Acting superior but feeling inferior?

If you've across show-offs and braggarts, chances are that there’s a sense of inferiority behind all that pompousness

Sania Lali April 07, 2014
Sometime ago, I came across a news article on Facebook about a woman who had killed herself because she didn’t like the colour of her hair. Apparently, she made several appointments with her hairdresser but after being repeatedly disappointed with the results, she gave up and killed herself.

This shocked me at first but I soon realised that that this wasn’t really anything new. Although perhaps, not as mentally disturbed as that woman, I have personally seen a number of girls around me suffering from similar problems. The way they look affects their entire attitude towards life and their hair, skin, clothes, shoes and so forth determines not only their very existence but their happiness as well.

I’ve been appalled to see stick-thin girls insist that they’re too fat and chalk-white girls convinced that they’re too dark.

However, what that news article did make me realise was that such an extreme obsession about one’s looks indicates a deep-rooted inferiority complex.

According to psychologist, Nilima Shah,
“Looks are a very important part of our lifestyle. What we wear, how we look and how we carry ourselves is of great concern. Any criticism about these factors makes us feel vulnerable and gives rise to the feeling that we are not beautiful. This leads to an inferiority complex and we may get preoccupied with the ‘supposed’ deformity.”

Unfortunately, an inferiority complex has become very common nowadays. You might not even know it, but you must have felt it at one point or another. Here are five signs to know if you are suffering from an inferiority complex:
1.  Find it difficult to accept good things about others

People who suffer from a feeling of being inferior will always look for faults and weaknesses in others in order to mask their own faults. This is their way of convincing themselves that they’re not that bad after all. They only find assurance in their own capabilities by criticising others or highlighting their faults.

2.  Low tolerance for criticism

Have you ever been surprised, even shocked, by some people’s reaction to criticism? Although people who suffer from an inferiority complex are very aware of their own shortcomings, they can’t stand to have others point them out. They take all forms of criticism very personally and react aggressively towards any negative remarks. This is because criticism from others brings forth what they try so hard to conceal from the world – their feeling of inferiority.

3.  Disguise inferiority by acting superior

By portraying themselves as superior to others, people suffering from an inferiority complex try to mask their own inherent inferiority. Anyone who doesn’t consider them to be better than others is simply deemed worthless. These people usually act as if they are more important than others and that their opinions are more valuable. They convince themselves that they’re more attractive, have a better sense of dressing, know more or are more intelligent than others – all in an attempt to hide their inherent feeling of unworthiness.

4.  Boast and show off

“I was just in the French Riviera. We stayed in the most expensive resort! And then on the way back, we stopped in Paris to get the latest pret collections from there! It was a spectacular vacation!”

I am sure you have come across and been annoyed by such show-offs and braggarts. Chances are that there’s a sense of inferiority behind all that pompousness. Since people suffering from an inferiority complex always feel like they are being looked down upon, they have a constant urge to convince others that they are worthy. Often, they try to improve their ‘less-than-acceptable’ image by giving extravagant gifts, flashing expensive or branded clothes and accessories and boasting about their achievements and accomplishments.

If you think about it, it’s actually sad how these people show off only to make others believe that they’re not all that worthless.

5.  Constant struggle to seek perfection

The perfect house, the perfect spouse, the perfect children and the perfect career – these people are found to exhaust themselves and others around them in trying to make their lives appear absolutely perfect so that others can’t point out their failings. This struggle for perfection takes its toll not only on their own health and happiness; those around them are also under constant stress in order to appear perfect.

Other people can help a person suffering from an inferiority complex but it is often very difficult to make a person realise that he/she has this problem. And although many sufferers might acknowledge that they do in fact, suffer from an inferiority complex, very few actually want to take steps to address and rectify the situation.

Although we live in an age where we are constantly bombarded by ‘perfect’ figures, looks and lives, it is important for the sufferer to realise that this world and everything in it is meant to be imperfect. They should understand that this pursuit of perfection is simply a façade and doesn’t really translate into a ‘pursuit of happiness’.

Moreover, they need to understand that criticism is not always negative; sometimes, it can actually help them grow and improve. And most important, it is essential for them to feel comfortable in their own skin, curb their controlling and perfectionist tendencies and refrain from feelings of undue anger.

Only then can they hope to live a ‘real’ life rather than a ‘perfect’, pretentious life.
Sania Lali A Media Studies graduate from Kinnaird College. She is currently working as a Communication Associate at iMMAP (USAID). Her hobbies include reading, writing and photography. She blogs at
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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Sumbal Kazmi | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend Very well written Sania, and m glad to see you here, Hope you are doing well :)... Good Job keep it up (y)
Harron | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend 3. Disguise inferiority by acting superior Acting superior is the specialty of the Punjabi.
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