Feeling inferior to another person is one of the quickest ways to tank your self-esteem, and as we know, self-confidence is critical to developing a healthy and successful social life.
There are many things that can cause you to feel inferior, but it’s what you do with those feelings of inferiority that will determine the type of impact they have on you.
When people boast of their accomplishments or achieve things that you would like to have in your own life, it can cause you to believe that the person is better than you— more attractive, more intelligent, better-liked, or more capable in some way than you are.
While you can take the idea that they are “better” and use it as motivation towards accomplishing your own goals, many people find themselves doing the opposite. If you aren’t intentional about taking your feelings of inferiority in a positive direction, it is all too easy to allow “I’m not as good” to morph into “I’m no good at all.”
This type of negative self-talk is a slippery slope; it can quickly lead to increased or emergent depression, anxiety disorders, and self-isolation as a result of your reluctance to put yourself “out there” and take advantage of opportunities—personally, socially, and career-related—that could potentially lead to success.
This can all be avoided if you use the following steps to re-direct your feelings of inferiority.
First, you need to determine if your feelings of inferiority are the result of the other person being intentionally superior (or behaving in a hurtful way without realizing it), or if it’s actually stemming from your existing insecurities.
Be honest with yourself; while it’s often easier to “play the blame game” and accuse someone else of making you feel that way, it will be more beneficial for you in the long run to do some reflecting and consider whether you are simply more sensitive to certain things as a result of an insecurity you may have.
If it is in fact the other person behaving distastefully that is causing you to question your self-worth, the next step is to determine whether they or doing it intentionally or if they are simply unaware of the way their words and actions are coming across.
While this can be difficult to do if you aren’t very close with the person, paying attention to their interactions with other people as well as their general attitude (are they typically mean-spirited, or is this behavior out of character?) will usually reveal the answer.
If it is a close friend or family member with whom you hope to remain close, it can be very beneficial to have a conversation with them that (gently) helps them to understand how they’re making you feel. Click here to find a list of books that can help you achieve a positive outcome through your discussion.
A productive conversation can also help improve the situation with a coworker or someone you must frequently interact with. However, if they are unreceptive to your efforts to remedy the problem or if it is someone you are less interested in keeping around, it may become necessary to place some distance between you and tactfully avoid spending time with them.
When you are in the midst of a conversation with someone whom you believe is behaving this way intentionally, never act like you are feeling inferior. This is the reaction they want, and giving them the satisfaction of making you uncomfortable will only serve to further boost their ego and fuel their attitude of superiority.
It is also important to avoid responding to the person’s airs of superiority by bragging about your own accomplishments or attempting to “one-up” them with something bigger or better. This will only come across as desperation and will not help to improve the situation.
Instead, the best way to respond is with kindness, as though you are completely unphased by their rudeness. While it’s almost certainly not what you will feel like doing, it will cause the person to become bored when they don’t receive the response they’re hoping for.
If they’re not trying to intimidate you intentionally, treating them with kindness in return will prevent your character from being called into question later on when you attempt to have a conversation with them about their behavior.
On the other hand, if your feelings of intimidation stem from an existing insecurity, it may be time to work on developing your confidence.
Remember, everyone is trying to present the best side of themselves, so in the words of pastor Steve Furtick, “don’t compare your ‘behind the scenes’ with someone else’s ‘highlight reel.’”
In other words, just like you are concealing your insecurities and areas of weakness (and presenting your strengths), they are doing the same thing. They don’t want you to know about their weaknesses (which they undoubtedly have), so they’re showing off–and probably exaggerating–the things they’re proud of instead.
This doesn’t justify any arrogance they may be exhibiting, but it’s good to keep this in mind as you work to preserve your self-confidence.
It’s also important to remember that, while you may envy their successes and strengths, it’s very likely that you have areas of strength that they desire. Rather than allowing their victories to become your defeat, use their victories to remind you of your own—different—victories.
It can be helpful to think of the person’s successes as goals you’d like to work towards—and that person is now a great resource for helping you to accomplish them!
As stated by Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Feelings of inferiority inevitably stem from comparison. Inferiority will cause you to forget your own positive qualities and accomplishments and turn you into a victim.
But you—and only you—are in control of your thoughts, and when you are intentional in your thought life you can cause your negative emotions to be merely a blip on the radar as you replace them with positive ones.
When is a time you have felt inferior to someone else? What did you do? We’d love to read your stories in the comments!