Have you ever been in a group where you can’t say a single word because of feelings of inferiority around others? The feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, as well as the tendency to compare, are not unusual. But, if these feelings become self-consuming to the point that you’re running low on self-esteem, then you may have developed an inferiority complex.

What Is an Inferiority Complex?

The term “inferiority complex” was introduced by psychologist Alfred Alder in 1907. Inferiority complex is the prevailing and intense personal feeling of inadequacy, weakness, and insecurity. You feel your accomplishments, attractiveness, or happiness are no match when compared to others. Constantly thinking that you are not good enough is an erroneous belief that can harm your mental and social life.

You have a negative self-image. You have a constant feeling of frustration toward yourself and your overall well-being. You have difficulties coping because of real or imagined physical or psychological deficiency. 

Chronic Low Self-Esteem

At present, the term inferiority complex is more appropriately called chronic low self-esteem, which is the feeling of inferiority. When you have chronic low self-esteem, you experience the following:

  • Lack of confidence and underestimating yourself often
  • Seeing your flaws and imperfections frequently
  • Unacceptance of  criticisms
  • Fear of being judged
  • Habitual comparison of yourself with others
  • Self-doubt and self-consciousness because of certain standards you impose on yourself

Two Types of Inferiority Complexes

There are two types of inferiority complexes you should take note of: primary inferiority and secondary inferiority. Both are differentiated below.

Primary Inferiority

This type of inferiority starts in childhood when parents often compare their children. Children are sensitive; they highly acknowledge the opinions of their parents. If a child is often scolded for being vulnerable and inadequate, they have an increased risk of growing up with insecurities and broken self-esteem. This self-perception of inferiority can damage their adult social and personal relationships.

Secondary Inferiority

Secondary inferiority refers to an adult’s inability to reach goals due to their perceived inadequacies. An adult with secondary inferiority has low self-esteem. They often struggle in social gatherings. They believe they can’t maintain healthy adult relationships.

Signs of Inferiority Complex

Here is the list of common signs of an inferiority complex:

  • You always have a poor mood, are constantly depressed, and have no will to change.
  • You have a low self-image, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
  • You feel helpless or psychologically weak.
  • You have low motivation.
  • You are often worried, anxious, or feel inadequate.
  • You feel guilty about your choices and actions.
  • You are easily hurt when people criticize you in social situations.
  • You can’t establish proper eye contact.
  • You often speak in a low and soft voice tone.
  • You belittle your accomplishments and positive qualities.
  • You find it hard to give yourself compliments.
  • You suffer from a poor and unpredictable sleep pattern.
  • You can’t stay long in any relationship.
  • You seek attention by pretending to be ill or through aggression.

What Causes Inferiority Complex?

There are so many contributing factors as to why a person develops an inferiority complex. The two common factors are a person’s life experiences and genetic inclination. The other factors are listed below:

  • History of trauma, abuse, stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Depression and the inability to meet realistic goals for one’s self can lead to self-failure. Thinking of failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Having family members with this kind of mental health condition
  • Mental health disorders such as avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD)

An important factor to consider in determining the cause of inferiority complex is the parenting style a person was exposed to as a child. If you grew up in a home where your parents are often stressed out, you are most likely to grow up developing fear, doubt, and uncertainty. Children coming from stressful homes have low self-esteem and are most likely to have a hard time building their self-confidence.

External factors such as societal pressure can play a big role in causing an inferiority complex. A person is most likely to develop an inferiority complex if they had negative social media experiences and received harassment from peers, colleagues, and romantic partners.

Effects of Inferiority Complex

Having an inferiority complex will greatly affect your daily life. You are unable to function properly at home, at work, or in school. In your romantic relationships, you will likely tend to accept the desires of your partner even to the point of sacrificing your own personal needs, wants, and goals.

These people don’t take credit for their hard work, abilities, and accomplishments at work. Because of this, they don’t get promoted or receive a pay increase.

Suicidal ideation is common among individuals with an inferiority complex. Studies have shown that people who have an inferiority complex may have an intense feeling of committing suicide. They think they are better off killing themselves instead of being alive but suffering.

Inferiority Complex vs Superiority Complex

Superiority complex means feeling superior over others and considering yourself much better than them. This is the exaggeration of one’s worth, abilities, talents, and accomplishments.

Superiority complexes are often caused by an overcompensation of inferiority complex. Thus, these two complexes overlap one another. However, if you look closely, a person who has a superiority complex feels helpless and psychologically weak.

This becomes their coping mechanism in which they can hide from their feelings of inferiority. Being superior toward others is their only way to cope and feel good about themselves.

Signs of Superiority Complex

  • You have elevated self-worth.
  • You are very grandiose and perfectionistic.
  • You are constantly boasting about your abilities and talents.

Mental Health and Treatment

Inferiority complex is not recognized as an official mental health disorder. To find out if you have an inferiority complex, you have to be assessed and be treated by a mental health professional.

If you want to get treated, you have to fully understand what it is and what causes it. Did you develop an inferiority complex because of your childhood experiences? Or is it due to mental health disorders such as depression or personality disorder?


Therapy is always the best choice in addressing mental health problems. A therapist could be a psychologist, social worker, or counselor who can make a complete and thorough assessment of your condition. Mental health professionals can also plan a step-by-step treatment specifically designed for your situation.

If in case your inferiority complex is determined to be stemming from an anxiety disorder, you can get an anxiety treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or dialectical behavioral therapy (PBT).

Therapy is used to challenge damaging views and replace them with healthier ones to speed up your recovery. A therapist is very important in your recovery. They are the ones who make your treatment plan and make sure it gets implemented effectively.


Matching the cause and symptoms of inferiority complex in assessing a person is crucial in treating inferiority complex. There is no generic medication in treating inferiority complex. The medication varies depending on the cause.

For instance, if the cause of your inferiority complex is an anxiety disorder, a therapist can recommend anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drugs.

Medication is not needed if the inferior complex is not related to mental health. Instead, brief psychotherapy can help patients sort out their thoughts and actions.

Do I Have an Inferiority Complex? How Do I Overcome it?

Time, effort, and patience are very much needed when you want to overcome your inferiority complex. Here are some strategies you can do if you want to overcome your inferiority complex:

1. Journaling and Meditation

Journaling has been proven to be very effective in managing symptoms of inferiority complex. This is also effective in tracking your feelings and determining the root cause of the problem.  This is a good start and can be beneficial when progressing to therapy.

If you feel anxious because of low self-esteem, slow down and focus on your inner peace. Meditation is a good way to relax and direct your focus to yourself.

2. Positive Self-Talk

It is about time that you stop worrying about what other people will say about you. You have to be kind to yourself every day and don’t compare yourself with anyone. Every time you wake up in the morning, start with positive thinking and give yourself words of encouragement.

3. Be With Positive People

Surround yourself with a lot of positive people to have healthy self-esteem. Mistakes are easily accepted when you are surrounded by people who encourage and lift you up.

Final Thoughts

Many people battle their insecurities on a daily basis. You don’t have to be consumed by sadness and hopelessness. If you want to be cured, you have to acknowledge the symptoms and seek the help of mental health professionals.

Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) and its team of accomplished therapists and counselors are here to listen and help you unearth the roots of your insecurities. You don’t have to live in the shadows of your inferior feelings. Give yourself some self-love. You can become better and break free if you put your heart into it.

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