“I feel inferior and don’t feel like I’m capable of doing anything”. These types of thoughts are pretty common. As a matter of fact, even apparently self-confident and well-organized people often exhibit this almost corrosive low self-esteem that limits their lives.
Contempt for oneself, feelings of inadequacy, and excessive self-demand. Although most of us can instantly identify the features of the classic inferiority complex defined by Alfred Adler, in reality, it’s rather more complex. In fact, many of these cases can lead to self-injurious behavior.
If you feel as if you’re worth less than other people, find that you compare yourself to your siblings, friends, and co-workers, and see yourself as more awkward, less competent, or less attractive, you may end up hating those around you. You may also fall prey to feelings of isolation and even depression.
Let’s take a closer look.
Characteristics and coping strategies for when you feel inferior
If you feel incompetent, fallible, and inferior to others, you’re living with fierce internal enemies. These are your mind, internal dialogue, and really harmful past experiences. They extinguish any hint of self-esteem and any strength of self-concept. You then live with ideas like ” I can’t”, “I better not even try” and “This just isn’t for me because everyone else is so much better” which damage and exhaust you.
As we mentioned earlier, the inferiority complex was originally coined by the Austrian physician, Alfred Adler, a disciple of Freud. According to him, all children were defined by this trait due to their inferiority in almost any aspect (size, age, sense of power). He also commented that this feeling of inferiority could act as a stimulus and impulse to be overcome on a daily basis.
Nowadays, we know that not all children accept the idea of being inferior to their parents. For instance, we now recognize Emperor syndrome or the tyrant child. In fact, it was Gordon Allport who pointed out that the feeling of inferiority arises from bad experiences lived at any time and the way in which they’re interpreted.
This kind of experience can penetrate deeply into you, stagnating you, and plunging you into a negative and lasting emotional state. Let’s take a closer look at the triggers and associated coping strategies in each situation.
Strategies for managing feelings of inferiority originating in childhood
Growing up in a family environment in which you rarely received positive reinforcement diminishes your self-concept. Furthermore, if you had a sibling who always received praise or you spent your early years in a demanding or despising environment, your self-concept and self-esteem would’ve been deeply hurt.
What can you do?
- Reformulate, separate, and rewrite. When your childhood is defined by a lack of something, you must reformulate and rewrite everything transmitted, felt, and taught to you by others. In effect, it involves an almost constant restructuring of your thoughts. If your mother convinced you that you weren’t good enough, it’s time to change that thought. Ask yourself why you shouldn’t be good enough. Who says so? What if you were to really try?
- Self-efficacy. If you tell yourself that you feel inferior to others, it means you have a really low sense of self-efficacy. That’s probably because, as a child, you were made to believe that you were clumsy, fallible, lazy, inept, etc. To strengthen your self-esteem, you have to work on self-efficacy and for this, you need to get involved in small goals and tasks to show yourself what you’re able to do.
Having an emotional relationship with a narcissist. Living for years with someone who mistreated you. Finally deciding to leave a relationship that was based on dependency. All of these kinds of experiences can harm your self-concept until you become someone different: someone who’s defined by your fears.
What can you do?
- Don’t blame yourself. You’re not responsible for what happened, so don’t weigh yourself down with more negativity and contempt. It’s time to heal yourself after everything you’ve gone through.
- Empower yourself. Hold your head up and ask yourself what you want. Draw up new plans, meet new people, lean on those who love you, and remember that life is worthwhile, that you’re worthwhile.
- Rebuild your self-esteem day by day. Make a change that makes you feel good and competent. For instance, starting a course, looking for another job, thinking about new projects…
Feeling inferior due to your race, physical appearance, disability, and specific limitations.
It’s common to experience feelings of inferiority due to social, physical, cultural aspects, etc. For example, being overweight, having a certain skin color, being on the autistic spectrum, suffering from a disability… Any of these facts can make you feel at a disadvantage.
What can you do?
- Beware of self-fulfilling prophecies. Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy inevitably feed self-fulfilling prophecies. Therefore, if you take it for granted that you won’t get that job because you’re too short, obese, or are of another religion, etc, and you decide not to even apply for those reasons, you’re restricting yourself.
If you have low self-esteem, you expect little from yourself and nothing from your environment. You must change this approach and give yourself opportunities.
- You’re worth more than you think and you must first prove this to yourself before worrying about other people. The essence of an inferiority complex involves getting caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Therefore, you must start creating new thoughts and feeding new emotions. Tell yourself that you don’t have to prove to anyone what you’re worth and that you mustn’t compare yourself to anyone else. Start to invest in yourself.
Feelings of inferiority and mental disorders
One final aspect that shouldn’t be ignored is that feelings of inferiority also appear in multiple psychological disorders. In fact, studies such as those conducted at the University of Hamburg by Dr. Stephen Moritz demonstrate that feelings of inferiority also tend to appear in patients with schizophrenia.
Furthermore, people with a dependent personality disorder or avoidant personality disorder may also manifest feelings of inferiority. They can also be present behind self-injurious behaviors or eating disorders.
In these cases, specialized professional help should be sought. That’s because harboring constant feelings of uselessness and feeling that others are superior limits our quality of life. For this reason, psychological therapy is important to redefine ideas, heal self-esteem, and strengthen self-concepts.
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