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Uzoamaka Okafor: 5 Ways We Exhibit Inferiority Complex



To avoid confusion at any point in this article, and to educate those of us who do not know the meaning, let me start this article by referencing Wikipedia’s suggested meaning of inferiority complex.

An inferiority complex consists of a lack of self-esteem, a doubt and uncertainty about oneself, and feelings of not measuring up to standards. It is often subconscious and is thought to drive afflicted individuals to overcompensate, resulting either in spectacular achievement or extremely asocial behaviour.

As Nigerians (and Africans), we feel less than the “White Man.” The “White Man” in question doesn’t refer to only the Caucasians, but to every other category of humans who do not share our skin colour, hair texture, and accent. We all fall prey to this cancer, one way or the other. So you accidentally still catch yourself staring at a white person while they pass. This same white person you have given preference to in your choice of movies and music. What still amazes you? The hair or the skin colour or the voice texture? What, really? So you tell yourself: never again will I get lost even for a split second staring at a white person. But the next time you go to Shoprite and see one of them, you stare again. Do they stare at our siblings in diaspora? I often wonder. If they do, is it in admiration as we do or as a security measure.

There are so many ways we express inferiority complex, ranging from language to religion, entertainment choices to food preferences. If a list has to be made, I fear it may be inexhaustible. But let me pick on a few.

Most times we feel to attain some level of “tushness,” we have to speak even better than the purveyors of the language. So most times we roll our tongues adding ‘r’ where there isn’t, till we don’t even understand what accent we’re trying to imitate. We’re all trying to learn Mandarin or Spanish or German or French, but can’t speak our native languages.

It’s very good to learn different languages, but while you’re at it, perfect yours. Some of us are so good at foreign languages that we now teach the owners of the language, but can’t carry on a conversation no matter how simple in our native languages. “I wasn’t born in the village,” is one of the commonest excuses people give when asked why they can’t speak their native language. You weren’t born in England or France or Italy, either, so why are you proficient in those other languages?

The inferiority poses by language have become so strong that people fight themselves over languages that aren’t even theirs. Cameroon, for example, is divided based on language. So we have the French speakers and the English speakers. From time to time, fights spring up between these two groups. In recent times, the killings going in on Cameroon can be classified as genocide. Among other things, they are divided by languages not originally theirs.

As much as I understand this is a very sensitive topic, it still has to be discussed. Statistics show that Nigeria has the highest number of churches. Even Europe, which brought Christianity to us, can’t boast of half the churches founded here. Perhaps we need salvation more than others. In addition, most people found churches here, but would rather establish its headquarters outside Africa. What else would make it truly international? It’s a marketing strategy that has worked exceedingly well in church ministry. A similar situation can be said of the Muslims, too. As our neighbours, the Cameroonians, are torn apart by language, we’re torn apart by religion. You find Muslims treat Christians with great contempt because they’re ‘infidels’, and vice versa.

Food choices
This may seem funny or of insignificant consequence but have you ever wondered why when you go to a ‘fancy’ restaurant instead of picking foods with names you can pronounce you don’t, and half the time you purge till you’re certain you don’t have intestines anymore. Ok, I get it. Variety is the spice of life. But please next time you fry potatoes or you want to order for one, just say fried potato chips instead of French fries.

Even now natural hair is in vogue, it’s best left to the imagination how much money is spent on hair and hair products in this country. After years of futile attempts to get our hair to look like that of the Whites, we decided to start wearing their hair.

This one hurts me! There are a lot of people walking around with names they don’t know its meaning talk less of its origin. I really don’t get why people name their children what they have no idea what it means. Our cultural names are laced with the most beautiful meanings. The beauty of a native name is that it gives the giver of the name the opportunity to tell a story or predict a beautiful life for its owner. But no, we prefer foreign names.

There are a host of other ways we express inferiority complex. The lack of confidence we have in ourselves has become a tool for others to use against us. Expatriates come here and treat us terribly in our country. We’d gladly answer ‘sir’ to white skinned people even when we’re better qualified than they are.

Recently, I read somewhere that a certain Indian company in Lagos or so was sacking employees who failed to become Hindi. It’s a known fact that most of these multi-national companies in Nigeria do not treat Nigerians well even on Nigerian soil. Little is left to the imagination on how Nigerians in diaspora are treated.

As Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would say,

If you say you be colonial man
You don be slave man before
Them don release you now
But you never release yourself
I say you fit never release yourself

We should all purge ourselves of this shallow mindset and treat each other and ourselves with respect. If we don’t value ourselves, how will someone else value us?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Uzoamaka Okafor is a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she studied Religion and Sociology. She has extensive experience writing about lifestyle, beauty, healthcare and wellness. When she's not writing, she's probably reading or hosting classes on writing and freelancing. If musicians were a drink, a mix of Hillsong Worship, Jon Bellion and Chike would be her favourite cocktail.


  1. Smile

    December 14, 2018 at 4:38 pm


  2. Ajala & Foodie

    December 14, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    I actually see many loop holes with this write up. First language, it is not inferiority that makes people learn mandarin, German or French, for many it is about opportunities i.e career opportunities. The ability to speak any of the aforementioned languages including English, we all know gives you an edge in the corporate world. Sadly, yoruba and hausa does not count in the global corporate world. I get the fake accents and unnecessary placements of r’s and h’s but placing a higher priority on learning another language over learning an indigenous language equals feeling inferior? (Naaah I don’t agree). I want to learn another globally used language because I know it will open more doors for me in my career. It does not mean I think less of my indigenous Nigerian language. Our plan is to send our kid to an immersion school at 2. Our yoruba she will learn from the one we speak at home. So yea one may deduce from that we are placing a higher priority on foreign languages. How I see it? I am investing in what I know the world considers more useful/beneficial. What will open more doors for her.

    Food choices: aha! We Nigerians actually are well known for not wanting to venture outside our comfort zone with foods. Maybe it is different back home (I doubt it), but, the most many Nigerians we do is Chinese i.e they always have rice or pasta. We like our swallow and jollof. I enjoy my swallow just like any typical born and raised Nigerian but why go somewhere new if I am not going to fully embrace the experience? I for one will never go out and order jollof or fried rice or ogbona soup because I know mine will always be better. I ain’t going to pay you for what i can make a better version of at home. Naaah!!! It is not about being “tush”. It is actually my being comfortable in my skin that makes it ok for me to be a little more adventurous with my taste buds and digestive system.
    Names: while I love the African culture of giving our offsprings names that are rooted in significance and meaning. Africans are not the only ones with this culture. Check out Hebrew names. I know an African-American that owns not giving his kids the “typical African-American” names not because he feels inadequate but because he has been a victim of bias based on his name and he does not want that for his kids. It has nothing to do with his feeling of worth more to do with how our world is set up unfortunately.

    All the examples listed as far as I am concerned are not “expressions of inferiority complex”. I am not saying some people don’t use the fake accents or name their children “Ethan or Nancy” because they feel those names are superior to “Sumbo or Emeka” but to blanket it all as expressions of inferiority complex, uhn. I will just stop here.

    • Jideofor Ujah

      December 15, 2018 at 4:38 am

      You my friend are of the few exception when it comes to food! Last week, I took a world class plate of foo foo (akpu) and bitter leaf soup to see my sister in school and her friends were like “why not semovita? ” this is Queen’s Secondary school, we don’t eat Akpu here. Na Niger oh, Nsukka to be precise…. We under value our own meal and it hurts!

    • Physio Tinu

      December 15, 2018 at 8:37 am

      I agree with you Ajala and foodie.
      Your counter argument resonates with me.

    • didi

      December 16, 2018 at 8:23 pm

      I agree with @ AJALA&FOODIE some of your points stated up there to be ways people express inferiority complex is not true. I am a traveller, i travel for fun, i love the diversity of cultures and languages and foods so, whenever i meet a new race or different skin apart from african i am thrilled because its beautiful knowing the difference and our uniqueness. If i have the time and money i would like to travel round the world at least three times so i can meet the asans,Europeans and other races it makes me appreciate the greatness of God more.

  3. Chika

    December 14, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    I commend this article for the thought.
    However it is too basic. It also mistook certain natural tendencies for inferiority complex and most disappointingly, it didn’t advise how to raise the next generation of Africans with confidence (changing from A is for Apple to A is for Akpu or Akara and teaching kids to express themselves and negotiate/play to win with whatever card they are dealt). Raising very assertive children that know how to avoid the tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen or defeatist. Teaching all readers how to stand gidigba like iroko tree. I found this article might be useful :
    “We look at how body language plays a role in empowering you and boosting your confidence in any situation!
    Affirmative Movements
    Show empathy with simple actions of agreement like nodding your head or smiling. Express your words with your hands by incorporating gestures into your conversation. Use your hands with confidence instead of fidgeting. You can add weight to a point you are trying to prove or to describe something.
    Sitting up straight in your chair isn’t just good for your posture, but also gives you more confidence in your own thoughts. Research shows that our body posture can affect not only what others think of us, but also how we think about ourselves. Practicing good posture also creates the least amount of strain on your supporting muscles and ligaments. This is essential to prevent back and neck pain, also keeping your bones and joints in proper alignment.
    Pay attention to your speech and body movements. Sometimes we might be nervous and flustered that we up our pace of speech. If that happens, take a deep breath and slow down. This will help to calm your nerves and make for a better speech or presentation.
    A Firm Handshake
    A strong handshake says a lot about a person’s personality. When a person shakes hands firmly, it shows that a person is confident in what he or she has come forward to pursue and accomplish.
    Eye Contact
    Build a better connection with eye contact. This indicates that you respect the other person by giving them your focus and attention. The eye is one of the most intimate forms of communication as it shows respect, interest, appreciation and understanding; and you can convey all this with just a gaze. So, use your eyes to project a positive image!
    Hands Off The Face
    Constant face touching might make you seem nervous and can be distracting for the people involved in the conversation. Always keep your hands away from your face when you’re speaking.
    Keep Check of Your Arms and Legs
    Crossing your arms will make you feel and look enclosed, defensive and guarded. While crossing your legs away from another person may give an impression of discomfort and lack of interest. Be more aware of what you do with your arms and legs in situations, and make more of a conscious effort with how you place them. The idea is to look open and approachable, not sullen and cross.
    Embrace Optimism
    Your body language says a lot about you; your thoughts, your beliefs and the level of confidence you possess. Having a good attitude also plays an impact on your body language and the image you reflect to others. Adopt an optimistic and positive attitude and share a smile with the people around you!
    And remember, even if you’re having a conversation on the telephone and the person can’t see you, your voice says a lot. So keep that positive attitude, be confident and smile; that’ll come through.

  4. Uzoamaka Okafor

    December 15, 2018 at 4:29 am

    Thanks for taking your time to read through. It’s understandable when language is used for career expansion and other advantages that comes with learning different languages. The problem however, is when we learn other languages without attempting to know ours. Personally, I’d love to learn other languages. Now the difference betweeen you and ‘others’ is that your child will learn your indegenous language, either by being taught or by learning on her own through hearing people at home speak it, What about homes where parents or guardians hardly communicate with their wards in their native language? Why’s that?
    Nice argument you proposed with the food. With names however, I’ll not totally agree. It becomes a problem moreso when people are given names they don’t know it’s meaning. The whole inferiority complex saga can be understood in terms of comparison. How often do you see other people try to be like us? Does it mean we are not worthy of emulation in any aspect? We desperately try to be like others however. Why can’t we value what makes us us? I wouldn’t have thought of it as inferiority if it were a two-way traffic. There may be those among them who try to imitate certain aspects of our life style, but they do not do it to the degeneration of theirs.

  5. Jideofor Ujah

    December 15, 2018 at 4:40 am

    Uzoamaka, you did a great job in a simple piece. We have a poor mission and that is yo imitate everything foreign!

  6. Mrs chidukane

    December 15, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    You see this one about names, I will never agree. Call your kids what you want, allow me to call mine what I want. When you help me carry mine in your womb for nine months and pass through all the discomfort and pain, I will allow you to name or tell me what to name the child.

    Also, I don’t know how its a sign of inferiority complex to stare at white people. These are people that are very different from you, of course its understandable that some will stare. If that’s the case,I guess Asians have inferiority complex because they stare at Africans in their country just as much and some will even ask you for pictures.

  7. Bowl

    December 15, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    The way out of all this is to be your real self . I mean the sharpest image your shadow casts !
    Your shadow makes its imprint without your permission or effort. Be yourself. It’s the freest place to be

  8. Banjo

    December 16, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Wow, fabulous article. I’m proud of my name and its meanings and I believe in my mind, I’m going to live in my name. I’ll carry it over my head wherever I am like spirit.

    Yes, I’ve interacted and transacted with white skin and there is no difference. Is all the same human mind. Some are corrupt while some are good. No extra intellectual or power.
    This makes me have this philosophy to be loving to every soul. Not placing love above one another. If it’s Igbos or Hausa or my fellow Yoruba or any great Nigeria tribe, so be it. As far you’re good and of a great mind, I’ll forever love, trust, and respect you more than my fellow Yoruba or village kingpin.

  9. Dora

    December 17, 2018 at 3:36 am

    When I saw the heading of this article I thought you would mention the complex of wearing designers by hook or crook just to belong. This includes the “celebrities” too. Living above their means. Everyone dresses so simply abroad but once you arrive Nigeria the competition is just on. And to think it is the poverty capital of the world! Huge complex

  10. Israel

    October 25, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    First I must commend the uniqueness of your perspective on this subject. While there may be some grey areas in your argument like the manner in which people speak other languages compared to their own tribal language,food preferences, you have probably done justice to an Idea you had in mind which is great! But I think for a topic such as this one giving my opinion some of your suggested cause for inferiority complex is rather complicated and stereotypical. And thus reducing the overall submission of this article.

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