Is Thinking You're Better Than Other People Holding You Back Socially?
Some lonely and socially awkward people are really insecure and self-effacing and feel like they're detestable nobodies. I've noticed others have a different attitude, where they see themselves as above everyone else. There are two sides to this mentality. One is thinking there's something about you that makes you superior to other people. You think you're smarter, deeper, different, or that you have more-evolved beliefs and priorities. The second side is seeing everyone else as having a bunch of negative traits, that they're dumb, shallow, and selfish. The result is you feel like you can't relate to other people, that you're cut off from them, and like you're misunderstood and forced to walk your own path through life.
This attitude can also appear as a kind of hostile over-pickiness in who you want to hang around. Some people are too choosy about their friends in a fairly benign way. They have overly-high standards, but don't hold any ill will toward people. A more toxic way to be picky is when you think everyone's an idiot. No matter who you meet, there's always something wrong with them, and you never feel anyone is good enough to spend time with. You may think you want more friends, but whenever you meet new people, or consider deepening a relationship with an acquaintance, you find something to make you think twice. No one's perfect, so if you're looking for a reason to write someone off, you'll always find it.
In a shock to no one, I don't think having this mindset does you any favors. Your attitude may come through and put people off, or it may cause you to turn away perfectly reasonable social opportunities.
Reasons someone may come to think they're above other people
To some degree everyone feels a little above the crowd sometimes. The world really can be a stupid place, it may be human nature to tend to see yourself as above-average, and plenty of people go through phases where they're jaded about mankind and society. However, the sense of superiority I'm talking about goes beyond that. Here's my take on some of the dynamics behind this way of thinking:
This one isn't a stretch. Thinking you're better than other people is a good way for your ego to defend itself. It could sting to learn you're not doing well socially because you have weak spots. It feels better to tell yourself things like:
- "It's not me, it's them."
- "I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm a victim of other people's screwed up value systems."
- "I don't fit in because I'm a misunderstood genius."
- "I don't get along with people because I'm such a cut above they can't handle me. They're too stupid and obsessed with watching crap on TV for me to have anything in common with them."
- "I can't make friends, and that does bother me, but at least I'm smarter and deeper than everyone else. I'm better off without that crowd." (superiority as a consolation prize)
- "I don't want friends. People suck anyway. You know what, I don't even want to be around anyone" (negativity toward others as a way to dismiss what you can't have)
Rejecting people before they reject you
This is another well-known point. Insecure people will often look for reasons to reject others, to preemptively protect themselves from the pain of being rejected down the road. Their low self-esteem makes them certain that's inevitable. Being the rejector makes them feel like they're saving face. Or maybe their insecurity makes them want to spared other people the trouble of wasting their time on a supposed-loser like them.
Lack of perspective
Feeling superior is based on a lack of perspective. Are you probably "above" some people? Sure, but not almost everyone. It's easy to believe you're a different breed when you don't interact with other people that much, or in a meaningful way. If you were around people more you'd quickly accumulate evidence that you aren't the special flower you believe you are. You'd also learn not everyone is some mindless consumer. Similarly, it's easy to be picky when you don't have many actual friends, and your overly-high standards seem reasonable in your head. When you actually hang around the types of people you'd previously have turned away, you often realize they're perfectly fine, and that all the criteria you thought were so important barely matter.
The relativity of being "better" than someone
Feeling that you're above other people is a cheap source of faux-confidence because the concept is so vague that anyone can build their subjective case for why they're superior. They can cherry pick a trait (which they're strong in, naturally), decide it's a true indicator of superiority, and use that as evidence that they're above the masses. A smart person can tell themselves they're 'better' because they're intelligent. A non-intellectual person can say they're 'better' because they're down to earth and have street smarts instead of a head full of useless facts. Someone can also adjust what trait they're measuring, depending on the group they're comparing themselves to, so they always come out ahead (compared to regular people they're "better" because they're more intelligent, compared to people who are also smart they're "better" because they're more well-rounded, etc.)
Give people a chance, and don't get too high on yourself
The point of this article isn't hard to figure out. If you give everyone the benefit of the doubt you'll often find that many people are much more layered and interesting than you might have thought at first. Here's an article that goes into more detail about the ways people may seem more shallow than they actually are.