30+ Reasons Why People Put Others Down

Have you ever considered why some people are so critical of everyone else and why they always put others down?

Some say it’s because these people crave attention, are insecure, or that they need to feel superior in some way. But what is the real reason behind this act?

According to experts, these are some of the most common reasons why people put others down:

Dr. Brian Kaplan, MD

Brian Kaplan

Licensed Medical Doctor | Provocative Therapist | Author, “Almost Happy: Pushing Your Buttons With Reverse Psychology

We are all familiar with this very common social experience. A social gathering or meeting seems to be going fine; you are enjoying yourself, and then your pleasant demeanor is changed instantly by one unexpected, unprovoked, and utterly demeaning remark.

The question is, “What on earth has happened? I was feeling great until a few minutes ago; now I feel terrible.”

Answer: You’ve just been mugged by an Invalidator!

It’s not always a result of an argument that became personal, but that’s always possible. Its source may not be someone you know well and love but could well be from someone on the periphery of your social circle or even from someone you have just met.

Who are these people who put down and invalidate others? Are they deliberately putting others down, or is this an entirely unconscious process and their constant undermining of others is just a very unpleasant habit?

They suffer from an inferiority complex

Invalidators or people who habitually put others down inevitably have low self-esteem. They suffer from what the late psychology pioneer (and contemporary of Freud) Alfred Adler called an “inferiority feeling,” which was then renamed by others as what is popularly known as an “inferiority complex.”

People who deep inside feel very inferior to others may adopt different strategies to cope with daily life. They may buy expensive cars and clothes to look impressive, successful, and prosperous — on the surface.

Others may spend vast amounts of energy getting ahead in the fields to demonstrate superiority over others — while all the time is feeling deeply inferior to most people they relate to.

And then we have those whose internal feeling of inferiority leads them to a conscious or subconscious desire to bring others down to their level of painful inferiority by making remarks that put others down.

While feeling deeply inferior inside, these people can express superiority over everyone they know and everything they read about in the outside world. In extreme cases, they are cynical and skeptical about any viewpoint other than their own.

Related: How to Overcome the Inferiority Complex?

It could be due to never receiving enough love or positive affirmations from a parent

Invalidators or people who put others down habitually are not born feeling deficient or grossly inferior to others; they acquire these feelings and habitual behavior patterns early in life.

These could be for a variety of reasons. From a psychoanalytic perspective, it could be due to them never receiving enough love or positive affirmations about themselves from a parent.

They are often lonely people who need to drag other people down to their level of unhappiness, malaise, and ennui.

In my experience, they have an aura of dissatisfaction with life around them. Their contribution to a conversation will always be to bring the vibe down — even before they put a specific person down.

How do they put people down?

The invalidator has many methods of doing this:

  • The straightforward, direct shaming insult. E.g., “You are: stupid, pathetic, fat, ugly, unhelpful, useless, etc.”
  • The indirect insult: The attack now is apparently only on something you said or did, but it’s an insult aimed at putting you as a person down. E.g., “You never remember a thing I said!”
  • Sarcasm: This is a favorite mode of speech of the invalidator. “Thanks, yes, you helped a lot with your very generous donation!” when you gave what you could. Fake compliments and faint praise are trade tools for people who put others down.
  • Ignoring you in a conversation: You may contribute to the conversation involving a few people.
    The invalidator then picks up the conversation from how it was before you spoke, thus entirely invalidating any contribution to your discussion. Everyone has experienced this feeling of being socially negated and ignored.
  • Relentless cynicism about everything, including religion, charity, politics, and even sport. They can always be counted on to lower the general vibe in any conversation – even when they take time off from putting down individual people.

Do they know that they’re constantly putting others down?

They may even think that they are being helpful rather than hurtful. A friend once asked me whether he should confront an invalidator.

In this case, the invalidator was a person who invalidated everything and everyone while also being notoriously less than generous about anything to do with money. I advised my friend not to confront him but confront him he did.

The invalidator when into horrified denial and asked for examples. To this day, he doesn’t accept the criticism — even though every single person who knows him is certain about their veracity!

Believe it or not, a common line for an invalidator to use when confronted by someone is: “I was just trying to help!”

What can you do about an invalidator putting you down?

Confronting them is useless because that’s their unconscious goal ⁠— to lower the mood in the room. As a proponent of humor and reverse psychology, I would advocate the exact opposite of that.

Here are some tactics about how to do just that:

Compliment the invalidator

Ignore the direction in which the invalidator is unconsciously directing the conversation and find something to compliment them about.

  • Their children are looking well.
  • They are wearing lovely dresses and look good in themselves.

This works because their underlying psychological state is one of inferiority and shame and a compliment goes a long way to remedy that at the moment.

Ironically agree with the invalidator

The difference between sarcasm and irony is that the former always aims to cause pain, and the latter suggests a hidden meaning in what you are saying.

  • “I agree with you that my car looks a bit battered, but always remember this is my runaround car, my real car, the Rolls Royce, is reserved for special occasions.”
  • “Your comments initially seem a bit insulting, but there is some truth in them when I think carefully about them afterward!”
  • “It’s only a true friend who will tell me the truth about myself like this.”

Do anything to make the invalidator feel better about themselves

Offer to bring them a drink or introduce them to someone else. These people are desperately in need of validation themselves. Find a way to give them that validation for your peace of mind.

Avoiding them should be your last backup plan

Finally, if all these fail, you should avoid them, but this should be your last backup plan. A little kindness and empathy may turn some invalidators around.

Remember that they don’t think of themselves as people who habitually put down others. The put-downs become a harmful habit, and their reputation leaves a bad aura. Avoid at all costs!

Randy Brazzel, MBA, MA, LPC, LMFT

Randy Brazzel

Licensed Professional Counselor | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | CEO, New Dimensions Day Treatment Centers

Ever wonder why some people are so critical of everyone else and constantly put others down? Listed below are some of the most common reasons.

People put others down to make themselves feel better

One reason why people put others down is to make themselves feel better. By putting you down, they get a temporary feeling of “I am better than you.”

This is an unhealthy way of lifting your self-esteem because you only feel as good as the last person you put down. In fact, you aren’t building your self-esteem when you put others down. You are only giving yourself the illusion that you are somehow better than they are.

People who use this strategy have to continually put others down to feel good about themselves.

This strategy can be a contributing factor to sexism and racism. Having an entire group of people to put down allows them to have a readily available source of people to feel superior to.

People put others down because of their own low self-esteem

A person often develops low self-esteem because of how they are treated during their life. If you are treated poorly long enough, you tend to feel bad about yourself.

For example, if a child is told repeatedly that they are “dumb,” they often begin to see themselves as “dumb.” This critical self-talk can quickly develop into a negative self-image.

While some people primarily see the flaws within themselves, others begin to focus on the flaws they see in others. To protect themselves from their negative self-image, they project their feelings of inadequacy onto others. As a result, they see others as “dumb” or inadequate.

Related: How to Stop Being Critical of Others?

People put others down because of an unresolved family of origin issues

If you grow up in a chaotic or painful environment, you can develop a lot of emotional baggage. The pain of rejection, abandonment, disappointment, neglect and abuse can have lasting effects. Old wounds can make someone hypersensitive and easily “triggered” if left unresolved.

This can have a profound impact on relationships. For example, if a person felt rejected as a child, they might become very reactive to anyone they perceive is rejecting them now.

As a result, they may feel justified in criticizing you for hurting them, regardless of your intent. People with an unresolved family of origin issues tend to overreact when they feel hurt and may attack and blame others for their pain.

People put others down when they become depressed and anxious

People who struggle with depression and anxiety often feel emotionally depleted and agitated inside. The more hopeless, helpless, and agitated they feel, the less tolerance they tend to have for things going wrong.

As a result, they may become critical of everything and everyone because they feel so unhappy inside.

People put others down because of their own addictions

People who struggle with alcoholism, substance abuse, and other addictions often feel out of control. Addictions can alter how a person thinks and make them feel angry and critical of others.

The more their addiction takes over their lives, the more they blame others for their problems.

People put others down in order to control them

Abusive people often use harsh criticism to control others. They focus on your flaws to justify their anger and abusive behaviors.

Related: How to Deal with Controlling People?

An abusive person might say something like:

“I wouldn’t have to hit you if you weren’t so stupid and if you just did what I told you to do.”

They don’t feel bad about putting others down because you deserve their wrath in their minds.

Psychotherapy can help you gain insight into your thoughts

Whether you are the one being put down or you are the one criticizing others, psychotherapy can help.

Therapy can help you gain insight into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and can help you heal old wounds that might be interfering with your life today. A therapist can help you learn the tools you need to live a happier and more satisfying life.

Dr. Kristen Casey

Kristen Casey

Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Author, “Life Lessons to Master Before You Die

Some of the major reasons people put others down are their own self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, or emotional pain.

They have low self-esteem or self-worth

Those with low self-esteem may view themselves as “less than” others and may not feel comfortable around people doing better than them. They might be compelled to compensate for this feeling by putting others down.

They may notice that someone else is prettier, doing better, or more successful, and they use this opportunity to externalize their behaviors and put others down.

It comes from a deep-rooted sense of feeling low about their self-image or sense of self. It’s an interesting concept. Those who experience low self-esteem and externalize these feelings usually don’t get their needs met.

They may feel superior to others at the moment, but they still leave the situation in the same body, mind, and life. They go home and still feel low and wonder how they can fix this themselves.

The key is leaning into these feelings and knowing that it starts within.

No matter how much we try to pull others down, it doesn’t help us feel more fulfilled. Those with low self-worth who put other people down may also experience a shame or guilt cycle.

They will feel good about themselves at the moment because they are comparing themselves to someone else, but when that other person goes away or is not present, they are left feeling low again.

They may also feel bad that they caused someone else pain and may try to overcompensate for this.

They may feel threatened by those who are more successful than them

Those who are confident and decisive in their self-image usually aren’t the type of people to bring others down. If we feel very secure in our life decisions, we will likely bring others up who are either as successful or more successful than us.

I’m sure you know those people who say, “I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. I want to be surrounded by people who are doing better than me.” This person is interested in learning more about themselves and others and is less likely to bring others down.

On the other hand, if someone lacks confidence, they may feel threatened by those who are more successful than them. They might want to be the prettiest or smartest person in the room.

However, confidence is something you do, not necessarily something you feel. We can appear confident and may not feel it. It may be a choice that we make, depending on the situation.

Related: Why is Self Confidence Important?

They are deeply ashamed about their lives

Those who bring other people down, in my opinion, are deeply ashamed about their lives. They might regret their life decisions or believe that they don’t know where they belong.

They might feel anxious or depressed and tend to lash out at others because they are unsure how to handle their own emotions.

However, there are people out there who experience these feelings and tend to push them inward, which is where we notice self-harm behaviors or self-loathing experiences.

Brandon Barne

Brandon Barne

Human Psychologist and Life Mentor, Sell to Brandon

Based on my own experience and observation, some people want to put others down to make themselves feel better. But the truth is, they aren’t. There are certain factors why those types of individuals act like that.

Here are some:

They want their victims to feel degraded

People who often bad-mouth others usually have low self-esteem or are insecure. They want their victims to feel degraded because they think it is the best way to hurt the people who are much better than them (bully).

People who have inappropriate actions need more attention since they might become worse when ignored. They need positive interaction and guidance to help them make good habits when dealing with other people.

They have poor emotional intelligence

If an individual doesn’t know that bullying may negatively impact others, this could get worse. Having poor empathy or emotional intelligence makes someone stone-hearted.

They wouldn’t mind what others may feel once they conduct bullying. Those bullies will stay ignorant by not being aware of the consequences of their bad behaviors toward others.

In fact, they don’t care about others. They tend to focus on themselves and do whatever they want regardless if it is right or wrong, including if that action will affect anyone.

Learning how to be kind and humane through proper guidance from professionals could help them enhance their demeanor.

They have a poor lifestyle at home

This is one of the most apparent factors in how individuals behave due to the things influencing them at home. It is true that how a person was raised at home has something to do with their behavior.

If someone used to live in an environment where lots of verbal abuse and physical violence occurred, those could undoubtedly influence their character.

This is why people should be careful about the words they use and the actions they show to their family members, as it might become the future actions of their children.

Always remember the golden rule

Regardless of their intention, either to bully you or not, always remember the golden rule. Don’t do to others the things that you don’t want to experience. Be kind, understanding, and patient with those types of people.

You should become the best role model who is more educated and well-mannered. Thus, convincing them that being rude and selfish will not make them look cool.

Edwige Gilbert

Edwige Gilbert

Transformation Guide | Founder, New Life Directions | Author, “The Fresh Start Promise: 28 Days to Total Mind, Body, Spirit Transformation

Growing up in France, I remember being taught critical judgment in high school. As a result, French people can be very critical and often judgmental, as you might have experienced if you have visited France.

This sense of “critique” can indeed be a good thing. You learn to be more objective, and this habit can serve you in making decisions. Unfortunately, it is too often used negatively. Let me tell you why.

People lack self-confidence

At a very young age, many of us lack self-confidence. We felt awkward and misunderstood, and I was no exception. As the tallest in my class, I stood out when I wished to blend in.

I felt insecure, isolated, and criticized for my look. Little did I know that it would turn into a blessing. I became a model, and some people became envious and jealous, and more criticism followed.

Related: How to Deal With Jealous People

It becomes a vicious cycle, and nobody wins in that frame of mind! We need to understand what happens when we judge.

People are insecure and want to be in control

It’s very instinctive to rely on our sense of criticism, compare ourselves, and put others down when we are insecure and want to be in control to offset this deep sense of insecurity.

If we are not aware that we are doing this, we cannot condemn ourselves for this behavior. We need to forgive ourselves and embark on a transformational journey to become confident and self-empowered.

Do self-reflection to discover unconditional love and acceptance

Through self-reflection, we can discover this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves; once we accomplish this, the need to put others down vanishes.

We realize that we are all unique individuals with distinctive gifts and talents we are born with, and we won’t have any desire to want to be someone else.

A new cycle begins and builds on itself. You develop empathy, understanding, and compassion for others by loving yourself. You become aware that the more you uplift others, the more you end up uplifting yourself, and you create this endless loop of love and joy.

Your energy shifts and vibrates at a higher frequency, attracting endless opportunities, abundance, and success. You are happy to be you. You feel victorious, in charge of your life, and you can declare loud and clear victory to me; victory is mine.

Renetta Weaver, LCSW

Renetta Weaver

Neuroscience Coach | Clinical Social Worker

They want to dull your shine and dim your light

Sometimes people want to put others down because they want to dull your shine and dim your light. They want to reduce the way you see yourself and your accomplishments.

So they might use the word little as they compliment your accomplishments. Such as that little job or that little outfit. So you are left questioning why that compliment didn’t feel just right.

In their view, making you look bad makes them look better.

They have a strong feeling of dislike or hatred towards you

Sometimes people want to put you down because they have a strong feeling of dislike or hatred towards the idea of you. It could be related to an unresolved conflict between you two or influenced by others’ ideas of you.

Regardless of the root, they produce rotten fruit toward you because they see you as an enemy or a threat. Therefore they put you down as a counterattack.

They view you as their competitor

Sometimes people want to put your down because they view you as their competitor. If they see you as a competitor, they might feel there’s not enough to go around. So they say and do things to keep you from getting what belongs to them.

They are hurting and don’t feel good about themselves

Sometimes people want to put you down because they are hurting and don’t feel good about themselves. You remind them of the qualities that they are lacking. So they want to get rid of you so they won’t have to face themselves.

Kylie Brennan, MPNLP

Kylie Brennan

Former Nurse | Mindset Coach | Author, “Focus Is Fertiliser: How to Grow a Positive Mindset

Brené Brown describes in her book “Daring Greatly” that humans are wired for connection; we want to be accepted, included, and connected to others. When we feel excluded, less than, or at risk, we feel disempowered — we lack connection and power.

They are afraid of being excluded or disconnected

This is also the case with the fear of being excluded or disconnected. Our perceived lack of power feels uncomfortable and even more disconnected, leading to a direct grab for somebody else’s power.

They feel powerless

The takedown or putting others down is a power play by somebody who feels powerless. Although some display it more often, we are all prone to this reactive pattern if we are in a fixed or negative mindset.

The person may be unaware of the behavior or find ways to rationalize it rather than explore the vulnerable pain of disconnection. The win is often short-lived because the outcome is not connected. It’s often the opposite as we alienate those we put down and observers.

Ask ourselves what do we need to feel empowered

A simple key to avoiding this behavioral pattern is to notice when we feel disconnected or disempowered and ask ourselves — what do I need right now to feel empowered.

With mindful self-questioning, we can realize that self-power is only applicable when it is our own.

For those on the receiving end of a put-down, we can recognize the other person’s disempowerment with compassion as we hold our healthy boundaries and personal power.

We can respond instead of reacting, which keeps our power intact. For the growth-minded, we work on the hidden drivers behind the limits, such as disempowerment, so they always have ample self-power that cannot be given or taken by a put-down.

It has to do with their own insecurities

When people criticize others unfairly, and unkindly the reason usually has to do with their own insecurities.

Very often, the person criticizing others is unable to face the fact that they are not achieving the goals they wish to achieve, perhaps due to a lack of effort on their part. It’s easier to criticize somebody else than to put in the work of making their own lives better.

There are aspects of themselves that they repress

A second common reason is that there are aspects of themselves that they repress, which the other person blatantly expresses. This may be an aspect of themselves they don’t like and accept and either need to embrace or acknowledge.

Often the person who’s being unkind is unaware of why they are so involved in putting the other person down, and sometimes, helping them to understand better what’s happening can be helpful. If they’re receptive, there’s an opportunity for growth.

Ask yourself — am I caught up in thinking, “They shouldn’t be this way, act this way, talk this way, live this way, etc.” frequently? Is this kind of preoccupation causing you distress?

If you’re preoccupied with feeling critical of someone in your life, ask yourself if any of this may be true of you. We can often learn and grow from what pains us, moving forward to a happier, healthier life.

Janet Coleman

Janet Coleman

Co-Founder, TheConsumerMag

To make others feel worse about themselves

They have low self-esteem, which leads to a need to feel better about themselves by putting others down. This is a toxic way of feeling better about yourself because it’s based on making others feel worse about themselves.

They most likely grew up where their parents were critical of them

People who put others down most likely grew up in homes where their parents or other caregivers were critical of them.

Related: How to Deal With Critical Parents in Adulthood

They learned from an early age that putting others down was one way to get some attention from their parents or strong feelings from them, but this strategy doesn’t work for long and only creates more distance between people.

They may have been criticized by peers or siblings when growing up

People who put others down may have been criticized by peers or siblings when they were growing up, which caused them to believe that they weren’t good enough or worthy of love.

Hence, they try to make up for this lack of self-love by putting others down so that they can feel better about themselves temporarily (until the next time they’re criticized).

To gain attention from friends or family members

Sometimes, people want their friends or family members to notice them more and pay attention to what they’re saying, so they’ll put other people down to get that attention.

For example, if your friend is talking, but no one is listening, you might say something mean about someone else just so your friend will listen to you instead.

Alexa Justine Callada

Alexa Justine Callada

Marketing Specialist, Kostex Garage Repair

This is their way of expressing their feeling of discontentment

People put others down for a reason, and that reason is based on how people respond to particular circumstances. Some of these reasons are jealousy, insecurity, fear of competition, and fear of change.

Sometimes we experience this kind of treatment from our family, friends, and coworkers.

Some people have this kind of unexplainable feeling that when they put somebody down, they feel like they are ahead of them or much better than them. This is their way of expressing their feeling of insecurities and discontentment.

They become jealous that they need to keep up with the new trend

Many people in this era are molded by social media, and this virus is infecting many people because they align their lives based on what they see on the internet and sometimes in their environment.

The impact of social media on people’s lifestyles changes attitudes and behavior that cause the downgrading of other people.

They become jealous that they need to keep up with the new trend and have a luxurious lifestyle, and when they don’t, they become insecure and create negative responses by putting others down.

This is not good; we must learn to help each other and encourage each other in any situation so that we can all succeed in any phase of life.

Isaac Robertson

Co-Founder, Total Shape

They are merely taking their angst out

Different people react differently to stress. Some tend to become silent, and others seek refuge in counseling.

Other than these two categories, there is a whole different set of people who prefer to deal with their problems in a chaotic way by messing with others and putting them down.

Such people are often too troubled to realize they are going against civilized human behavior by dragging innocent people and their insecurities into a public place.

While it may seem that they are too jealous or selfish to care about others’ feelings, they are actually taking their angst out after remaining cooped up for a long time.

They may be a narcissist

Narcissists find enjoyment in outing others down. For them, no other human being is comparable to themselves. When a giant ego stands in the way of clear and mature understanding, putting others down becomes a mere game.

Narcissists find it amusing and are unapologetic in their inappropriate behavior. For them, putting others down is a way to establish their superiority over others. It also gives them a sense of control which is very satisfying for a hardcore narcissist.

Related: 60+ Signs You’re Dealing With a Narcissist

Ryan C. Warner

Ryan Warner

Team Wellness Expert | Clinical Psychologist, 1AND1 Life

They are experiencing anxiety and depression

Most people don’t make the connection, but if you are angry or irritated all the time, that can be a symptom of depression.

Some people present the more typical lack of energy and disinterest in their surroundings, but others can start lashing out at their loved ones and alienating themselves.

Overreacting to inconveniences, persistent anger, and anger outbursts can result from the frustration and exasperation that comes with the intense sadness and significant impairment that depression causes in daily life.

The link between anxiety and anger is also a close one. Anxiety usually comes with:

  • overstimulation
  • a perceived threat
  • a flight or fight response from the body

All of this can also be intensely frustrating, which, when unacknowledged, can turn to anger. Anxious people lash out when things are not going their way because of the contained tension and stress they are under 24/7.

People with anxiety also tend to have trouble sleeping, making their anger management worse. Mental illness is never an excuse for poor behavior. Everyone has to take accountability and work on their mental health.

However, it helps understand why some people lash out and treat others badly. People with depression and anxiety are not in complete control of their emotions and do not perceive reality as they usually would.

Michelle Devani

Michelle Devani

Founder, Love Devani

They are raised to do their best and be perfect

In my experience as a relationship expert, we couldn’t deny that most people have this trait; to put people down. This happens most especially when they are raised to do their best and be perfect in everything they do.

Even at an early age, they learn how to compete and do everything to make them higher than others, which negatively impacts them.

These are some of the reasons why:

Part of their human nature is to get insecure

They tend to put people down because they envy them. They can’t reach their level; that’s why they strike them down. This is an unhealthy way of dealing with insecurities.

It became part of their character

They tend to say bad words that will discourage them because it is what they commonly hear. They thought it wouldn’t be that serious, yet it is.

Gerald Lombardo 

Gerald Lombardo

Co-Founder, The Word Counter

They feel self-conscious about how people do their jobs

I believe that people put down others to feel in control. Their insecurity about feeling powerless, which might stem from their upbringing as a child, can appear later in life.

Especially in the workplace, it can be common for individuals to feel self-conscious about how they do their jobs. Rather than deal with those emotions, they choose to belittle others as a way of feeling superior.

These workplace “bullies” find it easier to put others down rather than put in the necessary self-development to become better humans themselves. Typically, these employees perform poorly and do not last in the long run.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is putting you down at work, the best thing you can do is to maintain an attitude of respect while focusing on your work to the best of your ability.

Let the person continue to act out; more likely than not, their poor performance might inevitably lead to their dismissal from the organization.

Related: 30+ Workplace Conflict Examples and How to Resolve Them

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