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Inferiority Complex and the Self-Image

Mitchell walks into a room full of high-flying executives. He scans the room to see the executives dressed in expensive suits, sipping champagne, and mingling amongst each other. He feels “different” to the executives.

He feels less than the executives who are dressed in suits while he wears a basic business shirt and slacks. He poorly knows the executives and finds it hard to socialize with them making him feel even less as a person. Regardless of the superficial reason for his difference, the real problem is his inferiority complex.

What is an Inferiority Complex?

A psychologist in 1912 by the name of Alfred Alder wrote a book titled The Neurotic Character. His research in the book founded a popular area of psychology known as the inferiority complex, a term that describes a sense of inferiority an individual feels about oneself towards others. It revolves around social status, power, ego, and dominance. You have an inferiority complex when you feel less than people. You think other people are better than you.

An inferiority complex can arise when you experience an imagined or conditioned feeling of inferiority. For most people it is a combination of imagination and subtle conditioning. You feel inferior when an event takes place. This makes you feel less than others (conditioning aspect). Your mind (imagination aspect) blows out your understanding of the event beyond what seems reasonable to another person.

Mitchell in our example feels inferior because he thinks the executives are better. His inferiority has nothing to do with not knowing the executives, being dressed differently, or having a less prestigious job. His interpretation of the situation makes him feel below standard and creates inferiority.

The conditioning aspect in Mitchell’s example is his actual differences to the executives. He is wearing different clothes to the executives and he is not “a part of the group” based on his employment status. The imagination aspect for Mitchell is his clothes fall below standards (if there was a dress code, it would be part of conditioning), the executives are better than him, the executives want nothing to do with him because of his difference, plus other irrationalities he thinks make him less of a human. The big difference between conditioning and imagination hold the answer to cure your inferiority complex.

How Your Inferiority Started: Conditioning

“The inferiority complex is all in the mind. Simply stop thinking you’re inferior because you’re not.” That is a lie. If it were that easy, millions of people at sometime would not experience feelings of inferiority. The inferiority complex is society’s psychological black plague that devours too many lives.

My main motivation for writing this article is to give you accurate information to overcome the problem based on what works. This is a collection of the most useful advice on the inferiority complex I synthesized over the years, along with specific lessons I developed to overcome my inferiority complex; unlike personal development teachers I know of who solely emphasize positiveness to overcome feelings of inferiority.

I did some brief browsing on the web to see what information was available on the inferiority complex, and most of the advice offered is harmful. “Experts” were telling people “things will get better”, “be more positive”, or “it’s not so bad”. If you have the inferiority complex and someone says similar things, you understand the massive frustration caused from the misunderstanding when someone gives you such poor advice.

Positive thinking can be nicely understood through an analogy in a Bible verse. In Luke chapter five (NKJV), Jesus was talking to complaining Pharisees. Jesus replied to them in a parable so they would be more likely to understand:

No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.

The garment and the wineskins examples are what positive thinking does to our self-image. A new patch over the bad garment improves the garment a little bit, yet it is still its same old self. If new wine (positive thinking) is poured into old wineskins (your poor self-image of feeling inferior), then nothing good will result. It is a battle of willpower and what is known as creative imagination.

Positive thinking can slightly improve the situation, but in the end it usually results in frustration as your willpower becomes exhausted. Willpower results in an oscillation between the problem and an absence of the problem – failing to create a permanent solution. You cannot use self-determination to cure feelings of inferiority. Whenever willpower fights creative imagination, creative imagination is the victor. I repeat for emphasis: Your creative imagination, which consists of images and feelings, will always conquer your willpower.

From personal experience and coaching others, I know first hand that a better self-image where you do not feel inferior cannot be achieved through positive self-talk, affirmations, and the like. It is unfortunate that people continue to teach positive self-talk to overcome feelings of inferiority. Positive self-talk is often nothing more than an attempt to live deliriously from reality, ignoring what really takes place.

When Doing Becomes Being – How Failure and Criticism Fuel Inferiority

Everyone has heard “you suck”. Some individuals are abused so much yet they are confident with high self-esteem. What makes high self-esteem people different to those who feel like others are better?

Primary factors of conditioning that determine whether you become inferior or rise above the circumstance is your attitude towards criticism and failure. Do not forget about the creative imagination component – the stronger influence of feeling inferior – yet criticism and failure most powerfully influence the conditioning component.

Criticism and failure will always bang at your door to success – more so as you achieve your goals. I have noticed that as readers of my newsletter (ToP Tips) and articles increase, so does the criticism. I get excited with this because I know the criticism signals achievement. Any criticism and failure has nothing to do with me – in fact, it usually has more to do with the other person.

Inferiority arises when doing becomes being.

You and I will always have our critics if we avoid mediocrity. Anyone that has achieved anything notable, sooner or later receives harsh criticism. Find a dark corner where you can hide from the world if you want to avoid criticism (but then again, you will be criticized for hiding). The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

People criticize you because they either want to improve your life, desire to release their frustration, or have their own problems. Failure and criticism say nothing about you; rather, let them signal personal growth. You can take criticism as a sign of progressing in life. If I had not experienced feelings of inferiority, I would not have worked on myself and personally grown. No way would I be writing this article today. I am certain I would not teach any communication skills.

You will never eliminate criticism or failure. The conditioning aspect of inferiority will never vanish. This means to overcome the inferiority complex you cannot expect to avoid failure, dodge criticism, and achieve perfection. You must learn, move on, and maintain a goal-focused attitude to overcome an inferiority complex.

Criticism and failure will never stop as long as you pursue goals. Problems arise when you let the two burglars get a foot hold within your life. You come to feel inferior by associating criticism and failure with how you see yourself. The thieves steal valuable mental goods important to your success.

You will always do things in an inferior way to what other people can do – there is no ignoring that – but a secret to overcome your inferiority complex is to stop associating yourself with your actions. Stop letting failure and criticism form your identity. Inferiority arises when doing becomes being. When you associate what you do with yourself, actions of doing become actions of being.

A young guy gets poor results at school. He associates his grades with his intelligence – leading him to believe he is dumb. Is he really dumb because he was too lazy to study? No. A guy who gets poor results at school and does not feel inferior, dissociates himself from the result. He does not let his lack of study and effort over the school year make him feel he is the outcome.

When you feel criticism is a signal of your unworthiness, only then does it stimulate inferiority, shame, and failure. Do not take criticism personally and think of yourself as a failure. Just criticism can be used as feedback to adjust what you do on the path of your success. Criticism can actually make you thrive.

The Three Factors of Criticism – Don’t Let These Get You Down

The reason some people feel inferior from criticism and failure, while other people flourish, is how they react to the three components of criticism: the power of the sender, intensity, and frequency. You cannot control the three components of criticism – as is true for any conditioning aspect of inferiority – but you can control your reaction to them (the imagination component).

If you are passionate about boxing and Muhammad Ali said you are a hopeless boxer, his power and status intensifies the criticism. If his criticism was delivered in an intense outburst, the criticism would make a bigger impact on you feeling inferior as a boxer. If Ali also constantly reminded you how hopeless you are at boxing, this would stimulate further inferiority. The sender, intensity, and frequency of positive and negative messages impact how we feel about ourselves.

What matters, however, is your reaction. Think of a time when the power of the sender, intensity of the criticism, and the frequency of criticism made you feel inferior. If you can – and I suggest you do – make your selected memory one related to your current feelings of inferiority. If you are a shy person, perhaps think of a time when someone told you to stop talking because you have nothing good to say.

Once you remember one or several experiences, ask yourself these questions:

  • What were you thinking when the person made you feel inferior?
  • What emotions did you experience?
  • What self-talk followed the person’s negative feedback?
  • How long did these feelings and thoughts last?
  • How intense were these feelings and thoughts?
The thoughts and feelings you experience after the event determine whether your inferiority grows or dies.

After answering these questions, if you reacted poorly to the negative feedback given to you in these situations, you should now be aware of how your feelings of inferiority develop. This is big. If you have the inferiority complex or know someone with it, I hope you’re getting excited about this insight.

The powerful lesson to learn from this is that people’s criticism and other types of negative feedback have no power over you. Events do not make you inferior – it is your reaction to the events that do. The thoughts and feelings you experience after the event determine whether your inferiority grows or dies. The conditioning aspect of inferiority partly manifests through the criticism of others – if you let it. Your reaction to the event determines how you feel about yourself.

When you believe criticism signals your unworthiness, your self-worth plummets. You train yourself to feel inferior through self-criticism. You become your worst enemy. The failed events and experiences shape your identity, making you appear a failure.

Harmful feelings trail behind harmful thoughts. You start to feel inferior. You use your creative imagination poorly to evoke images of failure, misery, shame, unworthiness, and low self-esteem. All the negative messages you accepted over time mold your self-image to make you feel inferior. You eventually believe you are inferior. That is essentially how an inferiority complex develops – through poor use of your creative imagination.

How Your Inferiority Grows: Creative Imagination

Animals are preprogrammed with a set of functions for survival. I am amazed at the simple yet effective preprogramming given to birds. When the season changes, some birds fly thousands of miles straight to a destination they have never visited. Birds build nests without ever attending “Nest Building 101” or taking a course in materials engineering.

Like animals, we are preprogrammed with a set of functions that enable us to survive threats, gather food, and procreate. We have one huge difference to animals: we are goal-driven. Humans have the option to select goals while animals do not have this ability. Animals are preprogrammed from birth to live a certain life. They survive and procreate. Humans are different. We can create goals and set out to achieve them with our creative imagination.

I feel this to be the greatest part of all personal development. My creative imagination is something I get excited about. It gives me the ability to literally become who I want and so yours can with you.

The creative imagination is not so much about idea generation – though it is a wonderful technique to generate ideas. Your creative imagination gives you the ability to dream goals and visualize them so vividly that your nervous system cannot tell if the visualizations is fake or reality. You make your entire body think that intense visualization from your creative imagination is realism.

People unknowingly use their creative imagination to create their inferiority complex. They create scenarios and thoughts of inferiority from their imagination.

Unfortunately, many people waste their creative imagination. It is as if they have a billion-dollar check in their wallet and they do not cash it in at the bank. In fact, it is more like they have a billion-dollar gold nugget they do not convert to cash so they are burdened with the impossibility of getting through life by carrying it around. They let this great opportunity go to complete waste. Unless you awaken this inner giant, it will lie asleep, dormant, and do nothing productive.

The first common way your creative imagination is wasted is through aimless daydreaming and fantasizing. This lets it go to complete waste. Your mind aimlessly wanders off into a fantasy that cannot be created or which you have no desire to experience.

The second common way your creative imagination is wasted is using it to create bad events in your life. This is where the inferiority complex is derived. People unknowingly use their creative imagination to create their inferiority complex. They create scenarios and thoughts of inferiority from their imagination. They imagine rejection, failure, criticism, shame, hatred, scarcity, and loneliness; instead of acceptance, lessons, love, abundance, and togetherness. A huge difference exists here in the parallels of thinking.

The images you evoke of failure, unworthiness, and shame wastefully use your creative imagination to bring further bad events into your life. If you have fear, anxiety, or worry about what others think of you, you make this common mistake and waste your creative imagination.

There are three common ways psychologists say the creative imagination is wasted contributing to an inferiority complex: napoleon complex, cultural cringe, and superiority complex. Many more ways of waste exist yet these will help you understand the problem and how to better your self-image. Though a problem may not apply to you, learn from it.

1. Napoleon Complex (and a Sad Email)

A part of Alfred Alder’s work of the inferiority complex developed the Napoleon complex, which is a specific feeling of inferiority about one’s height. Alder named the Napoleon complex after the great military leader Napoleon Bonaparte who was said to be motivated in battle from insecurities about his height.

The images you evoke of failure, unworthiness, and shame wastefully use your creative imagination to bring further bad events into your life.

People with a Napoleon complex make up for their “inferiority” through aggressive behaviors. They feel handicapped because of their smaller stature and attempt to counter this perceived problem through aggressive behavior and a superficial layer of toughness. A smaller stature is not a true handicap as it just a perceived handicap made from the creative imagination.

Diagnosing this type of inferiority lies in identifying overcompensating behaviors from a perceived inferiority. You would have the Napoleon complex and demonstrate overcompensating behavior when you aim to put-down others who are taller than you. You would have that little extra desire to do better than those who are taller than you. You would try to make taller people look bad. The worst possible symptom of this feeling of inferiority is physically hurting taller people because of their stature. This specific Napoleon complex is derived from one’s personal feeling of inferiority and fear that taller people are better than shorter persons.

I received the below email in response to an earlier version of this article from a lady who lost her son to the Napoleon complex. The email is unchanged and used with her permission:

I am married to a wonderful man and I am a mother of three beautiful teenage children. Last October 31st, 2008, my 17 year old son committed suicide. It has been the most devastating experience of my entire life. I would like to stress first of all, that our home life was not what you would consider tumultuous. We had and still have a very loving home life. I would like to share with you my son’s story:

Jacob’s childhood was truly an awesome experience for a typical boy. He played hard and got dirty. He and Joel (our eldest son) with help from their father would pitch tents, dig tunnels, and build forts. As Jacob grew up, it became abundantly clear that he was very concerned over his spiritual affairs. I had the opportunity to teach him in Sunday-School classes and later on in his teens I would assist in teaching Confirmation classes. He was keenly aware of the many blessings we enjoyed being a Child of God. He wanted to understand the works of our Heavenly Father. When we would pray together as a family, he was very earnest and sincere for such a young man.

When Jacob turned 13, things started to change in him. He was unusually short for his age and it bothered him tremendously. I had initially thought that the “teenage idiot gene” had kicked in because he had become very short tempered, easily agitated, and extremely defensive. Because of his stature, Jacob had developed an inferiority complex. Because he was now attending middle school, I noticed he had also developed a chip on his shoulder and would easily get in anyone’s face if they picked on him. His coping methods made me uncomfortable and we constantly tried to coach him and teach him to accept himself for the talents he had. At one point, one person asked Jacob what was he worried about…many great men in history were short. He very quickly responded with the comment, “Yeah…that is because they all had to prove themselves.” In spite of his quick wit, Jacob dealt with the day to day stress of school by becoming a ghost. He rarely spoke to many kids and kept to himself most of the day.

Jacob went into the ninth grade at High School with the same issues he had in middle school. He was embarrassed at how short he was and the chip on his shoulder seemed to get bigger. Fist fights between Jacob and his brother seemed to be increasing in frequency too. The hardest part about those sibling fights was the fact that even though Jacob was considerably smaller than Joel, he would go into the fight with absolutely no fear of getting hurt. Ninth grade was very hard for us as parents to stand by and watch our son mentally mutilate his self-esteem. No matter how hard we tried to turn that tide, he would never allow himself to be consoled.

Eventually, Jacob did become taller. By the 11th grade he had filled out into a very good looking young man. He was extremely comical and made many people laugh. However, he never truly learned to like himself. He had a hard time talking to people unless he was using humor as his shield.

Ultimately, his low self-image got the better of him and he ended his life. He was more afraid of living than he was of dying.

I cried when I read the email. Inferiority is a real emotional problem not corrected by the physical defect or positive self-talk. People return to plastic surgery not to remove physical defects, but because they have emotional defects.

2. Cultural Cringe (a Worldwide Problem)

The cultural cringe is an area of the inferiority complex where people feel inferior due to their culture. Genetic appearance, pronunciation of words, or other factors of the human body vary between cultures that make the individual feel less than people in other cultures.

A few days ago I came across a lady who was experiencing the cultural cringe about her physical appearance. She had a poor self-image as she complained about the unusual features of her body. She loved how Asians looked. “If only I could look like an Asian lady,” she said. Her idea that other cultures are better than hers made her feel inferior.

Feelings of inferiority damage your communication with yourself and others. The cultural cringe makes you hate certain people, cultures, situations, and events. Your subconscious will be so poisoned with imaginary beliefs that are powerful enough to destroy your happiness and relationships.

3. Superiority Complex (and the Biggest Myth About Fixing an Inferiority Complex)

The superiority complex is a feeling of superiority over other people. Some experts and bloggers dangerously suggest it is the solution to an inferiority complex.

Let’s return to the scenario where Mitchell is in a room full of successful executives. If Mitchell had a superiority complex or attempted to feel superior, he would criticize the executives to pull down their status to feel better. Another form of the superiority complex is demonstrated when Mitchell tries to lift his status by portraying how better he is than the executives. Both of these techniques attempt to lift his status relative to the executives and fail to overcome his inferiority complex.

I was tricked to believe from books and blogs that feelings of superiority were the secret to overcome inferiority. After years of frustration, I can tell you feelings of superiority cause you more pain than what it removes.

You fail to overcome feelings of inferiority by becoming superior. You try to feel bigger, faster, smarter, wiser than peers. This only leads to frustration and inferiority. This solution is a temporary patch on a wound too big. It takes most people an experience of significant superiority, such as earning a million dollars or being popular with the opposite sex, to realize they still feel inferior.

If you try to feel superior, you still compare yourself to the false measurement stick that judged the inferior you.

If you try to feel superior, you still compare yourself to the false measurement stick that judged the inferior you. External validation is required to prove your superior self-image. If you are put out of place through ignorance or you are made to feel less superior, you attempt to grab back your non-existent podium of superiority by criticizing others and using similar behaviors to lift you status.

If a person’s need to compete against another is driven from insecurity to feel superior, does a superiority complex exist? I think it does exist, but an inferiority complex can be used to explain someone with a superiority complex.

What is Your Perception of People You Aspire To?

Everyone is superior to you in some way, but they are not superior in who they are. There is no question people are better looking, more popular, and wealthier than you. The problem is the transition from doing to being. Sufferers of the inferiority complex overcompensate for these differences.

Referring back to the Napoleon complex, most of us tend to be controlling or aggressive beyond height. All of us have our own – often strange reasons – for feeling inferior that we dare not share with anyone.

A common example of overcompensating behavior is when an attractive lady feels insulted purely because of another woman’s looks. Women are very competitive in dating and can feel inferior to a more attractive lady so they criticize, tease, and display other insecure behaviors. A shallow woman tries to raise her self-esteem by being better than other women.

It disgusts me to hear both men and women pull another person down. I too often see unsuccessful, unhappy people criticize a successful, happy person. These critics are no better or inferior than the people they criticize.

What is your attitude towards people who are better than you in certain areas of your life? How do you feel towards people who are more attractive than you? How do you feel towards people who are your superiors at work? Do you feel inferior? Do you feel they are better than you? Do you need to pull them down from their podium by criticizing? Are you inspired, excited, and thrilled to see others succeed?

Take your time to think of and relive relevant experiences. Your recollections hold important understandings of your inferiority complex.

How to Accept Yourself No Matter How Much You Suck

A secret to overcoming the inferiority complex is accepting who you are as a person. When you accept your uniqueness, you no longer compare yourself to mystical standards. I estimate 50% of people have the inferiority complex. Our perceived standard is a joke! You are not inferior or superior to anyone nor is anyone inferior or superior to you. We are ourselves. You are you. Mitchell is Mitchell.

People say, “Just be yourself”. That is awful advice. If you continue to be yourself, you continue to have poor habits, thoughts, feelings, and results.

Being yourself is different than accepting your uniqueness. A guy who knows he is unique can grow as a person and “not be himself”. He accepts his uniqueness and still becomes more than he was yesterday. He becomes his best self. No matter what he does, he will always be unique. When he accepts his uniqueness, he does not compare himself to other people.

Next time you feel inferior, challenge those thoughts by investigating why you feel inferior. You will realize your comparison is based on a mystical benchmark. The people you measure yourself against are not the true measurement stick. They are not you. You are your true measurement. Compare yourself with the person you were instead of contrasting you with other people. Neuro-linguistic programming calls this technique a “self-to-self comparison”.

If you are shy in conversations, do not compare yourself to the extrovert, blabbermouth, social butterfly. Compare your present shyness to your shyness one month ago. Get satisfaction from knowing you’re becoming a better person. Many variables make you unique – your family, friends, co-workers, upbringing – the list goes on. It is foolish to compare yourself to others.

You can enjoy your journey of personal development without realizing your ultimate goal by seeing progression in bettering yourself. When you make your past the benchmark, you begin to heal. (Read Anthony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within to learn more about enjoying your journey. Robbins teaches you how to adjust your values so you become happier and self-motivated on your journey instead of relying on an end result to be happy.)

Self-Image: The Human Thermostat

The core secret to overcome your inferiority complex is changing your self-image. The self-image is how you perceive yourself. It is a mental picture of who you are. It does not have to be truth as you have seen in the inferiority complex where you are not inferior. The self-image is your image of yourself.

The great Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-cybernetics, was a plastic surgeon in the mid 1900s. He operated on many individuals who felt inferior due to their “unusual” looks. Most of the individuals did not look unusual; it was their self-image that blew their looks out of proportion. They had used their creative imagination to create a dangerous false image of their physical appearance.

Dr. Maltz operated on many who despite successful plastic surgery remained feeling inferior. They returned to him requesting more surgery as they sought to look like famous individuals. He would again operate on them only to have the clients still dissatisfied with their appearance.

For some of his patients, this was not the case. Some individuals’ feeling of inferiority disappeared after plastic surgery while others even had their emotional scars cured without ever going under the knife. This made Dr. Maltz curious. Why did some people with healed “outer scars” like facial deformations that were successfully operated on still have “inner scars” of inferiority? From his research emerged modern self-help psychology. He is the founder of visualization, creative imagination, self-talk, and changing the self-image.

Your self-image… controls what you can and cannot do. If you see yourself as inferior to others, this self-image ensures you remain inferior.

Dr. Maltz discovered that each hurtful word, thought, and experience over a person’s lifetime accumulated to form a poor self-image. He began to teach people how their self-image was shaped and how they can be more careful with their own words in shaping another person’s self-image. What mattered most was what he called the “creative imagination” that contained the self-image. He discovered a person’s creative imagination shaped one’s self-image to determine feelings of inferiority. We have been working on yours throughout the article.

Your self-image has tremendous powers. Your self-image controls what you can achieve. It controls what you can and cannot do. If you see yourself as inferior to others, this self-image ensures you remain inferior. No amount of positive thinking, willpower, or self-determination cures a feeling of inferiority when an inferior self-image exists. Dr. Maltz in The New Psycho-cybernetics, profoundly explains the power of the self-image to shape our behavior and achieve what we desire:

The self-image controls what you can and cannot accomplish, what is difficult or easy for you, even how others respond to you just as certainly and scientifically as a thermostat controls the temperature in your home. Specifically, all your actions, feelings, behavior, even your abilities, are always consistent with this self-image. Note the word: always. In short, you will ‘act like’ the sort of person you conceive yourself to be.

A person that weighs 250 pounds can drop to 210 pounds through willpower and determination. If the weight-loss took place out of willpower, however, the person will return to his true self-image weight of 250 pounds. You can decrease the girth of your stomach through grunt force, but if your self-image has not adjusted to your new weight, your old weight will return. The room temperature can fluctuate a few degrees depending on who enters and leaves the room, yet the thermostat always returns the room to its set temperature. (For more discoveries on this fluctuating problem, read this article titled “Why Problem Solving Doesn’t Solve the Problem and the Real Solution to Permanent Change”.)

The same rule holds true to become more muscular. If your self-image is a thin-body, you will have a tough time packing on muscle. Arnold Schwarzenegger at 15-years was thin. What set him apart from other bodybuilders was his self-image. He would visualize his new muscular body each time he performed a rep at the gym while other bodybuilders would fantasize over bikini models. In 1980, Schwarzenegger claimed his seventh Mr. Olympia title and become the icon of bodybuilders.

A person that aims to lose weight through willpower uses forward goal-setting. If you use forward goal-setting, where you set a goal to achieve and work towards it, you will fail. As I have repeatedly said, positive willpower cannot overcome a negative creative imagination. Your creative imagination will always win.

Apply this to other areas of your life. Stop trying to use willpower to overcome your inferiority complex or to achieve some other goal. It cannot be done for permanent results. What you need to do for all your goals is use backward goal-setting where you set a goal to achieve and begin doing the things now that you would do upon achieving that goal.

To do this you need to awaken your creative imagination by immersing yourself in an imaginary environment where you achieved your goal. Your aim is to visualize yourself immersed in an environment so real that it feels like you achieved it.

I will run through a complete exercise you can do right now to overcome your inferiority complex. You are to primarily rely on this technique to overcome feelings of inferiority. When the technique is used over time on a frequent basis, your inferiority complex will evaporate.

Exercise to Cure Your Inferiority Complex and Boost Your Self-Image

The exercise is an intense visualization. The nervous system cannot tell a real event from a fake event. Studies have repeatedly shown that when we visualize, the body experiences physiological responses that mimic action. The mirror neurons in the premotor cortex of the brain become activated from visualizations in the same manner as doing the action.

This is not the exercise, but imagine you are in a real fight. Hear the yelling, swearing, and abuse. Feel the air. Taste the blood. See the people gather around you. Look at your angry opponent. By immersing yourself in the environment your physiology will appropriately respond. Your body will release doses of adrenaline as your heart rate increases along with a heightened awareness. The more real your visualization is, the more your body responds as if it were a real experience.

To demonstrate the exercise I encourage you to use on a daily basis, I will walk you through what I would do in Mitchell’s situation.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy fast becoming popular for its effectiveness. CBT acknowledges a person’s feelings and reactions originate from his or her thoughts. The therapy can systematically break down your thoughts, feelings, and images so they empower you. There are thousands of qualified CBT therapists who can help you overcome an inferiority complex.

I firstly slow down my breathing. Notice present tensions in my body and make a conscious decision to relax that part of the body. Next, I visualize myself walking confidently into the room full of executives. Shoulders are back, posture is erect, neck is straight, and my strides are slow. I make strong eye contact when others look at me. I smell the champagne and hear the chatter and smile at hearing the occasional loud laugh. I see the gray walls and people’s black shoes.

I feel the wrinkles around my mouth as I smile when greeting an executive. I feel a person’s hand as I give them a firm handshake. People are warming up to me as I communicate complete comfort with myself. I am poised. I love myself and have no need to compare myself to other’s standards. I am proud in knowing that I am becoming a better person. I am a unique individual.

That is a brief example of what I would feel and see in my mind’s eye. I encourage you to go into more depth. Create more details. Visualize what it is like to not worry what people think of you. Smell the air and touch the surfaces that are around the non-inferior you. Thorough details are extremely important. Make it so vivid that it becomes real. Use your five senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. These focused visualizations will give you a new self-image.

Run through constructive visualizations everyday. It may seem like a lot of effort, but this is your life we are talking about. You are important. You run through visualizations everyday. The exercise has you control imagery you would otherwise waste.

I also encourage you to use positive thinking, which I earlier “bashed”. Positive thinking is a valuable tool when used in conjunction with your creative imagination. Combine these two great tools together with the many other tips in this article and you will soon overcome your inferiority complex. After all, your inferiority complex developed by using these tools in a negative fashion.

You will never eliminate all thoughts of inferiority because it is human nature to think the occasional demeaning thought. You do not need to feel inferior, however. The difference is whether you let the occasional thought and feeling grow.

If you still feel helpless from feelings of inferiority, please book an appointment with a therapist. I don’t want you to end up like Jacob.

(Please post a comment or story about your inferiority along with how this article has changed your life. You are by far from alone in experiencing inferiority. I could have easily charged for this report, but decided not to. I want as many people to read this as possible. This can be more easily accomplished with your help by telling your friends, family, and co-workers about the article. You do not know the feelings of inferiority someone could have that is damaging their life. Do them a favor. They could be forever thankful for your thoughtfulness. Email them by clicking the social media buttons below.)

(I have reposted people’s comments below from an older version of the article.)

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Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to



EXCELLENT!! You are a very smart guy indeed. I’m going into psychology at Carroll College and found that everything made a lot of sense, and it felt very profound because I have been becoming more aware of my own, and dealing with a friends inferiority complex.

Marcia Siegel

This is a detailed and excellent explanation of the feelings of inferiority.

If i receive criticism from someone i respect and admire i do not take it as harsh. i regard it as valuable information.

If someone i do not know, like nor respect criticizes me i may react emotionally. then i step back and review it and see if there is any value in it. if not i disregard it. you do need to look at who gave you the criticism and their intent. that way you can put it in perspective.

The challenge is when you are criticizing yourself. those are thoughts that you have to work with in an objective way. when those thoughts pop up you need to challenge them and examine them carefully.


Today in the morning i was feeling very disheartened because i have to attend a coaching class where u will find some of the smartest people. i was dreading about it because when i enter the class i feel so inferior that i fail to do well.granted i don’t put in effort but every time i try i get this feeling why bother.

Your article has given me a bit of inspiration to put aside that complex which even prevents me from putting effort. This stupid complex makes me sulk everyday and i loose my confidence. i know where to start now. Thanx a lot for this article.


This is one of the best inspirational and motivational things i have read.

😉 😎

I went through an up hill in my past life and when i reached the peak ,i felt as if the world was in the palm of my hands and i was ready to roll down the hill with full speed,irregardless of the criticism and insults thrown at me,till i crashed and landed on the ground and i thought it was the end of everything, forgetting were i was and who i was.

with your help, i am at work with a smile on my face feeling like the world is in the palm of my hands and every time i feel down i will remember these words …”i think therefore i am” by Renee Descarte…

thank you for taking your time and thoughts to write this down …i will forward it to my people.

thanks a lot homeboy…holla back Josh

Rathi Mala

hello Joshua sir. this is Rathi. i am an engg student. my college days are my worst days. i don’t speak with anyone in the college. daily i go to college ,leave the classroom and sit in the canteen viewing the empty chairs and tables and crying within myself that i don’t have the capacity to win friends and i don’t have enough stuff to attract people. i call myself a goose.this is my condition for the past 7 years and i did not even see a single change in me… tomorrow i am going to apply the concept of creative imagination… all my pains are going to vanish………thanks Joshua sir for bringing back my confidence!


Dear joshua,thank u so much for the article,its priceless.

I am from nigeria,here inferiority complex is not taken seriously,they think it just has to do with shyness.

Due to this complex,i nearly killed myself because i felt i couldn’t do anything became worst because i aspired to study mass communication,at a point i thought of changing my course to something where less talking is done.i hardly leave my home,and when i did its either my dad forced me to.

But after reading your article,i think i have become more confident in myself.and i will read mass communication after all.Thank you.


thank you for the inspiring and life-changing article about inferiority i can be who i am and perhaps love myself..i’ve been battling this inferiority ever since childhood due to a bad experience and im not aware that i have this inferiority complex within me until i read your article..i’ve been a loner and my friends often call me a weird i realized that i don’t need to compare myself from others coz i am unique..and i hope that criticisms would give me an avenue to grow more as a person and deal with them i feel confident..a million thanks!!!


You are good, seriously. I can say that you are reading me like a book. I feel very satisfied on your solution to inferiority complex, and definitely this is quite a wonderful read. This time might mark the time I change for the better. I better memorize the date. Anyway, so many thanks man.


I’m relieved to see an essay that doesn’t harp on finding the “Lord” or use feel good psycho babble like, “just tell yourself you’re awesome!” You’ve outlined the exact mental phases and analysis that I go through. For me though, the weird thing is I did not have an inferiority complex until I lived in Manhattan where everyone appears to be “better” than me. I’ve just read this essay so I don’t know if I’ll be able to successfully utilize the advice in it, but I hope so. Thanks!


Each time I read your articles I am amazed at how true it is.Your insight is truly inspiring and I will make sure that the ppl around me get this because holding back knowledge like this would just not be right.Thanks a lot and be sure that this one comes from the heart.Mwah!


Dude…Your article rocks! I like your writing from the point when you said that “positive thinking” is not the way out (but I don’t know why u suggesting “positive image” in Superiority Complex part) because I tried that so MANY times before but in the end it is just like what you said, exhausted willpower.

I feel like pumped up as I scrolling down through your article. It tells about reality and real-life-effective advice rather than the ideal advice than people usually suggesting. I hope I can work my way out to lessen my inferiority complex.

Once again, Thanks a bunch 🙂


I noticed that i always dread my boyfriend visiting me at my place of work.There was always increased secretion of adrenaline e.t.c. This is because,i felt he would be attracted to a colleague of mine,whom i felt was more beautiful than i.She gets on well with him whenever he comes visiting. My boyfriend pointed it out that i’m not always myself whenever he’s @ my place of work. I have read a lot of self esteem,self-image articles on the internet, but none had really helped.I pray this will work for me,cos it really pointed out real cases,like that of Sally,which actually depicts what i would have felt if i were in her shoes.

Thank you so much Joshua,cos i’m already combining a good creative imagination and positive thinking.Hmmm ,it feels good not to have inferiority complex :smile:.I’m glad that i am ME.Thanks to you Joshua,for helping me discover the real me. 😉


I was filling in a form which required my language skills. I can comfortably speak and write 5 languages:neutral:. I have acquired this skill on a needs basis and never used to think much about, except if I have to use the language. An acquaintance jokingly said in the large scheme of things these were not very important languages 👿 . I need (for official purposes necessary) to learn the language of this acquaintance. I am having difficulties with it 🙁 .At the time i took it in my stride and mentioned how these languages were important to me. When I think of his comment I break into a sweat and my heart pounds. My acquaintance is quite a successful individual and am pretty sure he’s forgotten that he made the comment. I live in another country with a similar language “my unimportant” languages and I would like to learn it as well. I hope with the help of this article I’ll be able to appreciate my progress.


This article really resonated with me. Thanks so much for posting it. I think it’ll help a lot of people. Although I’ve heard about them, I’ve never tried visualization techniques before and this article may be enough to make me try them out.

Small thing that I’ve noticed although I don’t know if this will work for everyone – people with inferiority complexes often write “i” instead of “I” in emails, posts etc – by consciously writing “I” I find it gives you a little boost. It’s as if you’re recognizing that you deserve to be capitalized – like you respect yourself more. 😆 Just a thought 🙂


I have been feeling inferior since i started high school. Each time when my friends or relative (same age) scores higher marks than me in studies, i would feel very very frustrated. I’m currently having trouble coping with studies but hope to be able to follow your guidelines and overcome my inferiority complex. Your info has been a great help to me. Thank you.


If it were only that simple! The approach outlined in this article and other approaches (like brute will power) MIGHT help in SOME cases of minor or temporary feelings of inferiority. Why? Because fake, synthesized, and unreal feelings, emotions, and thoughts always lose to real ones. The mind is not so easy to trick, and the fact that your current state (reality) is different from your desired state (unachieved goal) is not something your mind can just ignore. Maybe I have poor imagination skills, but I have tried many times to imagine myself in a fight, but I never could trick myself into actually believing that I was, and so my heart rate didn’t increase, no adrenaline was released or anything. If you could then maybe this approach will work for you.

The feeling of inferiority can manifest itself in one or more forms: shyness, reclusiveness, exhibited superiority feelings, lack of motivation to compete, or just feeling uneasy around “superior” individuals, among others. In most cases, this becomes a defining character trait. Get a shy person, knock him on the head with a blackjack until all his memories are wiped out – he will still be shy.

Also, I’d say in most cases, the feeling of inferiority is due to an undeniable and clear actual inferiority. It is important to distinguish between real inferiority and perceived inferiority. So the feeling is not always evil – it’s your brain telling you you’re not good enough at something.

The article does say a lot of interesting things though, and it’s still quite a good read nevertheless. Good luck everyone.

Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

That’s what I emphasized in the article. Positive thinking and the like don’t work because they are fake. However, “fake it till you make it” approach has been effective for many people.

Real emotions come about through your experience and interpretation of the world. You have enormous control over how you choose to feel and think. Visualizing is a way of creating real emotions. Some people do have problems visualizing. It’s okay. After some practice it comes.

Several studies on the neurology of the human brain, following surgery where the Amygdala was removed, has revealed drastic personality changes. Moreover, feelings of inferiority and other emotions are conditioned into us. Any human characteristic can be changed because it all is just physiology.

There is nothing wrong in being inferior in things. The “undeniable” aspect of inferiority, which I also mentioned, is okay. This is the conditioning aspect. The problem arises when our creative imaginations lead us to believe WE are inferior; not what we do is inferior.


hii hikikomori-san,

its interesting that u think in a way telling yourself i`m deceiving myself with the positive thoughts, and yet u r filling ur head with the negative ones …
if u want to feel better in situations ur brain telling, u r LOWER ,shut him up and say if i don’t accept the positives , i don’t have to accept the negatives…
BE NEUTRAL… at least don’t build ur inferiority by yourself
believe me wt matters is u …u must feel yourself superior and high wt ever the situation is …
its good to feel u r responsible for building up yourself ,holding yourself together comforting yourself,
being a teacher a leader to yourself …don’t let things put u down ..learn not to accept not to ignore any criticism, but pick what u can modify yourself up out of it.
i wanna give u an example ;((how to be neutral))
u were talking ..somebody made u stop
instantly say to yourself i’m thirsty i will drink ,or look around ,think of sth. u love to see
or give yourself a chance to feel ur heart rhythm..
switch to sth. out of where u were.
and don’t forget some ppl are rude enough to be the wisdom being away from them..i hope i was helpful


hi, although it is a good sentiment, it’s one i struggle to believe. I find it hard to see how everyone can equate themselves to everyone else when in reality some people will always be “more overall” than other people. It was the philosopher Nietzsche who said that “not all men are born equal” and he was correct. It seems pretty pointless to me for say, professional tennis players to want to win Wimbledon so much if our nature is that achieving something like that doesn’t make us more of a person.

I know that articles such as this mean well, and for that i appreciate them. But i also believe in life there is such a thing as a hierarchy. The majority of people can equate themselves to most other people, but not to absolutely everyone

Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

As I’ve said before, again, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s inevitable. What you say about hierarchy has very little to do with inferiority, again, because it’s the conditioning aspect. Please re-read the article and previous comments because this is the primary message I repeat over and over in the article.


As a Sri Lankan, I have “cultural cringe”. I sometimes feel inferior because of my mediocre culture and mediocre people in it. My mind clearly differentiates between “superior race” and “inferior race”. It hurts me when I try to raise my voice and meet new people. They ask me my identity, my origin, my country and I just try to avoid the question. You’re correct -positive affirmations like “be proud of who you are” only helps in reinforcing the negativity.

The other side of the story, I’m a talented person -I play guitar, write novels and generally an enjoyable person to hang out with. Many a times, I’ve had people willing to accept me for who I am because they really needed my company. I mistook that for charity. I hate to be pitied.


wow… I’m gonna try the visualization thing. I hate feeling inferior and it has kept me from being happy for so long. I hope this helps. Reading this article was one of the most helpful things I’ve done to help myself in a long time and has made me feel a lot better too. 😉


Your article was really helpful . It is a great thing you did to do the research and stuff needed to come up with something like this. You also have the good will to put this up on the net so that it becomes useful for people like me. It is really an inspiration.

I was one of those short guys who felt inferior because of my height. Now i have realized that instead of worrying over something i cannot possibly change, I can go and eat an ice cream during that time!! or do other useful things.


hi i was a sissy before. When I’m at my high school i only mixed with my “gang” and don’t really make any male friends. Soon i was graduated and turned new leaf to act boyish. But now i don’t even have any male friends and felt so scared to make one. Each time I’m very awkward and speechless, my heart was like..beating like storms!! Those symptoms occurred when I’m with males. Later I thought that I lacked male’s interests and knowledge so I began to learn about cars, I even memorizing soccer players’ names even I don’t like it at all..but it still goes the same. I still don’t have the guts to talk and make friends with males..


I enjoyed your insights on inferiority. Several statements you made helped me view myself and my perception of myself in a more real way. For instance, your statement of, “I don’t need to arrive at my goal in order to enjoy myself” helped to give myself permission about goal settings and achievements (although some of my poor self-image has to do w/not fulfilling my goals)-procrastination. Your other statements of “You are you” and “I need to compare myself to who I was” and from where I have come from (my inserts) helped to remind myself of just that. Thank you for helping me get my thinking straight again. It is ok to “miss the mark” in expectations. It is equally important to acknowledge this “missed mark”, thank the opportunity for realizing it and then deciding, “tomorrow, I will start again and do it differently,do it better or maybe not at all.” But in any event, grow from this experience and be a better person, a wiser person and pass this knowledge, pass this encouragement on to others. Thank you.


Joshua, thank u very much for this article. I notice reading this has given me the courage to change myself and set free from this inferior feeling. I’m sure putting it into practice would do great. Once again thank you very much. Wish u well


Joshua, what you have written about inferiority complex is very right. I started working at Makerere University, Uganda when I had only a Diploma. I was always inferior because I found that majority of workers were PhD holders and Professors. I could see my self as a failure and inferior. Later on, I used this situation as a challenge to upgrade my studies. I now possess B.Sc and Master of Science degrees and my inferiority complex has decreased although I still earn a diploma salary. Take it from me that Joshua, you are changing many people’s lives positively!

Susan Murimi

Thanks, thanks this is top notch insight,for me and my personal development associates. Your articles on communication are trully inspiring and transforming. Indeed you can not put new wine in an old wineskin it can burst the wineskin.
Powerful insight when you move to the next level you attract criticism, today i have overcome that barrier.Your info is real success gem to we who live in Kenya.
Toasting to your unending success!

[…] What I’m proposing, which has been touched on and backed by a couple of authors and teachers, is that academically intelligent people fail in predictable areas of their lives – and they don’t want to solve the dilemma. The genius-failure paradox describes that people who must feel smarter, wealthier – or generally superior – to others refuse to seek help in dealing with people. (You can read more about superiority, inferiority, and the self-image.) […]


thank you for this report this is wonderful! I never even knew I had inferiority complex until my father told me then I came here to research about and I realised this is actually helpful instead of that stupid advice where they say think positive about yourself or write down 5 things that you like about yourself. This is more real. I’m going to take this up.

Tiru Work

For me, it is appropriate to start by forwarding thanks generously for the author of the article.

There is nothing to be added by my part on the topic of inferiority complex at individual level that born out from personal and social backgrounds.

What I would like to emphasize is that, while individuals immersed in and grew up in the ocean of self inferiority complex hold power accompanied by force and money would do devastating effects over the people they are being assumed to govern. It has also devastating effect as has been seen in many ethnic conflicts while such feeling grew up in to the level of hatred one ethnic group over the other.

To sum up, inferiority complex is more dangerous and devastating while it manifests itself in group forms, be it in forms of ethnicity or religious. It is at the same time more dangerous at individual level while such person chanced enough to have power and gun.

The world has an abundant history in the topic that I share with you; all genocidal matters happened in Africa; the atrocity committed over the people of Jew; the crime committed by notably dictators, all originates basically from inferiority complexes and some times from superiority complex too.

Again, I would like to thank the author of the article because he ignites and inspires us to say what we said and moreover educate us on the subject.

[…] healed people’s physical defects, but these people still had “emotional scars” from their inaccurate self-image. After coaching athletes, patients, salespeople, and many others who become interested in his […]


Hey Joshua,

Great article. I dealt with a severe inferiority complex for most of my life and it’s good to know that i’m not alone with this problem.

I remember the moment I got rid of my inferiority complex for good – It was when I read a passage in “Psycho-Cybernetics” that read: superiority and inferiority are two sides of the same spurious coin”. I realized that i can’t be inferior to anybody because it’s also impossible to be superior to anybody. Every human being is unique, and consequently, can only be compared to it’s own standards.

Thanks for the kick ass blog …


[…] the visibly physical level you cause yourself grief when you don’t accept your body. An inferiority complex develops not when you think you’re less than others, but when you reject […]


I found your article very helpful, I learned what Iferiority Complex is. Being 17, this is useful knowledge to have. It goes with ” Don’t take anything anyone says or does personally, because when you take it personally, you agree with what the other person says or does.” – Don Migule Ruiz – “The Four Agreements”
Thank you for this Article.

Walter Sayers

Hi. I understand what your saying. It makes as much and more sense to me than anything I have Ever read.I am 45 years of age and have had an inferiority complex all my life.Ive been to phsicoligist,phsyciatrists,councillers.churches,doctor.I’m really scared.I wish I would’nt wake up,I’m to gutless to commit suiscide and I would’nt. I am scared of dying and i’m to scared to live.I need help PLEASE.Ive just lost my job and I still owe money on my house.I live by myself my hous3e is falliing down around me.I have so many more problems I cant deal with it an my family just think I’m lazy.I need to talk to you.Please could you ring me on 0411528120 .If you won’t please still answer me by via my email adress.Maybe you know someone in Brisbane that might help me.I need someone to help me apply this somehow. I feel like I’m in real trouble now.If someone would be prepared to personally ring me on my mobile or text me,Iwould ring them back and not waste there phone .Regards Walter

Alex Fleming

All you said is true and nicely elaborated. My problem is that I didn’t find anything I could relate myself to, and I too have an inferiority complex. It would be nice if you considered other aspects of it and wrote an article about inferiority which is self-induced, not mainly by criticism. Inferiority that is a result of constant comparing oneself to others and feeling you’re not good enough at things others do. You get an individual that ends up feeling like a good-for-nothing. How to overcome that? Thank you.

How to Be Charming to Men and Women

[…] than you. Don’t worry over another person’s antics. Let them be them and you be you. Comparing yourself to others devours too much energy better spent on talking and listening to an awesome person and […]

What Men Want in Women

[…] Severe insecurities like indecisiveness, bitchiness over attractive women or past boyfriends, feelings of inferiority, and poor belief in one’s seductiveness is the kryptonite of attraction. Insecurities […]

Thank You

This article flipped a switch in my brain. Near instantly, I feel like a brand new person.

Change won’t happen over night, but for the first time I actually feel like I can live and be a part of this world.

Thank you so much, this article has truly saved me from a depressing, short life.


I just read this article and feel it is spot on with my situation. I grew up in a verbally destructive and critical household, and to top that off I moved at least every two to three years and grew up very poor which didn’t help matters. I have recently been aggressive towards friends who I felt inferior to and as a result have made a mess of things. Reading your article has opened my eyes to the cause of my aggression and my anxiety regarding goals that I can’t seem to reach. I am so completely thankful for your words and knowledge and did not realize what was going on with me before now. Now it’s time to work and grow from this experience…Thank you.

Noah Pardo-Friedman

Thanks so much for this excellent article!

What books would you recommend for further reading on this topic?

Krystal Mermea

Hi! I’m doing an essay, in APA format, about inferiority and superiority complexes. And I came across your website and article.I haven’t fully read it all but my essay is for a final that I will have to turn in soon. I was wondering: What was this original posts’ published date? I wanted to cite your work and give credit to you for the information I read that would dearly help everyone. Thank you for your service, Tower of Power!


Please explain me how inferiority feeling is related to emotion suppression. It’s very important for my research. Jyoti