The Austrian physician and psychotherapist Alfred Adler (1870-1937), creator of the concepts of superiority complex and inferiority complex, believed that “we all have a feeling of inferiority but it is not a disorder, but a stimulus that impels us to make an effort and develop . The inferiority complex becomes a pathological condition only when that feeling of inadequacy overwhelms us and, instead of stimulating us, it depresses us and inhibits our development ”.
Adler was the founder of the school known as individual psychology and together with Sigmund Freud set the course for psychology in the early 20th century. As this psychotherapist believed, the child is born with intrinsically good potential. However, at times, instead of feeling accepted and loved, you may feel that you are worth less than others .
Adler believed that this inferiority complex could be due to psychological factors related to inadequate parental education. An education that is too authoritarian or, on the contrary, an education that is too pampering or overprotective could give rise to what is known as ‘feeling of inferiority’.
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Obviously, anyone at some point can feel inferior to another. But if these feelings are not temporary or occur in specific situations but are prolonged in time and for any sphere of life, it is possible to speak of an inferiority complex that, unfortunately, will greatly limit the life of those who suffer it and alter your behavior and personality .
What are the main symptoms of the inferiority complex?
Psychologists point out as most important:
Low confidence in oneself and their abilities coupled with the feeling of not being up to the standards of others.
Great shyness in social contexts.
Little social life.
Tendency to excessively please others.
Difficulty making decisions.
Little autonomy (you tend to depend on the opinions of others). Lack of own criteria.
Tendency to look down on your achievements.
Tendency to overestimate the achievements of others.
Skepticism around romantic love and, of course, the possibility of being loved.
What Causes Inferiority Complex?
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There are various causes that can originate this disorder and it is also vitally important to find them, since detecting them is one of the fundamental steps to address their therapeutic treatment .
- On many occasions, the inferiority complex has its origin in childhood and in the relationship that those who suffer it had with their parents. Not having the love, protection and motivation of parents can be a determining factor as well as its opposite: overprotection . An excess could contribute to the appearance of this complex.
- Often, a physical peculiarity can also cause this complex: weight, being taller or shorter than others, having some accentuated feature such as a large nose, a stain on the skin or misplaced teeth.
- Sometimes it also arises from a characteristic that the self-conscious person may consider humiliating: sweating too much, shaking if nervous, stuttering, blushing in public …
- Believe that you do not have certain skills such as being intelligent, having a good culture or having a gift for people to relate to.
- Believe that one is not suitable to do something even if it has not even been previously tried.
- Being too demanding with yourself.
- When the person constantly focuses on their weaknesses and not on their strengths.
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- Having received continuous criticism from parents, teachers or colleagues. In fact, experts point out, as Adler also expressed it a century ago, that beyond the psychological effect that this physical peculiarity or characteristic can originate in the individual, the true cause of the inferiority complex must be sought in the positive or negative reinforcement that he has received from his environment as a child .
For psychologists, a child who is accepted and cared for by his parents and his reference group beyond these so-called ‘flaws’ is likely to grow up as a confident adult. If, on the contrary, he is criticized, recriminated or even lives in an environment where the parents are not valued either, he will have a greater tendency to develop a negative image of himself. Similarly, people who have grown up in an overprotective environment and who have a tendency to continually seek support from others are also more susceptible to developing an inferiority complex.
Is it possible to tackle the inferiority complex in a healthy way? When this disorder affects all or almost all areas of an individual’s life and also lasts over time, it is necessary to seek therapeutic help. The psychologist will establish the guidelines to look for the possible causes that have originated it and will help the patient to work on those distorted thoughts that have made a dent in him and caused that negative assessment of himself. Beginning to perceive yourself differently and improving or releasing your self-esteem are key in this process.