If you ever feel like a bad person, you are not alone. Several factors, such as life circumstances, can influence how you and others view what is and is not bad.

The concept of good and bad is complex, situational, often culturally defined, and not always something people agree on.

Chances are pretty good, though, that feeling like a bad person and actually being a bad person are not the same.

Understanding common underlying reasons why someone may be labeled as “bad” and observing your behaviors may help you cope with how you feel.

Unpacking what it means to be “bad” is a bit tricky.

The concept of “bad” vs. “good” is completely subjective and can vary between people, cultures, societies, and backgrounds. What makes it even more complex is that what is “good” to one person may be “bad” to another and may change based on specific situations.

When it comes to thinking of yourself as a “bad” person, there also may not be a simple answer. Some potential reasons you may be feeling like a bad person, include:

  • It’s a sign of possible anxiety or depression.
  • A loved one, friend, or others constantly tells you that you do “bad” or hurtful things.
  • You have low self-esteem.
  • You’re a survivor of emotional, physical, sexual, or other types of abuse.
  • Some of the things you have said or done caused pain or hurt to other people.

A 2019 review suggests that many people may agree that being fair to others makes you a good person. While being unfair makes you a bad person. But it may not be that simple.

For example, if a child steals a sandwich from a peer because their family could not afford to buy them lunch, does that make the child a bad person? Some people may argue that stealing is wrong, the child should know better, and the child’s actions were not fair to their peer.

Others may argue that the child had no choice, had unfair circumstances handed to them, and had to steal the sandwich in order to eat or survive.

In other words, how the action gets interpreted is largely up to each individual considering the situation, and no one answer is likely completely correct.

A person with a dark factor personality will pursue their own interests, even at the expense of others.

Dark factor personality is associated with antisocial behaviors and other actions that may have a negative effect on other people.

Dark factor personality is not an actual diagnosis. But it’s a phenomenon currently being studied as researchers seek to better understand personality factors.

Psychopathy and narcissism are two traits of dark factor personality. Additional traits include:

  • egoism
  • sadism
  • moral disengagement
  • entitlement
  • self-interest
  • spitefulness

If you recognize some of the above traits in yourself, it does not mean you are a “bad” person or have a dark factor personality.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines personality as pervasive characteristics and behaviors that show your unique adjustment to life. Personality involves:

  • interests
  • values
  • major traits
  • drives
  • emotional patterns
  • abilities
  • self-concept

Engaging in one or more behaviors that fit dark factor personality from time to time or at different points in your life does not make you a “bad” person. Also, if you notice that you’re concerned about how your actions affect other people this is a sign of having empathy.

How you stop feeling like a bad person can vary based on the underlying cause of the feeling.

It can be helpful to get to the core of why you feel this way. You may find it helpful to talk it out with a trusted friend or loved one. If that does not work, consider consulting a therapist.

A therapist can also help you feel better. They will support you in exploring your emotions, regardless of the exact underlying cause of why you feel like a bad person.

If you’re living with depression or anxiety, treatment is available. Options such as medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both may work best.

If you’re living with or around a person who engages in abusive behavior or who provides constant negative feedback, consider distancing yourself from the person.

If you know some of your actions or words hurt someone, you may find reconciling with the person may help. This process could involve an apology and deep listening.

The process of reconciliation may also involve forgiveness if the person hurt you. But talking it out with the person may help improve your relationship with them and help you feel better too.

Feeling like a bad person is subjective. A variety of factors influence how you view yourself and others and judge whether or not you think you or they’re a “bad” person.

Some researchers suggest the existence of a dark factor personality type. They believe this is the source of behaviors or actions that negatively affect other people.

If you feel like you are a bad person, understanding why you feel that way may help you. Seeking professional support to treat underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can be helpful. In other cases, distancing yourself from someone or seeking reconciliation may help.