The superiority complex explained…
This is a sequel to The Inferiority Complex which I did before christmas and promised to later on do this one. The story of how I met this term is the same so if you missed the first part, the link is right up there.
After I heard about this word for the first time, even after all the arguments and explanations that morning, it still took me time to fully digest what a superiority complex is and who actually has it. Reading about it on the internet for the first time can be confusing even for you but I’ll try and explain it the best way I know how to. You might have or will come across other terms like Egotism, Power complex, God complex, Megalomania, Narcissism, Self-righteousness; are all in one way or the other, sister vocabularies. I am saying it’s difficult to identify who actually has a superiority complex since oftenly, victims of this complex present themselves as gods of self-esteem, are louder than most people and are more flashy. They manage to fool most people, attract attention and admiration from us and even excel in their craft.
But how do we set apart the superiority complex from healthy self-esteem?
Let’s take a fantasy walk…
I have noted that I’ve been biased with creating female fictional characters to bring out my point so today you get to meet Scott.
Scott was born to a fairly rich family, had the kind of life you would say he knew nothing else but abundance all his life. His parents showered him with everything he asked for and more. You know, parents hustle hard so that their children ‘will never lack.‘ But as it is with most successful parents, they are ever too busy for family. I wouldn’t say they properly bonded with their son as he grew up because that would be a lie but rather they expressed their love for him through material things. Experts say that ages 5-12yrs is the stage where we seek love and acceptance so I would say he missed out on this one. At school he turned into a bully and didn’t care about stepping on other people to feel better about himself.
Now 23 year-old Scott is in uni pursuing Commerce. He hasn’t met and come to terms with himself yet. It is always easy to notice his presence when he arrives in a room. He has self-importance written all over him. Like other victims of the superiority complex, he has a boastful attitude towards people around him – an exaggerated opinion of himself. He lives in the illusion that he is better than everyone else. His attention to image and appearance is also so obvious; always picks out ‘brand names’ , for him, only clothes that will call out for attention of others to himself. Always wants to be noticed, demands admiration, always wants to be respected even though he shows contempt and little appreciation for other people’s ideas, opinions and who they are. I could go on and on about his character but I’d rather you talk to his friends, they probably know him better than I do. I honestly want nothing to do with such a person.
I guess you now already have a clue even before I start breaking it down and make it more digestable. That we have gotten comfortable with idolizing mediocrity isn’t even an issue. The issue is that we are living in a society, no! rather, we have crafted a society where the biggest ego wins; from choosing leaders, to picking friends and to even dating. Most of these choices usually have dire consequences and tragic endings which we could have avoided had we learnt to identify genuine self-assurance which comes with humility and show of concern for other people. So let me play moral cop.
Before I even start, here is something that will come in handy for you in understanding this and every other thing that happens around you: Have you come across The Law of Cause and Effect? Well it’s philosophy. It is a brainchild of the great ancient philosopher, Aristotle and it’s the basic and most fundamental law of life. This law states that everything happens for a reason; for every effect there is a cause that preceeded it. Wise old Aristotle stated that the world is governed by law, not chance. That everything happens for a reason wether we are aware of it or not. Everything that happens around us is as a result of another action. Also, everything we do, every action will have an outcome wether we can see it or not. You need to give this a deeper thought sometime. Even people are who they are because of previous events in their lives. Take time to understand people. I will later tell you why I brought in this important law of life.
Just like the inferiority complex, psychologist Albert Adler came up with the term Superiority Complex also, in the early 1900s as he continued to develop his School of Individual Psychology. Individual psychology is built around the idea that we all harbour within us a sense of inadequacy or inferiority and that we are working to overcome those through mastering things we are good at/can excel at and creating a meaningful life of belonging and success.
A superiority complex is a word used for a person who believes that they are somehow superior to others. People who have this complex often have exaggerated opinions of themselves and believe their abilities and accomplishments are above those of others. In short, they think and believe they are better and may even seek to be ‘worshipped’ by others.
As I have already noted, everything as it is now, is so because of an action or another occurence preceeding it. According to Adler’s thesis, the occurence of an inferiority complex and a superiority complex is a case of cause and effect. In actual sense, a superiority complex is a defence mechanism to hide an inferiority complex. Acting superior to other people is usually a way to mask/hide feelings of inferiority. When people cannot face their underlying low self-esteem or failure and shortcomings, they develop a persona. I chose to refer to it as false confidence to help you understand it better.
How do we identify it?
In my article on the inferiority complex, I talked about compensation as a natural way to deal with our feelings of inadequacy that we all go into life to face and conquer. Victims of this particular complex rarely ever undercompensate but rather rise to an illusionary persona that stands above everyone else; a false self, a self-image of supremacy and authority. A person with a superiority complex, to them, life is a perfomance and they are always trying to put on the best show. They may often come off as boastful which may annoy people around them. They are often unwilling to listen to other people’s opinions and perspectives; they are all knowing. Attention to appearance and vanity; they always want to give themselves the best image possible. They have an overly high opinion of oneself.
You try contradicting them and watch how their mood suddenly changes. You have poked their ego. You may have already spotted these in someone you know, especially after a long relationship. Adler held that a person who felt and acted superior to others and held others as less worthy, was in real sense hiding a feeling of inferiority.
Drawing The Line.
1. Genuine confidence and fake confidence.
This segment alone deserves an entire article just so we can get to understand genuine confidence and set it apart with false confidence. Confidence is always attractive. We all know of someone who is confident and we admire them. There is however a fine line between having genuine confidence and fake confidence which is actually a mask for no confidence. Most of us do surface-level judgement thus we may end up giving false confidence the attention and admiration it doesn’t deserve.
We are not better than anyone, no one is better than us either is a balance we should all strive to attain. To the former, they’ve named it pride and to the latter they call it self-sabotage.
In between is a cocktail of both humility and self-assurance.
Genuine confidence is amazing and it creates a positive aura around people who have it and thus is contagious in that, it inspires other people to be confident in themselves too. Note that being confident does not mean that you have to be the loudest person in the room. Truly confident people are confident with who they are, their own abilities, their achievements, their journey so far, what they believe in, what they have and where they are in life. In short, they’ve built their confidence based on their core; based on what they truly are, no illusions, no exaggerations. They are in competition with nobody and only measure themselves against themselves.
Being confident in ourselves doesn’t mean that we know everything. People who are genuinely confident also carry humility in them. They know that they do not know everything and are therefore not afraid to ask questions and learn from somebody else. They are ready to be corrected and aren’t afraid to be challenged as they’ve acknowledged that the truth is constant. They have accepted both their strengths and weaknesses. They are ready to admit to mistakes and also ask for forgiveness without feeling embarrassed or feeling like a part of their confidence has been taken away from them but rather learn from them and keep moving. They know they aren’t perfect and have no desire whatsoever to be.
They do not necessarily see the need to call attention to themselves. Their presence and space is unchallengable by situations or other people and demand attention and respect without forcing or asking for it. By this I mean that they do not feel intimidated by people who are wealthier, prettier, taller, more educated and all other things that vary amongst us. Every person to them is an opportunity to learn from and better who they are. Confident people also don’t rely on praises and other people’s approval; they know they are doing this for themselves and for the course they believe in, other people’s appreciation is just a bonus. They have big spirits and are ready to live for others. They are ready to share what they know and what they have to build others up.
For them, what you see is what you get, they walk their talk and so they aren’t afraid of scrutiny as they have nothing to hide. These kind are easy to like.
False confidence on the other hand is the most common amongst us. Unlike the former, this one isn’t contagious. Not at all. I say this because people with false confidence won’t inspire you to be confident too. People who are unhappy with themselves or aren’t where they’d like to be in life often need to devalue other people in order to feel better about themselves.
False confidence is merely the opposite of everything I have mentioned about its opposite. People with this kind of confidence come off as ‘showy showy’. They crave attention so much and will do anything to win the moment. They are the ‘look at me, notice me’ kind of people and will go out of their way to pull attention towards them.
Another writer says, “they’ve been told that, ‘if you wear these markers of success and cover your inadequacy, people will think you’re important.” As a result, they are always trying to ‘dress to impress’ as opossed to simply looking good and being comfortable in what you are wearing. Somebody else says, ‘fake people have an image to maintain, real people just do not care.’
They also often come off as being boastful with what they have or have accomplished and sometimes, there is little or no proof to back up those claims.
A moment with such a type of people and you will feel drained. They will make you feel like confidence is this inborn thing or only reserved for a few chosen or lucky ones like them. What they are really doing there is using your own lack/pursuit of confidence opportunistically to tower above you and transform themselves into some kind of god to you.
Finally, these are definately people who haven’t accepted their flaws and mistakes and are therefore merely acting confident rather than being confident. You try pointing out their mistakes, flaws or failures and see what happens. You will probably be met with hostility or they will now avoid or hate you. Like I said, this is because you have pricked their ego, the very foundation of their illusions of who they are. They get easily intimidated by people who are better educated or knowledgeable, wealthier, prettier, better dressed, have a more powerful status than them and other variables. This happens so because these are the things that define them. They measure their worth against other people.
2. Normal striving to achieve and overcompensation.
‘Somehow you knew going up was the only way to finding your solutions even without asking for help or giving up. Afterall life teaches us this concept through scarcity of options.’ – I am quoting my own words from A Thing or Two.
Yes buddy. From the moment we are born, I noted earlier that we all begin from a point of inadequacy and we go into life seeking to rectify this through developing our strengths and mastering new skills. I mentioned that it is like they are there to motivate us to better our situations. When you are born to little or nothing, you will obviously seek to better your life through setting dreams and goals and striving to achieve them. Even when you are born to abudance, that isn’t an excuse to be comfortable. That is somebody else’s dreams that they made happen. You have your own purpose to fulfill in this world and a life to give meaning. It is only natural for you to set your dreams and goals and go after your own version of success.
It is not wrong to improve your current situation in life, it is not wrong to go after the finer things in life, to make it happen. It is perfectly normal, no, it is actually important to keep moving. However, people with a normal striving to achieve mentality are only in competition with themselves. They have it in mind that no matter how good a life they make for themselves, they still don’t and won’t have no desire to exert dominance over others. They are working to fulfill a purpose, their purpose while at the same time helping other people achieve and better their conditions. They learn from setbacks and come back stronger.
On the other hand, those who are merely masquerading have the constant need to overcompensate for their feelings of inferiority. I already talked about this so you can check it out on the Inferiority Complex piece. Such people seek achievements not really so that they can better their lives but that they can feel and be superior to other people. They have no hope of constructing their self-concept and so the only thing that makes them feel good about themselves is significance and dominance over people – bending people to their will. They have no problem with bringing other people down when it is to their advantage. They are obsessed with power and the desire to be worshipped. Greed and over-ambitiousness isn’t far away from their character profile. I do not want to explain what might happen when such a person experiences a major setback in his/her life.
As I wind up on complexes:
Wether you now feel like you carry an inferiority or a superiority complex, no one is ever completely broken and beyond repair. We’ve all had our journeys so far that have shaped us into who we are, and by that I mean our characters and behaviours. Our behaviours and personalities don’t develop suddenly, they form over the years. If our behaviours are positive, they complement our personality but if they are negative then they destroy our well-being and nature. If we are constantly displaying negative behaviours, they are a manifestation of emotional/inner wounds that we carry. Get the right help to deal with yours. It can be mended. Step by step.
Gaining genuine confidence is as simple as first admitting that you lack confidence and being confident enough to ask for help which takes away that persona and puts you on the right journey. The journey of developing your skills and natural abilities and healing past wounds. That is how we gain genuine confidence. If you feel and act like you know everything, then you will most probably never know more than you know.
When you gain genuine confidence and become comfortable in your own space then you will never hear people complain that your space/circle is encroaching onto theirs. Bad vibes like envy, jealousy, hate, anger and fear cannot co-exist with positive ones like love, happiness, courage and humility in the same soul.
Be honest to self.