Narcissism Or Superiority Complex?

The topic of the week is “Narcissism”. This term is not foreign to our ears and is widely used nowadays. I was curious to find the exact definition and what encompasses narcissism. This whole quest raised a common question: Is Narcissism and Superiority Complex the same thing with different names? Or are these two different concepts? This post is an attempt to answer these questions.

Narcissism Vs. Superiority Complex:

Narcissism is defined as the state where a person has overestimated his own importance. And feels that he is much better than everyone else. It is a mental disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A person suffering from this disorder constantly craves other’s attention and has the need to remain the center of attention. This superior self-image will make the person self-obsessed. A narcissistic person will often ignore or undermine other’s feelings, thinking that whatever they are feeling is less important than himself and his feelings.

On the other hand, the superiority complex rises from a deep sense of insecurity. Unlike narcissism, the person has a poor self-image. A person suffering from a superiority complex will act as if he is superior to you. But actually feels much inferior. There is no inflated ego involved here as compared to narcissism.

A narcissistic person fails to perceive reality. His superior self-image makes it difficult for him to relate to others. The person will feel that he is unique or special and others don’t deserve his attention or time. Narcissists often struggle in relationships as they cannot show empathy to their partners and fail to understand their needs. Moreover, narcissism is extremely difficult to treat as the person will deny having a mental illness of any kind.

On the flip side, people with superiority complex don’t acknowledge reality. They are well-aware of their shortcomings. Yet will try to bring others down by boasting about their non-existent qualities or achievements. Such kind of people will emotionally abuse others to make themselves feel better. They thrive on bringing others down.

Narcissism will give you false sense of superiority.
Narcissism will give you false sense of superiority.

Causes and Treatment:

The exact cause of narcissistic behavior is unknown. But traumas of past, environmental factors, and social lives are the possible factors. Some studies show that it can also happen due to genetic causes. However, further studies are required to determine all the possible aspects.

Similarly, the causes of the superiority complex are unknown. But may involve multiple factors. When a person fails multiple times to achieve his goals, he will try to overcome the sense of failure by pretending that goals don’t matter. He may use it as a defense mechanism to avoid anxiety and depression. Most people develop a superiority complex in earlier years. But it may also develop in later years of life.

However, both of the above conditions are treatable. Professional intervention and adequate treatment will help the person navigate reality. Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the recommended treatment plan for treating both narcissistic personality disorder and superiority complex.

Warning Signs:

Some common signs of narcissists are following:

  • Superior self-image.
  • The constant need for admiration and attention.
  • Desiring acknowledgment for the things which they never did.
  • Constant boasting about their achievements.
  • Believe that they are much better than the people around them and deserve to live with special persons.
  • They constantly dream and crave power, fame, success, and control.
  • They have the desire to be completely accepted and their decisions to be accepted without any question.
  • Narcissists will often belittle other’s emotions and thoughts.
  • They will try to get what they want at any cost.
  • Inability to empathize or even sympathize with others.
  • Unable to handle criticism and react violently or aggressively if criticized.

Signs of a person suffering from superiority complex are:

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Thoughts of self-deprecation and unworthiness.
  • Pretending to be better than everyone else.
  • Constantly trying to bring others down.
  • Feeling of joy upon other’s failure.
  • Pretending that their own failures don’t bother them and they are much above them.
  • Inflexibility and stubbornness i.e. will stick to their opinions.
  • The need to be perfect at everything.
  • Disagreements from others will make the person defensive and hostile.
  • Jealous of other’s success and achievements.


Reading the above signs may make you feel that at least some of them do exist in you but don’t fret. Some signs of narcissism such as self-esteem and desiring success are completely normal for a human being. In fact, are required to function in life. But as the saying goes “excess of everything is bad”. If you are becoming self-obsessed then it is time to step back and re-evaluate your behavior. Get help if you see some clear warning signs.

On contrary, the superiority complex will make it difficult for you to navigate life. It may seem like an excellent defense. But will leave you alone and isolated in the long-run. Life is too short to be stuck on failures. Let it go and try to move on. Acknowledge your shortcomings and work on improving yourself. Seeking professional help will give you a clearer view of life.


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