"Maybe they think it's unfair that you have it and they don't. They tell themselves that you have all of this stuff and they don't. They never think about why they don't have it. They are convinced that they're the victims and stealing only evens it out. I'm not saying it's right, but I know people who think that way. One thing I've learned is that there is no end to how far some people can go to convince themselves that whatever they do is right."
I thought about this conversation the last time Dr. Longie told me he thought many problems on the reservation could be boiled down to low self-esteem. I don't know how many times I've heard people say (on and off the reservation), in the same tone reserved for people who have broken into the neighbor's house next door,
Image by Baha'i Views / Flitzy Phoebie via Flickr
"He thinks he's smart just because he is the director."
And I think to myself, well, so what. Maybe she does think really highly of herself. Good for her. Perhaps he does think he is smart because he's the director. I'm not talking about people here who got a job because they were someone's son-in-law. That's a whole separate issue. No, I mean the people who were hired as Head Start Director or tribal controller or some other position because they had education, experience and did well in their last job. Good for them. That took work, often coming from a background with not a great early education or support. Twice as good for them.
It's not just gossip. I actually see people working against employees who are very well-qualified. (There is a whole lot of discussion about this in the forum topic Joe the Tribal Worker and Susie Sainte )
It finally clicked for me why they would do that. I think it is just like my daughter explained about why some people justify stealing to themselves. The people who feel the need to tear down good, honest employees are jealous, but jealous in a very specific way. They are angry that Susie has high self-esteem. Why should she get to feel so good about her achievements? Just like the thief, they think it is unfair that she has something they don't, and so they try to take it from her.
None of us are immune from this. Next time you catch yourself thinking, "Susie thinks she's better than me-" really catch yourself and ask, "So what? What's it to you if she does?" If that bothers you, is it because you haven't achieved as much as you like? Then, what can you do about it? Can you take a class, try to learn a new skill, write a grant, apply for a new job, start a business? Focus on that and both you and Susie can be happier. Maybe a year from now, people will be looking at YOU and saying,
"That Joe, he must think really highly of himself"