An inferiority complex – persistently doubting your self-worth or feeling that you are inadequate – can affect all parts of your life. Feeling less than others may overwhelm you, triggering abnormal behaviors or reactions, according to American Psychology Association. (1)
The good news: From therapy to meditation, there are ways to let go of your negative perspective on yourself so that it no longer rules your life.
How Can Psychotherapy Help Treat an Inferiority Complex?
Psychotherapy – talking with a supportive mental health professional who is neutral, objective, and nonjudgmental – is often effective at helping people with inferiority complex.
With this treatment, therapists work with individuals to reframe negative or damaging thoughts. Often the doubt, uncertainty, and feelings of not measuring up to others that a person with inferiority complex has are just false perceptions, which the clinician can help the patient identify and change, notes GoodTherapy. (2)
If your feelings of inferiority are due to an actual deficit, such as poor social skills, the therapist can help accept your limits as they are now, with self-compassion, and then help you to expand and develop the skills you need and desire.
Sometimes, an inferiority complex is sparked by trauma or abuse. Psychotherapy is a safe place for you to talk openly and confidentially about earlier experiences. Understanding the root causes of your current problems can help you develop better coping skills.
There are many different types of psychotherapy, each of which can be conducted in an individual, couple, or group setting. Sessions are typically held once a week for 45 to 50 minutes. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy benefit in some way. (3)
One Option: Therapy Based on the Man Who Gave Us ‘Inferiority Complex’
Adlerian therapy is a type of short-term psychotherapy centered on the theories of psychologist Alfred Adler, who developed the concept of an “inferiority complex” in the early 20th century. Adlerian therapy is insight-oriented, meaning that it zeroes in on the attitudes, beliefs, and actions that may be standing between you and your goals.
The Adlerian approach specifically focuses on exploring negative behavior patterns and beliefs that developed in childhood and then “reframing” them so that you have a better, more accurate perspective on your capabilities.
Additionally, Adlerian therapy promotes the concept of “values clarification.” Through various methods, a therapist helps the person understand what matters to them personally and how these values affect their decisions and actions.
There are four stages of Adlerian therapy, including: (4)
Engagement In this stage, a strong relationship is built between the therapist and the patient. They both decide to work together to solve a problem.
Assessment To better assess an individual’s situation, the therapist encourages the patient to talk about their family history, beliefs, feelings, motives, and early thought patterns.
Insight This stage is where the therapist works with the patient to develop new ways of thinking about their problems.
Reorientation The therapist supports the patient in implementing new insights, behaviors, or actions.
How to Find the Right Therapist for an Inferiority Complex
While there’s no “right” way to find a therapist, doing some research can help you in your search. Your primary care physician might be able to refer you to someone who specializes in helping people with low self-esteem.
You can also call your health insurance company and ask for phone numbers of professionals in your area who accept your insurance plan. Another option is to search online directories, such as the extensive ones at PsychologyToday.com, GoodTherapy.org, and Zencare.co. Each is searchable by specialty, insurance providers, gender, and more.
Before scheduling a meeting with a therapist, you may want to ask the following questions: (5,6)
Do you have experience treating patients with inferiority complex, also known as chronic low self-esteem?
If so, how much experience?
What other conditions do you treat?
What do you consider your area of expertise?
What is a typical session like?
Do you accept my health insurance plan?
What psychological philosophies and principals do you use in your therapy sessions?
Self-Care Strategies Can Help Boost Your Self-Esteem
Self-care is all about taking the time to tend to your own needs. When you do this, your overall mental health may improve. Some examples of self-care might include getting a massage or taking a warm bath. Simply setting aside time to do something just for you can help you refocus your thoughts.
Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising are also forms of self-care that could impact how you feel about yourself. (5)
One form of self-care is meditation, which involves focusing your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to your thoughts without judgment. Although it can be done at home and it costs nothing, meditation is recognized as a form of mind-body medicine that helps ease stress, along with the negative emotions and ideas that are the hallmark of an inferiority complex.
When scientists from Johns Hopkins University looked at 19,000 meditation studies, they discovered that mindful meditation may help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, both of which are associated with an inferiority complex, according to Harvard Health Publishing. (7)
There are many different types of meditation. As a start, you can give this a try:
Sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed.
Once you’re comfortable, turn your attention to your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly.
Notice the sounds around you, the sensations in your body, and your thoughts without judging them to be good or bad.
When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
Start with however long you can comfortably sit still and relax. It can be as little as one or two minutes. Aim to increase the number of minutes over time. Research on some forms of meditation have shown that 20 minutes a day is ideal for health benefits, per Harvard Health. (8)
Once you get used to basic meditation, you might want to combine it with body scanning:
After breathing deeply for a few minutes, begin focusing your attention on your toes, then move your attention slowly up your body.
Notice the various sensations you experience in each area, such as warmth, tension, or pain.
If you notice any pain or tension, try imagining breathing heat or relaxation into and out of that part of your body.
Another easy therapeutic technique you can try is journaling. Consistently writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you understand them more clearly. There are no rules to follow. You might choose to write a little synopsis of your day each night. Or you might carry a small notebook and pause for a few minutes to jot down your thoughts whenever you feel particularly distressed about something.
Alternatively, you could track all of your negative thoughts throughout the day to see if you can pinpoint any triggers, notes the University of Rochester Medical Center. (9)