10 subtle signs you’re dealing with someone with an inferiority complex

by Jelena Dincic | November 19, 2023, 1:10 pm

Do you have a friend who’s a little bit – different?

Now, you’re not quite sure what it is but something about their behavior keeps you wondering.

Maybe they have a hard time accepting compliments or maybe they keep saying “sorry” – even when they have nothing to apologize for.

Turns out that you could be dealing with someone with an inferiority complex.

If this is someone you care about, you’re probably going to want to help them boost their confidence and self-esteem.

In order to do that you’re gonna have to familiarize yourself with the (subtle) signs of an inferiority complex.

Read on to learn more:

1) They’re too humble/modest

One of the first signs that you’re dealing with someone who has an inferiority complex is that they fail to recognize when they’re good at something.

They’ll say their achievements are “no big deal” and they’ll totally downplay their abilities and accomplishments.

And guess what – it’s not false modesty. They really believe it!

I think it has to do with their upbringing.

A lot of people with an inferiority complex grew up being told that nothing they do is ever good enough so now – today – they believe it.

They struggle to acknowledge their strengths and talents, even when they are obvious to others.

2) They over-apologize

Ever ask yourself, “Why do they keep apologizing?”

  • “I’m sorry I don’t know”
  • “I’m sorry I don’t have any…”
  • “I’m sorry but I don’t agree”

It’s great when people can admit they’ve made a mistake and own up to it.

But there are things they shouldn’t have to apologize for – for example:

  • For having an opinion
  • For not knowing something
  • For setting boundaries
  • For speaking up
  • For not wanting to do something

If your friend drives you mad with their “sorries”, chances are they have an inferiority complex.

You see, they feel worthless and live in constant fear of displeasing other people or making mistakes. To be sure they don’t upset anyone, they say “sorry” more than anyone you’ve ever met.

3) They just can’t take a compliment

I mean, how hard is it to say, “Thank you” when someone compliments you?

Well, if you have an inferiority complex, it can be pretty darn hard.

People with an inferiority complex either don’t believe that the compliment is genuine or that they deserve it.

And the result?

They mumble something about it being “nothing” and quickly change the subject.

All in all, this level of discomfort when it comes to compliments points to serious self-esteem issues.

4) Constant self-deprecation

I appreciate a good self-deprecating joke as much as the next person. But only when it comes from people who are confident.

Self-deprecating remarks and jokes simply aren’t funny when they come from someone who doesn’t think much of themselves.

On the contrary, they’re sad.

Just think of a really bad stand-up comedian who comes on stage and engages in negative self-talk for half an hour. It alienates the audience and even makes us feel a transfer of shame.

So why do they do it?

Probably to cope with their feelings of inadequacy. It could be a cry for help – all they want is to be reassured and validated.

5) Insecurity about appearance

You might have already guessed it but a person’s inferiority complex often extends to their physical appearance.

That was the case with me in high school. I wasn’t popular or particularly cool and I thought maybe it was because I wasn’t good-looking enough.

Looking back at my yearbook and the person I was then I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that I was pretty darn smart, cool, and pretty!

But that’s how it is with low self-esteem, it takes time to build it and realize that the image you had of yourself was all wrong.

You’ll find that a lot of people with insecurities obsess over their looks and this preoccupation can lead to low self-esteem and a distorted self-image (like anorexia for example).

7) They compare themselves to others

Remember how I said they downplay their achievements?

Well, in addition to doing that, they’ll probably highlight the achievements of others.

  • “Isn’t Mark incredible? Can you believe he built his own company from scratch and he isn’t even 30 yet?”
  • “I don’t know how she does it all – a family and a career and she still looks amazing!”

The truth is that while they downplay their own accomplishments, they probably feel overshadowed by the success of others.

8) They need external validation

It makes sense if you think about it.

People who have low self-esteem probably never got the validation and support they needed when they were kids.

Their parents/teachers/peers never gave them a pat on the back and said, “Well done!”

On the contrary, they probably said, “Another B? Guess we can’t expect better from you.” and “Why can’t you be more like X?”

And now, as adults, they don’t know their own worth. They’re scared of making decisions by themselves, lest they make a mistake

Trust me, their constant need for approval from other people is a surefire sign of an inferiority complex.

9) They’re super scared of failing

I believe that I speak for most people when I say that nobody likes to fail.

But when it comes to people with an inferiority complex, their fear of failure goes beyond anything you and I might feel.

Their fear is so deep-rooted it could have very serious consequences.

Fear can be paralyzing.

It can stop a person from living their life to the fullest by preventing them from taking risks and making them avoid challenges.

Falling short seems like the end of the world to them.

10) Difficulty in decision-making

I sometimes have trouble making decisions.

I mean, what if I make the wrong one?

Now, think how difficult it is for someone with low self-esteem and an inferiority complex to decide on anything.

It must be a daunting task!

The fear of making the wrong choice, coupled with self-doubt, can make even simple decisions feel like insurmountable challenges.

Final thoughts

If you’ve recognized the signs from the article and you’re dealing with someone who has an inferiority complex, remember to be patient and understanding.

Recognizing these subtle signs is the first step in offering support.

Depending on how serious the problem is, you may need external help if you want to help them build their self-esteem and boost their confidence.

That’s why it would be a good idea to get them to seek professional help in the form of a therapist or counselor.

The root cause of insecurity usually stems from one’s childhood which is why it’s best to have someone experienced work with your friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *