7 Signs Someone May Have A Superiority Complex

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You may not realize it, but how you see yourself can affect the way you treat other people. For instance, when someone is happy with themselves and where they are in life, it's easier to be genuinely happy for others and their success. But if they're someone who's not where they'd like to be and they need to devalue other people in order to feel better about themselves, that's one of many signs that they may have a superiority complex.

"A superiority complex is really a defense mechanism to what's really going on with the person," licensed professional counselor, Nickia Lowery, MHS-C, NCC, tells Bustle. "When a person acts superior to another, they really feel that the other is a perceived threat. In some way they believe others will find out that they really are 'inadequate' and therefore behave in ways that make them feel like they are 'better' than the rest."

According to Lowery, this trait can start developing between the ages of five and 12. "At this stage of development a child is seeking acceptance and validation," Lowery says. "If this isn't navigated successfully, the person will then develop a sense of inferiority."

In other words, what they really have is an inferiority complex. Instead of choosing to fade into the background, people with superiority complexes may need to overcompensate for what they lack. Many times, they'll do this by engaging in behaviors that are hurtful to other people. "Emotionally and mentally healthy people do not engage in activities that hurt others period," Lowery says. "So someone who acts in this manner is really in pain emotionally."

Here are some things that can mean someone may have a superiority complex, according to experts.

1. They Constantly Seeking Validation

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When someone has a superiority complex, their sense of self-worth will come from outside sources. They only feel good enough or worthy enough if others see them as much. As Myles Scott, dating and transformation coach, tells Bustle, it's all about "hunting for a supply to fill the void within." Unfortunately, one validating comment won't be able to sustain them for long. So they're never really happy with themselves for too long.

2. It's Hard For Them To Own Up To Their Mistakes

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"Those who feel superior can’t take responsibility as it would contradict their false identity," Scott says. When you're not happy or at peace with who you truly are, the tendency is to hide behind a "perfect" version of yourself that you think others will like. Owning up to your mistakes means recognizing that you're not perfect. When someone has a superiority complex, that would just ruin the illusion.

3. They Compare Themselves To Others A Lot

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Because their sense of self-worth is based off other people, someone with a superiority complex has a habit of comparing themselves to those around them. As they compare themselves to others, Scott says their subconscious mind tells them they're not enough or that they're lacking in some way.

4. They're Prone To Mood Swings

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"Due to the fact that someone with a superiority complex often battles with juggling their contradictory ‘personalities’, they tend to have extreme mood swings," Adina Mahalli, MSW, certified mental health professional with Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. They can sometimes go from feeling entirely inferior to convincing themselves that they're superior. Because of that, you can't always anticipate how they're going to behave. It changes based on how they're feeling about themselves.

5. They Have A Tendency To Make Things All About Them

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When someone has a superiority complex, they can sometimes come off as self-centered. According to Lowery, some might challenge the beliefs and ideas of others in a way that communicates they have all the "right" answers. They may even devalue the accomplishments of others by one-upping them with their own accomplishments. For example, if a co-worker did a great job during a presentation, the person with the superiority complex might say something along the lines of, "That was good, but I noticed people were more engaged during mine."

6. They Have A Sense Of Entitlement

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"A superiority complex can be another way of saying 'entitlement,'" Dr. Cali Estes, Ph.D founder of The Addictions Academy, tells Bustle. "This type of individual believes that others are beneath them, whether it be financially, economically, socially, even intellectually." Many times, this type of thinking stems from being given everything as a child. They may not have come from a nurturing and affectionate home, but one where their parents gave them everything so they can just be "happy." When they didn't get what they wanted, they would throw a tantrum until they did. According to Dr. Estes, they learned early on that they can treat any individual the way they want, and get what they want.

7. They Like Things To Be Under Their Control

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If you're around someone who has a superiority complex and you don't act the way they expect, they might get mean. That's because they like feeling in control. "When you don’t behave as expected, they can become aggravated and unsettled," Mahalli says. They usually strive for leadership positions at work. When they become the boss, they act in ways that make their employees fear them rather than respect them.

Having a superiority complex doesn't always make someone a bad person. Like Lowery says, it's usually a result of emotional pain. For some, therapy can help them work through their feelings of inferiority so they don't have to act out in ways that hurt themselves and others. It's very possible to overcome these feelings. They just need to be willing to self-reflect and make positive internal changes.