The mystery of the inferiority complex

A true story

Let me tell the story of this middle aged successful man, working for two decades for a top 10 company, being admired by his colleagues, loved by his family and still every time calling me with the same complaint. He got this new glamorous position but he feels inferior, as he thinks that he can’t reach “the level of his colleagues. He is stressed, he is hyperventilating and can’t sleep. How is that possible, that a fully competent unique man is not feeling his worth?

Fact is that he knows all the tricks how to keep his head cool, how to communicate, how to make plans and work through them. He even gets compliments from his new boss for his great performance. And still he is anxious and feels overwhelmed. All the facts prove that he can actually do the job. He was chosen fort this position for a reason. But all he can think of is that he will fail, because he is not good enough and can’t reach the intelligence of his colleagues.

Comparing ourselves to others

And here we go. This is what happens when we don’t learn to appreciate our own values, but keep on comparing ourselves to others. Others have more skills, finished better studies, achieve higher goals. In this case, my client grew up in a highly intellectual family, father and brother high achievers, with prestigious positions. He was compared to them from an early age that put high expectations on him. 

We all worry at times about our abilities. It is human nature to question whether we measure up to others, especially when we are not performing well or rejected by friends. The feeling of insecurity arising from it is something we can deal with. We just remind us of our strength and successes. But if you have an inferiority complex, dealing with failure is difficult. You have chronic low self-esteem, only conscious of your shortcomings, and believe that your intense self-criticism is reasonable. It is so deeply rooted that it holds you back personally and professionally.

Signs and Symptoms of an Inferiority Complex

  • Focus on negative critical thoughts
  • Sensitive to compliments and criticisms
  • Undervalue own successes 
  • Low self esteem
  • Irrational admiration and overvaluing others
  • Overwhelmed and anxious when performing
  • Jumping to negative conclusions
  • Perfectionism
  • Surpressed feelings of own failure
  • Feeling of shame, guilt, embarrassment
  • Projecting own failure to others by dismissing or diminishing 
  • Seek for validation by pretending to be sick, depressed, 
  • Avoid any type of competition and don’t take risks. 
  • Social withdrawing (from colleagues, friends or family) 

Building self confidence

How to help my client with the inferiority complex? The first step is to thoroughly understand where his low self-esteem comes from. We discovered that he irrationally compared himself to his father and brother who he so admired from a young age. He grew up developing an irrational value system. Overvaluing the traits of highly intellectual men, and not appreciating practical street smart people. He only learnt to appreciate certain values in a person, and didn’t learn to value his own unique qualities. This got confirmed by wrong school choices and eventually the wrong profession.  

The solution is understanding and processing the old feelings of “not good enough”.  After that we need to learn to look at our own values in a realistic way.  Which positive traits we have, what makes us unique, what do others value in us, including those to we used to be compared to. Recondition our value system that dates from our childhood to a value system that serves us now. And finally learn to be compassionate and comforting to us instead of critical and pressuring. 

Are you ready to start this journey in my practice, feel free to make an appointment for an initial talk.

Enikö Hajas

Born into a diplomat family in Hungary, I lived in Vietnam, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. My lengthy experience of understanding different cultures makes it natural for me to work with any nationalities.

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