You try to be kind and let your best self lead the way.
And yet, someone — or a group of people — in your life treats you meanly no matter what you do.
The situation has you wondering: Why are people so mean to me?
We’re tackling the answer below by exploring reasons people are being mean to and what you can do about it.
Let’s dive in.
Why Are People Mean to Nice People?
We’re taught to be kind and polite, yet we all fall short of that ideal at points.
Some people have nasty personalities, while others go through malicious periods when struggling.
Let’s unpack a few general reasons why being mean to folks who’ve done nothing wrong is much more common than many realize.
- Insecurity: Insecurity can lead to deplorable behavior. It grabs hold of a person’s reasoning and demands that others feel as poorly as they do. Folks in this state may target kind people because they perceive them as weaker.
- Projection: Mean, immature, and narcissistic people often project their negative emotions onto others. It’s a form of taking their bad feelings out on those around them.
- Miscommunication and Misunderstandings: Everyone — mean or nice — can be misunderstood. For example, if a given individual isn’t used to kind folks, they may see friendly people as insincere, causing skepticism, which can lead to cruelty.
- Cultural Differences: In some cultures, niceness is synonymous with weakness. In these cases, mean behavior may be rewarded, and people act accordingly.
Why Are People So Mean to Me? 13 Possible Reasons
We’ve discussed some general dynamics that cause folks to treat nice people meanly. Now, let’s dive into some examples and specific reasons.
1. They’re Jealous of Your Personality
People grow jealous for various reasons, and sometimes, others may envy your personality.
It could be that you can meet people where they are, laugh easily, work through adversity, or always see the good in people and situations.
In some instances, they may see themselves as a wonderful person, but your chipper, positive attitude and ability to roll with the punches make them realize they’re not necessarily who they thought they were.
Even though you didn’t intentionally cause their crisis of conscience, they’ll resent you for it.
2. They Want Things You Have
Do you enjoy a lovely life filled with things that people generally covet? It could be a great place, car, or boat, or they may envy your style or job. Bottom line: They want what you have.
The green-eyed monster gets especially aggressive and nasty when materialistic people encounter folks with it “all.”
They’ll nitpick until they find a flaw and cling to it for dear life to soothe their ego.
So if you’re thinking, “everyone is so mean to me,” the reason may be as simple as they want what you have.
3. You’re Different
Everyone thinks they’re non-judgmental and would never dislike someone because of appearances or other social or cultural differences.
But brains are intricate organs that don’t always behave as we would hope, think, or understand.
It’s complicated, but simply stated our minds take shortcuts; implicit suggestions and past experiences heavily influence how we think and interpret the world around us. Ultimately, we all have biases of which we’re unaware.
So if you’re different from most people in your community, folks may be mean for unfair reasons that have nothing to do with you. And the kicker is that they may not even realize it!
4. You Excel at Things They’re Mediocre At
Are you one of those people blessed with talent and focus? Can you pick up an instrument on Monday and be decent at it by Friday? Or maybe you have a gift for words, numbers, or art.
If so, you’ll likely attract “haters” — especially if they want to be “the best” at everything. In some situations, they believe you shouldn’t be as good as you are at certain things and will see you as inferior.
They won’t recognize your talent and accuse you of being given opportunities you “don’t deserve.”
They may be unkind and even spread rumors about you when that happens. It’s unfair and maddening, but being true to yourself will help you weather the storm.
5. They Want To Teach You a “Lesson”
Not every act of perceived meanness is nasty. Sometimes, people are simply trying to teach you a lesson.
Nobody is perfect — not even “nice” you. Occasionally, you will say inappropriate things that deserve consideration. In these instances, people may be “mean” to show you where you’re going wrong.
So you may feel “attacked,” but in reality, you’re the one in the wrong, and someone is just pointing out that fact.
Other times, the motivation for their actions is more insidious, and they’re actually trying to control you. This behavior is typical among narcissists.
6. You Make Them Feel Badly About Themselves
We’ve established that human perfection is impossible. Even Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa had their issues. So times will arise when kind folks make others feel bad.
But mindfulness can help. Learning to take a breath, a beat, and think in the moment can prevent awkward conversations and situations. No silver bullet exists. We’re all bundles of emotions — and sometimes, we mess up. It’s a given.
But cultivating compassion and patience goes a long way and may help you avoid some missteps.
7. They’re Going Through a Rough Patch
Sometimes, life feels like a rickety, reckless roller coaster on the verge of barreling off the tracks. It’s terrifying.
And when doom or gloom hits, humans flip into survival mode — which is often punctuated with fierce nastiness.
When people are scratching and crawling, they’re often impolite and suspicious and view others through crap-colored glasses. So if you get caught in their path, they’ll probably mow you down.
8. They’re Dealing With Emotional Issues
Mental health and physical health are equally important. In some ways, it’s more important. After all, our minds process every iota of information on both conscious and subconscious levels.
When turmoil descends and someone grapples with difficult emotions, they may see the worst in everything and behave accordingly, resulting in random acts of meanness.
9. They Want Attention
Some people crave attention in any way it comes, and they’re willing to sabotage other people to get it. If they must lie, spread rumors, and be mean, so be it! These types of people may be deeply troubled and find joy in making others miserable.
Unfortunately, these types of people are metastasizing because hate and scandal sell better than kindness and harmony in our digital age.
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10. They’re Shallow and Arrogant
Some arrogant bullies derive their self-worth from feeling superior to others. They’re tiny, shallow people with huge egos who can’t see beyond the surface.
These types tend to harass nice people who don’t fit their narrow, force-fed, ignorant standards of what constitutes “good.”
Many take it one step further by being rude to individuals they deem inferior. If the person is nice, even better! After all, kind people are less likely to bite back.
11. You’re Toxically Positive
Are you pleasant to the point of aggravation? Do you insist on 24-7-365 positivity? Are you a fan of burying all negative emotions and making quips about “bad energy” or “toxicity” when others are venting about something?
Yes, whining and constant complaining are about as pleasant as spoiled milk and rotten eggs, but so is insisting that everything is always a-ok! And if you fall into either category, people will likely be mean to you.
12. They Communicate Poorly
Some people just aren’t elegant with their words and suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome.
At times, it’s simply a matter of not thinking before speaking; other times, it’s a social, cultural, or environmental difference. Or, to put it another way, one person’s “fine” is another person’s “rude.”
If you think this may be the issue, and you want to quash the beef, try switching up how you talk to the person to see if it helps.
13. They Don’t Like You (For No / Bad Reasons)
Humans are complicated and confusing, and everyone isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, people may not like you for no particular reason.
Being the target of someone’s inexplicable disdain is hurtful and bewildering. But it’s important not to internalize their behavior.
You’ve likely done nothing wrong, and worrying about others’ peccadillos is a waste of time.
What To Do When Someone Is Mean to You for No Reason
We’ve explored reasons people are mean to friendly folks. Now, let’s review what to do in a sticky situation.
Consider Your Role
Though it’s common for people to be unnecessarily harsh on themselves, the human brain is just as likely to give itself the benefit of the doubt.
As such, people tend to cast themselves in the role of victim, even when they’ve done something wrong.
So before you point fingers at other people, consider if you could be wholly or partially at fault. If so, a change in your ways may resolve the situation.
Talk to Your Friends
A good, honest talk with friends about the situation may help you feel better or even see things in a new light. There’s a chance you may be looking too deeply into the circumstances, and your buddies can help you see that.
Or, they may agree with you wholeheartedly and give you the support needed to let it go and move on from the problematic person.
Speaking with a therapist can also be helpful if the situation is having a profoundly negative impact on your day-to-day life.
If there’s someone in your life who’s mean for one reason or another, and it’s out of your control, the best option is to walk away. Ignore them. They’re not worth your effort — especially if their rudeness is born of jealousy, emotional turmoil, or hardships in their lives.
Do your best not to internalize the toxicity and focus on your life. But also try to forgive them and extend grace because lugging around a grudge isn’t healthy for you!
Being bullied, shunned, or talked down to never feels good — but learning how to cope with adversaries is an important life lesson.
If a nemesis is annoying your life, don’t let them ruin it.
While you should engage in some self-reflection to ensure you weren’t causing the discord, chances are you have nothing to do with their bad behavior and, therefore, shouldn’t take it personally.