I’m sure you’ve heard of the inferiority complex, but have you heard of its self-proclaimed bigger brother the superiority complex?
Those familiar with Adlerian psychology will have heard of the superiority complex, but for those of you who haven’t heard I imagine you can take a guess at what the complex is about. There are numerous articles on the topic already, I’m sure.
Now the question is this: is having a superiority complex a problem?
Or is it a pre-requisite to succeed in this fast-paced, widely-connected social media era?
What Superiority Complex?
So what does a superiority complex look like in this modern day and age?
I mean, aren’t we all trying to gain the upper hand in this world one way or another? To climb the ladder of life, to scramble ever upwards in this rat race we call capitalism and the Malaysian/Singaporen/American Dream?
In that sense most of us are trying to become superior in some form, right? And is that wrong?
The superiority complex lies not in what goals we aim for and how we manage our finances; it has to do with how we regard our fellow man (and woman). Because as Adlerian psychology teaches, life is all about interpersonal relationships.
To think of it from a loftier perspective, is not our very human existence all about finding meaning and purpose? And where do we derive this meaning and purpose? Is it not from our interactions with our fellow human beings and other living and inanimate things in our world around us?
If you boil it down, even higher pursuits like religion and science are about guiding and exploring relationships between humans. It is teaching us how to experience life and togetherness and closeness with each other.
So if life is all about us interacting in harmony with one another, then the superiority complex is about regarding oneself as above our fellow man (or woman). It is the mentality that a certain trait or ability or status makes one greater than everyone else, the belief that one is better.
Basically this dude:
To be fair, he does have a good reason to believe he is superior.
Now the problem lies not just in the belief, but the actions that result from believing you are God’s gift to mankind for whatever reason.
Ironically enough, the superiority complex tends to arise as a defense mechanism to help a person cope with feelings on inferiority. And this is not something you develop overnight – it is an ingrained habit of thought. Most people don’t even realise they have it.
Those with superiority complexes aren’t that far off from narcissists, and in times of strife (like during, say a pandemic) they may struggle because they cannot do what they do best – exploit others for their own gain.
You see, those with a superiority complex gain their self-worth and esteem from external sources, relying on others to boost their frail ego. During a pandemic, with limited social contact, they’ll need more than some online affirmation to feel validated.
Oh wait, that’s what social media is for!
Do you think someone might have a superiority complex? Here are a few things to look out for:
- They compare themselves to others constantly
- They have a strong sense of entitlement
- They don’t like it when you don’t act the way they want
- They seek validation all the time
- They don’t own up to their mistakes
And what does that look like on social media?
There’s a subreddit (on…Reddit) named r/IAmVerySmart where…people try very hard to look smart.
It’s a fun sub.
You’ll notice in the above excerpts there are comparisons using age: one implying that they are an underage precocious genius, and the other implying that kids are not smart.
As the saying goes:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
And yet we all still do it, because we need a benchmark or just want to feel good about ourselves. We all have insecurities, but does that mean we all suffer from a superiority complex?
Where do we draw the line? Our self-worth still has to stem from something, some belief that we are enough or we are capable. Or does it?
Is it possible to have a strong sense of self-worth while not looking down upon others? Not needing to compare and measure yourself against other people, just your past self?
It’s easy identifying this in others, but funnily enough if we have it ourselves, our superiority complexes probably wouldn’t allow us to admit that we have one.
At the end of the day, we all need some form of reassurance that we are good at something or have worth in this world. But when that title or object makes you think that you deserve better than others and that you’re better than other people, then that might be a superiority complex on your shoulders.
When you start treating others as beneath yourself due to their upbringing, race, religion or just because you’re in a better position than them, then you might have a complex.
Is it a problem?
That’s for you to decide.
And I’ll leave you with this one final quote:
Oh I’ve known some sarcasm masters in my time.