Inferiority Complex

18 Signs of Inferiority Complex & What to Do About It

Are you wondering, “Do I have an inferiority complex?” We explore the signs and symptoms and the right steps to overcome emotional issues. Read here.

Inferiority Complex: Definition, Causes, Sings

What is an inferiority complex? It’s an outdated term introduced by the psychoanalyst Alfred Adler. It’s used to describe the feeling of considering yourself inferior compared to others. Today, most psychologists, online therapists, and other mental health professionals use the modern term — chronic low self-esteem.

An inferiority complex is different from the occasional feelings of self-doubt that most people have from time to time. It’s normal to feel low and doubt yourself when a relationship has ended or you’ve lost your job. Most people in upsetting situations doubt themselves for a while, then bounce back and feel secure later.

Bit it’s different for people with an inferiority complex. They tend to be overly criticizing of themselves. They say mean things to themselves and damage their already fragile self-esteem further. This cycle is so deeply rooted in a person that it affects their personal and professional life.

Causes of an Inferiority Complex

An inferiority complex is often associated with an emotionally negative environment they were upbringing in. However, this is not the only possible cause of it.

Inferiority complex behaviors arise from a combination of factors. Some of the possible causes of inferiority complex include:

Genetic Factors

Some people develop an inferiority complex due to their genetic disposition. Studies show that those who inherit a variation of the receptor for oxytocin, a hormone responsible for positive emotions, are more likely to develop issues with self-esteem, feeling inadequate, positive mindset.

Furthermore, these people tend to believe that they have less mastery of different things compared to others.


Unrealistic standards from society may also cause an inferiority complex, especially in the era of social media. When you’re constantly scrolling through your feed seeing people doing or looking better than you, it can impose feelings of immense doubt. You start comparing yourself and feeling as if you’re not good enough.

The media also has a way of indirectly informing people on how they should look or behave. This message is often displayed in advertisements and media campaigns. When one grows up seeing a certain type of people being glorified and always comparing themselves with anyone on their screens, they may develop self-doubt and a distorted self-image.

If this habit of comparison and constant self-criticism continues, it may result in an inferiority complex.

Family Influence

Your upbringing plays a crucial role in shaping your mindset. A child that grows up with an overly critical parent can carry what they hear about themselves into adulthood.

If a person grew up being told how stupid they are and that they would never achieve anything, they can internalize it and believe it to be true. They often feel ashamed and worthless because of what you constantly hear about them. These feelings may cause a person to undervalue themselves chronically.

Mental Health Issues

People with a mental disorder are also at a higher risk of developing an inferiority complex. For instance, if you suffer from depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, or PTSD, you are likely to have persistent negative thinking patterns about yourself.

Most Common Signs & Symptoms of Inferiority Complex

It’s easy to miss the signs of an inferiority complex. At some point in our lives, we all tend to have feelings of self-doubt. Therefore, it’s easy for the people around you to assume that you’re just having a bad day.

However, an inferiority complex goes far beyond feeling blue and unmotivated. The signs of the problems are more persistent and intense.

Some of the common symptoms of an inferiority complex include:

  • Feelings of insecurity, unworthiness, and incomplete
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Faulty assessment of one’s skills, possibilities, and characteristics
  • Having sleep problems
  • Inability to complete tasks
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Frustration
  • Self-criticism
  • Easy assuming the worst-case scenario
  • Aggressiveness
  • Seeking validation from others
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Hostility

In some cases, people with an inferiority complex may display signs of narcissistic behaviors. They are a way of masking their real feelings. Some of the other inferiority complex symptoms to look out for include:

  • Attention seeking
  • Always finding fault in others
  • Being a perfectionist
  • Being highly competitive or avoiding any competitions at all

Inferiority Complex vs. Superiority Complex

Inferiority complex and superiority complex may seem like opposing terms, but they often overlap. A person with a superiority complex tends to believe they’re better than others. They’ll often exaggerate their achievements, put others down, and boast about themselves.

However, although a superiority complex seems quite different from an inferiority complex, experts believe it results from the latter. A person with an inferiority complex will often display signs of a superiority complex to hide their true feelings of inadequacy, not being good enough, and negative emotions.

When they act superior, they feel as if they’re compensating and doing away with their feelings of inferiority.

A person with healthy self-esteem is confident in different areas of their lives, but they’ll never go overboard. They will be satisfied after achieving their goals and won’t feel the need to give false valuations and perceptions of themselves.

Tips for Overcoming an Inferiority Complex

So, how to overcome an inferiority complex? There are several things you can do to improve your self-perception, self-image, and start loving yourself more.

These include:

Building Self-Confidence

Overcoming an inferiority complex will require you to rewire your brain into thinking differently about who you are. In most cases, these feelings arise from constantly comparing yourself to others.

To overcome it, stop doing it and start embracing and accepting yourself for who you are. Focus on what you’re good at and try different things that build your confidence. The more you learn to love yourself as you are, the better you’ll feel.

Surrounding Yourself with Positive and Caring People

Self-esteem issues can develop from social interactions. If you have people who are always putting you down and making you doubt yourself, this will contribute to damaging your self-perception.

Instead, surround yourself with people who respect you and make you focus on your strength.

Stop Caring What Others Think

Caring too much about what other people think about you can also be detrimental to your mental health. Besides, it makes an inferiority complex worse.

Ultimately, the only thoughts that matter are the ones you have about yourself. People will have an opinion about everything you do. So, do whatever you like and love.

Changing Your Self-Talk

People who have an inferiority complex usually have negative self-talk. Change the narrative. Give you a pat on the back. Celebrate what makes you unique, and always praise yourself for your achievements. It won’t happen overnight, but you’ll start noticing your life is becoming more fulfulling.

How Can Therapy Help Treat an Inferiority Complex?

Chronic low self-esteem is difficult to overcome using willpower alone. Perhaps, one may need professional support from a therapist. They help you explore experiences that may have caused you to develop self-esteem issues.

Furthermore, they provide you with a safe space to talk about your feelings and cope with emotional struggles. They work with you on ways to improve your self-image and confidence.

Deciding to start therapy may not be an easy step, but it’s one of the most effective inferiority complex treatment options. Therefore, if emotional issues prevent you from living a meaningful life, consider reaching out to a therapist.

As an example, the Calmerry platform provides mental health professionals for you to get convenient and affordable online therapy.

Start loving, appreciating, and caring for yourself today!

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