Website owner:  James Miller

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Lack of confidence, the inferiority complex --- the causes

   Lack of confidence, the inferiority complex.  A great many 
   people suffer from them.  What causes them?  One interesting 
   observation I have made over the years is that the people with 
   all sorts of confidence in themselves are not always the most 
   intelligent.  As I have gotten to know, over the years, various 
   people who seemed to abound in confidence I have come to 
   realize that they often lacked seriously in good judgment and 
   good sense, weren't especially knowledgeable, and that they 
   were sometimes very ignorant, foolish people.  On the other 
   hand I have known people with PhD degrees in physics who were 
   severely crippled with lack of confidence and inferiority 
   feelings.  A person with a PhD degree in Physics cannot be 
   stupid.  Just too much of a high intellectual order is required 
   to understand the concepts encountered.  So what causes these 
   complexes?  I think of a few things: 

      1. Odd weaknesses and inabilities that a person may have 
      that he becomes increasingly sensitive about.  He builds 
      them up in his mind; he makes them into much bigger things 
      than they really are; he worries about them far in excess of 
      what their importance merits. 

      2. Trying to do hard things; setting hard tasks for oneself; 
      having high standards for oneself; having high expectations 
      for oneself.  The person who is abounding in self-confidence 
      is often just a person who has never expected anything of 
      himself, has never attempted to do anything really 
      difficult, and is as a consequence very happy and content 
      with himself.  He does easy things, avoids hard things, sees 
      life superficially, and is very content with all that.  The 
      person with the inferior feelings is often the person with 
      unreasonably high objectives and standards and expectations 
      for himself; who is always setting for himself very 
      difficult or impossible tasks; who ignores easy tasks and 
      focuses on the difficult; who is always digging beneath the 
      surface  of things.  This fellow, because of what he 
      habitually focuses on, is always experiencing frustration 
      and anxiety.  And because of the impossibly high goals these 
      people set for themselves, the impossibly high standards and 
      expectations they have for themselves, they are never able 
      to just relax, enjoy themselves and be content.  They are 
      never able to really like themselves.  They never are able 
      to come up to their own expectations of themselves. 

      3. Focusing so intently on difficult tasks that one has 
      committed himself to that he loses sight of the forest for 
      the trees, that he loses that important mental and emotional 
      balance that tells us what is important is life and what 
      isn't; that sense of just how important one thing is 
      relative to other things (unimportant things take on a lot 
      of importance to you and important things are forgotten and 
      lost sight of).  Because he gets so involved and wrapped up 
      in detail he loses sight of the whole and loses his 
      perspective and balance. 

   And then there is another phenomenon that may come into the 
   picture.  The person suddenly realizes he has problems and 
   becomes scared.  He becomes like a bird caught in a net.  He 
   starts struggling frantically to get out and the more he 
   struggles the more ensnared he becomes.  He becomes obsessed 
   with himself and his problems.  All his time and energy becomes 
   taken up with trying to find his way out of the trap he has 
   found himself in.  Fear and imagination take over his mind and 
   he starts imagining all kinds of horrid and tragic scenarios.  
   He sees himself fired from job after job; he sees himself 
   rejected, scorned, laughed at; he sees himself dragged off to 
   mental institutions.  As fear and insecurity take over his mind 
   and become more and more obsessional his problems get worse and 

   Dec 1986

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