We all come across such times when we feel low and hopeless. There might be times when we feel like a failure. It is OK to feel so, all it portrays is that one is a human. We must learn that crying doesn't make someone weak instead it’s the sign of being alive. Albert Einstein once said, no one can be a human if they don't make mistakes.
Now all of this is normal, but being 'stuck' in those feelings, the feelings of low self-esteem, low confidence and lack of belief in yourself, the feeling of being inferior is a significant problem. When one's feelings of inferiority seem to take over their lives and make it difficult to function or accomplish their goals, they may be suffering from an inferiority complex.
Although the term "inferiority complex" is often tossed around jokingly in pop culture and is not a mental health diagnosis, it is still a real phenomenon. This phenomenon can be debilitating for someone who experiences it.
What is an Inferiority Complex?
An inferiority complex is defined as an unrealistic feeling of generalised inadequacy caused by actual and supposed inferiority in one sphere, sometimes marked by aggressive behaviour for compensation.
To put it in simple terms, people with this condition feel that they are unable to perform specified acts even though they may be completely capable of doing so. However, inferiority complex symptoms extend beyond just a generalised feeling of inadequacy and extend to feelings of social withdrawal, extreme sensitivity and attention-seeking behaviour.
History of Inferiority Complex
The term "inferiority complex" was coined at the turn of the 20th century by Australian psychologist Alfred Adler. Adler believed that we are all born with some amount of inferiority, learned in childhood and that we all have an inborn drive to overcome this sense of inadequacy.
However, psychologists believe that full-fledged inferiority complexes are not just based on childhood experiences; they usually stem from a combination of factors, including:
- Childhood experiences
- Lessons we learn as adults
- Personality traits
- Cultural messages we receive about our perceived inadequacies
Symptoms of inferiority Complex
If one has an inferiority complex, here are some of the everyday things they might experience:
- Insecurity and low self-esteem
- Inability to reach their goals, or feeling "stuck".
- Wanting to give up easily
- Feeling the need to withdraw in social situations
- Often feeling down on oneself
- Experiencing anxiety and depression
The following are also signs of an inferiority complex, though they are often mistaken for someone who seems overly confident:
- Highly competitive streak
- Very sensitive to criticism
- Continually finding faults in others
- Finding it difficult to admit their mistakes
Children who experience themselves as being inferior express the feeling they do not fit in or belong, which can lead to problematic behaviour, such as withdrawal or acting out. They may also periodically misbehave because they find that it gets them noticed in situations where they otherwise feel invisible. They mistakenly perceive that their, power struggles, attention-seeking, or hurtful behaviour are the main ways for them to connect with others.
How Can a Parent Help a Child with an Inferiority Complex?
One way to help a child with an inferiority complex is to give lots of encouragement, just like providing water to a plant.
They must Let Them Find Solutions to Problems
If the child is having difficulties with friends, instead of telling him or her what to do, ask 'How do they feel about this situation? How have they tried to fix it? What happened when they decided that? It helps the child find a sense of belonging and connection with others and helps them believe in their abilities. It's fine to brainstorm solutions together, but let the child ultimately decide which actions to take. It fosters critical thinking, which is, well, vital in developing a feeling of competency. If we fix everything for our children, they will not know how to function as adults.
Assigning chores and other age-appropriate tasks helps a child build a sense of mastery and prevents them from becoming too passive or dependent, which generally heightens the feelings of insecurity.
Let the child pack his backpack and remember to return library books to the school. Don’t rob the child of the opportunity to make their own mistakes and to learn from them.
When one makes mistakes, such as misplacing the car keys or arriving late to an appointment, do not berate them in front of the child. Use those moments as opportunities to show the child how to react. Admit the mistake wholeheartedly, accept the consequences, apologise if needed, and then let it go. If one can, point out that they are glad to be able to learn from it so they can avoid making the same mistake in the future.
Practising Mindfulness Meditation Together
An increasing body of research, and an analysis of more than 100 previous studies, suggested that mindfulness practice — sitting quietly, usually with eyes closed, and paying calm attention to your breath and your thoughts without judgement — increases optimism, decreases reactivity to stress, reduces anxiety and aggressive behaviour, enhances resilience, and confers a host of other benefits in both children and adults.
Because the development of an inferiority complex can lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, it's essential to seek help if you feel you are struggling with inferiority.
Psychotherapy is a great place to start when you are looking to work through your inferiority complex. Your therapist can help guide you through your past experiences with criticism, low self-esteem, or any traumas that may have shaped your negative self-image.
You can look at what messages you received as a child about your inadequacies and how you coped in the past. You can discuss any damaging thought patterns and brainstorm ways to reshape your self-image and rebuild your self-confidence.
Eliminate toxic people from your life
Making a conscious goal to surround yourself with more positive and uplifting people can also make a huge difference. Unhealthy or toxic relationships can, at times, set us up for failure, especially if you are particularly sensitive to people who always put you down or if you have a history of complicated relationships.
The bottom line is that living with an inferiority complex isn't something you have to keep living with it. It's something that you can break free from — and you deserve to feel healthy, happy, and confident once more.
Moving through all of this and facing some of the origins of your inferiority complex isn't always an easy path, and it can take time to feel like you are making progress. Keep in mind that many people have suffered from an inferiority complex at different times in their life and that it is possible to feel more confident again.