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Inferiority Complex

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What is inferiority complex?

Inferiority complex is a term used to portray individuals who feel inferior compared to others (feeling like they’re not exactly like others, not good enough, useless, and so forth) by acting in manners that cause them to seem superior. They do this because controlling others may help them in feeling better than others and less adequate.

As indicated by Alfred Adler, feeling inferior can be because of some childhood incident, or upbringing ( for example, compared with a sibling), physical and mental restrictions, or encounters of social segregation (for instance, having restricted open doors because of race, financial circumstance, or sexual orientation). So what is inferiority complex? People who have inferiority complex overcompensate for their weaknesses (perceived).

Let me share an inferiority complex example with you. If someone is shorter than average people, and they perceive it as a weakness, they become more conscious about their appearance. They will try to follow a strict diet or do rigorous exercise to get slimmer as they think they will look taller. In an extreme situation, it becomes neurosis.

Inferiority complex meaning

In the dictionary, inferiority complex meaning is an “intense feeling of inferiority, producing a personality characterized either by extreme reticence or, as a result of overcompensation, by extreme aggressiveness.”

Inferiority complex definition

If you are still wondering, what is inferiority complex? Here is the inferiority complex definition by the American Psychological Association:

“A basic feeling of inadequacy and insecurity, deriving from actual or imagined physical or psychological deficiency, that may result in behavioral expression ranging from the withdrawal of immobilizing timidity to the overcompensation of excessive competition and aggression.”

What are the signs of inferiority complex?

So how would you realize you are encountering a feeling of inadequacy? What is inferiority complex meaning? What are the signs of inferiority complex? Well, normally, you would know pretty effectively, on the grounds that you would probably be overwhelmed by sentiments of low confidence and bad self-image. But symptoms are sometimes not that clear, particularly if you have built up an overcompensating superior thinking mindset to deal with inferiority emotions.

Martin E. Ford, PhD, senior associate, and professor at George Mason University College of Education and Human Development, explains that the way to encountering a feeling of inadequacy perceives how you react to inferiority emotions. Do they empower you to achieve your objectives? Do they cause you to think deeply? Or then again, do they bring out emotions of jealousy, asking you to put down others to feel better than others about yourself? At the point when these negative reactions form a pattern, that is the point at which the term “Inferiority complex” can be applied.

In case you are suffering from an inferiority complex, you will notice some common things. If you are wondering, what are the signs of inferiority complex? Here are some common signs:

  • Low self-esteem and Insecurity
  • Feeling “stuck” or unable to achieve your goals,
  • Ready to give up easily
  • Assume the worst
  • Blame yourself for others failures and shortcomings
  • Feeling the need to avoid any kind of social situation.
  • Often feeling down on yourself.
  • Experiencing depression and anxiety
  • Can’t handle criticism
  • Do not take compliments seriously
  • Avoid competitions where their efforts might be compared with others directly.

These are clear signs, but things are a bit different when a person seems to be over confident. Here are some signs that you need to look for if a person seems overly confident; he might have an inferiority complex:

  • They are highly competitive.
  • Perfectionism and neuroticism
  • Constantly finding fault in others
  • Attention-seeking by pretending to be depressed, sick, or by continually bringing the conversation back to them
  • They can’t admit their mistake.
  • Feel good about them when they are doing better than others

Inferiority complex causes

Research recommends that the behavioral and mental attributes related to a feeling of inferiority emerge from a mix of elements. Some of the common Inferiority complex causes among these elements are as follows:

Hereditary Predisposition

For instance, an investigation in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that individuals who acquired a variety in the receptor for oxytocin, a hormone that adds to good feelings, did not feel more optimistic, had lower confidence, and felt less close to home authority than individuals who acquired an alternate sort of receptor for oxytocin.

Family history

Maddux has studied self-esteem for quite a long time; your guardians can enormously affect whether a hereditary inclination toward self-doubt is “softened” or “exacerbated.” A youngster whose profoundly basic parent continuously makes statements like “You’re idiot,” “No doubt you can’t do it,” or “You do nothing right” may disguise those exhortations so totally that they convey them into adulthood.

Psychologist Elaine N. Aron, PhD, author of The Undervalued Self, explains this cause of inferiority complex in the following way:

“When you are very young and impressionable and faced with constant criticism, you feel powerless, worthless, ashamed, shy, and unenthusiastic most of the time, Feeling that it all must be your fault, you undervalue yourself chronically.”


One of the other common Inferiority complex causes in society. Unrealistic principles originating from celebrities, social media, advertisers, and other powerful people can reinforce or create wrong perceptions about a person leading to self-doubt. When society starts bombarding ideas on how someone should act, what should acquire, and what should be the color, size, or type of the body, we feel so upset and diminished that we don’t know anymore what we should do and what our real worth is.

People with low self-esteem start comparing them with others, and when they do this, they only make comparisons with the most successful people.

How to deal with someone who has an inferiority complex

Dealing with someone who has an inferiority complex is not easy. They will feel depressed and upset most of the time, comparing themselves with others. Or you will see that they are always trying some attention-seeking stunts. You will feel annoyed, but you have to help them. Try to help them and make them get rid of these negative emotions. Give your 100%, and it will prove helpful a lot. If you are wondering How to deal with someone who has an inferiority complex? Here are some suggestions for you:

Educate yourself

If you are wondering How to deal with someone who has an inferiority complex? First of all, you need to educate yourself about it. Learn how they affect people and how different people can react when they have a particular situation. When you understand the inferiority complex a little bit, it becomes easy to deal with them.

Do not rush things

If a person you love has an inferiority complex, do not push him/her to do things he may not want to do. Do not get upset if they complain or feel upset all the time. Rushing things will not help at all; you cannot force someone to be positive when they can’t understand how they can get rid of this negativity and inferiority complex.

Make them feel good about themselves.

If you have friends or a partner with an inferiority complex, it can be difficult for you to stay positive yourself. But you can help them a lot. Tell them that they do not need validation from others; they are unique and beautiful in their own way.

Encourage them to get help.

Take things slowly and help them understand the problem. Encourage them to seek professional help and don’t be judgy. It will only make them uncomfortable around you. They will feel hurt.

Be there for support.

How to deal with someone who has an inferiority complex? Try to talk to them about their fears, understand them, and ask them how they want you to help, what they need? If they can trust you, it would be easier for them to deal with their problem with your support.

Inferiority complex test

What is Inferiority complex psychology? Is it diagnosable? The inferiority complex is definitely not a diagnosable psychological issue. Experts usually consider low self-esteem factor as one potential side effect when they evaluate for other mental issues, including:

Anxiety Disorders: If you think that you are not good enough compared to others, it can provoke anxiety in several cases.

Depressive Disorders: It has a particularly strong relation with depression; for example, according to 77 previous published studies in Psychological Bulletin, large scale meta-analysis low self-confidence can be a cause in developing and maintaining depression.

Online test

There are plenty of online inferiority complex tests that can help in assessing the situation. These tests consist of some questions, and then based on your answers, it is figured out whether you have an inferiority complex or not.

Here are some of the questions that are a part of the online inferiority complex test:

  • If you are invited to a party, do you more likely to find an excuse to stay home?
  • Do you feel like a bad luck magnet or extremely lucky?
  • Do you prefer joining the gym to stay in shape or prefer walking alone or relying on a workout video?
  • Do you take criticism as feedback to improve yourself or feels like a failure when someone criticizes you?
  • When a new project at work is offered, do you feel excited or try to turn it down?
  • When a friend cancels on you last minute, do you schedule a new meet up or feel like they do not want to see you?


Stats showed that only 12.1% of people receive mental health treatment, which is not very encouraging.  The inferiority complex can also be because of mental health problems that need to be treated. Inferiority complex does not only affect you, but it also affects those around you, including your loved ones. It can ruin your career, and you may end up alone due to negative behavioural patterns. But if you understand symptoms in time and seek professional help for treatment, you can save yourself from trouble. Here are some possible treatments for inferiority complex:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves an approach that helps to identify negative thoughts and their changing patterns. What people think affects their behavior. Sometimes we make up many false situations in our head and get scared, which are far from reality, so with the help of CBT, these thoughts are identified and then treated.

A simple CBT technique involves saying “STOP” either aloud or in your head when you are experiencing a rush of irrational baseless thoughts. It is suggested that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, combined with Systematic Desensitization Therapy, can bring remarkable results in Inferiority complex treatment.


Medication is not recommended in the early stages to deal with mental problems as these can be handled better with the help of therapies. But in some cases, medications, in addition to therapy, become necessary to treat severe emotional and physical symptoms. Doctors may prescribe some medication when the condition is really bad. Here are some medications recommended by doctors for the Inferiority complex. But this does not mean you can take them on your own as some of them have side effects too. You cannot take them without the recommendation of a doctor.

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) — reduces anxiety and improves mood.
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) — work best against anxiety but not for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Benzodiazepines — are prescribed combined with other anxiety medications.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants — are recommended when SSRIs and SNRIs are failed to bring desirable results.

Superiority complex

Superiority complex is a kind of behavior suggesting that a person believes somehow they are superior compared to others. People having superior complex exaggerate their opinions about everything. They think that their achievements and abilities surpass others. But in some cases, a superiority complex may hide emotions of inferiority and low self-esteem.

The superiority complex was first described by psychologist Alfred Adler in the early 20th century. He explained that it is a defense mechanism for emotions of inadequacy that we struggle with.

Superiority complex in psychology

Superiority complex in psychology is just like an inferiority complex; this also makes life difficult for you and those around you. So you need to be very careful about that. Look for symptoms, and you will know whether you are suffering from this complex or not.

If you see the following symptoms in yourself or your friends, it can be a sign that you or your friend is suffering from a superiority complex.

  • High valuations of self-worth
  • Exaggerated claims that are not based on reality
  • Vanity or attention to the appearance
  • Extremely high opinion of one’s self
  • A self-image of authority or supremacy
  • Unwilling to listen to others
  • Overcompensation for some specific factors of life
  • Mood swings often become worse when another person contradicts their opinion.
  • Feelings of inferiority or underlying low self-esteem

You may accept that you detect a portion of these signs in someone else. They can be easy to distinguish, particularly after a really long relationship. However, coordinating these indications to the complex itself isn’t excessively simple.

A significant number of these “signs” can likewise be brought about by a few other conditions. These incorporate bipolar and narcissistic personality disorder.

A professional in mental health, for example, a therapist or psychiatrist, may be able to see underneath the signs of the main problem. That is regularly low confidence or feeling of inadequacy. On the off chance that this is found, a prevalence complex gets particular from other potential issues.

Causes of superiority complex

Opposite of the inferiority complex is superiority complex, but both have almost similar signs. It is still not clear why anybody builds up a superiority complex. Various circumstances or incidents might be the main cause behind it. For instance, it might be the aftereffect of various disappointments. Individual attempts to finish a particular objective or accomplish an ideal result; however, they don’t succeed. They figure out how to deal with the tension and pressure of disappointment by claiming to be above it.

On the off chance that they feel shielded from their disappointments as such, they may repeat it later on. To put it plainly, they figure out how to get away from sentiments of the deficiency by bragging and professing to be superior to other people. In any case, to people around this individual, the behaviors might be viewed as prideful and self-important.

These behaviors can start at a really early age. At the point when a kid is figuring out how to adapt to difficulties and changes, they may figure out how to smother sentiments of insufficiency or dread. A superiority complex may be created.

Similarly, it might likewise happen further down the road. As youngsters and grown-ups, an individual has numerous occasions to attempt new things among new individuals. On the off chance that these circumstances are not effectively explored, an individual may build up a superiority complex for overcoming emotions of isolation or lacking.

How to deal with a superiority complex

If you have a superiority complex and you are wondering How to deal with a superiority complex, here are some suggestions for you:

Try not to pay attention to appreciation.

It is magnificent, and everybody enjoys it when someone appreciates them. What is most significant is the manner in which one feels about them. Despite the fact that it feels extraordinary to get a commendation, it is vital to not let it swell one’s assessment of them. Acknowledge the comment with thank you, and continue with the overall discussion.

Don’t pretend to be the smarty pants and the know it all.

An individual with a superiority complex may end up in natural circumstances being overbearing and intimidating, where they realize the ideal approach to finish an undertaking. They should avoid taking charge. Let others voice their assessments. Work in the form of large gatherings, allowing others the chance to learn.

Quit being critical

How to deal with the superiority complex? An individual with a predominance complex must understand that their conclusion is only that; it is their opinion. Not every person may agree with this, which is their right. Each individual is qualified for their own assessment. To encourage change, reign in the propensity to be the smarty pants. Be available to listening and tolerating of the assessment of others and never partake in tattle and belittling!

Accept that everybody has qualities and shortcomings.

Those having a predominance complex may have stand-out characteristics and be remarkable in dealing with everyday issues. He/she might be extremely smart scholastically, and, which is all well and good, be glad for their achievements. Keep in mind, in any case, that there are smarter individuals, more extraordinary individuals on the planet. It is imperative to have quietude. Recognize others and their achievements. Figuring out how to show support to others is significant all together for he/she to be acknowledged by their friends.

Acknowledge what is significant

While feeling incredible and prosperous might be emotions he/she appreciates, these sentiments are just shallow and may even be transitory. So as to control an individual’s inclination of predominance, and to be really cheerful and fruitful, one requirement is to have a quality friend(s) that can be there through various difficulties.

Ask for help when required.

Ordinarily, one enduring a prevalence complex doesn’t require mental assistance, except if the complex totally assumes control over their character. The complex can come through legacy or wealth; in any case, it can likewise be the consequence of interactions, for instance, school, work environment, social capacities.

This is the reason it is so significant for one experiencing this complex to look after friendships, particularly dear fellowships, with those they trust. When attempting to fight predominance complex, it assists with having somebody that can assist them with a remaining focus in on their objective and truths.

Superiority complex test

A superiority complex cannot be diagnosed officially. So there is no particular Superiority complex test. It doesn’t show up in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This manual is a tool used by almost every mental health expert or healthcare service provider to analyze various mental health disorders. The DSM-5 additionally enables medical care suppliers to choose suitable therapy.

But, not being in the manual doesn’t mean the complex isn’t genuine. A psychologist will utilize a mix of components to decide whether an individual has the complex. These routine watched practices and an assessment during a one-to-one meeting. Some of the time, discussions with loved ones might be useful, as well.

A few side effects of a superiority complex are comparative over other psychological well-being conditions. These incorporate dementia, schizophrenia, narcissistic personality disorder, and bipolar problem. In contrast to the superiority complex, these can be diagnosed using definitive criteria. Your mental health expert can preclude these and different conditions.

There are certain online superiority complex tests. These tests have no medical basis final decision of a clinical expert; you can just have an idea from these tests.

Inferiority complex vs. superiority complex

How to differentiate Inferiority complex vs. superiority complex? A superiority complex is a boasted sense of self-worth. It conceals true sentiments of mediocrity. A feeling of inadequacy is an extended inclination of shortcoming. It hides genuine thoughts, motives, for example, desires for power.

In Adler’s theory of psychology, a predominance complex and inferiority complex are interlinked. He held that a person who behaved better than others and held other people as less commendable was really concealing an inferiority complex. Moreover, some people having extremely high goals may endeavor to conceal them by claiming to be modest or even incapable.

Individual psychology is based on the possibility that we are endeavoring to defeat an emotion of deficiency or inadequacy, and this helps us to create some meaningful life of success and belonging.

Conquering emotions of inferiority are the inspiration for us to create the life we need. In this unique situation, a predominance complex is a response or outcome to an inability to achieve one’s objectives or for satisfying hopes and desires.

Freud believed that a superiority complex was really a path over redress or over-compensates for zones in which we are coming up short or missing. He figured it very well may be persuading or a way to assist us in dealing with failure.

How to differentiate Inferiority complex vs. superiority complex? Predominance complex contrasts from real confidence in that confidence is a consequence of having genuine expertise, achievement, or ability in a particular zone. Interestingly, a superiority complex is bogus confidence or boasting when almost no achievement, accomplishment, or ability really is there.

Is inferiority complex a mental disorder?

We all question ourselves at some point in our lives. It may seem distressing, but it is completely normal to feel incompetent, or we can say lower than people around us. We may feel like we are not as hard-working as our colleagues or are not at a better place in life like our friends. For most people, these feelings of insecurity and inferiority are occasional. When these feelings are strong, we may feel terrible, but once these are gone, we move on because we know we have other strengths, and we use them as motivation.

But people with inferiority complex take things differently. They will call themselves names and will believe that self-criticism is reasonable. They will attack their self-esteem when it is most fragile. This cycle never stops and holds them back not only personally but also professionally.

So is inferiority complex a mental disorder? Inferiority complex is not a diagnosable mental health disorder. Low self-esteem is considered a possible symptom for diagnosing other psychological disorders.

What are some signs and symptoms?

Inferiority complex is all about having negative thoughts, behaviours, tendencies, and emotions. Signs that you might have an Inferiority complex are as follows:

  • Focusing on upsetting thoughts repetitively.
  • Shutting down out of guilt, embarrassment, shame, or an inner sense of failure
  • Withdrawing from family members, friends, colleagues, and co-workers
  • Demeaning others for transferring their emotions of failure and isolation

A person with an inferiority complex may also show the following symptoms:

  • Feeling responsible for the failures and shortcomings of others
  • Seeking validation and attention from others by pretending to be depressed, sick, or continually bringing the whole conversation back to them
  • Avoiding competitions where there is a comparison of efforts as Dr Flowers says:

“People with very low self-esteem don’t take risks. They don’t try things, and they end up missing out on many opportunities.”

  • Are extremely sensitive to criticisms and compliments
  • Exhibit personality traits like neuroticism and perfectionism

What are some risk factors and causes?

According to research, psychological and behavioural characteristics that are linked with inferiority complex arise because of a combination of factors. These factors are explained here:

Genetic factors

For instance, according to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people inheriting variation in oxytocin (a hormone that contributes to positive emotions) receptor had lower self-esteem and felt less optimistic as compared to those inheriting a different kind of oxytocin receptor.


Parents need to make their children feel good and confident. But in the case of toxic parents, they keep on saying things like “you are so stupid”, “you can’t do anything right” to their children can affect their self-esteem. These things affect their adulthood badly.

Societal factors

The society also plays a very important role here. Unrealistic standards coming from social media, advertisers, celebrities, and other authority figures can lead to self-doubt. People with low esteem compare themselves with others, and among others, they choose the most successful people for comparison, which makes them feel bad about themselves.

Diagnosis of inferiority complex

As it is mentioned above, it is not a diagnosable mental health disorder, but certain psychological problems are associated with this and can help in diagnosing the issue. Here these are:

Depressive disorders

The link between low self-esteem and depression is strong particularly. For example, one huge meta-analysis of about 77 past studies published in the journal Psychological Bulletin found that in the maintenance and development of depression, low self-esteem plays a significant role.

Anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorder is also linked with low self-esteem. When a person feels that he is not good enough or successful like others, it can provoke anxiety in several situations.

Treatment options for the inferiority complex

Is inferiority complex a mental disorder? Well, it is clear from the above discussion that it is a mental disorder, but now the question arises what are some possible treatment options? Being difficult to diagnose the disorder, it is necessary for people to understand the symptoms and try to get professional help as soon as possible if they notice these symptoms. A professional can then decide the best treatment option for you. Usually, CBT or talking therapy, or a combination of both, is used in the treatment of inferiority complex. In some cases, medication is also suggested. Let’s have a look at these treatment options:

Cognitive behavioural therapy

CBT is used as a treatment option for several mental health disorders. CBT helps people examine and understand their negative emotions and thoughts they experience in a particular situation and slowly change them with time by observing their validity.

Talking therapies

Talking therapies are really helpful, and people who try these can function better in life because they feel relief. A therapist will first try to understand from where all these negative thoughts are coming. He will ask you to open about your past experiences. Once he figures everything out, he will help you in shifting g focus from what you lack to your positive qualities and positive things you have in your life.


If someone is suffering from an inferiority complex along with some other mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, a professional may suggest medication. Anti-depressants, for example, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are usually recommended. These medications help to increase the levels of mood-lifting hormones in the brain by reducing the reabsorption of these hormones by neurons.

Tips for dealing with an inferiority complex

Although it is necessary to take help from a professional, still you can follow some tips to make yourself feel better. Your therapists’ efforts, along with your efforts, can bring remarkable results in a relatively short time. So here her some tips for you.

Think positive

It is not easy when all your focus is on negative thoughts. Positive thinking can develop with time by listening and speaking to inspirational people. If you have an inferiority complex, do not feel upset, accept that you have a problem, and work to solve this problem.

Avoid people who discourage you.

Some people will always discourage you and make you feel bad about yourself. They may say some mean things that do not make any sense. You need to stay away from such people at any cost. Remind yourself that you can do anything you want in life, and nobody can stop you. Try to spend time with people who are positive, encouraging, and warm. Their positive vibes will make you feel good.

Do not compare yourself with others.

One thing that encourages low self-esteem is comparison. So you need to stop comparing yourself with others. They are not like you; you have your struggles. You are unique in your own way, accept and appreciate yourself. Try to be happy for others and work hard to get what you want.

Practice gratitude

It is the most important thing if you want positivity in your life. Practising gratitude will make you feel better about yourself. Make a habit of thinking about all the good things you have in your life and writing these down. Start with writing three good things in your life, and be thankful for them. Start with little like be thankful for clean water, or a cup of coffee you had today, etc., etc.


We all have our own strengths and weaknesses; there is no reason for anyone to feel less about themselves than others. The main thing is that you have to fight it if you are suffering from an inferiority complex. That does not mean that you should feel superior to others; that is not right either. There should be a balance.

Everyone deserves healthy self-esteem so that they can feel happy, strong, confident, and ambitious again. I have tried my best to provide you useful information through this article. Hope so it will prove informative and helpful for you. Call us on 03333443853 and have a free consultation today with one of our certified professionals.

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