Posted in Live, Love

Inferiority Striving

I would rather have an inferiority complex and be pleasantly surprised, than have a superiority complex and be rudely awakened. (Vanna Bonta)

It is not often that I go looking for quotations to write about, but today I did. While there were many that I could have chosen, this one gets to the heart and mind of today’s post in a concise, humorous, and expansive way. It allows me to process a long past experience of increasing frustration that I have detached and learned from.

Although it is tempting to go into too much detail, I will refrain by stating that I had been been witnessing the unfortunate effects of an individual with an over-the-top communication style. Exceedingly loud, comedic, witty, phony, and intrusive in a way best-suited to a stand-up comedy show, this person was driving a few people mad.

While the style and content of the communication could be characterized as excessively charming and amusing (in themselves and for the effect they have on others who try to conceal their laughter and confusion), this could only be true in the smallest possible doses. The volume and repetition of the material, ill-suited to the role of the individual and environment, made this interpretation impossible.

While the reflective writer and counsellor in me want desperately to know and understand his story, what made him tick, I chose to remove myself from the situation entirely, feeling uncharitably disappointed and even angry that the situation persisted. With my communication to the only person with authority to make change going unheeded and the realization that “life is too short” and it is really none of my business, I exercised my personal power to walk away. I know from experience and instinct that it is only a matter of time until personalities collide and required change will come.

Putting on the reflective writer and counsellor hat, I admit that I am curious to know what led him to such desperate “inferiority striving” and an over-the-top need to be recognized by everyone at every possible second. I wonder about the very loud intellectualizing, verbose self-talk, and the nonsensical singing. I wonder about the very odd greetings and unwelcome replies to simple human exchanges that seemed to turn everyday people into stage props. I wonder about the lack of self- and other-awareness as people looked on in silence, stupefied, or winced as they personally experienced or witnessed the annoying repartee.

Not only do I want to understand the individual and, perhaps, if appropriate or timely, help him or someone like him in the future, I also want to understand myself. I want to acknowledge and understand my own intense reaction to this behaviour. I want to accept, empathize, and express loving care for him and for the scared, judged, and over-the-top and irritating “inferiority ‘striver’” in myself.

I want to make peace with all the times that I have worked harder or faster or acted bigger, louder, or funnier than was expected or appropriate. I want to release myself from unnecessarily Herculean efforts to “fit in” or be “discovered” by endeavouring to shine (garishly!) brighter than those around me or the setting I’m in.

As a perfectly imperfect “human bean” who is “stumbling along between the immensities of birth and death,” (a powerful quotation on a postcard I once saw hanging on a fridge), I am here to both lovingly detach and learn from my experience and that of others. Interacting with those “others” not only provides an opportunity to “walk my talk” as a counsellor,they reflect attributes of myself and my experience in loud, vibrant living colour.

While I know that this situation will resolve itself over time and I will be able to return to quieter and much more authentic times in this particular environment, I am grateful for this reflective, constructive, and emotional release. I am also thankful for the freedom and awareness to choose healthy detachment as well as the speculative insight it has provided as I continue to make my way in the world.

With love and laughs,


Kalen Marquis is the therapist, educator and human bean who founded Kwil.Club with frizzy-fuzzy, green-nosed Kwil. He is a registered clinical counsellor in private practice in New Westminster, BC. He has more than two decades of experience as a teacher, teacher-librarian and school counsellor.