acts beneath oneself

Superiority complex

Superiority complex refers to a subconscious neurotic mechanism of compensation developed by the individual as a result of feelings of inferiority. The feelings of inferiority in this specific complex are often brought on by real or perceived social rejection. The term was coined by Alfred Adler (February 7, 1870 – May 28, 1937), as part of his School of Individual psychology.


Superiority complex in everyday usage means having very high opinion of oneself. In psychology it refers to the same attitude, however in psychology it is considered that the attitude is actually a way to hide or compensate for feeling of inferiority. It was a term introduced by psychologist Alfred Adler in series of his books like "Understanding Human Nature", "Social Interest" etc.

Those exhibiting the superiority complex commonly project their feelings of inferiority onto others they perceive as beneath them, possibly for the same reasons they themselves may have been ostracized, i.e. viewing most, possibly all others as "ugly" or "stupid", and beneath oneself. Accusations of arrogance and cockiness are often made by others when referring to the individual exhibiting the superiority complex.

Behaviors related to this mechanism may include an exaggeratedly positive opinion of one’s worth and abilities, unrealistically high expectations in goals and achievements for oneself and others, the persistent attempt to correct others regardless of whether they are factually correct or not, vanity, extravagant style in dressing (with intent of drawing attention), excessive need for competition, pride, sentimentalism and affected exaltation, snobbishness, a tendency to discredit other’s opinions, forcefulness aimed at dominating those considered as weaker or less important, credulity, and others.

Social aloofness, daydreaming and isolation could also be associated with the Superiority Complex, as a way for one to evade the fear of failure related to the feelings of inadequacy to face the real world.

Superiority and inferiority complex are often found together as the different expressions of the same pathology and the two complexes can exist within the same individual. Superiority can also be caused by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

See also


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