It happens with entire cultures and it happens with individuals. The choice seems to be either crumbling completely under the pressure or rising above it. As Nietzsche wrote, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” When does this protective mechanism, one that can help you find great stores of strength to overcome challenges, break down and instead become a stifling presence in your life, causing problems in functioning and in relationships?
A superiority complex is a psychological defense mechanism where feelings of superiority counter or conceal feelings of inferiority. The primary difference between rising above difficult circumstances and a superiority complex is that in a superiority complex, you start with secret feelings of inferiority and these never actually go away, they are just covered up.
This might sound like an insignificant difference but from a psychoanalytic point of view it makes all the difference in the world because unconscious conflict between what you secretly believe you are and what you portray to the world will always exist, and this conflict is what produces painful symptoms like depression, anxiety, and problems in general functioning.
Your sense of power and strength are fraudulent, they are a mirage that you have created to help you cope, and even if everyone else falls for your sleight of hand, on some level you never do. Like we said, this conflict between what you truly believe you are deep down and what you are trying to make yourself believe you are on the surface is what invariably leads to a host of symptoms, symptoms that you are likely to disconnect from the source to further protect yourself from facing the truth.
One of the routes for change is to do away with comparing yourself to others, consciously deciding to stop focusing on whether you are superior or inferior in terms of intelligence, success, popularity, or any other variable. The real question to ask yourself is if you feel lovable, and if the answer is no, then the primary goal has got to be creating the mental, emotional, and environmental conditions where accepting love and authentic admiration from others is possible. Only when you feel good about yourself can you hope to become more powerful in a healthy way, a way that doesn’t come attached to problems in functioning and relating.