Reasons some people are so mean

Photo by Ian Panelo on

You’ve probably come across some people who seem unfriendly, grumpy, cold, or mean, and you wonder: Why is he/she so mean? Well, people can be mean due to a variety of reasons. In my article, ‘Dealing with haters’, I stated that hate is an emotion that emanates from feeling dissatisfied, pained, or insecure. Well, here are common reasons some people are so mean. 

Inferiority complex

Some people will be mean to you because they feel inferior to some people, and are dying to feel superior to other people. Such people will be disrespectful to you and will try to make you feel less worthy of their respect because they reap off the feeling of being quite valuable, desirable, and intimidating. These people are feeling inferior, and in order to feel important, have to treat other people as though they were inferior to them. 

You may ask why this is so. But studies have shown that humans are naturally prone to compare themselves to other people. We desire to be unique, different, and special; the desire to be peculiar and to stand out is inherent in every man. This desire will sometimes make us feel inferior to some people, and in order not to seem worse off, feel superior to other people. 

However, something can be done about this unhealthy desire! Healthy people are always too busy striving to accomplish their goals to find time to treat other people with contempt. They will not be mean to you simply because they cannot afford to do so; as they have very limited time to accomplish their much desired goals. By setting goals and striving to accomplish them, people will be more likely to concentrate on achieving their set goals than having to lavish their attention on trivialities. 

Emotional insecurity

People who feel vulnerable and unsafe in the world because they think other people are either trying to take advantage of them or belittle them may tend to be mean. Being mean, for these people, is simply a defense mechanism against possible threats to their self-esteem. 

For example, when they meet you for the first time, they may perceive you as a threat. They may think you want to take advantage of them, diminish them, or make a fool out of them. To avert being a victim of humiliation, they will give off an unfriendly gesture to cancel out the chances of that happening. This behavior may have sprung from the fact that most of the people they have encountered have been rather unfair to them. In an effort to fend off the possibility of an attack on their self-esteem, they try to give the impression that they are not weak. 

For example, believing that you may want to diminish them, they will diminish you first in an effort to keep that from happening. This is largely as a result of a commonly shared belief that most people, if not all people, will either take advantage of them, or diminish them if given the slightest opportunity to do so. Therefore, if you are meeting some people for the first time, and they seem mean to you, this could be the reason. 


In order not to accept their faults or limitations, people may project these limitations onto other people. For example, a dishonest person may perceive other people as being dishonest, and a lazy person may accuse other people of being lazy. Similarly, a thief may be inclined to believe that everyone has the tendency to steal.  

More so, in an attempt to cope with their poor self-concepts, thereby feeling good about themselves, some people tend to be mean to others. For example, Gabby feels ugly, although she denies it. When she sees Anna at school, she derives joy in making Anna feel that she is ugly. That is an example of classic projection. 

Healthy people are not in the habit of perceiving other people’s flaws because they do not lavish their time and attention on evaluating other people, as they often consider such acts as petty and juvenile. Overly and essentially concerned with achieving meaningful goals, healthy people are prone to be polite and cordial to all people, regardless of people’s physical flaws and immoral qualities. 


People who envy what you have and do not think you deserve it will tend to be mean to you. Such people will resent you because they envy you and believe they should be the one enjoying that privilege or success you are enjoying, rather than you. They may feel they are worthier and more deserving of all the good things happening to you, and hate you for being so fortunate. 

More so, people who feel inadequate and less important in comparison to your level of industriousness, resourcefulness, and intelligence will be mean to you because your positive actions make them appear inferior, incompetent, and indolent. They may also be mean to you because they think you are being too showy and inconsiderate, when in actuality, you are just being your splendid self. 

Lack of empathy

People who lack empathy for various reasons can be mean to you. Those with narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathy, Machiavellian traits, and sadism can be mean to you simply because they lack empathy. The lack of empathy may stem from being victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, which consequently result in lasting hatred and anger nursed by those affected. It may also spring from a genetic predisposition, which studies are beginning to discover. People who hate their lives and hate the world can be cold and cruel to other people without feeling remorse. Therefore, lack of empathy could be a reason why some people are mean to you. 

Stress and frustration

Stress from having a bad day, from being frustrated, or from having experienced failure could also make a person seem mean, even though they do not intend to be mean. People facing a lot of stress are more prone to being irritable, depressed, and enervated.