getting started

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Inferior: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Dec 23rd, 2020 & UPDATED ON Jan 26th, 2023

When we’re feeling inferior, it’s usually a result of comparing ourselves to other people and feeling like we don’t measure up. And let’s be real, it happens all. the. damn. time. You could be scrolling through your Instagram feed, notice a new picture of someone you follow and think: Wow, how do they always look so perfect?! No amount of filters will make me look like that! Or maybe you show up to a party and you quickly realize you’re in a room full of accomplished people with exciting lives, and the thought of introducing yourself sends you into a panic. Suddenly, you’re glancing at the door and wondering what your best escape plan is. You could be meeting your partner’s family for the first time and you’re worried that you won’t fit in, or that they’ll think you’re not good enough. You might feel easily intimidated by other people and constantly obsess over what they think of you, even though it’s beyond your control.

Feeling inferior messes with your head, big time. It affects our self worth and makes us question our abilities. Not to mention, it can make us feel really alone. But we’re here to tell you that’s not the case! You’re not the only one who feels inferior now and then, and we’re here to help you work through this emotion.

A Deeper Look at Feeling Inferior

What does it mean to feel inferior? Well, Dictionary.com has a few definitions. The one that relates closest to feeling inferior includes: “adj. less important, valuable, or worthy.” Yeppp, they hit the nail on the head, wouldn’t ya say?

We can feel inferior for lots of reasons. Maybe a coworker gets the promotion you really wanted, and you start to question your skills and abilities. Or when someone breaks up with you, it can make you wonder why you weren’t good enough. You might compare yourself to a sibling who seems to get all of the praise from your parents, and you feel like your achievements aren’t as important. But is it because we’re ACTUALLY inferior, or is this just what we tell ourselves as a sort of sick punishment for not meeting our own expectations?

You’ve probably heard of a superiority complex before, where people think they’re better than everyone else. But did you know there’s also an inferiority complex? It’s true! When we have chronic low self-esteem, we can develop an inferiority complex where you feel that all of your negative self-talk and self doubt is totally justifiable. Even at your lowest point, this complex causes you to pick yourself apart and obsess over any shortcomings. Yeahhh, not the best complex to have!

When we feel inferior, sometimes we experience something called a self-fulfilling prophecy. You critique yourself to the point where you actually expect to fail, which only leads to more disappointment. It becomes a vicious cycle that’s hard to break!

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Remember this quote whenever you feel inferior to help reframe your mindset. You get to be in control here, no one else! Isn’t that empowering?!

How Feeling Inferior Shows Up Mentally

Feeling inferior can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. Here’s a few signs you might notice mentally as you’re going through this emotion:

– Low self-esteem

– Feeling insecure, incomplete, unworthy

– Comparing yourself to others

– Easily hostile, irritable, frustrated

– Feeling highly competitive

– Difficulty accepting mistakes or failure

– Perfectionism and sensitivity to criticism

This feeling can come and go. It’s something we all experience from time to time, especially if we’re in a new group of people or a situation that’s unfamiliar to us. Usually, it passes as soon as we feel more comfortable or learn ways to cope with our feelings of inferiority. But if you’re struggling to get through these feelings on your own, getting help from a mental health professional can be really useful! We don’t want these negative feelings to hold you back or affect your quality of life long-term.

How Feeling Inferior Shows Up Physically

Just like it affects your mental health, feeling inferior can show physical symptoms, too. Here are some ways you might experience:

– Withdrawing socially

– Unable to complete tasks

– Difficulty sleeping/insomnia

Feeling inferior might make us more closed off, which only ends up in us isolating even more. We might have a hard time getting through our regular routine but we won’t ask for help from others. The stress and overwhelming feelings can also lead to a weakened immune system, chest pain and muscle tension. If these symptoms persist and are difficult to manage, they could be a sign of anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders. We recommend seeking the help of a mental health professional if your daily life becomes impacted. 

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Inferior

Don’t worry! We have some coping strategies for you that will help you work through your feelings. Try ‘em out and see for yourself!

1. Engage in compassionate self talk

When we feel inferior, we tend to pick ourselves apart and be really hard on ourselves. Don’t fall into the trap of being your own worst critic! Instead, build your self confidence and self esteem by saying some positive things to yourself which resonate with you: I’m feeling inferior right now, but I know my worth. I’m not defined by my credentials, my possessions or my appearance. I am whole.

2. Reach out for support or connect with a friend

Just like the Beatles song goes: I get by with a little help from my friends! Reach out to someone you can trust and who will be there for you. You might feel inferior now, but it doesn’t mean you have to navigate it alone! Get all of those negative feelings off your chest. Having someone there to validate our feelings can be so helpful!

3. Give yourself a pep talk and utilize a helpful statement

Comparing ourselves to other people just brings down our mood and makes us feel like garbage. Sometimes, we gotta give ourselves a little pep talk in order to turn those negative thoughts around. I feel inferior right now, but I can get through this! I’m not the only person who has felt this way, and I won’t be the last. Everything is gonna be okay!

4. Comfort yourself like a friend

If you don’t have anyone who can be there for you at this moment, that’s okay. You can be there for yourself! Think about how you would want a loved one to comfort you in this moment. Give yourself a pat on the back, treat yourself to some junk food, cuddle up on the couch with a warm, fuzzy blanket and binge your favourite show on Netflix. Be the friend you need right now!

5. Journal

This isn’t like homework, we promise. Write down exactly how you’re feeling, even the dark and twisty thoughts you don’t wanna confront. That way, you can gain the clarity to reframe and counter those negative thoughts. Try jotting down all the things you like about yourself, or what sets you apart from others (in a good way). You’ll probably fill pages and pages, trust us.

Well, there you have it. We hope this helps you work through feeling inferior and reminds you that you’re not alone! ‘Cause we think you’re pretty awesome as you are.

Read More: Online Therapy 101, How to Get the Most Value From Your Therapy Appointments,