Bullying and abuse hurt and can be draining. Sometimes, it is not easy to understand why others are hurting you, especially if you did nothing wrong. Although we tend to categorize people who bully or abuse others as bad, there are a variety of causes for this type of behaviour.

The following are some of the factors that may make a person bully:

  • The need to feel superior to others

A person might feel superior by belittling another person as they might perceive this as a way of asserting their dominance, feel strong or powerful. In reality, this person might be experiencing issues with self-worth and bullying serves as a defense mechanism to protect themselves.

  • Childhood trauma

Anything can be traumatic for a person and result in stress and anxiety. Some traumas might be linked to verbal and mental abuse whilst others can be of a sexual nature. Natural disasters and losses of loved ones can also be traumatic for a person and result in this type of behaviour.

  • Low self-esteem

If a person feels bad about himself/herself, the tendency is that this person wants to make others feel bad about themselves too. People having low self-esteem might engage in such a behaviour to get the attention they need and feel valued and loved, without realising that they might actually be gaining negative attention.

  • A poor home life

Sometimes, without even realising, we are a replica of our parents and end up dealing with life’s stresses according to the environment we were brought up in. Therefore, such behaviour might also be a result of a violent upbringing and experiences of verbal abuse.

  • Past experiences of bullying

This may also serve as a defense mechanism as, in the eyes of the victim, the bully is strong and unaffected but, in reality, it can be implying an escape from sadness.

  • Poor education

A person who lacks access to quality education may even lack social skills and moral responsbility and resort to bullying others.

  • Lack of empathy

Someone who struggles to understand another person’s emotions, may not even realize that he or she is hurting the other person.

  • Underlying mental health issues

The way a person’s brain works affects how he or she acts. Therefore, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which are usually accompanied by a variety of negative feelings, can bring on bullying.

If you are constantly being let down by others, you can take note of the following:

  • Set boundaries and avoid codependence

If you struggle to say no and let others know what is and what is not acceptable for you, you might end up giving too much of your time and energy. Consequently, you might feel let down and used. You can also feel let down if you expect others to give you something in return as giving doesn’t necessarily mean receiving in equal measures what you put out.

  • Avoid being blinded by expectations

Having high expectations may affect your relationship with others as you will be more focused on what you want rather than open to who the person really is and what he or she has to offer.

  • Avoid being controlling

You cannot fully control other people or even life and, thus, you do not always get things your way.

  • Avoid being stuck in the victim position and projection

Keep in mind that you might not actually be the victim, but you are acting like one and that you might also be attributing your own traits to another person. By listening to your desires and taking time to yourself, you might avoid letting yourself down.

  • Check what relationships you are choosing

Toxic friends and partners are more likely to put you down. Sometimes, such patterns of choosing might be controlled by core beliefs stemming from childhood trauma.

Finally, if you feel that you cannot handle this on your own, do not hesitate so seek proper, healthy support. The provision of a safe space by a counsellor or psychotherapist might help you understand your feeling of always being let down by others.

Johanna Cutajar is a Master in Counselling graduate from the University of Malta. She works with children and adolescents as a counsellor within the education sector on a variety of issues including relationship issues, trauma, bereavement, transitions, and general mental health.


Dean, M.E. (2020). Understanding Relationships with People Who Put Others Down: Psychology of Bullying. Retrieved from https://www.regain.us/advice/psychology/understanding-relationships-with-people-who-put-others-down-psychology-of-bullying/

Jacobson, S. (2018). Always Feeling Let Others? Retrieved from https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/feeling-let-down.htm