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We often don’t know any alternate ways to respond when we feel like we're failing at something we should be able to ace.Being labeled as intimidating can be confusing What happens when someone tells us they find us intimidating?Racism is notorious for the mislabeling of individuals as intimidating for malign purposes and out of distorted beliefs.Those in positions of power may feel insecure about their own value and feel intimidated by assertive employees from marginalized groups, holding stereotypes and feeling irrational fears.When we rely heavily on what psychoanalysts call “splitting,” we can see ourselves as all good and select others—often those who have disappointed us in some way—as all bad.When people lack the ability to self-reflect with nuance and have not recognized that there may be multiple facets of oneself operating together and sometimes at odds, seeing other people as intimidating is more likely to be a reflection of their own disavowed character traits. The result of a history of being repeatedly intimidated — When we have been bullied, neglected, or otherwise victimized, there is a good chance that we will over-read threat in others as a self-protective measure.This piece is a follow-up to one on how people can be intimidating without realizing it.
We can try to shame and threaten ourselves, for example, into doing things we think we should be doing, to be who we think we should be, but in doing so we run the risk of creating the need to fight back against our own self-bullying.Counterintuitively, others’ experiences of us as intimidating may say more about us than they do about them.Here are some factors that may be running in the background when we think others are intimidating: 1.More accurately, we feel intimidated, and we either have no idea at all that we feel this way, or we may have only an intellectual understanding, leaving our deeper, more influential feelings and attitudes hidden.So, when someone finds us intimidating, they may do so because we are intimidating—whether we know it or not.
Calling out intimidation in more specific ways can be hazardous to one’s career, reputation, and well-being.