10 psychological complexes that poison our lives: what is yours?

Ivan Vdovin

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An inferiority complex is what can be called self-doubt, low self-esteem and other psychological problems directed inward with constant comparison of oneself and others. A typical “mother’s friend’s son” complex. Next, I will tell you more specifically about the inferiority complex, what it is and where legs grow from. And most importantly, how to get rid of it and start living a happy life.

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What is an inferiority complex

What is an inferiority complex

What does inferiority complex mean? This is a set of negative emotions that manifest themselves as anxiety, a feeling of shame, and confidence in one’s inferiority. All of them are based on the results of comparing oneself with other people.

Most often, an inferiority complex develops in people with physical disabilities. They just hate their appearance. Development can also be affected by social status, intelligence, character, and personal qualities.

Some people have been struggling with the complex for several years. Others suffer from it for the rest of their lives. This leads to serious problems, ranging from depression to the destruction of relationships with family and friends.

The concept of “inferiority complex” was introduced by the Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler. He initially applied it to children. In his opinion, every child suffers from such a complex to one degree or another. But this happens due to psychophysiological characteristics.

Remember how, as a child, you also said what you would do when you grow up. In childhood, this attitude towards oneself encourages one to change for the better and grow. But sometimes, under the influence of a number of negative factors, the situation only gets worse.

Many adults are small, resentful children inside. They do not know what safety is, do not believe in themselves and their strengths, and acutely feel helpless. At the same time, they really want to feel love and happiness. And they receive them, but in some perverted way. They show aggression, constantly fight for power and prove personal superiority.

The origins of feelings of inferiority

So, few people can call themselves truly happy and satisfied with themselves and their life. And is there a need to ask philosophical questions about happiness every day?

We create for ourselves an idealized goal of complete adaptation and then strive to achieve it as if this goal equals success, happiness, and security [4].

There is no time for speculation here. There is a struggle - regardless of whether everyday activities are subordinated to fictitious goals formulated by stereotypes, as Alfred Adler writes about in his work “The Neurotic Constitution”. Or, as it seems to us, it is driven by conscious impulses, whether we fight for them or retreat.

But only brave, self-confident people who feel at home in the world can take advantage of both the blessings of life and its difficulties. They know that difficulties exist, but they also know that they can overcome them. They are ready for any problems of life, which invariably turn out to be social problems [3].

As a rule, difficulties and social problems provoke the development of feelings of inferiority, which are inherent in everyone. This does not at all indicate that you are insecure or not a brave person. Or that those people who feel at home in the world, about whom Adler wrote, are fictitious and simply cannot exist. The fact is that feelings of inferiority can both create obstacles and motivate a person to constructive achievements.

Adler's individual psychology is based on the study of specific examples of behavior and their consequences. He, as a psychologist, transmitted his life experience to the field under study. From the scientist’s biography it is known that in childhood Adler suffered more than one serious illness. Probably, the desire to be the same as other children, to be included in a team, is an example when a feeling of inferiority stimulates the desire to live and develop. Thus, he believed that explanations of the need for a family that apply to a child can be applied to society in general.

The weakness that causes a child to live in a family group is the same as the weakness that causes an adult to live in society. All people feel inadequate in certain situations. They feel overwhelmed by the difficulties of life and are unable to face them one on one. Therefore, one of the strongest inclinations of man has always been the desire to unite in groups so that he has the opportunity to live as a member of society, and not as an isolated individual [3].

Of course, the desire for community is the driving principle for the individual. However, in the context of the need to include a person in social life, battles of compensation and feelings of inferiority unfold.

Karen Horney , a researcher who belongs to important figures in the development of socio-psychological theories of personality, focused in her work “The Neurotic Personality of Our Time” on the significance of the surrounding social environment.

Every person understands that there are variations within the boundaries of what is considered normal. Such variation occurs, for example, due to gender differences as they exist in society, as is the case in Western culture, where men and women are believed to have different temperaments. The manifestation of over-concern and fear of approaching old age is “normal” for a forty-year-old woman, while a man in a similar situation would be considered neurotic [1].

In the context of our topic, this is an accessible example of how a feeling of inferiority coexists with the generally accepted understanding of normality. Moreover, such an understanding provokes it. A person compares himself with other people or any standards - and if he does not meet them or they are alien to him, he feels inferior. The other side is a feeling of superiority, when a person feels the need to be better than others.

Signs of an inferiority complex

Signs of an inferiority complex

An inferiority complex has pronounced signs. The appearance of at least one of them should alarm. People suffering from this problem live with fear. They are afraid of making mistakes, they try to please others and meet their expectations. Sometimes they completely forget about their desires and needs.


A person has such low self-esteem that he does not allow himself to make plans, fulfill desires and dreams, or strive for meaningful results. And first of all, this affects the psycho-emotional sphere. The individual does not know how to make decisions, is afraid to act, and feels constant tension.

People with an inferiority complex do not know in which area they would like to realize themselves. They may be dreaming about something, but they constantly push the dream into the background. At the same time, they consider themselves not smart or capable enough.

Reasons for the complex

Reasons for the complex

According to Adler, the inferiority complex is a consequence of the fear of loneliness, the fear of feeling superfluous, useless, rejected. Also, according to the scientist, most often the complex arises in childhood. It is then that the child experiences a number of restrictions, which, as stated above, are associated with his age characteristics.

Other causes of an inferiority complex are:

  • physical or cosmetic defects;
  • lack of independence skills and conditions for their formation;
  • overprotection, excessive control, suppression of personality on the part of parents;
  • lack of parental attention in childhood;
  • psychological trauma, for example, divorce, life in an orphanage, various types of violence;
  • discrimination;
  • failures that resulted in unnecessary criticism from others.

It is worth noting that both excessive and insufficient attention from parents can lead to the development of an inferiority complex in a child. In both cases, he does not have the opportunity to become independent, self-confident, and self-sufficient.

In simple terms, suppression of a child’s individuality in childhood leads to an inferiority complex.

It is noteworthy that a number of others develop simultaneously with this condition. Most often it is a superiority complex. It is easy to define: a person behaves extremely arrogantly, constantly brags, and tries to increase low self-esteem by humiliating others.

The essence of the phenomenon

Feelings of anxiety and restlessness for no reason - what is this condition?

The complex of usefulness occurs in both adults and children. Negative attitudes toward oneself differ somewhat between men and women.

In men

Men suffering from an inferiority complex are usually aggressive and arrogant. They worry if they have physical disabilities or cannot achieve financial success.

A man's feeling of inferiority

An inferiority complex can manifest itself in men in the following ways:

  • Searching for a young lover in order to look younger against her background;
  • Reluctance to let go of a daughter who is trying to build a personal life;
  • Fear of age-related changes. Passion for anti-aging procedures, shaving off all hair in case of partial baldness, as a way to hide this fact.

A man feels lonely, unclaimed and tries to attract attention and maintain authority.

Among women

Inferiority syndrome in women is often associated with appearance. With a lack of attention from the opposite sex, any feature seems like a disadvantage. A woman does not accept her appearance or physique. She tries to change herself by following fashion trends and those around her who seem better than her in everything.

If by a certain age a woman has not been able to start a family, she feels unnecessary, because her main purpose has not been fulfilled. Even if she has achieved unprecedented heights in her career, the absence of children makes her suffer and consider herself worthless.

Note! Untapped potential and lack of favorite work lead to a feeling of inferiority. It seems to the woman that she could not settle down like others. These sensations make you feel embarrassed about your position.

In childhood

A child with an inferiority complex can be easily distinguished from the crowd:

  • He speaks too quietly. At the same time, the head is lowered, trying not to look into the eyes of the interlocutor. He usually agrees with any opinion and request, he simply nods in response;
  • Tries to attract attention by being rude;
  • Talks little, stays away from noisy games;
  • Slouches, resorts to defensive postures, crossing arms and legs;
  • Does not take criticism well and may burst into tears when commented.

The child does not necessarily show all the signs. The formation of one or two is enough to suspect problems with self-esteem.

Note! Children with feelings of inferiority are anxious and suspicious; they constantly have to prove that they are better than others and fight for their place. They lose their uniqueness and want to be like everyone else.

Inferiority complex in a child

Inferiority complex in men

Inferiority complex in men

In men, an inferiority complex is a consequence of an excess or lack of maternal love. It manifests itself in unmotivated aggression, arrogance, and attachment to things that emphasize masculinity.

In psychology, there are several forms of inferiority complex in men:

  1. King David syndrome. A man tries to “slow down” aging by choosing a young girl as a companion.
  2. The boss syndrome is a constant emphasis on one’s virtues and masculinity.
  3. Napoleon syndrome is ambition, vanity, a painful desire to always succeed in everything.
  4. Fear of sexual problems.
  5. Lost Energy Syndrome. It most often develops in men over 50 years of age.
  6. Lot's syndrome - fear of giving one's daughter away in marriage.
  7. Hercules syndrome - dependence on a woman in terms of finances, etc.
  8. Kotovsky syndrome - shaving hair so that no one notices baldness.
  9. Don Juan syndrome is a quick break in relationships with absolutely all girls.

The state of fullness means peace and inner stability. This rule should be firmly embedded in the minds of every woman.

A representative of the fair sex comes into harmony and reaches a state of fullness only when she achieves peace. For men, the opposite is true; they are full only when they are active. In the eyes of women, a man who is cheerful, active and purposeful is attractive, because he is energetic, and energy is a sign of health. A healthy man is always attractive to women, unlike a lethargic and passive one.

A woman looks and feels harmonious at a measured pace of life, paying attention to herself, doing everything slowly and enjoying it. In other words, fullness is a state inherent in every woman. Her life consists of a series of events, but, resting, gaining strength, being at peace, she is filled again every time and every morning she is again able to give her positive energy to others and radiate care. This happens because life does not stand still, it is in full swing, time flies by, it is constantly lacking, and energy is wasted and a feeling of emptiness arises.

Among other things, another important component of fulfillment is not the lack of desire to achieve results in everything. For any woman, the process always comes first, rather than the end result. There are always a lot of things to do around you that can energize you. But it is impossible to be completely filled with energy, it is constantly wasted on processes, there is not enough of it. To this end, you should competently transform the rhythm of your life and your actions.

It has long been proven that it is impossible to solve all problems, and if many of them are left unattended, then sooner or later they will resolve themselves. It is extremely important to be able to divide all matters and problems into those that are extremely important and those that are not worth paying attention to. Thanks to such actions, free time will immediately appear and every day of your life will be unloaded, making it easier to fill up again and again. Free minutes do not always allow you to slow down the pace of life, so it is important to be able to find activities that will help you feel confident, harmonious and fulfilled.


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Inferiority complex in women

Inferiority complex in women

In women, one of the main reasons for the development of the complex is appearance. It has its own signs:

  • non-acceptance of external data, physique;
  • denial of being female;
  • non-acceptance of male representatives;
  • constant feeling of guilt;
  • fear of being alone;
  • worries that inner potential has never been revealed;
  • the certainty that no one loves a woman and cannot love her.

A woman who suffers from an inferiority complex is not confident in herself. She becomes withdrawn, too self-critical. She devalues ​​everything she has achieved.

Why is an inferiority complex dangerous?

An inferiority complex provokes the development of a number of mental disorders:

  • thoughts of suicide;
  • dependence on other people, living conditions, certain habits;
  • neuroses;
  • chronic depression;
  • degradation;
  • persistent feelings of guilt, self-pity, self-flagellation;
  • destruction of relationships, family breakdown;
  • loneliness, isolation, an attempt to completely exclude contact with the outside world.

As you can see, an inferiority complex entails very disastrous consequences. And the saddest thing is that many of them are irreversible.

How to get rid of an inferiority complex

How to get rid of an inferiority complex

You can treat an inferiority complex either independently or with the help of a specialist, for example, a psychoanalyst. The main thing is to understand and eradicate the reason why it appeared.


The first and most important rule is to find out what led to the development of the problem. It's easy to do. First, you need to think again about situations where hurtful words were spoken to you. You don't necessarily really deserve them. The second step is to relive and let go of the grievances. Understand that all people can make mistakes.

There are other recommendations:

  1. Learn to look at yourself through a positive lens. Find positive qualities and advantages in yourself. Remember all your successes and achievements. Write them down on a piece of paper and review them from time to time.
  2. Work on your weaknesses. Remember, you can get rid of them. Find your motivation. This could be reading self-development books, attending seminars and trainings, listening to audio books, or meeting successful people. Take every opportunity to change for the better.
  3. Take criticism less sensitively. Most often, it is not directed at you personally, but at your actions or the situation as a whole. Remember that in psychology, an inferiority complex is, first of all, not the remarks themselves, but how you react to them.
  4. Learn to accept compliments adequately. Do not look for a catch in the words of the person speaking them. Thank you for your kind words. If you are sure of insincerity, simply move the conversation to another topic.
  5. Keep a diary. Just don’t need to write down everything that happens to you. Let this be a diary of your successes and achievements. This is a good way to combat an inferiority complex, another proof that you have something to be proud of.
  6. Love yourself. No, of course, you shouldn't become a narcissist. It's about healthy self-esteem. A simple exercise will help you raise it. Standing in front of the mirror, say something good about yourself, give compliments.
  7. Don't compare yourself to other people. This is the biggest mistake. Remember, you are an individual. Under any circumstances, remain yourself.
  8. Play sports, change your image. All this will give you self-confidence. Don't be afraid to change, even if the changes are drastic.

How to deal with feelings of inferiority

To cope with feelings of inferiority, first of all, you need to free yourself from stereotypes. And this can only be dealt with by resorting to the philosophical question with which we began: am I satisfied with myself, am I happy? Adler distinguished the concepts of life purpose and lifestyle. Thus, a consciously set life goal helps to cope with feelings of inferiority. A life goal projects a bright future; uncertainty or troubles are overcome in the desire to achieve it, which is transformed into a lifestyle.

But everything is not so simple. It would seem, who knows more than a person what he needs? However, the hidden agendas that we unconsciously pursue can be destructive. For example, Adler noted that neurotics often set fantastic goals about superiority, paying more attention to them than to goals that lead to real achievements. Neurosis is often a conflict between repressed desires and social norms. Therefore, it is so important to truly identify your goals, abstracting from the “normal”, generally accepted ones.

Karen Horney writes that society considers neurotics to be those people who differ from others in their approach to life:

For example, we will tend to consider as neurotic a girl who prefers to remain indifferent, refuses to receive higher pay and does not strive to achieve a higher position, or an artist who earns only $30 a week and prefers to be content with little instead of working hard and striving for it. more. The reason we will call such people neurotic is that most of us are familiar only with a pattern of behavior that implies the desire to succeed in life, to get ahead of others, to earn more than the minimum necessary for a normal existence [1].

The paradox is that by borrowing a generally accepted model of behavior, ignoring true desires and following goals not set by us, we experience a feeling of inferiority. The same thing happens if we do not suppress our desires, but follow them, but do not find a response in society.

Fromm considered the problem of freedom in a similar vein. How can you be yourself, be free and at the same time remain part of society? He saw a compromise in the possibility of free realization of personality.

Spontaneous activity is not forced activity imposed on the individual by his isolation and powerlessness; it is not a robot's activity conditioned by an uncritical perception of patterns suggested from the outside. Spontaneous activity is the free activity of the individual; its definition includes the literal meaning of the Latin word sponte - of its own accord, of its own accord. By activity we do not mean “doing something”; We are talking about creative activity, which can manifest itself in the emotional, intellectual and sensory life of a person, as well as in his will [2].

Each of us is capable of living spontaneously. But first we need to answer the question: what really makes me happy?

The second way to get rid of feelings of inferiority is purely practical and seems to us to be the most effective both in terms of time spent and in terms of effectiveness. This method consists of systematic and systematic work using the “TS” deprogramming technique [5].

This system (TS) is based on the idea of ​​getting rid of stereotypes through their gradual “working through” and for the system to fully reveal itself, it may take a lot of time, but the first powerful results can be obtained within a few months.

  1. Horney K. Neurotic personality of our time. New paths in psychoanalysis. Peter, 2013.
  2. Fromm E. Flight from freedom. AST, 2020.
  3. Adler A. The Science of Living. Port-Royal, 1997.
  4. Frager R., Fadimer D. Personality. Theories, exercises, experiments. Prime EUROZNAK, 2006.
  5. Dmitry Leushkin Turbo-Suslik. Brutal speed system - ISBN 978-5-9573-2948-0

Author: Komarova Ilona

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