The inferiority complex explained…
Okay, just so we’re clear here, I am not trying to come off as being smart with this big term please. I first encountered the term Inferiority Complex in one of my therapy sessions two years ago. I was undergoing an identity crisis, a really rough time for me and I was totally lost and that’s when I checked in with a proffessional. What followed was a series of counselling sessions and authentic conversations with close friends and family. That helped but that kind of a journey you have to travel alone of course. They can only walk you so far. After I got back to my feet, I needed an environment where I could nurture whatever it is I had succeeded to unlock.
So buddy, sometime later, my therapist informed me of a support group she had formed of people who were on a journey like mine. The support group was made up of quite smart campus students who were on their own individual journeys to reconcile with the self and nurture a natural vibe that stems from knowing thyself. It was during one of our mid-morning weekend sessions that this term came up. I honestly cannot recall who brought it up or what we were talking about but we really got lost in that conversation with insight from the two therapists who were leading the group that we forgot the actual reason we were in that room that saturday morning.
Over the course of the last two years, I have been observing how the complex manifests itself in people around me, friends and family, celebrities and prominent people. During that same session, I also learnt that it has a big brother called The Superiority Complex but that I will save for my next blogpost. Stay tuned.
Now let’s get down to it already.
So let me get a little bit ‘proffessional’; According to Alfred Adler (1870-1937), a medical doctor/psychiatrist and psycotherapist, the guy who coined the term, it is a word used to describe people with intense feelings of inadequacy that often results to the belief that one is deficient or inferior to everyone else.
Please note that normal low self esteem is not an inferiority complex. These are actually essential as they give us the motivation to develop and improve ourselves and our situations. Feeling inferior from time to time is kawaida since we are human. For instance, when we lose a loved one, fail in school, get dumped by a lover, lose a job and so on, we may end up feeling like we are not good enough. The key to unlocking your potential and/or picking yourself up once again is how you respond to these feelings; how you respond to your inner critic. Do those feelings of inferiority and/or not being good enough motivate you to learn and make you to try to do better? Or do they cause you to criticize yourself and shut down, conclude that you are not worthy? Thirdly, which is even worse, do they cause you to feel jealous of others, build an ego around you and feed it by stepping on other people’s feelings inorder to build yourself up? Lastly, do they make you blame other people for things you should take reponsibility for?
An inferiority complex develops over time. When you are very young, optimistic but unsure of what to be, unsure of who you are, you need a warm environment in order to develop a healthy self-concept. If you come up from an environment where you face constant criticism, you may end up feeling powerless, afraid, worthless or unable to access your inherent life energy. In this case you may end up turning to your inner critic most of the time and make it the voice you obey everytime you want to do something, have failed in something or have been appreciated for something good you’ve done. You have been trained or trained yourself to listen to that negative voice. When the feelings of not being good enough become deeply rooted, especially in our unconscious, and dictate your style of life, then you are said to have developed a complex.
Feelings of inferiority are brought by a number of reasons or situations;
Upbringing of a child- A child who is constantly criticized or compared to a sibling/another child may fail to recognise their strengths and conclude that they don’t belong. Also, a child who grows up without enough love from either parent or both parents may feel neglected. They may end up feeling empty or ‘naked’. For instance, a girl who loses a father at a young age and grows up without a father figure/fatherly love may develop feelings of worthlessness and turn to any man who gives her attention. In this way, she will definately end up getting used ( since we men can sense a woman’s insecurity from miles away) while in real sense, she is just trying to compensate for the love she failed to get.
Poverty- I already vastly talked about poverty in my previous post, Shades of Ghetto, and what it can do to a person’s will to thrive and achieve their dreams and goals. Additionally, I hope you’ve read about the poverty days of JK Rowling and her battle with depression before her legendary Harry Potter story. Well if you haven’t, do your homework buddy.
Physical and mental limitations- Rings a bell? Ofcourse that hit home. Girls imagining they are not beautiful enough, you feeling that you are not as tall as you should be, you feeling like you are not as academically gifted as other kids, our generation is super obsessed with big
asses and boobs which can put pressure on our girls, actual physical disability like being handicapped and so on can weigh one down.
Artists also battle their own feelings of inferiority as a result of their quest for perfection. A talent which can be both a blessing and a curse but that is a story for another day.
According to Adler, all infants have a feeling of inferiority and/or inadequacy immediately as they begin to experience the world. Early experiences such as a parent’s love and attention shape the journey and development of the self-concept. During the development process,these normal feelings of inferiority are slowly evolved into a normal outlook on the world where an individual acknowledges both his strengths and weaknesses. With this in mind, they profit from both and achieve a balance which represents emotional maturity and good mental health. In short, a child develops normally and finds the courage to be imperfect. Becomes something better than perfect.
Many however fail to attain this balance and thus become the victims of complexes.
Okay buddy, now that we know we all come from a place of inadequacy, which is important since it challenges us to be in a state of continual becoming, let’s now find out how we cope. Differently of course;
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COMPENSATION.
You’ve probably come across the quote; “life is like a camera, just focus on what is important. Capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out… Just take another shot.” Yaaas! A natural and healthy reaction to inferiority is compensating; Overcoming real or imagined inferiority by developing one’s own strengths. You don’t ignore the existence of your own failures and shortcomings though. Line up those problems, face them, fight them, do not let them put you down.
Some people respond to their own beliefs of inadequacy by concluding they are not worthy. That they don’t have their own unique talents, abilities, they are not capable of fulfilling their ambitions and so end up being a smaller version of themselves. They become overly dependant on others who aren’t dealing with the complex. Clingy – tough word but okay.
So this is the big elephant in the room. I want you to imagine a young campus student experiences feelings of inadequacy due to the fact that she is unable to have close friends. She walks around campus and sees her peers engage in intimate conversations with their friends. Instead of facing her shortcomings by seeking out social connections, have a little fun-time atleast/attending social events, she says to herself, ” I may not have many close friends but I perfom better than them in class. So she throws herself into crazy schoolwork.
In another case , an individual who has poor family ties may overcompensate with seeking crazy career goals to get leverage for his inadequacies. In this way you will never be contented because perfection is an illusion. Perfection doesn’t exist, they need to take it from the dictionary. This approach to hapiness may work, alright, but tell me what keeps you up at night? You’ve numbed your real emotions all day, proven to all of us that you are the real deal then what? What’s the conversation when it’s just you and that little guy called the self, who is impatiently waiting to be set free?
I understand that everyone defines success differently but true happiness, fulfillment, peace of mind or freedom can never be achieved through this approach. We all want to be significant, we all have big dreams and all but we don’t let them get in the way of us enjoying the little things in life.
As I conclude, as Adler put it;
Alfred Adler...Just as one cannot find two leaves of a tree absolutely identical, so one cannot find two human beings absolutely alike.
We all have our own uniqueness and when we come together, appreciate each other and just be authentic we make the world one big beautiful rainbow. We are not here to compete nor is life a perfomance. Its real, its happening and we should enjoy every single moment as we appreciate who we are. An inferiority complex, low self-esteem, chronic low self-esteem, self-hate or whatever word you choose to give it isn’t a permanent birthmark. You can grow past it.
We are done here.