you for you. But if you find someone you truly connect with or if there is something you really want in life, don't limit yourself and your choices because you don't think you can measure up. Instead acknowledge the real reason for your fears and doubts, toss them aside, and go for it.
Remember, if you're going to be in a league, be in a league of your own.