According to Adler, people who feel inferior go about their days overcompensating through what he called “striving for superiority.” The only way these inwardly uncertain people can feel happy is by making others decidedly unhappy. To Adler, this striving for superiority lies at the core of neurosis.
We now think of this striving for superiority as a feature of narcissistic personality disorder, that deviation in normal development that results in a person’s constant search to boost self-esteem. The two kinds of narcissists are the grandiose (who feel super-entitled) and the vulnerable (who, underneath the bravado, feel weak and helpless). Some may argue that at their core, both types of narcissists have a weak sense of self-esteem, but the grandiose narcissist may just be better at the cover-up. In either case, when you’re dealing with someone who’s making you feel inferior, there’s a good chance that narcissism is the culprit.
- The insecure person tries to make you feel insecure yourself.
When you start to question your own self-worth, is it typically around a specific person or type of person? Is that individual always broadcasting his or her strengths? If you don’t feel insecure in general, but only around certain people, it’s likely they’re projecting their insecurities onto you.
- The insecure person needs to showcase his or her accomplishments.
You don’t necessarily have to feel insecure around someone to conclude that inferiority is at the heart of their behavior. People who are constantly bragging about their great lifestyle, their elite education, or their fantastic children may very well be doing so to convince themselves that they really do have worth.
- The insecure person drops the “humble brag” far too often.
The humble brag is a brag disguised as a self-derogatory statement. You’ve all seen these on Facebook, when an acquaintance complains about all the travel she has to take (due to the importance of her job), or all the time he has to spend watching his kids play (and, by the way, win) hockey games. (The “Facebook gloat” is a bold-faced brag which is easier to spot but may very well have the same roots.)