It seems we’ve recently hit peak therapy-speak in our everyday conversations. We talk broadly about “trauma” and “gaslighting,” and we readily diagnose others with mental illnesses we’re not remotely qualified to understand. More than that, though, we’ve started to tire of it. Maybe you’re not actually an empath, you’re just a complete narcissist. And you know what? That’s completely fine. As we’re starting to discover, it’s preferable to hear someone admit their overinflated perception of themselves than to self-degrade. Much of TikTok seems to agree: Talking down about yourself is out, having a god complex is in.
“God complex” is just another term pulled from the psychiatry world, a more colloquial phrase to refer to the clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. Its origin is in psychoanalysis, specifically in the writing of Ernest Jones in the first half of the 20th century. It means, in the simplest sense, that you perceive yourself as a god — smarter, more important and better than everyone else. In a more extreme sense, someone with a god complex might believe that their reality is the only one of any importance.
Over the last few years, ironically saying something negative about yourself (for example, that you’re a “dumb bitch,” “empty-headed” or dimunutively referring to all of your hobbies or actions as “silly little” things) has been part of our collective language. It felt like a coping mechanism, both to the culture of social media that demands we put ourselves on a pedestal and the culture of work and capitalism that demands we position ourselves as perfectly functional, capable beings. But like any joke, it’s gotten old.
TikToker @lolaokola sums it up nicely: “Self-deprecation is dead,” she said in an early January video with 50,000 favorites. “Insane god complexes only. If you’re about to call yourself ugly or dumb, even as a joke — shut the fuck up. If you don’t, I’m pulling up to your crib and I’m beating your ass.”
As her phrase “insane god complexes” implies, grandiosity is part of the fun of it all. In all likelihood, most of us don’t actually have narcissistic personality disorders — the fact that we’ve been calling ourselves stupid for years only proves that. More than anything else, fabricating a god complex feels like a more enjoyable way to cope with the state of things, including those demands that made us self-deprecate in the first place. Feeling strong and powerful about ourselves for only the length of a TikTok is better than never feeling it at all.
In a sense, choosing to lean into a god complex is much like choosing to be delusional. It’s a chance to go smooth-brain and be a bimbo/himbo. Like calling yourself a dumb bitch, it allows you to feel a lessened sense of responsibility. If you live in a world where you’ve tricked yourself into feeling like a god, you probably also live in a world with few material problems to deal with.
Saying you have a god complex can also be a way of deflecting a genuine sense of self-confidence. Liking yourself is too earnest, but saying you have a god complex suggests you’re liking yourself with a hint of satire. Whatever the purpose, it’s clear that claiming to have a god complex isn’t all that serious. More importantly, it’s just another way of tricking ourselves to look at the world crumbling around us from a less painful perspective. Either way, it’s much better than being the person who always talks about hating themselves.