Low self-image: 10 tips against an inferiority complex
A person who suffers with an inferiority complex can be defined as someone who tends to fixate on their own perceived weaknesses and flaws, while comparing themselves negatively to other people. Of course, we all have flaws but those who have an inferiority complex can see very little about themselves in a positive light. Psychological studies have found that people who think this way about themselves struggle to find lasting happiness.
The opposite of an inferiority complex would be a superiority complex, where a person thinks they are better than everyone else, and can of course be completely deluded. It is far healthier to walk the middle ground between an inferiority and a superiority complex.
Where does an inferiority complex come from?
Psychologists think that the root causes of an inferiority complex can originate in childhood.
- Your parents may never have shown they were pleased or proud of you
- You may have faced harsh criticism at school ended
How does an inferiority complex manifest itself?
You may recognise the most common symptoms if you’re an inferiority complex sufferer. These can include:
- Feeling worthless.
- You have trouble standing up for yourself.
- Feeling you fall short in comparison to other people.
- Failing to see how other people have their own flaws and foibles, and can be just as fallible as you. You only see the best things about others and not about yourself.
- Overly sensitivity to criticism. Even when you receive constructive criticism you will feel attacked and defensive, and this will inevitably lead to feelings of self-loathing or shame. Any slight sign of rejection or exclusion can make you feel down.
- You imagine you are being judged negatively by others, and that no-one thinks your contributions are valuable.
- On social media platforms you may feel jealous and sad when you see what others are up to.
- Perfectionism. You think that if something isn’t perfect, it must be a failure.
10 tips to guard against an inferiority complex
1. Who cares? You do!
Your knee jerk reaction may be to try not to give a monkey’s about what anyone else thinks. But what you should actually do is the reverse. Start caring only about what YOU think. Judge yourself by your own standards. If you did your best, then you did a great job! This means understanding what you personally (and realistically) find to be valuable, and then measuring yourself against your own standards.
2. Stop comparing yourself
We live in a world where on the one hand we are inundated by images of perfection and glamour through the media and its ridiculous obsession with celebrity, while on the other, social media means we are constantly comparing ourselves and our lives to other people. This is a pointless exercise. When you look at someone else’s profile or photo and feel worthless or jealous, take a moment to think realistically what you know about that person and their lives. You cannot compare your whole life to one thing you see or know about somebody else.
You are you, not somebody else, and the you that you are, is unique.
3. Build up your own confidence
When you feel better about yourself, you have an increased sense of security and you feel worthy (instead of inferior). Try and treat yourself better, by reminding yourself that you are valuable and by taking good care of yourself (what you eat and drink, what exercise you do, what you read, how you dress, how you groom yourself etc.). Start now by making a list of what you love about yourself and pinning its somewhere you can see it.
4. Talk to yourself nicely
Do you let your inner critic run the show? Now is the time to tell it to shut up! Think about the words you use to talk about yourself. Is it negative? Are there elements of self-loathing? Do you see how unkind you are being to yourself? Turn that inner critic around. Talk to yourself about how worthy you are instead. Believe it!
5. Surround yourself with positive happy people
It may be the case that the people you hang around with most are the ones who are quite critical of you. If you do have toxic friends, or members of your family are downright mean, eliminate them from your life as far as possible. Or put them straight. No-one needs to put you down. You’ll develop a much healthier sense of self if you hang around with the people who value you and what you do.
6. Practise body confidence
Try and use positive body language even if you feel shy. Where possible, look at someone directly, smile, talk at a normal volume, have the confidence to listen and think before you respond to a question.
7. Forget perfectionism
If you’re a perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough, and you’ll feel bad because inferiority and perfectionism tend to go together, united in comparison and judgement. Perfectionism tends to lend itself to procrastination and inaction, meaning you’ll never achieve what you want to achieve, and this starts a vicious cycle of judging yourself and feeling negative about your achievements. You can only get better at things, by failing and learning lessons first.
8. Social media is a veneer
Recognise that social media is a superficial way to present our lives. We choose what we want others to see. We don’t show pictures of our boils, or our kids’ head lice, or the wet towels all over the untidy bathroom. Research from Glasgow University suggests night-time usage of social media is associated with poor sleep, lower self-esteem and increased anxiety and depression. Social media distorts what we see - so either don’t use it, or take everything you see with a pinch of salt.
9. Be brave!
What is your definition of failure, and why do you define failure a certain way? Is it because of other people’s expectations? If that’s the case. You may be living your life according to what other people want and expect. Potentially this can damage your happiness. Being brave and living the life you want is one way to rid yourself of an inferiority complex. You are a unique individual, and if you choose to live in a cave and Rescue hedgehogs, why shouldn’t you? Cast aside societal norms if you want to, and live the way you want, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else, no-one has a right to judge.
10. One final thought
One of my favourite quotes is this one, from Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Your inferiority complex starts with you, but you have the most amazing and ultimate of powers – you can change yourself.
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