Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mirror Mirror on the Wall ...... Understanding Inferiority Complex

“Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Who is the prettiest of them all……”

We all know the story of Snow White, and her wicked step-mother, who could not bear the idea of anyone else being more beautiful than her. The idea that someone else could be more beautiful was enough to drive her to murderous thoughts. Some would say this was because she was vain and selfish. However, if we pause to think about why she guarded her beauty so fiercely, we will realize that at the root of it lay a strong feeling of inferiority, a belief that her beauty was the only thing that was worthy in her, and if someone else was found to be more beautiful, it negated her identity. She was not comfortable in her own skin, and always worried that someone will surpass her. To put it simply, she had an Inferiority Complex.

People with an inferiority complex often believe that they are not as capable, as efficient, as popular, as others. This feeling is so deeply ingrained, that no amount of evidence to the contrary, no amount of assurance from others can truly make them change their opinion about themselves. Essentially, they have a low self-esteem. Self Esteem is nothing but the belief that each one of us has about ourselves, and our ability to deal with life’s challenges. It is the opinion that you have about yourself. If you have a good opinion about yourself, you are said to have a high self-esteem. In contrast, if your opinion about yourself is poor, you have low self-esteem. A lot of people suffer from low self-esteem. These are people who have a very low self-image, low self-confidence, and feel they are good for nothing.

Self Esteem is largely shaped in childhood, and parents play a crucial role in this process. You must have heard often enough that a child’s mind is like wet clay, waiting to be shaped and moulded. Children look at parents as their mirrors, and they believe that everything parents say is true. So if we were repeatedly told as children that we are adored and loved, we will grow up feeling loved and adored, and feeling good about ourselves. Similarly, if a child repeatedly hears how ashamed parents are with her behaviour, she will soon start feeling ashamed of herself, and there her self-esteem will plummet. Think back to your own childhood, and try and remember what is it that you most remember your parents saying to much of it is still part of what you believe of yourself? After parents, all the other significant people in your life contribute to building our self-esteem: siblings, relatives, teachers, friends….. all contribute to shaping our thoughts about ourselves.

Once we grow up, we often continue with the same ideas and opinions about us that all these people had – we internalise these and firm up our belief about ourselves. Later in life, we keep viewing everything that happens from this perspective, further creating experiences and situations which will strengthen this belief that we have about ourselves. Thus, a person who grows up feeling inferior will always feel inferior, in every situation. And a person who grows up feeling capable and confident, will face even the most challenging of situations with a sense of confidence.

Now, you may think that there are several situations in which you feel nervous and unsure about yourself. Does that mean you have an inferiority complex? Not necessarily! During challenging, difficult and stressful situations, it is natural and normal to experience some amount of uncertainty and trepidation. Similarly, in novel situations too, one is somewhat tentative. So, if you feel nervous when you go for a job interview, while giving an important exam, when attempting a tough task, it’s really fine! However, when lack of self-assurance becomes your second nature, when you constantly doubt yourself and your abilities, no matter what the situation, then it is something you need to look into, and change about yourself.

So how can one fight this constant feeling of inferiority? Is there any way to get out of it? Sure, there are plenty of things that you can do to change this about yourself. Let’s look at some of these:

Accept Yourself As You Are: Self-Acceptance is the key to resolving your inferiority complex. We all know that each of us is unique, and as such, we each have our set of strengths, weaknesses, qualities we are proud of and qualities we are embarrassed about. Love and accept who you are ….. it goes without saying, if you don’t accept yourself, how and why will the world? Self-acceptance brings a sense of peace, which pervades your aura, and can shine through your body language, your posture, your tone of voice.

Drop the Comparison! We often create and flame feelings of inferiority by comparing ourselves with others. It’s good to have a role model, a benchmark to follow; however, remember, you should always compare with your own past performance. If you keep comparing yourself with others, you will never match up, because once you match up with one person on one quality, there will be several others who will be better, and it becomes an endless struggle then. Remember Snow White’s step mother; despite having so much beauty herself, she could never have peace because she always wanted to be the better than others.

Change Your Self Talk: While our self-esteem is shaped by others around us during childhood, once we grow up, we are the ones who propagate the inferiority by constantly putting ourselves down. Start watching your own internal dialogue and you will realize how many negative messages you give yourself throughout the day. Starting today, resolve to change your self talk. Use positive statements, affirm to yourself that you will try your best and succeed, and break the cycle of negative thought patterns.

Build Perspective: Setbacks and failures happen to everyone, and you are no exception. It is important to keep the right perspective when things don’t go well. Instead of beating yourself up and further fuelling your inferiority complex, take a realistic stock of the situation. Assess your mistakes, see what you need to do differently, and most importantly, MOVE ON!

Most importantly, every time your internal voice tells you that you are not good enough, or inferior in any way, don’t just accept that! Question, confront, and resolve it there and then. You have been accepting that voice for long enough, it is now time to challenge that voice, and once and for all, defeat that self-defeating approach, which may make you feel inferior in front of others.