Skip to the main content.

4 min read

Why Am I So Mean to People: Understanding the Root Causes and How to Change

A woman in regret

Most people don't set out to act mean toward others, but many don't have the self-awareness to understand why they do it, and therefore don't take steps to do better. If you feel that you may act like a mean person in your professional or personal life, this article can help you make some connections to why you may act the way you do. Being mean on occasion doesn't make you a bad person, but taking the time to determine what causes these behaviors can help you become a better person.

Understanding Mean Behavior

Negative feelings can play a large role in certain behaviors. Anger, frustration, irritability, and even sadness can contribute to acting mean toward others. Identifying and addressing underlying negative emotions can help you change such behavior, especially when working with someone else like a friend, family members, or a mental health care professional.

Perceptions can also have something to do with it. Cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings about how people act toward one another. For example, one culture may not believe that it's appropriate to have a child in their home, while another family may feel that it's unpardonable not to offer food to someone who is visiting. Taking time to understand cultural differences can sometimes go a long way toward avoiding hurt feelings.

Root Causes

For more ongoing mean behavior causing distress and creating relationship issues in your life, let's take a look at some root causes that may lead to poor behavior toward others.

The Role of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Negative Feelings and Behavior

Certain mental health disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder, can lead to mean behavior. These types of mental illness can affect emotional regulation, which can lead to angry outbursts and poor treatment of others. Even social anxiety can lead to perceived rude behavior, as someone experiencing it may feel overwhelmed and seem like they're in a bad mood because they avoid others.

By seeking professional help from a licensed clinical psychologist or other mental health practitioner, you can learn to address these underlying mental health issues, learn healthier ways to cope with anger issues, social anxiety, or other mental health problems, and get to the root cause of your negative thoughts and feelings. By spending time healing past trauma, you can become a nicer person over time.

Low Self-Esteem and Insecurity

Another common cause of meanness is low self-esteem and insecurity. These can lead to mean behaviors as a way to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. By building self-esteem and confidence, you can learn to regain control over feeling mean, and to treat others (and yourself) more kindly.

Trauma and Past Experiences

Traumatic experiences and past events can shape behavior and lead to mean behavior. For example, if a child has been raised in an environment of physical and psychological abuse, they may have learned to hate people and harbor a strong distrust toward others. Often, they may continue to feel threatened by others, feeling angry a lot of the time. By addressing and working through these past experiences with professionals, someone with these angry feelings and feelings of fear and distrust can change their mean thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

The Impact of Physical and Mental Health

It's not only a mental health condition or other psychological issue that can cause mean feelings and behavior. Physical pain can be a contributor as well. Someone with a chronic illness that causes fatigue, distress, or pain, can be at greater risk for impatient or angry behavior. They may also be at a higher risk for co-occurring anxiety or depression, other causes of mean behavior. By addressing these physical health issues, and the emotional state they create,

Changing Mean Behavior

If you have begun to realize that you want to make a change in how you treat others, there are steps you can take to make big changes over time.

Recognizing the Harm Caused

The first, and one might argue most important step, is recognizing the harm caused by mean behaviors. By understanding that a mean comment, an anger problem, saying nasty things about friends, and other maladaptive behaviors have an impact on the lives and feelings of others, you can then start to take action. By taking on responsibility for your behavior, you are a good part of the way toward making lasting change.

Seeking Help and Support

Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to identify and make changes to behavior on your own. Seeking help from a mental health professional can provide guidance and support in changing our thoughts and behaviors. Whether you feel angry as a symptom of a mental health condition, have lacked good role models for kind behavior, or are simply unsure of why you are mean to others, a mental health professional can help.

For those who may find it difficult to schedule and attend therapy sessions, online therapy offers a convenient and accessible option for those who want guidance from a professional. Online therapy can also allow you to meet with a specialist who may not otherwise be accessible in your area, such as a psychologist who works with bipolar disorder, personality disorder, or other difficult to treat conditions.

Practicing Self-Awareness and Empathy

In the meantime, practicing self-awareness and empathy can help you learn to understand and manage your emotions. You can work on empathy exercises found online, or as homework from a therapist. Practicing empathy and understanding can help you build stronger, more positive relationships. You can also learn communication skills in the same way. In some cases, it can be a lack of social skills that is to blame for mean or rude behavior. Learn to be a good listener. Developing healthy communication skills and body language can also help reduce mean behavior.

Focusing on Personal Growth

Moving forward, focusing on personal growth and development can help individuals move forward from mean behavior. Also, by prioritizing self-care and self-reflection, you can develop a more positive and empathetic outlook.

Research shows that certain lifestyle habits can help with stress management and keep your emotions in check. Some ways you can help address the root cause of anger and reduce mean behaviors include:

  • Deep breaths--both in the moment if angry, but also practicing deep breaths through regular breathing exercises
  • Regular exercise that you enjoy
  • Getting enough sleep every night
  • Set boundaries in your relationships

Trying to Be a Good Person in Brooklyn

It's not uncommon to feel that you hate people at times, or to feel jealous, angry or small-minded. However, if we let these emotions get away with us, it can have a negative impact on our relationships.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists for anger management offers evidence-based therapeutic approaches that can help you manage emotions like anger or anxiety, and allow you to heal any hurt in your life that may affect you as a person.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right therapist to offer emotional support as well as tools and strategies to help you build strong communication skills, examine your anger, and move forward with kinder behavior toward the people in your life.

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

Finding the Right Childhood Trauma Therapist for Your Healing Journey

Many of us may understand intellectually what childhood trauma means, but many have difficulty identifying it in our own lives. We think childhood...

Read More
A couple in therapy

Couples Counseling Methods That Can Strengthen Your Relationship

Couples therapy, also known as couples counseling, is a form of talk therapy that helps romantic partners improve their relationship. The purpose of...

Read More
a dog

Can Pets Help with Stress?

We love our pets, and for many, they are true members of the family. But did you know that pet owners also receive a number of physical and mental...

Read More