My friend Jignesh Mehta is a 24-year-old MBA student. He feels very contemptuous towards his fellow students and thinks that he is the only student who is performing up to the mark. He feels livid when there is some assignment, which he cannot complete. He rushes into activities with the conviction that he will be the best. All his actions are self-serving only and often all of us suffer because of his actions. It has become very difficult to work with him on any project. He comes from a very humble background and is very touchy about that part of his life as if he cannot accept his roots. Often all of us have tried to make him realize that he has a superiority complex but he refuses to listen to us.
Jignesh is a classic case of the defensive “superiority complex”. His behavior is reflective of the tricks he uses to reassure himself of his importance. His arrogance smacks of the feeling – Other people are likely to overlook me. I must show them that I am somebody important. He gesticulates strongly as he feels that his words would not carry any weight if he did not emphasize them. There is a special kind of inferiority, which Jignesh suffers from and this calls for a special effort at concealment. To a certain degree, all of us experience feelings of inferiority, since we all find ourselves in situations we wish we could improve. If we keep our courage, we set about ridding ourselves of these inferiority feelings by the only direct, realistic and satisfactory means – that of improving the situation. No human being can bear a feeling of inferiority for long – they will be thrown into a state of stress that demands some kind of action. However, if they are discouraged, they imagine that they cannot make a realistic effort to improve the situation. They will struggle to get rid of the feelings of inferiority. The goals for Jignesh, instead of being superior to difficulties by overcoming obstacles becomes a persuasion or force the self to feel superior. Meanwhile his feelings of inferiority intensify because the situation that produces them remains unaltered. Since the root cause is still there, every step he take will lead him further into self-deception, and all the problems press upon him with greater and greater urgency. Even though his actions may appear aimless, not designed to improve the situation, he is striving for a feeling of adequacy, but has given up the hope of ever changing his situation. If he feels weak, he creates situation where he can feel strong. He trains himself not to be stronger or adequate but to appear stronger in his own eyes. His efforts to fool himself are only partially successful. However much he deceives himself, the real feelings of inferiority remain. They are the same old feelings of inferiority provoked by the same old situations. They constitute a permanent undercurrent of his psychological make-up. Here anger is as much an expression of his inferiority as tears or excuses. As feelings of inferiority always produce stress, there will always be a compensatory movement towards a feeling of superiority, but not directed towards solving the problem. This movement is thus towards a useless side of life. The real problem is shelved and put to one side.
What can help Jignesh?
The first is address the goal of superiority that seems to be driving all his behavior. If he were convinced that his declared goal of superiority was badly chosen, then he would change his activities. However, if the goal remained, whatever methods were changed, new methods would crop up to reach that goal. With a change of goal, his mental habits and attitudes would also change. He will no longer need the old habits and attitudes, and new ones, fitted to his new goal, will soon replace them. Help him recognize that he has taken the wrong turning in his search for superiority. It is not difficult if you recognize that the striving for superiority is common to everyone. Place yourself in his place and sympathize with his struggles. The mistake that Jignesh is making is that his strivings serve no purpose. Teach him that it is the striving for superiority that motivates every human being and is the source of his contribution. The whole of human life proceeds from below to above, from defeat to victory. Jignesh will be able to really meet and master the problems of life, if in his strivings he shows a tendency to enrich everyone else, forging ahead in such a way that others benefit too. If you approach Jignesh in the right way, you shall not find him hard to convince. Teach him that all human judgments of value and success are founded, in the end, upon co-operation; this is the great universal truth. He has only lost his courage to conduct his life in a way that makes his ideals, goals and actions serve the purpose of human co-operation. He has turned away from the real problems of life and is engaged in shadowboxing to reassure himself of his strength. Help him to combine a high degree of social interest in his goals of superiority. Every goal may involve some degree of mistakenness and there will always be something to criticize. However, co-operation with the society will ensure that his goals of superiority also benefit others. Do not make the mistake of asking him to reduce his goals, as the resultants feelings of inferiority are too overwhelming. They just need to be deflected onto working for the society and that should provide him with a satisfactory feeling. It would also reduce his feelings of inferiority as the higher goal of being able to better his situation and understanding his self-limitation are both served.