How to overcome a superiority complex — and why

You may think you are better than others. But having a superiority complex may affect your mental health.

A superiority complex refers to a person’s tendency to feel superior to others around him or her, and having an overly exaggerated or inflated view of one’s own self. Those with a superiority complex may think they are better than your friends, colleagues or relatives when it comes to their looks, position at work or finances.  It was in early 1900s when Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler first described the concept of a superiority complex. A person with a superiority complex tends to treat others in demeaning ways. This is not necessarily good for mental health as it may lead to anxiety. Read on to know what causes superiority complex and ways to overcome it.

What is a superiority complex?

Superiority complex is a notion some people have about themselves. They think they are better than others and they are more capable than others. And so, they brag about themselves and present their abilities in an exaggerated manner. It is actually a reaction of a person to their own inner perception of being inferior, In a desperate attempt to overcome their perceived inferiority, they boast about their achievements.

What are the characteristics of a person with a superiority complex?

If you go by a 2013 study, having a superiority complex is pretty common. The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that most people are biased toward themselves. In comparison to an average person, most people would rate themselves as superior, revealed the study. A person with a superiority complex may:

  • Be overbearing on others
  • Be assertive to the point of being aggressive to put across their views
  • Belittle others
  • Have no concern about how one would perceive their behaviour, so they may behave in a hostile or dismissive manner
  • Exaggerate their abilities
  • Try to control and dominate others

Why do people have a superiority complex?

A number of factors can give rise to development of superiority complex, foremost being a child’s upbringing.

  • Abuse and neglect can give rise to an overwhelming feeling of inferiority and reactionary superiority complex. Sometimes a pampered child may have a false notion that once they go into the outside world, others would take care of them and bring a sense of entitlement. This can lead to having a superiority complex.
  • Comparisons with siblings or other members of the family.
  • As a defense mechanism to avoid feeling inferior, a person may develop an exaggerated sense of superiority.

What is the impact of superiority complex on mental health?

Superiority complex is not included in the official classification of mental health disorders, but presence of such a complex is not healthy.

  • It can give rise to lack of self-worth. It is because of the underlying feeling of inferiority.
  • The constant need to maintain the superiority may give rise to anxiety
  • Being dismissive of others may cause low self-esteem in those people. In turn, they may alienate themselves from the person with a superiority complex. So, the person’s interpersonal domain may get affected. This can make it difficult to maintain relationships at work and in personal space.

What are the ways to overcome superiority complex?

Try these tips to overcome superiority complex:

  • Self-awareness is important. So, recognise thought patterns which can lead to constant boastfulness.
  • Superiority complex develops from an underlying sense of inferiority, inability to accept imperfections. Acceptance that nothing is perfect and it is always a work on progress helps resolve the conflict.
  • Practise empathy in daily interactions with others to understand other person’s perspective.
  • Realise that everything you say may not be acceptable to all. And so, learn to take criticism or practice the art of listening because everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
  • You may be exceptional in one area, but not so good in others. Practise to acknowledge achievements of other people by showing support.

Don’t forget to address the cause of superiority complex so that you can easily overcome it.

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