How to Avoid Developing an Inferiority Complex

Two Methods:Dealing with Other’s InfluenceWorking From Within Yourself

Feeling inferior to others stems from multiple factors that gradually build themselves into a person's whole character. The results of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse can have long-lasting, psychologically damaging effects on a person, making them believe they are less deserving of acceptance by others. Fortunately, it is possible to avoid developing an inferiority complex, no matter the challenges life has thrown you.

Method 1
Dealing with Other’s Influence

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    Look for any hidden agendas. Most often, people who like intimidating others do so to further their own ends. Keeping someone uninformed or less knowledgeable often helps strengthen this person’s sense of well-being at your expense. Instead of taking it, try things to empower yourself in these situations.
    • If you let someone else steal your self-worth at work, you could develop an inferiority complex in relation to that. Take pride in your work and don't let them push you down or steal your thunder.
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    Fight against relational aggression. If someone is trying to manipulate you, you need to understand what it means and how it affects you. If someone makes you feel inferior at work because you both want an upcoming promotion, this is something called relational aggression. They may try to strengthening their own position by putting you down and making you feel inadequate and unsuitable for moving up the career ladder. This happens most often among women, but it can happen to anyone.[1]
    • Examples of relational aggression include: social exclusion, spreading rumors or lies, the silent treatment, and threatening to end the friendship unless you do what the person wants.[2]
    • If you experience this, document every incident in a notebook, including dates and times of the incidents and the names of those involved. You can then take your log to your human resources department where further action can be taken. The HR department can then follow through on any company policies regarding bullying.
    • If you are dealing with relational aggression at school, also keep a log and take that log in to the school’s principal or other administrators. They can then follow the school’s policies and procedures on bullying.
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    Be aware of criticism. You may experience criticism that involves circumstances that you cannot change. This can involve others criticizing you for things that you cannot change, such as disabilities, sexual orientation, skin color, race, ethnic background, or any other aspect of your life. This verbal abuse very often leaves a person feeling emotionally scarred with serious self-esteem issues.
    • This kind of criticism feeds inadequacies and can create or add to an inferiority complex. Since you cannot change your looks, race, or sexual orientation, you may suffer great harm because you cannot change what causes this form of mockery.
    • If this happens often around people you know, be willing to cut these people out of your life. You should not have to be around people who make racist, sexist, or other discriminatory comments. If you can’t cut them out of your life, work to set boundaries with people who criticize you in this way. [3] Minimize your interaction with them as much as possible, and let them know their behavior is unacceptable by saying something like, "What you're saying is disrespectful. If you don't stop, I'm ending this conversation."
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    Deal with microaggression. Sometimes discriminatory comments can happen in subtle ways, such as a simple assumption made about you based on your race, class, gender, or other identity. This is called a microaggression.
    • Example of microaggression include: assuming a person is foreign-born because she looks different from the dominant culture, assuming someone is dangerous based on his race, making judgements about a person's intelligence based on his or her race or gender, denial of a person's experience of discrimination.
    • A recent study showed that high levels of microaggression correlate to increased levels of stress and rates of depression. The study also showed that actively engaging in coping mechanisms rather helped lower rates of depression and overall stress. This proves that, even though you can’t control the behavior of others, you can control how you cope with your reactions to their behavior. [4]
    • Some strategies for coping with microaggression include: self-care, spirituality, confronting your aggressors, seeking support from allies, keeping records and documenting experiences of abuse, mentoring others, and organizing a public response.[5]
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    Find social support. Studies have shown that people have physical reactions to fitting in and being excluded from group dynamics. You are also more likely to have self-worth, especially if the people around you are positive, happy people.[6]
    • A good group of friends will make you realize how great you are and help you fight against an inferiority complex. Having a happy group is also better for your health. When you are surrounded by a group that makes you feel like you belong, your immune system increases its resistance to communicable viruses and diseases. When we are rejected or no longer part of the group, your body increases its inflammatory response and decreases its resistance to communicable and viral disease.[7]
    • Look for people who offer encouragement and embrace you for who you are, with all your quirks and imperfections. Enjoy their wisdom and grow from their example, striving to become stronger and more reliant on yourself in the process. You can only grow better and more self-assured in a healthy, positive environment. Greater independence leads to more self-confidence.
    • A healthy self-confidence in turn allows you less dependence or reliance on others for determining your self-worth, which will help you avoid an inferiority complex.[8]

Method 2
Working From Within Yourself

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    Distract yourself from ruminating. Strengthen your beliefs and strive to move positively in a forward and more successful direction. Do not allow yourself to be caught in self-doubt and conflicting ideals which others try forcing on you, which can only make you feel bad about yourself.
    • When you sit and rehash past situations and things you wish you had done differently, you are only hurting yourself. Rumination has a direct effect on our physical health and stress levels and can contribute to developing an inferiority complex.
    • If you can’t stop ruminating, distract yourself for at least two minutes each time. You will gradually begin to develop a more positive world view and stop focusing on negative, unhelpful things. All it takes is two minutes of intense focus on something else and it will be worth it in the long run.[9]
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    Ignore negative thoughts. When you spend too much time in the past or thinking about what could have happened, you may get sucked into negative thoughts. This can be hard if others are negative about you or try to bring your down. This will only bring you down and make you get stuck in your head, which can lead you to think you are inferior to others.
    • Learn to ignore negative and damaging comments made against you, especially if you make them about yourself. At the back of your mind, adopt the notion that people are entitled to their own opinions. Instead of internalizing these comments, filter or discard the negatively targeted opinions and remember how great you are.[10]
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    Love yourself. Self-compassion, or loving yourself, is a stepping stone to self-acceptance and defeating an inferiority complex. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you show your friends. Be aware that imperfection, failure, and difficulty are all part of life, and that no one is perfect or always gets exactly what they want.[11] Instead of reacting with self-criticism or putting yourself down, treat yourself with sympathy and kindness.[12]
    • Don't ignore your pain or try to plow through it. Acknowledge that you are having a difficult time and ask what you can do to care for yourself.[13] It could be anything from wrapping yourself in a warm blanket to having a good cry to going out to dinner with your best friend.
    • Make changes in your life because you care about yourself, not because of a perceived inadequacy or to fit a perfect ideal.[14]
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    Learn to accept your whole self — including your strengths and your flaws. Show appreciation and respect for your own uniqueness and all the positives you have accomplished and hope to accomplish. Know your own limitations and learn your strengths. Steer clear of any person or situation that will drag you down emotionally and create doubt in your own capabilities as an individual, which can lead you to think you are inferior. If there are areas in your life where you can improve, do so constructively. Building on and improving your weaknesses is the best way to avoid feeling inferior.
    • This is where you might develop an inferiority complex, especially if you allow how others perceive you affect your self-worth. Learn to be happy with who you are. Don’t change yourself to make others happy.
    • You can never be exactly like someone else, so don’t try to be. Work with what you have and learn to love this version on yourself. This will prevent you from getting an inferiority complex, especially if you learn to never compare yourself to others.
    • Also watch out for cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are worldviews that are distorted either by faulty information or by faulty logic. Common cognitive distortions are personalization, which is where you turn everything around to think it is a personal commentary on or reaction to you.[15]
    • If you notice that some perceived weakness is weighing you down, try to process and deal with it. Don’t let the issue weigh you down or make you feel bad about yourself. Instead, work on the weakness if you can, but realize that the perceived weakness does not define you.[16]
    • Some ways to work on your self-acceptance include: making a list of your strengths, surrounding yourself with positive people, learning to forgive yourself for past mistakes, and affirmations.[17]
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    Let go of bitterness and anger. Bitterness and anger can lead you to feel bad about yourself. These negative emotions are energy-draining and set you back, depleting your self-esteem and wasting precious energy. If your anger is rational and justified by hostile circumstances, use it to motivate yourself.
    • Try to forget about it and decide you can be better than the person who angered you, showing more self-control and a more positive attitude. Instead, transfer your energy into real achievements that proves the person who angered or attacked you wrong. Re-track your thoughts to when got angry and bitter, and try to focus on another starting point where your aim is to succeed and move forward.

Sources and Citations

  1. Coyne, S.M., Linder, J.R., Nelson, D.A., & Gentile, D.A. (2012). ‘Frenemies, fraitors, and mean-em-aitors’: Priming effects of viewing physical and relational aggression in the media on women. Aggressive Behavior, 38(2), p. 141-149. doi: 10.1002/ab.21410
  3. Torres, L., Driscoll, M.W., & Burrow, A.L. (2010). Racial microaggressions and psychological functioning among highly achieving African-Americans: A mixed-methods approach. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 29(10, 1074-1099. doi:10.1521/jscp.2010.29.10.1074
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