Inferiority feelings: the disturbed relationship to one’s own ego
Inferiority feelings describe a state of the soul that is characterized by the constant conscious or subconscious care of being imperfect or not sufficient as a human and acting being. The terms “feeling of inferiority” and “inferiority complex” go back to the Austrian doctor and depth psychologist Alfred Adler, who coined the concept of so-called individual psychology in the early 20th century.
In his 1912 publication, “On the Nervous Character”, Adler described the constant interaction between the human pursuit of different goals and the feeling that they could not be reached one hundred percent and thus imperfect. Inferiority feelings can have different causes and manifest themselves as a general lack of self-confidence as well as total self- denial , socio-phobia or severe depression .
Possible causes for the development of inferiority feelings
Feelings of inferiority or low self-esteem are by no means innate traits , but are acquired in the course of life by external factors or developed by certain experiences. Already Alfred Adler called as the most probable causes of inferiority complexes negative experiences in the early childhood, which make a man think of himself contemptuously. People who were confronted with problematic family relationships in their childhood are at particular risk of developing inferiority complexes later in life.
For the first seven to ten years, children naturally think that everything their parents say or do is right and true. All acts of mother, father or other guardians are not questioned. This means that the intuition and the perception of a person’s environment and own ego are mainly and sustainably shaped by the behavior and the opinions of the parents. Experiencing children at this early and extremely sensitive stage of life repeatedly experiencing disappointments, punishments, or negative emotional behavior from their closest caregivers, they naturally respond with an internalization of the words and deeds that were associated with it.
In order to maintain the affection of the parents nevertheless and to avoid further withdrawal of love, affected children often begin to deal intensively with the alleged own weaknesses and constantly criticize them. The main problem in this context is that the assessment of one’s own personality in childhood is not yet based on rational experiences, but solely on the opinions of parents. If these are constantly criticizing and insulting, the child eventually takes over and often grows up with them, without ever rationally analyzing their truth content. Also, insults and bullying by classmates, friends or teachers in childhood and teenage years can result in an inferiority complex in later years.
Symptoms and consequences of inferiority complexes
If a child, as a child, has learned to be less intelligent, not able to perform well, looks good, or is not lovable enough for a variety of reasons, it may manifest as self-denial in adulthood. This is simply a false, externally influenced self-devaluation, as a consequence of which a disturbed relationship with one’s own ego develops. People who suffer from feelings of inferiority live in constant fear of not being able to meet their fellow human beings and of not being able to provide the services expected of them in the private and professional environment to a sufficient degree.
To a certain extent, lack of self-confidence in challenging life situations is nothing unusual and a thoroughly human and comprehensible feeling. Many people are unaware of the concerns of not being able to perform tasks to their fullest satisfaction in education, a new professional environment or in a responsible role. However, an inferiority complex is associated with constantly seeing mistakes and flaws in oneself, which in most cases do not exist or do not exist to the extent that is subjectively perceived.
Most sufferers can not accept praise, recognition, compliments, and affection from their fellow human beings, and instead always feverishly seek possible ulterior motives. Success is not perceived as such, but usually dismissed as a lucky coincidence. Lack of self-confidence also leads to an undeniable success can not be celebrated or enjoyed, but immediately new, sometimes unrealistic goals are set.
Intentionally chosen unattainable challenges offer people with inferiority complexes the ideal opportunity to explain the expected failure with their own inability. In general, people whose lives are characterized by feelings of inferiority must constantly emphasize their own shortcomings, whether they are missing talents or physical blemishes. Often it comes to a veritable obsession, because once discovered errors determine the life of many affected people.
Inferiority feelings and social life
Lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem have an extremely negative impact on interpersonal relationships of all kinds. People who suffer from feelings of inferiority tend to be offended even at the slightest criticism, which makes honest communication in the private and professional environment practically impossible. Affected persons, however, often can not perceive honest affection as such, including love relationships as much as family cohesion.
The permanent fear of being rejected causes, in extreme cases, a social phobia that can lead to isolation, loneliness and severe depression. People with inferiority complexes feel constantly and completely without reason as failures, whereby even the smallest everyday activities can become a major point of discussion. If the interest in new tasks or activities is impaired, taking a hobby will be impossible. As a result, many sufferers are trapped in a daily life in which monotony, boredom and a negative attitude dominate everything and everyone.
The consequences are often the flight into superficial status symbols, alcohol or drug abuse and constantly changing and always equally frustrating love relationships . Many people with inferiority feelings also try to compensate for their weaknesses with arrogance, aloofness or a generally negative and aggressive behavior.
Ways out of the disturbed ego relationship
Those who constantly feel imperfect, inadequate, or flawed should first try to internalize the following: there are no flawless or inferior people, only strengths and weaknesses. Without exception, every human being has special talents on the one hand and mistakes on the other. Just as talents are respected by others and valued as such, mistakes are forgiven and forgotten. The conscious forgiveness of one’s own weaknesses is, however, the most important step on the way out of self-denial.
Anyone who suffers from feelings of inferiority should take the time each evening to recognize and appreciate their own daytime achievements. At the same time, it is important to give up the pursuit of constant success and perfection and to recognize it as unrealistic and superfluous. Often it can help to create a diary, in which not only criticism but also praise and compliments of fellow human beings are noted. This shifts attention away from the inner critic to the actual relationship with the social environment.
In severe cases, a discussion therapy should be considered in order to get to the bottom of the causes of inferiority and to analyze the relationships that characterize childhood and adolescence. Thus, the moral notions of parents, teachers, and other individuals, which may have caused profound insults and disappointments, may be considered for the first time in a critical light, thereby jeopardizing their veracity. This ultimately paves the way to a realistic and adult self-relation that can mature and grow wholly without negative external influences and in a healthy way.