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11 Examples of Superiority Complex

A superiority complex is a character trait or pattern of behavior whereby an individual deeply believes they are superior to others. This manifests as little need for validation from others and behavior that may be perceived as arrogant. The following are illustrative examples.

Inferiority Complex

An inferiority complex is the opposite of a superiority complex whereby an individual fears that are inferior to others. This can manifest as trying to impress others, signaling and placing a high value on social status.

External Validation

A superiority complex doesn't stem from a sense of inferiority but rather from confidence. Whereas inferiority complex may generate bold displays of confidence designed to impress others -- superiority complex may be unconcerned about what others think as they need little or no external validation.

Defense Mechanism

A superiority complex was historically viewed as a defense mechanism designed to protect a fragile self-image. Modern theories dispute this but rather view it as actual feelings of superiority that aren't simply overcompensating for feelings of inferiority.

Imagination & Emotion

Superiority complex can stem from positive emotions whereby an individual imagines themselves accomplishing great things or as having superior characteristics.

Arrogant Behavior

A tendency to be overbearing, dismissive and generally arrogant is a primary manifestation of superiority complex. Individuals with superiority complex may be indifferent to the backlash this creates. Alternatively, they may learn to suppress this type of behavior as a matter of adaptation and learning.

Talent & Strength

Superiority complex can stem from illusory superiority or actual talents and strengths. For example, a talented athlete or individual who has had a successful academic career who demonstrates overbearing behavior with little need for external validation.


Overestimating one's own talents and abilities such that an individual is willing to take on tasks that are over their head.


Overconfidence can result in learning experiences and resilience whereby the individual with superiority complex may become talented and capable with time. In other words, their willingness to jump in and try things can result in valuable experience. This may also lead to many painful failures.

Social Dominance

Individuals with an inferiority complex often promote themselves and may try hard to achieve social status. Individuals with a superiority complex may not try hard to impress others and this can be problematic in social situations. Nevertheless, many of these individuals will thrive socially due to valuable traits such as confidence and their indifference to criticism. For example, it may be reasonably common for leaders to have a superiority complex.


Self-righteousness is a boorish type of superiority complex whereby an individual feels morally superior to others. This creates preachy behavior as opposed to industriousness.


Humility is the practice of viewing yourself in a realistic light and accepting that you depend on others. This is the opposite of both inferiority complex and superiority complex whereby an individual will realize that some people are less talented and other more talented than themselves and accept this fact with peace.


Society as a whole no doubt benefits from having many different types of personality. Whereas different personalities and behaviors are often pathologized, there is also natural variation in behavior. It may well be that the world would be stagnant if everyone were perfectly humble.

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Adler, Alfred. "Individual psychology." (1930).
Hoorens, Vera. "Self-enhancement and superiority biases in social comparison." European review of social psychology 4.1 (1993): 113-139.

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