All of us, at some point during our lives, have felt inferior to everyone else. We must have felt we are not good enough, not pretty enough or not smart enough. Usually these comments are not based on facts, but we continue to feel we are inferior. Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps we can take to get rid of inferiority complex. The steps can be categorized into three groups relating to confronting feelings, changing our thoughts and making positive steps
Identify the source of your inferiority complex. Inferiority complexes can be learned in childhood or formed in adulthood. The former is caused by neglect, overly critical or shaming parents, bullying by peers, exposure to negative messages in media and not experiencing positive social experiences. On the other hand, the adult inferiority complex is formed when you feel that you are not able to accomplish things you set out to do, or when you feel harassed by your family, partner or coworkers. Both types of inferiority vary in severity and are associated with low self-esteem and results in making unfavorable comparison of oneself with others.
Look out for the signs of an inferiority complex. At times your behavior is a result of your inferiority complex and you may not be aware of it. Inferiority complexes certainly affect how a person thinks and acts. Some of the behaviors include expecting other persons to fill a void in you, putting up a false fact to convince other that you are better than you think you are, isolating yourself from theirs, developing compulsive behaviors like overeating, drinking, collecting or shopping, trying to control, blame or harm others, inability to accept compliments and experience feeling of anxiety, low self-esteem and fear of rejection.
Try to find the cause of your feelings. Inferiority complexes may come from something in your past. They develop from feelings related to a bad childhood experience, a traumatic event, or a combination of people putting you down over the years. Some of these feeling might be painful and are buried deep in your mind.
Determine who you feel inferior to. If you have an inferiority complex, then you feel inferior to someone else. Identify who it is. Is it somebody who is more attractive, richer, smarter or successful than you? Then identify how those people or that particular person is not superior to you. It could be activities like playing, singing, dancing or values and attitudes.
Break down your complex. Start dealing with your inferiority complex by breaking it done and list the characteristics that you feel inferior about. Look at them logically, not emotionally. Do you have a flaw? Is it really that bad? The over-exaggeration of your flaw and the self-consciousness you develop because of it causes the feelings of inferiority. The inferiority is made up and in your head. It must be remembered that everybody would have flaws that need to be improved. Further, what you consider as a flaw may not be seen as one by others. Your large chin, overweight or baldness does not define you. People may give more important to other aspects of your personality.
Everyone on the earth is inferior is some way. Some people may be beautiful and some may be rich. But there will some others who are more intelligent and compassionate. On the flip side, everyone is superior to others in some way. Everyone is a different combination of positive attributes and flaws. Understanding this concept can help you start to view yourself more realistically.
CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK
Stop wanting to be like others. Inferiority complexes develop because of a strong desire to be like someone else or to be someone you are not. If you try to be someone else, you aren’t being true to yourself. You can get inspired by people. You can look up to them and take some of their traits and put them into yourself. You are using them as a positive guide while still being true to yourself.
Try not to worry about what others think. Constant concern about what others are thinking about us is not healthy thinking. At times the judgments of other are real, but most often they are imaginary. You have no way of knowing what someone is really thinking of what is really happening in their life. Stop worrying so much about what others think about you. Focus on your strengths and successes, not on what others might think of you. Make yourself happy without worrying about what others think.
Focus on your positive attributes. When you feel inferior, you put more emphasis on what you don’t have instead of what you do have. Everyone has positive qualities. Take an honest look at yourself and your life. Make a list of good things; a good job, nice teeth, good hair, a happy family etc. Include things from all facets of your life. Then think about how many good things you have going for you. There are a lot of things that make us up. Try to find the positive things and focus on that.
Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. If you do this often you will come up with a never ending list of ways people are better than you. You can’t compare yourself to someone else, because everything about your life and circumstances are different – from the family you were born in, to your genetics, to your opportunities.
Don’t think in absolutes. Inferiority complexes make us think that if one thing could change, our lives would be great. “If only I weighed lesser, my life would be great” or “If only I had a better job, I’d be happier.” If these changes have taken place you would still be insecure deep down. Material and superficial things will not magically fix the problem. “If only … then I’d be happy” thinking can lead to more disappointment. Instead focus on the strengths, values, and positive assets you possess. It would be much more fulfilling and can help you move towards a happier life.
Stop negative talk. Negative talk reinforces the inferiority complex. This would result in bringing yourself down and writing more negative, untrue beliefs onto your brain. Stop saying negative thinking and say something positive instead. In this process do not lie to yourself. Be positive and realistic. I am a kind, generous person who people want to be friends with. If you could not five kilometers, say to yourself “I have just started running and have completed three kilometers”. By noticing and changing your negative self-talk, you can build your confidence and self-esteem.
Build self-confidence. As you work through your inferiority complex, you need to start building self-confidence. Start by fixing your mental image of yourself. Inferiority complexes are based on false ideas about ourselves. Try to remind yourself that this image is false and doesn’t portray the reality. Remove labels you have attached to yourself. Don’t think of yourself as stupid, ugly, unsuccessful, a failure, or anything else. Refuse to use them when you think about yourself.
Making positive steps
Don’t limit your social interactions. Inferiority complexes can result in you becoming withdrawn, anti-social, and shy. People with these complexes sometimes fear exposing themselves and opening up. You need to push yourself to interact with people. These feelings of inferiority are in your mind. The more you socialize with other people, the more you’ll understand that people aren’t judging you, making fun of you, or putting you down. You can learn to be comfortable and confident around people.
Surround yourself with positive people. The people we associate with can have a significant impact on our self-esteem. If you spend your time with negative people who are constantly criticizing, analyzing, and judging others, it will start to affect you. Instead, spend your time with people who are positive. Look for people who accept and like people without judgment. Surrounding yourself with people who don’t judge you can help you accept yourself.
- Although your confidence should come from yourself, it is helpful to be friends with people who accept you. This helps break down the false notion that everyone judges and criticizes you.
Continue working on yourself. One way to beat the feelings of inferiority is to continuously improve yourself. This can include anything. Work on developing work-related skills, try a new hobby, work on improving a current hobby, set an exercise goal, or start saving for that dream vacation. Work on making your life better and worthwhile. This will help lessen your feelings of inferiority, because it’s hard to feel inferior when you’re accomplishing your goals.
Volunteer. One way to help you get a reality check is to get out and help other people and your community. Whether you are helping at a soup kitchen or an animal hospital, this can help you see the reality of your situation. You don’t have it as bad as you think you do.
- Volunteering can help give you a sense of accomplishment and pride. This can help you feel less inferior because you are giving back to your community. It also helps you stop feeling low and feeling like a burden.
Confront your biggest fears. Do you think people will stare at you or make comments? These are all valid worries but do bear in mind – everyone is different. Any comments you receive are invalid and must be ignored at all costs. It’s absolutely certain there is something they think is wrong with them, too.
I have completed 30 years of teaching and research in psychology at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.