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Putting People on a Pedestal?


Whether it is your boss, a movie star, a friend, your partner, your spouse, or your children putting people on a pedestal is much different than holding someone in high regard. While there may be many attributes and abilities that you admire in another, putting them on a pedestal because they display certain traits serves neither yourself or the other.

In order to place another above us, we have to consider ourselves as beneath them. While you may respect them or think them worthy of such esteem, in actual fact you are setting your relationship with them up for failure. We hold people that we put on pedestals to a higher standard than we hold ourselves or others. We see them as more than and better than and while this may be true, it is only true in certain areas of their lives and specific arenas that they operate in.   In other areas of their lives they have their shortcomings and when you have someone on a pedestal your tendency is to focus only on your own.  This has a negative impact on your own sense of self-worth and self-esteem.  You overlook your own attributes, skills and abilities in favour of the other.  You cannot effectively work with the other when you are holding yourself back. 

If you have another on a pedestal you are not seeing them, you are seeing only your ideal and only those aspects of them that you want to see. There are those among us who act like they belong on a pedestal. Thinking something and the actuality of something are two very different things. The person on the pedestal feels pressured to act in a certain way without fail. The person or the people who placed the other on the pedestal feel that they are failures. The minute you put another on a pedestal you are denying both yourself and the other the actual experiencing of each other. Instead you are relating through a lens of beliefs and precepts that may in fact be quite distanced from the truth.

Vanish Your Icons

Vanish Your Icons

While the other may have attributes and abilities that you aspire to have or wish you had, your putting them on a pedestal continually keeps these same attributes and abilities out of your reach.  You have given your power over to the person on a pedestal.  Often groups of people will elevate another to pedestal power and this is how cults come into being.  Whether the person has been placed there by the false precepts of others or demanded to be put their by some false delusions of their own, nobody belongs on a pedestal - at least nobody who is alive.  Even then some of mankind's great icons have had extreme personality flaws and areas of their lives in which they were barely functioning. 

For a long time people have put professionals on a pedestal based on nothing more that a title and some credentials.    Neither says anything about the kind of person they are.  If a professional said a thing was thus and so, it was law and people have operated on professional opinions often to their great determent.  Further it is impossible to work with someone else when you have them elevated to some lofty, out of reach position.  It makes communicating with them extremely awkward and uncomfortable if not impossible.   People who are on pedestals are very hard to get hold of. 

Our newspapers, the internet and our television and radio programming are full of stories about the latest fallen hero who did not live up to our unrealistic expectations of them. We view ourselves as so imperfect that when those who we esteem to be perfect fall we show them no mercy whatsoever. The truth is we all have things that we excel at or have the potential to excel at. We all have certain innate attributes and abilities and our own way of manifesting them in our outer realities. That some of us chose to assign our power away through our reluctance to be known and to take responsibility for what we know is a matter of choice. However, when we do so we also give over control of our own lives and assign it instead to the hero of the moment.

When we put others on a pedestal, make them stars we are deprived of not only knowing them but also of knowing ourselves.  People are who they are regardless of what you think about them, and what you think about them does not change who they are in the least - it only changes your perceptions of them.

An employer benefits when the employees work with him rather than for him, or worse against him. The same holds true of marriages, partnerships, friendships and parenting. Fostering a work with attitude can only take place when we do not lift others to an unreal altitude.

There are those among us who shine, there is no question of that and their wins should be celebrated. But, rather than being blinded into idolizing them, why not instead hold them as models of what we are individually and collectively capable of becoming?

Nicole Kidman
"You're not anyone in America unless you're on TV."

I beg to differ, everyone is someone, each and everyone of us - you are born someone - YOU!

You are and I am too!


Daniela on December 30, 2018:

Thank you so much for sharing, such an inspirational reading. I was pretty conscious of I am doing this occasionally, and of its consequences, however seeing this in writing helped me to rationalize it even more , thus helping me control this behavior to a greater extent.

Cam on April 19, 2013:

That is how I feel when it comes to historical figures. People want to rationalize that someone like Lincoln could do something good yet still not be a good person just so they can keep him high up on the pedestal. It never occurred to people that the pedestal shouldn't be there and that we should look at people for the good and bad they've done and let individuals come to their own conclusion about their character.

anon1 on June 10, 2012:

For the record, psychobabble like 'putting one on a pedastal' achieves only one thing - fooling a patient into thinking they need to come back for one more session to interpret what this means thereby enabling the counsellor to upgrade their Ford to a BMW. Moral of the story - be nice to your partner - it saves on counsellors.

anon1 on June 10, 2012:

This has to be one of the most destructive terms in relationships I have ever heard. If someone doesn't idolize their partner to a certain extent they're obviously in a sham relationship - end of story.

masita on March 21, 2011:

I was wondering, can we put something else on a pedestal, for instance personal achievement, test results or valuable experiences?

raisingme (author) from Fraser Valley, British Columbia on August 24, 2010:

Thank You to both of you.

ChloeTaylorBrown from USA on August 24, 2010:

A fabulous read, Jenafor! Thanks for sharing this with us.

downunder on August 17, 2010:

Love your work! Thanks :)

raisingme (author) from Fraser Valley, British Columbia on August 16, 2010:

That is all well and good for someone who is self-aware and 100% conscious of what it is that they are projecting onto another. Another is not self. To put someone on a pedestal means to admire them in such away as to idolize them. And I would argue that any of us is perfect, if we were there would be no reason to exist. We are always in the process of becoming, our potential is infinite.

Thank you for your comment and for sharing your viewpoint.

Cecilia from New York on August 15, 2010:

I think if you put someone in a pedestal, it is not necessarily that person you are idolizing, it is an aspect of your perfection you are projecting onto another.

In a way, even infatuation is like this. So to actualize this "someone" you see in someone, I say own it...make it you.

raisingme (author) from Fraser Valley, British Columbia on August 13, 2010:

Well you are not far behind me then lorlie and yes, it is freeing. It is so stupid how angry and disappointed we are when they fall when we are the one's that stuck them up there in the first place so that they could. Thank you for the read and the comment.

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on August 13, 2010:

Raisingme-this is a beautifully written hub full of truth. As a young girl, somehow I learned that others were above me, and almost always raised them up to levels they could not possible live up to.

It's taken me over 50 years to unlearn that perception, and I find it extremely freeing.

Thank you.

raisingme (author) from Fraser Valley, British Columbia on August 12, 2010:

I think there are two possible causes for that Merlin - one is they assume it is the easiest road and one of least responsibility based on the behaviours of many of their 'idols". The second possibility is that after years of being invisible in the 'system' they merely want to be seen and known. I was able to address the second with my own children through teaching them the value of building a good reputation. They are well on their way to being seen and known in their chosen fields.

akirchner - we are not all the same exactly. If we were there only need be one of us. But it is the fact that we are each unique that makes hero worship so debilitating as we deny who we are in favour of those to whom we assign 'greatness'. It is we who elevate them to a place "where they can do no wrong" but we sure make ourselves wrong in the process - How To Make Nothing Of Yourself - 101.

I toyed briefly about what it would be like to be put on a pedestal but I am afraid of heights so the temptation was short lived.

Thank you both very much for taking the time to visit and to comment.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on August 12, 2010:

I think we all end up 'worshipping' certain classes of people without even thinking of it - as you say. I've thought though the older I get, why not ME on a pedestal? Kidding of course but it would seem rather foolish in reality - but we don't seem to think it foolish that we drool over movie stars or treat our physicians for instance like gods who can do no wrong. Reality check - we are all the same under our clothes! Great points!

Merlin Fraser from Cotswold Hills on August 11, 2010:

What to me is even sadder is when ask what the want to be when leaving school the two most common answers are:

Famous. or A Celebrity.

raisingme (author) from Fraser Valley, British Columbia on August 11, 2010:

Well Merlin, the truth is that the right time has come now to put all that aside as mankind is rapidly running out of time to spend on idle idolizing. It is sad and disconcerting to note that the top searches on the internet are for those names to which we have assigned fame. Imagine what we could do if we put as much time and energy into raising ourselves rather than investing our life force into putting others on lofty and tenuous perches. And yes, we have greater opportunities and greater access to knowledge and education than anytime that has come before. This only makes it sadder still that we take that all that and invest it in our assigned others can live the life we can only grumble about not having.

It would be a lot of fun to live in a world where the majority of its inhabitants were invested in playing more worthwhile games. It would be way more fun that elevating others to great riches built on the pedestals of our own stupidity. Ya think?

Merlin Fraser from Cotswold Hills on August 11, 2010:

I think a long time ago putting people on a pedestal was related to a sense of awe and respect.

From this side of the pond over the years I have watched in amazement how US Americans seem to expect their elected officials to be whiter than white (No pun or insult intended) subjecting them to standards committee after standards committee rattling every conceivable cupboard for skeletons. They seem to expect the media to be judge, jury and executioner on their behalf.

Then we have the Cult of celebrity, Media driven hype with them in the role of King maker, setting them up and then knocking them down for fun and entertainment.

You might have expected by the Twenty-first century mankind with a superior intellect and greater educational opportunity might have out grown such infantile practices..... But Alas ...!

Now it's brainless footballers... Instant Pop Stars

and whoever Simon Cowell chooses.

raisingme (author) from Fraser Valley, British Columbia on August 10, 2010:

You bring up a good point Cari Jean in that we so often feel betrayed by someone that we have assigned with having certain traits and projected our ideals onto. When they miss the mark in upholding our expectations we feel that they have let us down. Thank you very much for your contribution.

Cari Jean from Bismarck, ND on August 10, 2010:

There is a lot of good stuff in this hub. I can relate to a lot of it. In the past, I put some Christian leaders on a pedestal and when they fell into sin or portrayed some other shortcoming it would just totally shock me and for some reason I would take it personally and would end up feeling very hurt. And like you said, we end up comparing ourselves to them and it causes us to focus on our own shortcomings.

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