Everyone Who Has Ever Been Mean To You Has This One Thing In Common

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My ex-boyfriend rested his hand on my thigh. “You know,” he said, “you could tighten this up if you just worked out a little more.”

I mistakenly thought he’d placed his hand on my thigh to show some affection, but unfortunately for me, those projections were nothing more than wishful thinking. He was just getting ready to make me feel absolutely horrible about myself.

OK, so he hated my body. The only way to appease him would be to change everything about it. OK. Fine.

I took the “advice” he gave me out on myself and began eating almost nothing, while simultaneously making twice-a-day trips to the gym. I pushed myself past the point of debilitating exhaustion. I slimmed down and toned up, fueled by the idea that the moment I got fit would be the moment he'd stop being so freaking...mean.

But he didn't stop. I changed the way I looked for him -- not to mention, I treated him with unconditional magnanimity -- and even still, the meanness lingered.

And then I took a step out of the relationship and into my head and realized something: I would never be good enough for him because it wasn’t my body that was the problem. He was the problem. Him. His unachievable expectations and his pompous nature.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why did I encourage my verbally abusive boyfriend by choosing to stay in that relationship for as long as I did? Well, I was hopelessly in love with him, obviously.

Young naiveté and bad judgment aside, though, I did learn a lot from my relationship with him. I learned that people like him are mean for one reason: They have gaping insecurities.

People like my ex wear masks to hide the things they hate most about themselves from the world: from strangers, from acquaintances and even from the people closest to them. And the only way they know how to deal with those undesirable qualities is by being jealous, angry or downright mean to others.

I call it the “Bitch Facade.”

The Bitch Facade isn't merely a phenomenon we encounter with lovers; it's a phenomenon we encounter in other interpersonal relationships, too.

Remember that time you were bullied as a kid? The bullies were insecure. Remember that time a girl told you that you looked like a slut? She was insecure, too.

Whether it was those huge bitches from middle school that chanted, “You can’t sit with us!” when you tried to seat yourself at their table (been there) or your dickwad of an ex-boyfriend telling you there’s always room to be thinner and tighter (been there, too), it's key to remember not to take anything they say personally.

The put-downs and reprimanding and remarks rooted in malice all have nothing to do with you -- and everything to do with the insecure people saying them.

They put you down before you get the chance to put them down.

Insecure people have a special talent in that way. They’re quick to interject your thoughts and words, jumping in right before the sentence takes a turn. They know that at any moment, you could bash them, and they just won’t have that.

Pointing out your weaknesses takes the attention away from them and throws it onto you. Once they’ve done just that, they’ve achieved their ultimate goal: total and complete destruction of you, so as to avoid total and complete self-combustion.

The things they don’t like most about you are the things they don’t like most about themselves.

Insecure people project their own self-loathing onto other people. Sometimes, the qualities you have for which they have a low tolerance are the same ones they wish they, themselves, didn't have.

And when I really think about it, I realize just how true it is. My thigh-hating ex relentlessly strived for an unrealistic ideal for his own body.

People like him nitpick their own flaws in private, and they’re really damn good at hiding the fact that they do so.

Because they don’t harbor positive feelings about themselves, they perpetuate a tug-of-war for power within their relationships. They have to be on top and stay on top, and the way they stay in that position is by pushing you down on the ground and keeping you there.

They fear that the things in which they place all their value will be taken from them.

The most insecure people look to people and places outside themselves for validation. They put all of their happiness in a romantic partner, good friends, a job.

They derive their confidence from the environments in which they surround themselves -- and then they end up feeling incredibly broken if and when those things ever leave their lives.

And since they don’t know how to build self-confidence from within, they will go through life feeling lost. And being mean.

They might be mean to you, but they will always be meaner to themselves.

Those who are secure within themselves don’t feel the need to compensate in any other way. Conversely, the most insecure people are irrational, abrasive and do not know how to be vulnerable.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was trying to have a relationship with an insecure person because he didn’t know how to open up.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t ready to be with me; he wasn’t ready to be with anyone. He needed time to work on himself, to untangle the webs of his own insecurities.

Behind closed doors, mean people are not mean at all. They’re simply insecure.