People suffering from this complex often feel a deep motivation to prove themselves as superior to others.
In the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis, an inferiority complex is a feeling that one is inferior to others in some way. It is often unconscious, and is thought to drive afflicted individuals to overcompensate, resulting either in spectacular achievement or extreme antisocial behaviour. Early work in this field was pioneered by Alfred Adler, who used the example of Napoleon complexes to illustrate his theory.
Sociologists have proposed that an inferiority complex can also exist at a wider level, affecting entire cultures. This theory, which is controversial, is known as cultural cringe.
Unlike a normal feeling of inferiority, which can act as an incentive for achievement, an inferiority complex is an advanced state of discouragement, often resulting in a retreat from difficulties.
Classical Adlerian psychology makes a distinction between primary and secondary inferiority feelings. A primary inferiority feeling is rooted in the young child's original experience of weakness, helplessness, and dependency. It can then be intensified by comparisons to older siblings and adults. A secondary inferiority feeling relates to an adult's experience of being unable to reach an unconscious, compensatory, fictional final goal of subjective security and success. The perceived distance from that goal would lead to a "minus" feeling, that could then prompt the recall of the original inferiority feeling; this composite of inferiority feelings could be experienced as overwhelming. The "catch-22" dilemma is that the goal invented to relieve the original, primary feeling of inferiority, actually causes the secondary feeling of inferiority. This vicious circle is common in neurotic life styles.
A superiority complex is an exaggerated feeling of being superior to others. It is a psychological defense mechanism in which feelings of superiority counter or conceal feelings of inferiority.