Are There Self-esteem Problems Behind Moral Superiority?

there are-self-esteem-problems-behind-moral-superiority

Throughout the complex web of human attitudes and behaviors, on many occasions our emotions and behaviors intertwine, developing attitudes that respond directly to emotionality. In this type of behavior, rationality does not govern so much, but rather they are issued without being so aware of their possible results and consequences.

Specifically, moral superiority is understood as the belief of being above others in terms of morality and values. People who believe in their moral superiority can constantly criticize people who, in their opinion, do not meet the moral standards necessary for our society. However, many people question whether moral superiority really hides feelings of insecurity and lack of self-esteem.

On many occasions, we disguise our insecurity by promoting those attitudes that have the objective of making others believe about our security and personal value, such as moral superiority. Throughout this article, we will seek to unravel what is hidden behind this attitude and how damaging it can be to hide our real emotions.

What is moral superiority?

Moral superiority is a psychological phenomenon that involves the subjective belief that one is morally superior to others. This attitude can manifest itself in various ways, from criticism and judgment to contempt and condescension towards those who do not share the same beliefs or values.

In its essence, moral superiority is based on a distorted perception of one’s own morality and a lack of recognition of the diversity and complexity of ethical perspectives. Those who adhere to this behavior often view their opinions and actions as intrinsically linked to greater moral virtue, while discrediting those of others as inferior or morally questionable.

A common example of self-righteousness can be seen in discussions about controversial topics, such as politics, religion, or lifestyle. People who feel morally superior may express their opinions in an arrogant and derogatory manner toward those with different views, believing they have a deeper understanding of what is “right” or “good.”

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It is important to note that moral superiority is not always evident or conscious. In many cases, people can exhibit this behavior in subtle ways, through microaggressions, non-verbal gestures, or even patterns of online behavior. However, its effects can be equally harmful, contributing to social polarization, interpersonal conflict, and deterioration in the emotional well-being of both those who experience it and those who are subjected to it.


The importance of self-esteem

Self-esteem, that delicate balance between how we perceive ourselves and how we value ourselves, is a fundamental pillar in human development. It is the subjective and generalized evaluation that a person makes of his or her own worth as an individual. Healthy self-esteem involves feeling competent, valuable, and able to face life’s challenges constructively.

When we have strong self-esteem, we are more likely to establish positive interpersonal relationships and face adversity with resilience. Furthermore, good self-esteem acts as an emotional shield that protects us from external negativity and destructive criticism.

However, it is important to understand that self-esteem is not a static state, but can fluctuate over time, influenced by our experiences, relationships, and achievements. People with low self-esteem tend to doubt their abilities and feel insecure in their social interactions. This can lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as avoiding challenges or constantly seeking external validation.

Links between self-esteem and moral superiority

The relationship between self-esteem and moral superiority is complex but significant. Research suggests that people with low self-esteem are more likely to adopt self-righteous attitudes as a way to compensate for their own insecurities and feelings of inferiority.

When someone experiences a lack of self-confidence, it is natural to look for ways to validate their self-worth. In some cases, this can manifest itself in the search to feel superior to others, whether morally, intellectually or socially. Moral superiority thus becomes a psychological defense mechanism that allows the person to reaffirm their own self-worth by denigrating others.

People with low self-esteem may resort to self-righteousness as a way to protect themselves from the perceived threat of being belittled or rejected. By adopting an attitude of superiority, they attempt to compensate for their own perceived shortcomings by focusing on the faults or mistakes of others. On the other hand, people with healthy self-esteem tend to be more empathetic and understanding towards others.

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They do not feel the need to constantly compare themselves with others or seek external validation to feel good about themselves. Instead of seeking superiority, they cultivate relationships based on mutual respect and acceptance of diversity. It is important to note that the relationship between self-esteem and moral superiority is neither deterministic nor absolute. While there is a general trend, each individual is unique and may respond differently depending on their personal history and life circumstances.

Consequences of moral superiority

Moral superiority can have negative consequences at both the individual and social levels. On a personal level, attitudes of superiority can alienate others and hinder meaningful interpersonal relationships. When someone takes a stance of self-righteousness, it can create resentment and conflict in their interactions with others. People may feel judged, belittled or devalued, which can undermine trust and mutual respect in relationships.

Additionally, self-righteousness can hinder personal growth and authentic connection with others. Those who hold to a rigid view of their own morality can become closed to new perspectives and experiences, thus limiting their ability to learn and grow. This can lead to emotional and spiritual stagnation, as well as a feeling of isolation and loneliness.


On a societal level, moral superiority can fuel polarization and division in society. When individuals hold firmly to their own beliefs and values, they can become intolerant toward those who think or act differently. This can lead to intergroup conflict, discrimination and social exclusion. Instead of fostering understanding and dialogue between people with different points of view, moral superiority can reinforce the barriers that separate individuals and communities.

Furthermore, moral superiority can make it difficult to solve problems and make effective decisions in society. When people are more concerned with demonstrating their superiority than with collaborating constructively, it is difficult to find consensual solutions focused on the common good. This can hinder social progress and make it difficult to build a more inclusive and equitable society.

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How to improve self-esteem and reduce self-righteousness

Although the relationship between self-esteem and self-righteousness can be complex, there are effective strategies to foster healthy self-esteem and reduce the tendency toward self-righteousness. Here are some practical suggestions to improve self-esteem and cultivate more empathetic and compassionate relationships.

1. Practice self-compassion

Instead of judging yourself or others harshly, practice self-compassion. Recognize that we are all imperfect human beings who experience difficulties and make mistakes. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding instead of ruthlessly criticizing yourself.

2. Develop empathy

Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand their points of view and experiences. Actively listens and shows genuine interest in the perspectives of others. Empathy can help you connect with others more meaningfully and develop stronger, richer relationships.

3. Cultivate humility

Recognize your own limitations and learn to accept praise and criticism in a balanced way. Humility involves recognizing that you do not have all the answers and being open to learning and growing from the experiences and knowledge of others.

4. Practice self-care

Take time to take care of your physical, emotional and mental well-being. Prioritize activities that bring you joy and satisfaction, and set healthy boundaries in your relationships and responsibilities. When you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to handle stress and maintain a positive outlook on yourself and others.

5. Encourage authenticity

Be true to yourself and your values, but also be flexible and open to new ideas and experiences. Authenticity involves being honest with yourself and others, without pretending to be someone you are not.


In conclusion, the relationship between self-esteem and moral superiority is evident: healthy self-esteem promotes empathy and humility, while low self-esteem can lead to attitudes of superiority to compensate for insecurity. Recognizing this dynamic and working to cultivate self-compassion, empathy, and humility can significantly contribute to healthier relationships and a more understanding society. Fostering a positive self-image and respecting diversity are essential steps toward a more inclusive world.