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Arrogance hides low self-esteem


Superiority complex: when arrogance hides low self-esteem

They appear to have great self-confidence, hold themselves in high esteem and often look down on others and behave condescendingly towards them. However, behind the so-called superiority complex hide people who stand out for the opposite: great feelings of inferiority.

Why then do they behave in this way? The first to coin the term was the Austrian psychotherapist and founder of the school known as individual psychology Alfred Adler in his work The Neurotic Character (1912). In this book, Adler developed the theme of infantile compensation for the perceived feeling of inferiority by means of different strategies towards an ultimate goal (of superiority).

Therefore, the superiority complex refers to the psychological process by which certain people try to focus on and emphasize their positive qualities as a defense or compensation mechanism for their less desirable qualities. However, behind every person who suffers from a superiority complex there is always someone who feels inferior to others and who tries to show his or her ‘nicer’ or positive side in order to feel better.

Adler considered that the superiority complex is an unconscious mechanism that manifests itself as “an affectation of the personality that leads to the adoption of arrogant or arrogant postures in dealing with others”. Therefore, it is common that this type of person does not enjoy great sympathy from those around them because it is also very common that in order to grow their ego they try to step on, belittle or denigrate others.

What is the origin of this complex? Adler explained it in a very clear way: the superiority syndrome is the consequence of a previous inferiority complex that has been poorly resolved. For this psychologist, those who do not feel inferiority do not need to exhibit their superiority and, on the other hand, those who are already truly superior will be perceived as such by others without needing to do so.

In general, those who suffer from superiority syndrome may have started to build this defense mechanism because of a complicated childhood full of rejections. It should be remembered that self-esteem is formed at a very early age and is associated with the environments closest to the child, such as the family and school. Having suffered bullying at school, for example, or receiving very little affection from their parents and relatives may have been more than enough reasons for them to have created their own or a parallel reality to cope with this suffering.

What traits define a person with a superiority complex?

Experts speak of a series of traits or characteristics common to people with a superiority complex:

Overbearing and arrogant attitude.

They are not usually people who are friendly or pleasant to deal with. On the contrary, they consider others inferior and may even use a tone of contempt or mockery to address them.

Presumptuous and exaggerated

They often boast of their intelligence, abilities, beauty…. Their qualities are always many and always above average. They have very high and unrealistic expectations of themselves.


Their opinion is the only one that counts. They neither respect the opinion of others, nor take it into account because they overvalue their own. They always try to impose what they think and also that things are done as they want because only they know how they should be done.


In this type of person there is an almost unhealthy desire to feel admired. They seek constant recognition because it is the only way for them to feel reinforced.

They are never to blame for anything

They think they do not make mistakes and, therefore, they never think it is necessary to apologize for anything.

They feel envied

They have the belief that they are the object of criticism and envy from all those who know them. On the other hand, they are also easily hurt or offended and tend to isolate themselves socially because they feel different.


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