What it means when you think you’re better than others

Have you ever heard someone say the term ‘superiority complex’?

Maybe someone has said you have one or you’ve even told someone they have it!

Either way, this is what people have when they think they are better than others. 

But why do people think they’re better than others? In this article, I’ll share what you need to know about this complex.

The trap of thinking you’re better than others

First things first, thinking you’re better than others is a dangerous trap to find yourself in, and it’s harmful to you and others!

I won’t beat around the bush, if someone thinks that they’re better than other people then it’s likely they have a superiority complex.

I’ve been that person.

I used to think that I was better than everyone else in my hometown.

This was because I’d flown the nest and started my own independent life. 

As I was living a cosmopolitan life and having what I deemed ‘interesting’ experiences, such as going to fancy events, I looked down on the slow life they were living.

I thought people in my hometown lacked ambition and were just downright boring.

It was like this for years, until I moved back home again to live with my mom after a breakup.

It was for a temporary time while I got myself together again, and during this time it was pretty uncomfortable.

Initially, I thought: what the heck am I doing here? I’m better than this!

And… I won’t lie: It was like this for about six months.

I wouldn’t let my ego go, and to let myself surrender to my circumstances.

I still told myself that I was better than everyone else and this place was a dump.

Truth is, I was telling myself this to protect my ego.

I needed to tell myself that I was better than other people to feel good about myself.

So what changes?

I became humble during the time I was at home again, and I realized that the people that lived here were happy.

What’s more, I came to terms with the fact we all like different things and who was to say that my way was the best way?

In fact, having spent time in my hometown with people my age, I realized they couldn’t think of anything worse than living in a city.

They told me they thought they were so lucky to live out in nature and to not be surrounded by loads of people.

It was a real perspective shift, as I’d not seen things like this at all.

Best of all, I felt better when I didn’t see myself as being better than someone else

It felt good to recognize that my way of living isn’t ‘better’; it’s just what I prefer to do.

To the next person, my way of living in the big city was utter hell!

Understanding a superiority complex

So a bit more on this ego I’ve spoken of…

…A superiority complex is something our egos use to protect us because we possibly have low self-esteem.

I’ll be honest: it was probably true in my case. 

It could also be that a person actually has a sense of inferiority.

In other words, people who think they’re better than others are trying to hide behind the fact that they’re fundamentally suffering from feeling bad about themselves.

This isn’t just my theory: psychologists have written about this.

In an article about what a superiority complex is, Healthline.com explains

“Psychologist Alfred Adler first described the superiority complex in his early 20th century work. He outlined that the complex is really a defense mechanism for feelings of inadequacy that we all struggle with.

“In short, people with a superiority complex frequently have boastful attitudes to people around them. But these are merely a way to cover up feelings of failure or shortcoming.”

What’s more, they share a few ways to tell if someone has a superiority complex. 

  • high valuations of self-worth
  • boastful claims that aren’t backed up by reality
  • attention to appearance, or vanity
  • overly high opinion of one’s self
  • a self-image of supremacy or authority
  • unwillingness to listen to others
  • overcompensation for specific elements of life
  • mood swings, often made worse by contradiction from another person
  • underlying low self-esteem or feelings of inferiority

Essentially, people who think they’re better than others have an exaggerated sense of self-worth!

I’m sorry, you’re not special 

This is a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s not meant to be offensive.

You see, it’s not just about you specifically.

Instead, this is a truth that goes for all of us.

None of us are special… Let me explain.

Just as Justin Brown says: statistically speaking, you’re not unique.

As he says in this free online video:  

YouTube video

“There are around 7 billion humans on this planet. Out of those 7 billion human beings, how many are special and unique? Every single one of them, right? But if everyone of us was special, doesn’t it mean that none of us are special and unique? It’s just not natural to think of ourselves as special and unique.”

Take a second to read that again!

It was a mic drop moment for me when I heard this. I rewinded it numerous times and a penny dropped for me.

Can you see the logic in what he says? If everyone is supposed to be unique then it means none of us can be unique. 

He makes another really key point: 

When we feel like we’re special and unique, it keeps us trapped in loneliness and disconnection too. 

What does he mean?

Well, he says: when you focus on what makes you special, you get a good feeling when thinking about your qualities and achievements. 

For example, you can think about how he’s achieved things on your own and you are special for that particular quality.

But, he asks: what about when you experience challenges in life? Like getting fired or experiencing a relationship breakdown.

Because we’ve internalized the belief that we are special, he suggests that we quite naturally think that we are unique in experiencing that particular issue and we turn inwards and go through the pain of the situation all alone.

As a result, he says that the pain of loneliness becomes acute.

On the flipside, he highlights that in earlier times when we lived in communities, we thought in terms of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’…

…He says: when we faced up to our challenges, we did it with the support of others and came to other peoples’ aid.

Now, he says that we don’t need to wait for society to evolve to experience the benefits of community.

So what should we do?

Justin suggests we let go of the belief that we’re special and unique, and instead focus on what we have in common with the people around us.

In other words, search for the things that unite us rather than looking at what divides us.

How to deal with someone who thinks they’re better than others 

Do you have someone in your life who acts like they’re better than others?

Maybe they turn their nose up at things you suggest, and make comments about your life decisions.

Odds are, you’re bound to come across someone in your life who behaves like this.

You see, many people can have low self-worth and can be insecure

…And as I’ve explained: insecurities can manifest as acting like you’re superior and better than others.

But how can you deal with someone like this?

WikiHow has a few tips. In response to how to deal with friends who they think are better than you, they explain:

“Try not to think about what your friends will think about every little decision you make in your life. Chances are, they will put you down whether you try to accommodate them or not, so don’t worry about it. Do what makes you happy and don’t worry about getting anyone else’s approval.”

In other words, they suggest that you should put your needs first.

What’s more, they suggest that you act unimpressed when this person starts telling you about all of their achievements.

This doesn’t mean putting someone down (like this person might do to you), but instead not telling your friend that they’re the best thing ever…

…And acting like they’re superior to you.

They explain: 

“Snobs thrive off of other people’s willingness to accept that they are inferior to them. If you drool over their expensive clothes or praise them excessively for their accomplishments, you’re only fueling their feelings of superiority.”

So, instead of fueling them… Instead just play it cool.

And remember that this person has the issue if they’re feeling like they need to show off and make others feel inferior! 

But there is something else to consider. 

WikiHow adds:

“If your friends are genuinely more knowledgeable about a topic than you are, it’s fine to be respectful of their knowledge, but if they are acting so superior that they refuse to let you contribute to the conversation, you need to stand up for yourself.”

What does this mean for you? 

Use your intuition and judgment to see and feel whether this person might be trying to put you down and act like they’re superior! 

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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