8 behaviors of people who are intimidated and uncomfortable by your personal growth, according to psychology

Personal growth is transformative.

Yet, change doesn’t come easy to everyone – and some people might have issues with you investing in yourself and leveling up.

Maybe your success reminds them of their shortcomings, or maybe they don’t want you to outshine them in life.

Whatever their reasons may be, their negativity isn’t something you have to live with.

Here are 8 behaviors of people who are intimidated and uncomfortable by your personal growth, according to psychology.

Don’t let the haters bring you down.

1) They downplay your achievements

People who feel threatened by your growth may downplay your accomplishments.

Whenever you share news about something good happening in your life, they undermine you, saying “It’s not a big deal” or “Oh, but anyone could have done that.”

These dismissive comments hurt, especially if you’ve worked extra hard to achieve the thing your loved ones are now minimizing.

In some cases, this masked jealousy can signal that you’re dealing with a fake friend.

Add inconsistency and disrespect into the mix and that’s likely the case.

Other times, though, a person may find it difficult to support you if they’re overlooking their own accomplishments, according to psychology.

A little probing will help you figure out what’s what.

2) They fail to acknowledge your growth

When you’ve known someone for a long time, the image they have of you in their mind doesn’t always evolve at the same time as the you in real life.

For instance, I’ve met my oldest friends in college.

More than a decade later, they still sometimes think of me as the girl who only eats pasta and acts like a moron when she drinks too much, even though my diet is now (slightly) more varied and my social drinking (mostly) under control.  

The point is, their mental snapshot of you can become outdated as you change, creating a disconnect between their perception and your reality.

As a result, they might fail to acknowledge your growth altogether because, in their mind, nothing is different.

The process of others recognizing and accepting your new self can take time.

But if someone admits that you’ve changed and still refuses to give you credit for it, they’re likely intimidated by how much effort you put into yourself.

That brings me to my next point.

3) They start to avoid you

When someone is uncomfortable with your personal growth, they might avoid you.

Suddenly, they’re no longer available to hang out, and all your efforts to re-connect go nowhere.

This behavior stems from their inability to cope with the changes in your life and their feelings of inadequacy.

According to psychology, people look to others for a benchmark to measure their own success.

If you modify the benchmark in such a drastic way that they feel less successful, they start to see themselves as failures.

They can’t keep up and they’re afraid that you might leave them behind as you move forward on your journey of self-development.

So, they cut ties first, to spare themselves the potential pain of you realizing that they’re dragging you down.

As usual, open communication is key to fostering healthy relationships.

If your loved one would just admit to fearing rejection, there’s a good chance your relationship could survive.  

4) They become passive-aggressive

A more unpleasant behavior of people who are intimidated and uncomfortable by your personal growth is passive-aggressiveness.

Instead of openly expressing their jealousy, they use subtle actions or remarks to mock and undermine you.

They might give backhanded compliments like, “You’re doing well for someone with your background,” or make sarcastic comments that belittle your achievements.

Their hostility is masked by a veneer of civility, leaving you not only hurt but confused.

Psychologists recommend you react to passive-aggressive behavior by staying neutral.

Voice your concerns – but if the person continues to deny reality, walk away until they’re ready to engage with you honestly.

Insisting you discuss the issue will only escalate the conflict.

5) They try to discourage you

People who are intimidated and uncomfortable by your personal growth might try to discourage you as a way to cope with their own shortcomings.

When someone close to you sees you improving, it can highlight their stagnation, making them feel threatened.

Instead of cheering you on or being inspired by your actions, they may try to keep you in your comfort zone to avoid confronting their own lack of effort.

Are you sure you can handle this?

Isn’t that too risky?

Aren’t you better off leaving things how they are right now?

Questions like these aim to deter you from pursuing paths that could lead to further success.

To handle such discouragement, it’s essential to stay focused on your goals.

You likely struggle with occasional self-doubt as it is.

Their pessimistic input only adds fuel to the fire.

6) They compete with you

Another approach someone who is uncomfortable with your growth might take is to compete with you directly.

When they see you making strides, it triggers feelings of inadequacy, which they attempt to counteract by trying to surpass you.

They do it because they need to prove that they are just as capable.

It’s easy to spot someone who sees you as competition:

  • They compare their achievements, possessions, or skills to yours
  • They try to outdo you, whether it’s in conversations or achievements
  • They brag about their successes, often in response to hearing about yours
  • They turn cooperative activities into competitions, striving to come out on top
  • If you share a social circle, they vie for attention from mutual friends or colleagues

According to psychology, keeping the competition friendly can work to your advantage, motivating you to reach new heights.

That said, if your loved one’s constant need to outshine you becomes draining, it’s time for you two to have a serious talk.

7) They can’t hide their envy

If a person constantly measures their success against yours and perceives themselves as lacking, envy takes root.

Granted, we’re all susceptible to it, according to psychology.

I’ve found myself jealous of friends on occasion, but I eventually realize it’s only because I struggle with self-esteem.

When someone succeeds, I immediately think of all the ways I’m failing at that particular point in time.

Which is dumb and unproductive, so I tell myself there’s enough good to go around and that them being successful doesn’t make it less likely that I’ll be as well.

Jealousy becomes a problem when it’s excessive and you find yourself unable to keep it under control.

Maybe you have someone in your life whose (bad) emotional reaction to your growth is obvious?

They might talk about you behind your back or criticize your approach in order to bring you down a notch.

Give them some time to cool off.

But if their attitude doesn’t change, remember that your bond shouldn’t hinge on being on the same footing at all times.

If they can’t be genuinely happy for you, take a step back and assess the relationship.

It might have run its course.

8) They project their insecurities onto you

As you’ve probably gathered by now, people who are intimidated and uncomfortable by your personal growth usually project their insecurities onto you as a defense mechanism.

Projection is a psychological tactic that involves attributing your own undesirable feelings, motivations, or thoughts to someone else.

By doing so, you reduce the discomfort associated with acknowledging these traits within yourself.

How can you tell if this is happening? Easy:

  • They label you as arrogant when you bring up your growth, projecting their fear of being seen as less competent
  • They question your intentions, suggesting you’re pursuing growth for selfish reasons when they are the ones struggling with their motivation
  • They accuse you of becoming different in a negative way, reflecting their discomfort
  • They express doubts about your ability to sustain your growth, projecting doubt about their potential for success

Understanding that their remarks come from a place of fear can help you maintain perspective and protect you from internalizing their projections.

Don’t let their discomfort hinder your progress.

Final thoughts

More often than not, people who are uncomfortable with your growth feel this way because of their own insecurities.

Call out anyone who exhibits the behaviors above, but be gentle about it.

If they continue to spew negativity, you’re more than allowed to distance yourself from them.

You deserve to be surrounded by folks who are excited to celebrate your achievements.

Everyone else doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

If you want to feel more confident in your body, say goodbye to these 9 behaviors

7 typical habits of men who never grow up emotionally, according to psychology