This article will not only focus on understanding people who put you down but also on how to identify them.
There are few things worse in life than accomplishing something amazing, sharing it with your loved ones in the expectation that they’ll be excited too, but realizing they don’t really share your joy.
In fact, very few people actually share your excitement. Some are neutral but most people, especially your peers, are likely to hate you for it.
We humans measure our successes and failures using some reference points. These reference points are usually the successes and failures of our peers.
We constantly compare our successes and failures with others. Gauging the success level of others is important for us to know where we stand.
When you come across any information about the success or failure of your peers, you automatically think about where you stand in relation to them. If they’re doing worse than you, you either don’t care or you feel slightly better.
Only if they’re really close to you, you might feel a little bad. When that person doesn’t matter to you much, even if they’re in close relation, you don’t even feel bad. You just say you feel bad so that people don’t think you’re a horrible person.
What happens when you come across someone who is doing better than you?
This information is unpleasant for the mind. It makes you mentally unstable. Your mind makes you feel bad so that you’re motivated to be as good as, or better than, they are. This is the purpose of jealousy.
Of course, many won’t put in the effort required to be successful so the need to restore mental balance persists. In order to restore this balance and feel better about themselves, they use a short cut: They put others down.
People who put others down get temporary relief from the storm created in their heads when they came across someone doing better.
Like other bad habits, the behaviour can become repetitive because instead of actually working on themselves, they’re finding a short cut to feel good temporarily.
The other option for them is to be defensive and avoid the trigger altogether. They may stop talking to people who seem better than them.
If it’s their friend who’s doing better than them, they may end the friendship and find new friends that are more in their league.
How people put you down
Now that you know what goes on in the psyche of people who put others down, it’s time to look at how they actually do it.
People put others down in obvious as well as subtle ways. The obvious ways would be giving you negative criticism, humiliating you in front of others, insulting you and so on.
It’s the subtle ways in which people put you down that are more interesting and worth understanding.
The jealousy or hatred that people may have for you is revealed in the things that they say to you or about you, provided you understand what’s being implied.
Let me make things clear using a real-life example:
When Raj met Zaira for the first time, he thought she was cool and that they could be good friends. They talked for hours and she left an impression on him.
Raj had established himself as an entrepreneur and Zaira aspired to become one. When Raj narrated his struggles and achievements to her, she listened with attention and interest. She seemed to be fully into him.
What Raj didn’t know at the time was that he was actually triggering her more than he was intriguing her.
When the day was over, Raj went home happy that he had found someone who was keen to know about him and appreciate his accomplishments.
On that same night, Zaira’s mind tormented her with thoughts telling her that she was unworthy. She had accomplished nothing compared to Raj. She became mentally unstable.
The next day they met, they were discussing something about Marketing. Raj put forward an unconventional idea and then proceeded to justify why he thought so.
Before he could actually justify his position, he was interrupted by Zaira who said (note the words carefully), “That’s not true! You’re a leading entrepreneur, how come you don’t know this?”
Okay, let’s analyse what happened here:
First, Raj knew the idea was unconventional and counterintuitive. So he was willing to provide an explanation. Second, Zaira interrupted and didn’t give him time to explain himself. Lastly, Zaira’s words revealed that she didn’t mean to merely criticize him. Her intention was to put him down.
Notice how Zaira blamed Raj for having a ‘faulty’ opinion. The interruption itself said a lot but what Zaira was hinting at was that Raj wasn’t as brilliant as he thought he was. Had he been, he would’ve known.
This is a common behaviour observed in people who, when they argue, don’t argue to reach a solution or new insight but to gain an upper hand on the other person.
And why would they want to gain an upper hand?
Because they feel inferior or threatened by the arguments of the other person.
Ordinary people may have simply brushed aside what Zaira had said as mere criticism but not Raj. Raj was intelligent enough to understand that Zaira had been triggered by his achievements or she wouldn’t put him down like that.
When Zaira uttered those words, he felt slightly sad and disgusted. He had thought that she was someone who was genuinely interested in and respected what he did.
Her image that he had formed in his mind was torn to pieces. He no longer thought of her as a potential friend.
The best way to know who hates you is to discuss things with them.
Rational and mentally stable people will stick to the topic without making any personal attacks. They’ll allow other people to express their opinions and justify them.
They’ll criticize and explain why they disagree. They’ll definitely get an ego boost if they make a superior argument but they’ll not gloat in their achievement.
Haters and mentally unstable people will obsessively find faults in your arguments without even processing them fully first. They’ll twist and turn what you say to make you look stupid. They’ll not hesitate to make personal attacks whenever they can.
Most importantly, they’ll hardly ever stick to the topic. They’ll not let you speak. They will keep bouncing from one irrelevant point to another without making any substantial and relevant point.
They do this to convince themselves, and you, that they’re smarter than you because, deep down, they feel inferior and less smart.
If you look around, you’ll numerous examples of people who feel inferior obsessively trying to tear successful and powerful people down.
Media outlets, for example, keep digging up the past of top celebrities, politicians and business tycoons to find faults in their personality.
That friend or relative who continually bothers you with questions about your career is likely to be insecure where he is in his career.
In this way, he’s no different from those media outlets. Finding faults in your career choice will give him peace.
You are intelligent, but…
This is another subtle way people put you down when they think you’re smarter than them. Having to accept that someone is more intelligent triggers them and makes them mentally unstable.
So they try to ‘lessen’ your intelligence by saying things like, “You’re intelligent, but…”
You’re intelligent, but you don’t know how to express your thoughts.
You’re intelligent, but what you’re saying is not practical at all.
That’s it. They say that and try to exit the conversation, as if trying to have the last say in the matter. They’ll not explain why they think you’re inarticulate or impractical.
Usually, the reason why people argue endlessly on internet threads isn’t that they have valuable insights or counter-arguments to offer.
They do that so they can have the last say in the matter. According to some warped logic of the human mind, the one who does that, wins.
If you think I’m intelligent but lacking in some other aspects, I expect you to elaborate and stay in the conversation. Not exit as if you’ve dropped a bomb and are fearing enemy attack.
If they don’t elaborate and merely pass judgments, they reek of hatred.
Identify those who put you down
If you achieve anything significant in life, you’ll definitely have to deal with your fair share of haters.
If you announce a sudden achievement like nailing a new job or getting a promotion, you’ll notice that all your haters will crawl out of their caves. People who hardly talked to you will begin to contact and message you.
What’s the way out of this?
Of course, you can’t expect everyone to be happy about your success but it’s good to know who hates you for it.
Their hatred for you will haunt them and they’ll keep harming your self-worth you let them. It’s better to cut those people from your life as soon as possible.
They don’t value your relationship with them enough to not make you feel like crap. They don’t have the social intelligence to hide their jealousy and hatred.
I’m not saying that close current friends necessarily rejoice in your victories. It’s more likely that they’re triggered too. But at least they have the decency to not hurt your feelings by putting you down.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve published one book and authored 300+ articles on this blog (started in 2014) that have garnered over 4 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur. Feel free to contact me if you have a query.