The Body Language of an Inferiority Complex

In this very interesting article, discover the body language associated to an inferiority complex.
The Body Language of an Inferiority Complex
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 21 February, 2022

You don’t always need words to express yourself. Your body language and facial expressions constantly communicate with those around you. One great example of that is the body language of an inferiority complex. Although you might try to hide it, your body has many ways to tell other people that you don’t have a very good opinion of yourself.

The body language associated with an inferiority complex has an important social impact. Even if you’ve never read about or studied body language, you’re trained to interpret it. In fact, although this interpretation is usually unconscious, it determines the way you see others and how you relate to them.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt-

In other words, the body language of an inferiority complex makes others think that you don’t love yourself. That perception activates behaviors that respond to the poor opinion of yourself you’re projecting. Consequently, they’ll see you how you see yourself, inferior, and they’ll act accordingly.

But what kind of body language is associated with an inferiority complex? Below, we explain the most common gestures.

A woman covering her face with her hands.

Making yourself small

Instinctively, animals try to make themselves smaller when they feel that they’re at a disadvantage with another animal. They try to shrink down and look for a way to make themselves small to avoid being seen.

Humans do something similar. Our version of shrinking down is more like retreating into our shells. This is a very typical gesture of someone who feels inferior to others.

It usually manifests itself as hunching over. The person’s back curves downward, in on itself. It happens while they’re walking or sitting. It’s quite noticeable, even if it stops with an inclination of the head. In fact, bows or curtseys are just that, lowering yourself in front of a “superior”.

Crossing your arms

This goes hand in hand with making yourself smaller. People with an inferiority complex often try to create shields to isolate themselves or protect their bodies. It’s an expression of a defensive attitude, self-protection, and a way to mark your territory. It belies a strong sense of inferiority.

Crossing your arms in front of your chest is a way of putting a defensive barrier between you and the rest of the world. Crossing your legs is a way of making yourself smaller and closing yourself off. It implies that you’re trying to protect yourself from someone or something that’s more powerful than you.

Small movements

When your sense of inferiority dominates, you feel that you should move quietly so that no one notices you. You don’t want to “bother” anyone with your presence. If you feel inadequate, you might assume that your mere presence makes other people feel uncomfortable. In other words, you try to not make yourself known because you feel ashamed when people acknowledge you.

From a body language standpoint, all of this manifests as a persistent tendency to make small, short movements. You take short steps, make small hand motions, and say small sentences. The unconscious goal of these behaviors is to avoid being noticed.

A nervous man.

Power poses

Psychologist Amy Cuddy, author of the book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, argues that science has identified a very interesting body language phenomenon. She states that your posture notably influences how you think and feel. The opposite is also true. Thus, the more you use the body language of inferiority, the more inferior you’ll feel.

Cuddy proposes doing the opposite. She states that, when you feel insecure or you lack confidence, you should try a power pose. Her theory suggests that a two-minute pose is enough to start changing the negative thoughts that you have about yourself.

Therefore, in moments of stress or fear, it’s a good idea to change your pose. Cuddy suggests standing with your chest lifted, head held high, and arms either up or propped on your hips. According to her, this increases your testosterone levels and makes you feel empowered.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • James, J. (2003). El lenguaje corporal: proyectar una imagen positiva. Paidós.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.