“Believe in yourself! Have faith in yourself! If you think success, you will be successful. Apply to your problems such Bible text as ‘If you have faith…nothing shall be impossible for you.’”—Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (1889-1993)
Are there parts of your self-concept with which you aren’t happy?
Do you expect to be rejected by others?
Do you evaluate your performance less favorably than others?
Do you feel threatened by people you view as superior in some way?
You may have an inferiority complex if you answered yes to these questions.
Alfred Adler (1870-1937), psychologist and founder of the school of Individual Psychology, coined the term “inferiority complex,” which he described as feelings of lack of worth.
According to en.Wikipedia.org, an inferiority complex is the lack of self-worth, “doubt and uncertainty about oneself, and feelings of not measuring up to standards. It is often subconscious and is thought to drive afflicted individuals to overcompensate, resulting in the spectacular achievement of extremely asocial behavior.”
“An inferiority complex is the prevailing feeling that others are better, more accomplished, attractive, and happier. With an inferiority complex in place, people chronically struggle to feel positive about themselves, their actions, and their life overall. All other people seem superior, which results in the individual experiencing a range of unwanted mental and physical health effects.”
Is the Whole World Sick Mentally?
Just think about this question for a moment.
According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 out of 5 adults experiences mental illness every year.
As of 2020, there were 12,275 registered health treatment facilities in the United States alone.
And the centers are crowded!
It’s tough to keep well mentally in a world that is suffering a breakdown today.
Think Columbine massacre (1999); shootings in Las Vegas (2017); Orlando (2016); Virginia Tech (2007); Sandy Hook (2012); church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017); Killeen, Texas (1991), and nine killed in a Methodist church (2015).
The list of these tragedies is almost endless. It could be attributed at least partially to being carried out by those who suffer mental illness associated with a deep inferiority complex.
There’s so much suffering, so much death.
And so much “extremely asocial behavior.”
Studies have shown that introverted people have minds continually turned inward upon themselves.
Introverts can have an inferiority complex and are keenly aware of their mistakes.
Introverts are painfully conscious of their foolish actions before others, their errors of speech and conversation, embarrassments, and displays of weakness.
Introverts are keenly aware of the criticisms others make, offenses others commit against them, and on and on.
“Any mental illness (AMI) is defined as a mental behavioral or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment, e.g., individuals with serious illness.”
“Serious mental illness (SMI) is a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. The burden of mental illness is concentrated particularly among those who experience disability due to SMI.”
The above definitions translate into an estimated 52.9 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with AMI, representing 21.0% of all U.S. adults.
(Source: 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH))
Not a Psychological Condition
An inferiority complex is not a diagnosable mental health disorder but is viewed as a symptom of other psychological problems such as anxiety disorder and depression.
Doctors have found that low self-esteem can be a factor in developing depression disorder, and the treatment to lessen suffering.
But those who suffer from an inferiority complex can have these feelings for years and years.
It’s difficult for people who see themselves as less than others to overcome these feelings and begin to view themselves as enough and lovable—to validate and affirm their self-worth and believe it deep down.
So, is there a way to heal?
Short of seeing a therapist?
11 Practical Ways to Overcome an Inferiority Complex
If your inferiority stems from the company you keep, stop associating with all those who make you feel small, inadequate, or insecure about your place and position.
If the causes of your feeling of inferiority are your tasks at work or social functions, stop accepting them. Know your limitations and the extent of your abilities. Refuse to become involved in anything that you cannot follow through successfully because it puts you in the limelight for a while.
If people with names or titles make you feel small, self-conscious, and insignificant, avoid close contact. Why play “second fiddle” to them? Associate with those who come nearer to your standards and those who make you feel comfortable.
Place a price on yourself, your knowledge, ability, dignity, and self-respect. Refuse to serve as a mat for others to walk. Speak up. Voice your displeasure, likes, or dislikes. Do it repeatedly, and before long, your fear of speaking up and your feeling of inferiority will be gone.
It is commendable to seek higher levels but only when you have prepared yourself and not at the expense of your self-esteem and self-confidence.
If you want to get rid of your feeling of inferiority, stay within your bounds and do not overreach yourself. Find out what you do best, work diligently until you excel at it, and capitalize upon it.
Sell yourself on the fact that you are as good, capable, influential, and even better in some respects as those you usually associate with.
If your inferiority stems from oversensitivity or self-consciousness, it may be because you take yourself too seriously. Do not assume that people have you on their minds and are constantly about you. This is not the case. Rid yourself of these thoughts, and your self-consciousness will gradually disappear.
If you feel you are not liked or wanted or welcomed when you come in company with certain people, you may expect too much. Perhaps you wear your heart on your sleeve and feel hurt when people fail to notice it.
If you intensely dislike what you are doing but keep at it halfheartedly because you are afraid to make a change, you are doing an injustice to others and are unfair to yourself. Make the necessary changes.
If you have been too willing to take “second best”; if you are forever apologizing for living or for taking up room, how can you expect others to value you as a person? You have definite capabilities which you and you alone can develop and capitalize on.
If there are things you always wanted to do but somehow never go around to them, get started on them—now! Work at them—now!
It may not be easy, but go on just the same.
By trying repeatedly, your sense of inadequacy will vanish, and your feeling of inferiority will disappear.
Your self-concept is often shaped by those around you and affects how you view yourself around other people.
If you feel inferior to others, use these 11 practical methods to change your self-concept.
Improve your feeling of self-worth.
Gain confidence in interacting with others.
Conquer your feeling of inferiority now!
“Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.”—Shakespeare, King Henry V
“One of the processes of your life is to break down that inferiority to affirm I Am Somebody constantly.”—Alvin Ailey
Final note and Disclaimer:
An inferiority complex to the extreme has many elements.
Following the suggestions in this article may help you better understand yourself and take action.
However, if these techniques do not work, you should seek the advice of mental health professional.
And if you feel so distraught that you’re considering harming yourself or others in any way, see a mental health expert immediately!