“Behind everyone who behaves as if he/she were superior to others, we can suspect a feeling of inferiority which calls for very special efforts of concealment. It is as if a man/woman feared that they were too small and walked on their toes to make themselves taller”—- Alfred Adler
Ryan is now 29 years old, he is a partner in a company doing well for himself however the first day he came for counselling, he was broken, after talking to him, it was clear he was coming to terms with his past, which he wanted to accept and improve on.
Let’s hear his story in his words…
“I take a deep breath as I look at myself in the mirror, I look at the wrinkles and the weary face that now shows the truth of who I really am…Yes I was a Bully, the truth is heavy, it is hard to admit, but it is also the truth that is liberating me from my shackles of insecurities and the false belief that “I am the best, superior than the rest”… on the course of my journey I realized deep inside I was experiencing
“Hey you fat kid where are you going? Going to eat some more huh? Fatty Matty, God how can you exist and even eat more, don’t you think you can burst due to overeating??”
Harsh words. It did not take a minute for me to say them, Matt was a great kid on the heavier side but I was better, slimmer fitter, and I knew it! Every time I used to shame this person I felt great inside, I felt better than him and rest of his fatty friends. Well, a push on the shy girl, cornering her and teasing was our lunch time routine, and playing tricks on the nerds were my favourite past times, using profanities was second nature to me. This did not feel wrong, not at all; well I was smarter than them and better, so why shouldn’t I let them know that? The teacher warned me but it was all cool, I am the cool kid so it did not bother me. I was confident powerful and smart and the world was my oyster.”
It had taken Ryan 10 years to come to the realisation that he is not a God, nor is he superior on the whole, deep down he is suffering from real inferiority issues that compel him to prove to others how great he is. So what is superiority complex and what did he experience?
All these were discovered as Ryan continued taking therapy.
“I did not know why I was that mean with others, it came naturally to me, now when I reflect back after that office incident, I realise more that I tried to be cooler, it gave me immense satisfaction when I could make others feel uncomfortable, I thought I had power and authority, but I was wrong. All I did was hiding my own demons. As a child I always felt underappreciated by my parents and neglected to some extent. I always thought I am not good enough or powerful enough, I needed to be stronger and this path that I found for myself was the most convenient, it was easy and it felt good. Recently in the office I used to demean others by showing them I was better than them in office. One of my associate was working on a project, I stepped in completely rejected his idea and told him his idea was just not going to crack the deal for us, I proposed my idea and convinced others it was better. However in reality the idea my associate proposed was good I just polished it and presented his idea in a new package. After that incident I and my associate do not talk to each other. I think I was worried deep inside that my colleague may do better than me, I am not Good enough, I felt threatened, may be that what pushed me to behave in that way.
Once my friends back in college was praising this kid in my class because of his skill in putting together electronic stuff, and computer coding, however every time someone said “Nathan is great at this” all I could hear “Ryan you are useless, worthless, you can never do anything right”! I felt better when I pushed Nathan and made fun of his low scores in English, I did get better than him in that paper. I also told people how thin he is and that all he did was nothing special, any other computer savvy person could do it!
But now I realise how wrong I was, I was a coward and insecure. I thought everyone would see through the real me so it was necessary to show attitude and throw my weight around, to prove I am better. In reality I never really addressed my problems, or my insecurities, now I wish I could heal my past. Be better for myself, not others”
During his therapy, Ryan did ask relevant questions which he needed answers too so that he could understand himself better and conquer the guilt that was eating into him. So what were these questions…..?
What Is Superiority Complex?
Superiority complex is a psychological defence mechanism that compensates for an inferiority complex. The term was coined by psychologist Alfred Adler as part of his school of individual psychology. In Adler’s words
“The superiority complex is one of the ways that a person with an inferiority complex may use as a method of escape from his difficulties. He assumes that he is superior when he is not, and this false success compensates him for the state of inferiority which he cannot bear. The normal person does not have a superiority complex; he does not even have a sense of superiority. He has the striving to be superior in the sense that we all have ambition to be successful; but so long as this striving is expressed in work it does not lead to false valuations, which are at the root of mental disease.”
So having a striving for superiority on gaining achievement in one’s life is different from experiencing superiority complex. Here Ryan was experiencing the unhealthy version of superiority complex that later made him realize, that he is battling low self esteem, or low self regard for oneself.
How to Overcome the Superiority Complex?
One of the fundamental questions that Ryan asked was how to experience high self esteem and conquer the guilt of his past acts, so that he could increase his own self worth. His Life coach guided him with a Self Esteem Rule Book :-
Self Esteem Rule Book, to overcome this condition the following rules are to be maintained, which includes:
Rule #1 : Understand your condition
Understanding the term Superiority Complex and recognizing the traits to identify oneself with this condition is essential as well.
Observe the signs. There does not seem to be a particular age when a superiority complex develops, however there are certain signs
Arrogance: A person will display signs of haughty superiority, feeling that he/she rates above those they deem beneath them.
Being a braggart: The superior person enjoys telling outlandish tales that put them in the spot light. They also are very proud of material possessions and will happily brag to anyone who will listen.
Interrupting: The superior person will have an opinion about every topic, whether they are knowledgeable on the subject or not. As they feel they have such important offerings, they feel interrupting is their right.
Thinking they are always right/you are always wrong: It does not matter the situation, the argument, or the logic, they are always right. Anyone that does not agree with them, or heaven forbid, vocally disagrees with them, is an idiot.
Lacking empathy: People with this complex do not have the ability to feel empathy; they tend to be cold hearted. They do not possess the ability to feel the pain of another.
Mood swings: Feeling that they are all knowing and great at all they do, the superior person is subject to over thinking and problems resolving issues internally. This facade leads to poor judgement, and emotional outbursts.
Anxiety issues: With the image he/she projects, and the truth of who they are, a person with a superiority complex suffers great anxiety keeping everything straight in their minds. Dealing with dual personalities make this condition even more difficult to manage.
Rule #2: Consider whether an inferiority complex is involved as well.
A deeply rooted inferiority complex could explain the outlandish behaviour of superiority complex, in some cases:
A person with an inferiority complex feels inadequate in comparison to their peers.
A person with a superiority complex feels they are above or out-rank their peers.
A person with an inferiority complex is constantly self-doubting. A person with superiority complex is overly confident.
A person with an inferiority complex can hide his/her insecurities by using the mask of a superiority complex. Ultimately this means he/she likely has deep-rooted feelings of depression and sadness.
Rule #3 : Making the decision to change
Change is never easy. When a person has a high opinion of themselves, this can be detrimental to relationships. This attitude can turn people off and actually cause the loss of friendships. Ironically, a person with a superiority complex will never admit that they are the reason why friendships disappear. Below, some tips to help control the feelings of superiority:
Do not take appreciation so seriously: It is wonderful and everyone enjoys feeling appreciated. What is most important is how one feels about themselves. Though it feels great to receive a compliment, it is integral to not let it inflate one’s opinion of them. Acknowledge the remark with simple thank you, and carry on with the general conversation.
Resist being the know-it-all: The superior person may find themselves in familiar situations, where they know the best way to complete a task. They must resist taking charge. Let others voice their opinions. Work collectively as a group, giving others the opportunity to learn.
Stop being judgmental: A person with a superiority complex must realize that their opinion is just that; it is their opinion. Not everyone may agree, which is their right. Every person is entitled to their own opinion. To facilitate change, reign in the tendency to be the know-it-all. Be open to listening and accepting of the opinion of others and never take part in gossip!
Understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses: Those having a superiority complex may have one of a kind quality and be exceptional in certain areas of life. He/she may be very intelligent academically and, rightfully so, be proud of their accomplishments. Remember, however, that there are smarter people, more exceptional people in the world. It is very important to possess humility. Acknowledge others and their accomplishments. Learning to show support of others is important in order for he/she to be accepted by their peers
Rule 4#: Important to Identify the triggers
It is equally important to identify and correct those motivations that drive your behaviour of being superior, so ask yourselves the following questions:
Do I need to prove I am best at all times to gain people’s admiration?
I am demeaning others to make myself feel better or make others feel worse? Why I am doing it?
Is it okay to interrupt others and not give them a chance to speak?
Am I comparing myself only rather than improving?
What are your best and worst traits? Doesn’t everyone have both good and bad ones?
Is it always necessary to point mistakes made by others? Can there be a better way to do it?
These questions needed to be asked every time you feel overwhelmed by your feelings and to forge stronger interpersonal relationships. Write the answers down and reflect how each action impacts you, and focus what you can do to change them
Rule #5: Keep your loved ones close and talk to someone who can help
It is essential to focus on your support system and speak to someone like a mental health professional if your anxiety levels are high and you are facing difficulty, every little bit of effort helps, to realign one’s life in getting better.
Now when I look back at things, I realize as a young child, my father used to tell me I am never going to be good enough, I am useless and not going to be great or successful, I feared failing myself and making my father’s words come true, however I found a way to deal with this complex, which was eating up my whole life…
Yes, it was hard, in the beginning to make these changes, but I do my bit every day, little by little. I have accepted my feelings, my fears and also working towards changing my attitude. Today I have a better understanding to help others only when asked, rather than always trying to make them feel small. I am changing for the better, for a happier self, I am happy now. Most of all, I am not a Bully anymore.