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What to do If You or Someone Close to You has a Superiority Complex

“Hurt people hurt more people” is a popular saying but for a reason. As humans, we treat people the way we were treated, whether intentionally or not, how we feel about ourselves often dictates how we interact with those around us. When we’re confident and contented with our lives, it’s easy to support and cheer others. However, if dissatisfied, watching others thrive may cause envy or evoke a burning desire to minimize or downgrade others to make ourselves feel better, also defined as superiority complex.

What is superiority complex?

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A person with a superiority complex has an exaggerated, inflated or over- confident view of themselves and results in treating others in condescending or demeaning ways, without being self-aware about how other people perceive them, according to experts. Coined in the early 20th century by Alfred Adler, believing it to to be a process of hiding low self-esteem, inadequacy feelings, or just not feeling good.  Superiority complexes are defense mechanisms arising from shame, deep personal insecurities, and feelings of personal inadequacy. As shame is distressing and uncomfortable, most people use defences to hide these feelings, deny them altogether, and avoid any experience of them. A superiority complex is no clinical mental health diagnosis, but can be treated by therapy.

What causes superiority complex?

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There is no single root cause, but identifiable links exist between life experiences and gradual development of superiority complex. Childhood experiences, especially things parents did or didn’t do, shape our development. Between 5 and 12 years, children seek validation, and this stage needs careful navigation as disruption in the child’s early identity formation. While some children deal with this by withdrawal, others develop an inflated ego to compensate for inferiority feelings. Such persons may grow up in homes where their parents show favoritism or prefer another child, who is showered with praise for achievements. This superiority complex enables awarding themselves the withheld validation. Common signs are: The need to be in control, An overarching belief that you’re better than others, Epic displays of anger or contempt when others don’t recognize your talent or skill, Inability to take criticism, Persistent low self-esteem, Feelings of entitlement.

Superiority complex vs. inferiority complex

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A superiority or inferiority complex reflects how we feel about ourselves, due to an inability to estimate one’s worth, skill levels, or likability when compared to others, but complexes manifest in different ways. A superiority complex is a reaction to perceived failure to meet expectations, to avoid being failures. An inferiority complex arises as persons with high aspirations for themselves fear they may not achieve them and downplay achievements to lower people’s expectations of them. Narcissism arises due to an exaggerated sense of self-importance, with a lack of empathy and extreme need to be liked and accepted. Dealing with a person who suffers from a superiority complex will need some patience and empathy especially if behaving arrogantly or defiantly, but is worth the effort.

Our Takeaways

Having a superiority complex doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person who must be shunned. The right tools enable navigation to healthy and rewarding relationships with those around you and for you personally. Specific concerns or queries can be discussed with a professional. Always remember that your personality is changeable, and you are more than your struggles.

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