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How Do I Stop Being Petty and Mean?

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From Canada: I get upset and/or hurt way too easily by other people, and often over trivial things. There are times when I would simply retire from the situation, ruminate and then feel fine. But there are also times when I would get irrationally angry, and in those moments I also become really mean and hurtful.

It’s especially apparent in arguments with my younger sister, because she’s the kind of person who will, in the middle of fights, be like “whatever” and move on to other things and act like nothing happened. She says it’s because she doesn’t like fighting… I hate it when she does that though, because first of all I don’t like being the only one all fired up since it makes me feel crazy, and also it makes me feel like she just doesn’t care and is disregarding me. Anyways, I’ve called her a coward because she avoids confrontations and just walks away instead… Then I read somewhere that one sign of pettiness is thinking that letting things go is a weakness.

When I get mad towards someone or if I feel like I’ve been wronged, I can feel a deep hatred towards that person and I’ll try to “get back at them” by hurting them with words. When that happens, in my head I know I am being mean but my heart doesn’t care – my anger takes over and I just want to hurt them. Today I even made my sister cry by telling her how much I disliked being around her. I feel kind of bad about it now, but in the moment, all I could think was “Ha! That’s what you get.”

How do I stop being petty and mean?? It’s hard to control how I feel. I don’t know why I’m so angry… And I don’t like this side of myself. I guess I’ve always been like this, but now that I’m 21, I find myself very immature for acting this way. If you could provide some insight on why I’m like this, as well as advice or tips on how to change, it would be very helpful. Thanks!

How Do I Stop Being Petty and Mean?

Answered by on -


Thank you for writing. The fist step toward making change is recognizing that change is needed. You’ve made that step. Give yourself credit for that.

The next step is taking charge of your anger. Your anger doesn’t “take over”. You decide to throw it at someone. Your sister makes the choice to stop instead of being hurtful. You have the power to make the same choice.

As for why you are so angry: I can’t know based on a letter but I can make a couple of guesses. There’s an expression: “Hurt people hurt people.” People who have been hurt in the past sometimes try to prevent it from happening again by getting even — even before someone really hurts them. It’s kind of like saying “I’m going to get you back before you hurt me because I know you are going to do it”. Another guess is that you feel somehow inferior to many people and the only way you know to feel equal is to have the upper hand. Or maybe it is something else. Those are just guesses.

As you are already finding, being so quick to be angry and hurtful doesn’t invite people to want to be around you.

If you can’t get a hold on your anger by yourself, I do suggest you seek out a counselor for some self-understanding and for some anger management training. It is okay to feel anger when you find yourself in conflict with someone. It’s what you do next that either destroys relationships or brings people closer.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

How Do I Stop Being Petty and Mean?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). How Do I Stop Being Petty and Mean?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 May 2018 (Originally: 26 May 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.