By Anju Miura

“Get Psyched” explores the complicated process of human thoughts and behavior to help you understand who we really are. I write this series in the belief that understanding psychological theories will make your life easier, or at least, teach you why life could be so hard. After reading my stories, you’ll get psyched.

We sometimes experience frustration or disappointment in competition.

If we fail an exam while others walk away with passing grades, we feel like it’s the end of the world. Similarly, bombing a job interview while your friends snag job offers makes us feel hopeless. This hopeless, end-of-the-world feeling is inferiority, and it has a lot of power in how it affects our image.

What is inferiority?

An Australian psychotherapist, Alfred Adler, explains the theory of inferiority as feeling incompetent as a result from comparing ourselves inappropriately to others or our own ideal self.

He considered that all human beings learn the sense of inferiority throughout their childhood.

For example, children are physically weaker and less intelligent than adults, and they often desire to grow up as soon as possible to be as powerful as adults.

Inferiority comes from “striving for perfection”

The sense of inferiority comes from the gap between the reality and ideal.

Based on our personal experiences and attitudes, we develop goals that we want to achieve. We admire others for their sociability, affluence, fame and social status and start to compare ourselves to others in those desired aspects.

However, comparing what others have to what you don’t is like apples and oranges.

For instance, it is unreasonable to feel inferior when your friend performs piano well, but you don’t. Instead, you can think your friend is great at piano, but you’re great at vocals.

You will never be able to realize your capabilities by only focusing on your weaknesses.

How to overcome the inferiority complex

The word “inferiority” often has negative connotations.

Nevertheless, the sense of inferiority also motivates us to strive to improve or compensate our current undesirable situation, according to Adler.

Adler once said, “To be a human being means to possess a feeling of inferiority which constantly presses towards its own conquest. The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge for conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation.”

We can overcome the inferiority complex by becoming adept in another field to compensate for our flaws or mastering what we were incapable of originally.

You may feel left behind in the English class because of a poor grade on your research paper, but you may speak out in class and actively participate in discussion in order to overcome this sense of inferiority.

Or, you may start reading numerous books to improve your writing skills.


Of course, you cannot always feel inferior to motivate yourself.

Confidence is important to be successful in our endeavors, but displaying illusory superiority — overestimating one’s own qualities — can be disadvantageous. In particular, the false uniqueness effect is the tendency to underestimate the commonality of one’s abilities and one’s desirable or successful behaviors.

A person, for example, is relatively very good at basketball but does not consider the countless others who are as good or even better than him. Opposed to someone with an inferiority complex, this person is unlikely to succeed because he does not make an effort to improve his skills.

Perhaps, the sense of inferiority is “better” than the sense of superiority to motivate us to become more competent. Empowered by the inferiority complex, you can capitalize on your potential, so it’s not all bad being insecure, now, is it?