Inferiority complex. Everything you need to know. Definition, Examples, Causes, Signs, Symptoms, prevention

According to the American Psychological Association, an inferiority complex is a basic feeling of inadequacy and insecurity, deriving from actual or imagined physical or psychological deficiency. Inferiority is the foundation of both the inferiority complex and the superiority complex.

As the superiority complex, the opposite of the inferiority complex, takes the direction of pretending to be superior to hide inferiority, the inferiority complex takes the direction of withdrawing from people, wallowing in defeat, and accepting a place of being less than others.

We all feel inferior in certain situations in life. There will always be someone smarter, taller, faster, richer, or better looking. When we meet such a person we identify how inferior we are to them. However, our reaction differs from how a person with an inferiority complex reacts.

Our inferiority to such people either makes us accept it and embrace our other strengths if we can’t change it or motivates us to do better if we can. A person with an inferiority complex accepts the inferiority without embracing their other strengths and never gets motivated to do better If they can change it.

A person with an inferiority complex wallows in defeat.

An inferiority complex is also chronic low self-esteem. It is okay to not feel good about yourself somedays for as long as it’s only for a short time. For a person with an inferiority complex, it is a way of life to feel bad about him/herself every day.

In their minds, everyone is better than them, everyone deserves better than them, they are not capable of anything, they are the worst, etc. That is their self-talk. That is how they describe themselves.

Examples of an inferiority complex

A common inferiority complex is the short man syndrome or Napoleonic syndrome where short men show signs of inferiority when interacting with taller men. They talk about their height or that of their taller counterparts.

They avoid standing next to those taller than them and look for those who are their height or less. They also get overly aggressive to compensate for their inferiority.

In women, the not slim and toned females avoid those that are because they feel inferior to them in terms of physical appearances. This was common in high school where cheerleaders hung out with fellow cheerleaders. Those who didn’t look like cheerleaders hung out with themselves.

Blacks have been programmed by society and propaganda to believe that they are intellectually inferior to whites or even other races. This has made them accord special treatment to those races from a place of inferiority. When you go to Africa it is common to find a white man being served food first before his black counterpart who ordered before him.

White men have an inferiority complex of being less endowed genitally compared to black men.

Causes of Inferiority complex

Childhood traumas.

Many people have an inferiority complex because of childhood experiences that exposed them to traumas, emotional damage, and heartbreaks. Children who are abused by their toxic parents or guardians develop an inferiority complex.

Some parents call them names like stupid, useless, dumb, you will never amount to anything, and a lot of derogatory statements which affect the children’s psyche. They grow up believing what they were told which makes them feel less compared to their fellows.

Physical appearance.  

Different societies have different perceptions of beauty. If you go to the west, skinny women are found attractive, if you go to Uganda women with some good flesh are what is called beautiful.

When a person does not match the ideal description of a society’s opinion of beauty, he or she most likely develops an inferiority complex about their physical appearance. It is important to know that many people falsely think they are ugly yet in an actual sense other people find them so beautiful.

Low self-reliance.

One of the major causes of inferiority complex is relying too much on others for help. Many of the things we need have to come from us. Whoever feeds you owns you. If you have to always rely on people to get the things you want like food, shelter, love, etc you will always be in a vulnerable position that makes you inferior to others.

A prolonged lack of self reliance makes one feel inferior and in the end develop an inferiority complex.

Relying so much on others can make you feel inferior


Often people with chronic illnesses feel vulnerable and weak compared to their healthy counterparts. This creates in them an inferiority complex that extends to other aspects of life.

Low financial status.

Financial muscle often influences one’s ability to express themselves socially. With a low financial status, one is limited to express him or herself as they wish. This makes one feel inferior compared to those doing well financially. In this case getting descent paying job or starting a business can help solve the inferiority complex

Signs and symptoms of inferiority complex


We sometimes develop insecurities about how we look, how we talk, how we behave, our financial status, etc.  These insecurities make us feel inferior and develop resentment and hate toward ourselves. If you feel insecure about something and delve into it so much, you most likely have an inferiority complex.

Low self-esteem.

How we feel about ourselves most times shapes our opinion about ourselves. When we do not feel good about ourselves and do not figure out a way to change it, we fall into negative self-talk showing an inferiority complex.


Deep down you want to attend the party your friends invited you to but some voice tells you to stay home because you think you won’t be interesting to people. You want to go for that audition but something tells you that there will be better people so you should not waste time.

All that is self-sabotage or self handicapping. If you do it for so long you start to believe in that negative voice and think of yourself as inferior.

Negative thinking.

It’s one thing to self-sabotage yourself and another to have a negative mindset. A mind that always sees the negative in all situations falls into negative and limiting beliefs of lack, failure, and hopelessness which are the result of an inferiority complex.

Failure mindset.

We all lose or fail at things we love or passionately desire. Failure does not mean inferiority. Having the ability to fight or pursue a goal with success or not is enough strength. However, some people get so buried in failure and loss and render themselves, complete inferiors.

Anxiety and depression.

For the inner turmoil, limiting beliefs, and insecurities, people with inferiority complex sometimes develop anxieties and depression.

Excessive competition.

People with an inferiority complex become overly competitive and aggressive to try to compensate for their perceived inferiority.

Theatrical/ dramatic.

People with an inferiority complex seek attention, love, and approval in the most dramatic of ways. They can go as far as threatening to commit suicide or self-harming themselves so that people can show concern for them.

Effects of an inferiority complex.

Chronic Depression.

Inferiority complex is characterized by continued thoughts of inferiority and being less worthy compared to others. These cause self-sabotage and other limiting beliefs which make one unable to achieve one’s goals or cultivate good social relations. These make one persistently sad and lonely leading to depression.


To also numb feelings of being less worthy, failure, or inner turmoil, people with an inferiority complex sometimes develop addictions to things like drugs, porn, etc which cause harm to them.

It is common for young men who feel not attractive to women to resort to porn and masturbation and end up addicted.

Addictions worsen feelings of people with an inferiority complex.


People with inferiority complex miss out on opportunities and chances to achieve goals due to a lack of self-belief and trust.


The best two ways to avoid developing an inferiority complex are cultivating self-love and becoming aware of oneself.

When you have enough self-love in yourself, you will find it easy to carry yourself out of any bad feelings and creeping thoughts of inferiority. You will not entertain seeds of inferiority complex like self-sabotage, self-doubt, self-hate, and negative self-talk.

Self-awareness is also very important to preventing inferiority complex.  When you know who you are, nothing can define you except yourself. You will know your strengths and weaknesses. You will have faith in your abilities to become better with time.

You can not be good at everything. Neither anyone else. If you fall short in math and do well in biology you will not feel like a failure. You will appreciate that your strength is biology, not math.

Dealing with an inferiority complex.

Unfortunately, just like the superiority complex, the inferiority complex is not diagnosable as well. However, this doesn’t mean there is no solution to it. Through talk therapy and other helpful tools, one can overcome an inferiority complex.

A psychiatrist or any mental therapist can examine a person with an inferiority complex through a conversation and provide ways to overcome it. Inferiority complex is very easy to overcome once one accepts it.

Another way to deal with an inferiority complex is to cite positive affirmations daily to change one’s mindset. Envisioning a life free from the complex is also very helpful since it opens up the mind to see life on the other side of the inferiority complex.

My best therapeutic way to deal with an inferiority complex is to start small projects and finish them. This makes you believe in your ability to at least do something. You feel good about yourself and upgrade to bigger projects.

Small starts guarantee you success and give you faith and belief to take on bigger ones. The success and self-belief developed affect other aspects of your life and positively trigger them.

Difference between superiority complex and inferiority complex.

Between inferiority complex and superiority complex stands one common trait which is feelings of inferiority. What defines the two is the response to those feelings.

A person with an inferiority complex responds by feeling and accepting feelings of inferiority and acting inferior while the person with a superiority complex denies feelings of inferiority and acts superior to shadow those feelings.

Conclusion. If you make a turtle, antelope, chameleon, snail and a bird run the same race and judge them by it, the chameleon, snail, or turtle will be seen as inferior. But if you make each of them shine by their natural abilities none of them will come off as inferior. The chameleon will impress by its camouflaging skills, the bird will fly, the snail will make shells and the antelope will run first. We all have our own unique features and abilities. It is important to identify ourselves by our strengths instead of weaknesses to avoid an inferiority complex.

2 thoughts on “Inferiority complex. Everything you need to know. Definition, Examples, Causes, Signs, Symptoms, prevention

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: