For the past several months, I’ve been struggling to reconcile my feelings about a friend. I am constantly flip-flopping between seeing her as the person whom I believed I was getting to know when we first met and the person whom she has been showing herself to be as of late.
Initially, the signs were rather subtle. I noticed her generally dismissive and condescending attitude towards one of our friends who had a little less than her. Next came the derogatory and particularly vicious comments about people we didn’t know personally. Finally, came the intrusive questions and comments about my income and finances. All of these particularly problematic behaviors seemed to point one culprit: she ranked the value of her friends and loved ones by how much they have and what they’ve accomplished. My friend’s treatment of people based on money and status definitely seemed like a complex.
According to Healthline, “A superiority complex is a behavior that suggests a person believes they’re somehow superior to others. People with this complex often have exaggerated opinions of themselves. They may believe their abilities and achievements surpass those of others.”
The concept of the superiority complex was first introduced by Psychologist Alfred Adler in the early twentieth century and what he found was that these heavily pronounced attitudes are a defense mechanism for feelings of insecurity and concerns about shortcomings.
“We should not be astonished if in the cases where we see an inferiority complex we find a superiority complex more or less hidden,” Adler explained. “On the other hand, if we inquire into a superiority complex and study its continuity, we can always find a more or less hidden inferiority complex.”
Liccensed professional counselor Nickia Lowery, MHS-C, NCC told Bustle, “A superiority complex is really a defense mechanism to what’s really going on with the person. 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.”
While a superiority complex is obviously an internal issue, being the friend or loved one of a person who struggles with these issues can be uncomfortable and frustrating. Here are a few ways to manage the relationship.
Recognize their behavior says more about them than it does you
When a person acts as though they are superior to you and others around them, it can trigger a variety of different feelings, ranging from annoyance to sadness. However, it’s important to remember that when a person carries themselves in this way, it is much more reflective of their character and how they feel about themselves than it is of you and your worth as a person.
Limit your interactions
People who hold such distorted feelings about themselves and others can be extremely difficult to deal with for long periods of time, so consider limiting your interactions with them. If you’re choosing to continue the relationships, set time limits for phone calls and visits. Sometimes, their negative behaviors will only manifest after an extended period of time.
Hold them accountable when necessary
Not everything requires a comment, but if you truly care about this person, accountability is important. When you see them acting out in a way that is wrong or highly offensive to others, call them out.
Stand up for yourself
You should not tolerate abuse or mistreatment, so if your loved one begins to direct their negative behaviors towards you or attempts to put you down, you should definitely speak up and set the necessary boundaries.
If negative interactions have become a regular part of your relationship and your loved one refuses to respect boundaries and deal with their personal issues, it may be time to end the relationship.