Every one of us is highly important, each of us has something of great value to offer the world and every body is uniquely different and skilled in different ways. You’ve probably read such statements before, but while you might agree with them on a logical and conscious level, sometimes it’s very hard to feel that way and to believe that you genuinely have the same amount to offer as everyone else. If that describes you then you may just have an inferiority complex which is a serious and unfortunate affliction that can affect every single aspect of your life.
Here we will look at what an inferiority complex is, why it is such a serious problem, and how to address it and overcome it.
What Is an Inferiority Complex?
An inferiority complex as the name suggests is a complex in which an individual has overwhelming feelings of inferiority. While we all have weak points and areas of ourselves which could be improved, the person with an inferiority complex will fixate on these weaknesses and use them in order to evaluate their overall worth. As a result of their real or perceived flaws, they then see themselves as generally less important, successful or accomplished as others and of course this can have many negative impacts on their lives.
In some cases inferiority complex can lead to overcompensation and this is the best scenario. Here the individual does everything in their power to overcome their perceived inferiority and this can mean that they end up in highly successful jobs, amassing great wealth and succeeding in powerful relationships. However while such a person might be a high achiever, a sense of inferiority will mean that they will always be less happy than they could be and it may have other negative impacts on their life.
Another possible outcome of an inferiority complex meanwhile is that the individual ends up backing down from difficult situations and acting without any sense of worth or entitlement. Such people will have the opposite results as the overcompensating type due to what is known as a ‘self fulfilling prophecy’. Here the person’s low self belief changes the way they behave, and that in turn changes the way they are perceived and treated by others which in turn results in them actually becoming inferior in some ways.
There are many possible causes of inferiority, but they tend to be the result of significant events (often in childhood), or of conditioned beliefs that come from continuous failure or criticism. Often parental attitudes can result in an inferiority complex if the child did not receive the right encouragement or unconditional love when they were growing up. In some cases an inferiority complex could also arise as a result of some kind of defect either physical or mental. For instance a low IQ, poor physical fitness or appearance, physical disablement, speech defects etc. Any such condition could present the child with a source of continuous disappointment and criticism, and might prevent them from participating in the same activities as others.
Often the negative self view in an inferiority complex will result in the problem becoming self perpetuating and this causes the person to enter a vicious cycle wherein their low self esteem causes them to avoid situations where they could otherwise have improved their confidence, or results in them making mistakes or harshly judging their own performances.
How to Overcome an Inferiority Complex
If that’s all sounding about right then you may well be suffering from an inferiority complex and it’s time that you did something about it. The question is, how do you break out of such a vicious cycle and begin to develop more self confidence, perhaps for the first time in your life? Here we will look at some techniques and suggestions for how you can start to break the cycle and start to develop more confidence.
A lot of pessimism and low self esteem comes from negative self talk. Here you are constantly putting yourself down or criticizing yourself in your own mind with your internal monologue – perhaps thinking things like ‘I don’t deserve this’ or ‘they will think I’m stupid’. This is the cause of many psychological conditions and it is something that is addressed in a school of psychology known as ‘cognitive behavioral psychology’. Here therapists teach how to go about first identifying, and then eliminating and replacing negative thoughts that cause you to be unhappy. You can do this through the use of mindfulness. This is a form of meditation where the aim is not to completely clear your mind, but rather to simply reflect on its contents while watching your thoughts go by ‘like clouds’. You can this way notice when you are thinking the negative thoughts that could lead to low self esteem and start to stop yourself from getting into those patterns. Another strategy used to try and replace negative thoughts is to use positive affirmations and to constantly repeat more positive thoughts such as ‘I am equal to everyone else’ or ‘it doesn’t matter what other people think’. The idea is to do this until the point where these new thoughts become habitual so that you are constantly thinking positive things.
However the most effective way to stop the negative self talk is to simply stop believing it, and if you think very logically about most negative thoughts you will find that they aren’t really based on anything at all. For instance if you are thinking that you are less worthwhile because you aren’t very good looking then you are probably missing several points:
• Looks are superficial and have nothing to do with skill or talent or personality
• You probably have many other more worthwhile talents
• Looks are subjective and chances are that some people would disagree with your opinions
• Good dress sense, hair and physical fitness can all go some way to combating your appearance
Likewise if you are not confident in your own personality, your beliefs, your habits, your hobbies etc then remember that all this is arbitrary too. There is really no ‘right way’ and no ‘wrong way’ to go about things and no one can tell you that you are less worthwhile as a result. It all very much depends on who you are and what you value and it doesn’t matter what other people value. Remember too that most people also lack confidence to an extent. So when you think that they might be judging you then just bear in mind that chances are that they are equally worried that you might be judging them.
If in the past you have had events or experiences that have lead to your inferiority complex meanwhile, then now is the time to look at those and to think about why they might have occurred. For instance if your parents were dismissive then that is likely because they were bad parents and was no fault of your own. Likewise if you were teased at school this can have any number of reasons and might even have been a product of jealousy.
Note: These are some rudimentary forms of ‘cognitive restructuring’ – changing the way that you view the world for the benefit of your mental health and happiness. If you are truly struggling with inferiority feelings and you want to tackle them head on, then you are best off getting professional advice from a cognitive behavioral therapist who is trained in this kind of therapy.
Focus on Weaknesses
To this end, while it is not a very nice trait or habit, you can often make yourself feel better by choosing to focus on the weaknesses on others which will at least have the result of putting your own weak points into perspective. When you talk to someone then, think about when they stutter, or whether they have a good vocabulary, or whether they perhaps have any physical weaknesses. All these things are unkind to think, but if you do focus on them then you will be able to note how unlikely they are to be judging you as a result.
Someone trying to overcome feelings and thoughts of inferiority might think about all of the ways in which they are not inferior and the ways in which others are unlikely to be judging them. However this is to miss the real point – that it just doesn’t matter. As long as you are putting in effort into the areas you think are important that’s all that matters. Practice going into a shop and acting strangely to the assistant there – you’ll notice they don’t react at all and there are no repercussions. Likewise practice acting firm and trying to get your way, and practice making noise etc etc. All these things will show you how little people care and how little your behavior matters.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
The problem with an inferiority complex is that it often attracts the wrong kind of relationships and these might be the kinds of relationships who will try to take advantage of your nature or who will act as a leach on your self confidence. Often other unconfident people will associate with you and will try to put you down in order to make themselves feel better. You need to make sure that this doesn’t happen and recognize when it is happening. If you do have people in your life who are critical or bitchy then you don’t need them in your life right now – one of the best things you can do is to cut them out of your life for now until you have gained more confidence – and explain to them why so that they can change.
One of the very best ways to improve your self esteem is to find a loving partner. This is a great way to make you more confident as they will love you for who you are and they will be there to support you and to boost your confidence. You just need to take that step in order to find love in the first place – which can be hard if you lack confidence in the first place.
Read Self Help Books
Self help books have a bad reputation and many people think that they are wet and filled with obvious advice. However while this is sometimes the case, in other situations they are very useful and based on sound psychology. If you find the right books and follow the advice carefully then it is possible to transform the way you view yourself and the way you present yourself.
If you are upset with your lack of confidence, or with your physique, or with your intelligence then don’t worry – these are all things that you can improve with practice and there are many other ways to boost your confidence too. The answer is not to wish that you were different but to take action and to turn yourself, and your life, into what you want it to be. The great news too is that it’s never too late to start and there are plenty of great role models you can look up to who have achieved a lot at almost every age. Find role models, set goals, and work to make yourself into what you want to be.
Take Up a Hobby
The problem with an inferiority complex is that you look at one flaw in your personality or one area in which you are not as talented as you could be and then you generalize that or inflate its importance so that you completely lose your confidence. The solution then is to find one thing that you are good at and then to get your self esteem and your confidence from that. For instance then you might choose to take up a sport or woodwork, and then you can practice getting better at that and gain more confidence from that area.