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Copyright 2020 Cynthia Alease Smith, Ed.D.

The Crazy Making and Toxic Toll of Superiority Ideology

If your self-esteem or sense of importance depends heavily on thinking shallow factors make you inherently superior, your own mental health is at risk and you are a potential threat to other people’s well-being. The reality is that all people inevitably fail to live up to any lie of superiority since no one is perfect in all ways or all things. Unrealistic expectations and cognitive dissonance create conflicts internally and externally due to disruptions of identity based on ego (a False Self) more than true substance (Authentic Self).

We see this playing out daily in the words and actions of Donald Trump. Memes are being created, but it is increasingly hard to laugh when someone requires dismissing basic facts so they can feel stable and legitimate. It’s part of what I meant when I said privilege will become poison. Who is giving Trump a reality check when he operates in a fantasy world of his own making, based on major lies?

Many people lose touch with objective reality and try to force others to become stereotypes who operate from lies about diverse humanity. It’s one reason those socialized to view themselves as superior get easily intimidated by people who are not inferior to them, after all. When other people do not easily fit into boxes or follow scripts, they are perceived as problems because their very existence does not reinforce the status quo of superiority and inferiority ideologies.

Lack of racial responsibility is the core problem related to the social construct of whiteness that promotes perceptions of superiority. White people actually are very conscious of race despite many making claims of being colorblind, but they want to maintain a system that provides unearned, undeserved special treatment for them. White privilege amounts to white people not holding themselves or each other accountable in practical terms that go beyond talk, for what is required to co-exist well among diverse populations. Civility and compassion are necessary to demonstrate clear interest and consistent actions to support the common good as opposed to extremist approaches related to corruption and competition that rely on a rigged playing field.

It can destroy the ability to have mutually-supportive relationships with other people when a false superiority ideology guides interactions. It prevents people from knowing how to love, and results in ongoing power plays and passive aggressive behaviors. It shows up in people’s denial of their own real limitations. It promotes arrogance, insecurity and narcissism. Indeed, the mental health aspects of living a lie can take a serious psychological toll over time. The consequences accumulate beyond individuals. 

Listen to these insights from Dixon D. White. He talks about the serious costs for white folks, men and elitists when they try to promote the lie of supremacy, by living a delusion in trying to make some figments of their imagination, real. “You are not free…you are a slave to that lie,” Dixon makes clear in this short video. For the sake of our own mental health and overall well-being of humanity, it’s time to reject notions that race, gender and other characteristics can make anyone inherently superior.