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Mental Wellness

Inferiority Complex: 8 Signs & Tips To Overcome It

It’s tough to maintain high self-confidence and always feel your best. That’s doubly true if you suffer from an inferiority complex. Unfortunately, anyone can develop an inferiority complex, though it’s more common in those with childhood struggles or current hard circumstances. If you’re affected by an inferiority complex, good news; there are ways to overcome it, especially by changing your thinking patterns. Let’s break down those tips to overcome an inferiority complex and go over common signs so you can identify whether you have an inferiority complex.

What Is an Inferiority Complex?

An inferiority complex is a real psychological phenomenon, even though it is treated somewhat jokingly in pop culture. In a nutshell, an inferiority complex is characterized by extremely low self-esteem and chronic disbelief in one’s own abilities.

Many individuals who suffer from inferiority complexes are self-deprecating to the extreme. They may vocalize this self-deprecation, may find it difficult to accept compliments, and may not be able to summon the willpower to tackle challenging tasks. In the worst cases, an inferiority complex can be debilitating. Overall, an inferiority complex is a feeling of inadequacy or insecurity. It may drive people to overcompensation, perfectionism, negative thoughts, self-doubt, and difficulty finding validation in social situations. Inferiority complexes can be driven or caused by either real or imagined psychological or physical deficiencies. 

Unfortunately, these feelings of inferiority tend to reinforce themselves. Those with inferiority complexes usually feel worse because of their complexes, which reinforces the underlying feelings or motivations driving the complexes in the first place. You may develop an inferiority complex due to causes or factors including but not limited to:

  • Inherent personality traits
  • Childhood experiences, especially traumatic ones
  • Adult experiences
  • Cultural messages which may cause comparisons and feelings of inadequacy

An inferiority complex is the opposite of a superiority complex, which is characterized by opposing symptoms (such as a tendency toward overinflating one’s self-worth, having a sense of competitiveness in everything, etc.).

What Are the Signs of an Inferiority Complex?

Even with these potential causes, it may be difficult to determine whether you have a full-on inferiority complex or low self-esteem. You can be diagnosed with an inferiority complex by a licensed mental health professional, but you may pick up on some of the signs yourself. You may have an inferiority complex if you display several of the below signs or symptoms, not just one or two.

1. Insecurity

An intense feeling of insecurity or self-consciousness is arguably the most common symptom of this personality disorder. Insecurity can be psychological, physical, financial, or something else. For example, someone with an inferiority complex may enter a new relationship. But as soon as the initial butterflies fade away, they feel insecure about the relationship and begin to practice unhealthy behaviors to keep their new significant other with them. They may feel that they aren’t attractive enough for their significant other or something else.

Insecurity, if left unchecked, can drive many negative thought patterns and unhealthy behaviors such as possessiveness, toxic relationship attitudes, wasteful spending, and much more. But insecurity also drives negative internal thoughts and feelings, which may lead to or exacerbate other symptoms of inferiority complexes.

2. Wanting To Give Up All the Time

Individuals with a sense of inferiority may also feel as though they want to give up all the time. They may want to give up:

  • Their jobs or careers, even if they have worked hard to acquire their current positions
  • Their relationships. For instance, someone with an inferiority complex may want to abandon a relationship they’ve been in for several years, even if their partner feels that everything is fine or good.
  • Their hobbies. You may be developing an inferiority complex if you suddenly don’t have any desire to engage in your hobbies due to not feeling “good enough” at them.

At its core, this symptom is driven by how an inferiority complex makes the victim feel as though they don’t have the skills, capabilities, or talent to maintain their current course of action. Thus, an inferiority complex may cause you to abandon certain life tracks or efforts, which can have long-term negative effects later down the road.

3. Feeling Stuck

An overall feeling of being stuck or unable to improve one’s life is also associated with inferiority complexes. Note that this is also associated with depression and anxiety; it’s one possible reason why those conditions and inferiority complexes are often associated with each other, as well as known to exacerbate each other. Feeling stuck can prevent one from undertaking helpful life changes or attempting to improve their situation. This is why friends and supportive family members are important if you suffer from an inferiority complex. They can help you get out of your rut and prevent your stuck feeling from stopping you from getting the assistance you need.

4. Assuming the Worst of Situations

Many individuals with inferiority complexes automatically assume the worst in complex situations, particularly social ones. For instance, they may hear a group of people talking about them and automatically assume that they are being criticized or made fun of. In reality, the group of people comments on how much they love that person. Such negative assumptions can drive people away from the individual with an inferiority complex and cause major social repercussions. It may also prevent the individual with an inferiority complex from trying to get help or improve their situation, as described above.

5. Feeling Isolated or Lonely

Feelings of isolation or loneliness are commonly associated with inferiority complexes. Those with such complexes may not know why people want to spend time with them. They could assume that any attempts to socialize with them are performed out of pity or are “fake.” Of course, this attitude only confirms the person’s suspicions, which reinforces the negative behaviors and thought cycles that characterize most inferiority complexes.

6. Anxiety or Depressive Symptoms

As mentioned earlier, inferiority complexes are frequently accompanied by symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety disorders or depression. If you have depression or anxiety, you may simultaneously develop an inferiority complex, or one may come before the other.

7. Not Being Able To Take Compliments

Those with inferiority complexes frequently cannot take compliments due to a poor self-image. They either don’t believe them or, less commonly, assume deceitful or harmful intentions on the part of the person complimenting them. In either case, being unable to take compliments makes it harder for the inferiority complex to be defeated and overcome.

8. Being Overly Sensitive to Criticism

Similarly, an inferiority complex might make you much more sensitive to criticism than normal. Your boss, for instance, may recommend that you pay a little more attention to your next assignment (even though they stress that you did a good enough job with your last assignment). But in the grips of an inferiority complex, your mind may interpret this information as your boss expressing intense dislike of you personally. By being overly sensitive to criticism, you might respond poorly to social cues, have difficulty making friends, and find it difficult, if not impossible, to improve your situation.

How Can I Overcome an Inferiority Complex?

Even though inferiority complexes can be debilitating and hard to live with, there are ways to overcome them. Let’s take a look at some tips and strategies you can leverage to overcome your inferiority complex starting today.

Make Fewer Comparisons Between Yourself and Others

For starters, you should attempt to make fewer (if any) comparisons between yourself and other people. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the saying goes. This is even truer if you have an inferiority complex. To overcome an inferiority complex, you need to focus on yourself and your positive aspects above all else. Try not to compare yourself to others regarding job status, physical capabilities, appearances, or social networks.

When you make fewer comparisons between yourself and others, you rob your inferiority complex of its ability to “prove” that it’s correct. Work on improving yourself rather than fitting into an arbitrary mold based on other people’s life patterns and habits. As a side note and tip, it may be wise to delete your social media profiles and accounts if you have an inferiority complex. Social media is known to drive toxic behavior, and it may make it difficult for you to overcome your inferiority complex.

Practice Gratitude

Next, try to practice gratitude every day. Make a mental or written note of the things you are grateful for, ranging from the weather to your pets to your favorite food to your family members and anything else you can think of. Many psychological studies have shown that actively practicing gratitude and paying attention to what you love does wonders for your mental health and helps to counteract the effects of inferiority complexes. It’s harder to feel bad about yourself or your situation if you point out everything you love about your current life. Practicing gratitude is the antidote to jealousy in many cases.

Directly Challenge Unhealthy Thinking

Instead of focusing on positive affirmations to boost your self-esteem, try to challenge your unhealthy thinking patterns. This may be most advisable with the assistance of a trained therapist. Trained therapists can help point out unhealthy thinking patterns as you explain your thoughts and feelings. Once you recognize them, you can interrupt those thoughts in the process of bringing you down and practice gratitude or positive self-talk instead. This is a core tenet of cognitive behavioral therapy, through which you’ll learn to consciously hijack your thinking patterns and make them work for you.

Be Mindful

Alongside practicing gratitude, you should also practice mindfulness. By being mindful and noticing the good things that occur to you throughout your day, you’ll be less likely to feel the effects of your inferiority complex. For example, you may not particularly like your job, but the brisk morning walk to work offers you the chance to enjoy some sunshine, time in nature, and birdsong. By being mindful of this great start to your day, you can use that positivity to fuel your thoughts and behaviors throughout the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon.

Being mindful also means paying attention to how you think and act. If you are mindful of when your inferiority complex rears its head, you can potentially stop it from affecting your social relationships, work performance, and other areas of your life.

Surround Yourself With the Right People

Your friends and family members have an important impact on your ego and self-esteem. They can help you overcome your inferiority complex, provided that they are positive and affirming of your value. If you’re trying to overcome an inferiority complex, cut out toxic friends and family members who make things worse.

Be Easier on Yourself

Lastly, try to cut yourself a break now and then. Be easier on yourself and do not be overly harsh or critical of your performance or mistakes in social relationships, work tasks, or anything else. No one is perfect, but your inferiority complex could be causing you to see your current life and any new mistakes in a much harsher light than they deserve.

Summary

At the end of the day, you can overcome an inferiority complex regardless of its origin, causes, and contributing factors. Even better, by overcoming an inferiority complex, you’ll position yourself for better long-term mental health and overall success.

1AND1’s wellness guides and other resources can help you practice mindfulness, undertake helpful habits like yoga and meditation, and much more. 

Sources:

What Does It Really Mean To Have An “Inferiority Complex”? | MBG Mindfulness

Analysis of the causes of inferiority feelings based on social media data with Word2Vec – PMC | NCBI

The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health | Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health

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