In my varied experience, mean people all have one thing in common: they are all petty, insecure, miserable human beings who are fixated on taking their unhappiness out on others in a desperate attempt to make themselves feel better. The truth is, when we are happy, we are motivated to share our happiness with those around us. We might smile at people, brightening up their day. We might offer to make someone a drink or perhaps let them out of the carpark ahead of us. In short, we can afford to be kind. This is because kindness is more readily displayed when we have inward feelings of contentment, peace and happiness.
Conversely, mean people are showing everybody just how rotten, barren and negative they are on the inside. Of course, not all unhappy people are mean. But I believe that all mean people are fundamentally unhappy.
A classic example is of a mean and petty boss who chooses to focus on the small things that you didn’t do that week and to overlook the many great things you did do. This simple choice of dwelling on the negatives and dismissing the positives is representative of a mean-spirited mentality. We might ask ourselves why he chooses to be so negative and unhelpful – remember, it is a choice. The answer can be reduced to the fact that he is unhappy. He is unfulfilled in his work life, social life, love life and family life. As a result of his overall lack of success in life, he tries to elevate his sad, lowly existence by being mean to those around him, especially those whom he considers to be in a position of less power. This is his best effort to try to drag people down to his level of dissatisfaction.
This example of the petty boss is an incredibly common scenario, yet it often still affects us. Some of us might get angry, some of us might get upset, some of us might laugh it off. How we deal with another person’s meanness towards us can be a very powerful indicator of our inner strength and ability to rise above negativity. We must always challenge and usurp any attempts which aim to lower our quality of life or self-esteem.
We are in control of who can enter our mental and emotional space.
We can choose to welcome people into our emotional space who will improve our physical and mental health. Likewise, we can bar the windows and bolt the doors to those odious individuals whose sole aim is to drag other people down into their own pit of misery. Each and every one of us has the power to patrol our personal portals.
In my experience, mean people can’t stand to be around happy, confident and content people. However well mean people may (or may not!) try to mask it, there is always an undercurrent of jealousy and spite that provides the constant fuel for their meanness and negativity. For the unsuspecting happy, kind-hearted person, this can be hard if not impossible to detect. Instead, we might start to question our abilities or to doubt our judgement, or even begin to wonder if the mean person “has a point”. This is the turning point. In these situations, we need to take a step back and take time to do something we enjoy. This might be exercise, cooking, painting or anything that brings us satisfaction. When we are in a space of neutrality, we can then reassess the situation. Whatever conclusion we come to, we should trust our gut instincts because they are always right. If we feel that we are being treated unfairly, it is because we are. If, after 2 hours in the gym, we look back on our day at work and conclude that our line manager’s actions were motivated by jealousy and spite, it is because they were. The important question is: where do we go from here? How do we move forward in a productive and confident manner that protects our wellbeing? The answer is that we need to ensure that we have enough self-confidence and emotional resilience to rise above any meanness or negativity that comes our way. We cannot rely on others to regulate or protect our happiness.
Anybody who is trying to bring you down is already beneath you.
In the face of meanness we must hold on to our dignity and remind ourselves what we live for: our family, our friends, our hobbies and any simple pleasure that puts a smile on our face. Anyone who chooses to fester in their own negative energy, cultivating and spreading meanness like a bacteria, we must always keep at a safe distance.
Once we become aware of the true motivations of mean, petty people, we can choose to laugh, pity or simply to be indifferent towards them. It is important that we do not allow them to take anything from our reserves of happiness, confidence or contentment. We can and we will progress, achieve and succeed despite the efforts of others to pull us back.