Remember that 2004 box office hit “Mean Girls” that many of us girls still love and quote (#OnWednesdaysWeWearPink)? For those of you that haven’t watched it (watch it), let me sum it up for you. Cady, a 16-year-old girl who has been living in Africa with her parents for years, home schooled none the less, has to move back to the US, and go straight into public high school. She is beyond socially unprepared and in for a rude awakening. On day one, with the help of her two new outcast friends, she learns about the various cliques. She is warned to avoid the school’s most exclusive, meanest clique, the plastics. The plastics are made up of a reigning trio of girls led by queen bee Regina George. In the words of Cady’s friend Damian, “She’s the queen bee – the star, those other two are just her little workers.” The Plastics are intrigued by Cady and invite her to sit with them at lunch (which is a big deal in their world). They take her on as their little project.
Before long, Cady is playing the “plastic” role a little too well and even turning on queen bee Regina. Of course she catches herself at the end because Cady is after all, a nice girl. After paying the price for partaking in these games, she makes things right. Sorry if this is a spoiler alert but if you haven’t watched the movie by now, chances are you won’t (but do though).
This is all high school stuff right? When girls graduate high school, cliques and fakeness become a thing of the past….right?
I hesitated to write about this. I wondered if it was too controversial of a subject to touch, or if anyone would take it personally. I have some AMAZING women in my life, so why take time to write about this? Then it dawned on me. I should because at some point or another, most women have, or will be, bullied by mean girls. We address the topic of bullying at our kids’ schools. Why not address it when pertaining to grown women? It has become not only socially acceptable, but glorified. Think of all the reality shows that are popular because of female drama. I must confess, I am guilty of watching the real housewife shows and find them entertaining. But it becomes more real when I hear women in my life speak emotionally about how their “friends” turned on them or witness women talk bad about their “friends” behind their back. It’s sad and I think we can do SO MUCH BETTER. So it’s worth addressing, and maybe one person will take something constructive away from it.
Keep in mind all I can do is share my experiences and feelings on the subject, however I respect the fact that yours might be different.
I have moved around a lot. There is no denying I’ve gone through my share of friends and been in many different social circles pretty much my entire life. Some of these circles have been hard to penetrate and I know I’ve been unfairly judged before accepted. Some circles have been solid and quality people still in my life. Some have been … educational, to say the least. I believe everyone is a friend until they give me a reason to think otherwise, so I jump into friendships fast, and am a pretty darn good friend. I give a lot of myself before people earn it, and just hope I’m investing in a friendship that will last.
It’s great when you’re investing in the right people. The people that appreciate it, are deserving, and will grow to love you.
But I have learned that there are some people that simply do not want to like you. It’s nothing you did. It’s nothing you said. It’s just them. It’s their own insecurities, life traumas, or the way your essence makes them feel about themselves. Putting too much time and energy into winning these people over will only wear you down, make you insecure as you question what you did for them to not like you, or even worse make you lose a piece of yourself as you try to become one of their peoples.
Maybe I was too uncool in high school to have girl drama, but I have witnessed more of it in my grown up life than in my student years. I don’t look for it. I don’t instigate it. I don’t gravitate towards it. I actually run from it and try to always remain neutral. But, mean girls stirring it up exist and there is no age limit for them.
Female bullying looks different in adult life than in school. It’s not getting called names to your face (I would honestly prefer that) or sitting alone at the lunch table. It’s more about actions and hidden agendas that take an emotional toll on women and hurt their confidence. The best way to avoid getting into a female bullying situation is to know what to look for and avoid it.
I have observed three types of “mean” girls in my adult life. (I put mean in parenthesis because they’re actually just wounded, not mean). Although I want to remain optimistic that everyone is a potential friend and good person until I see a reason to think otherwise, I also have an obligation to myself to apply what I’ve learned. It’s not about judging. It’s about having a more conscious, guarded, social existence.
The first group of mean girls is the obvious, the plastics. They are fake. Being catty and talking about women behind their backs is their sport. They feed off of leaving others out. It makes them feel important, which they need because they are extremely insecure. Every group of plastics has their queen bee and followers who like Damien said, “are her little workers”. Their little workers are not necessarily mean; they’re just looking for acceptance and are willing to let someone dictate who they should like or not to get that feeling of belonging.
Sometimes members of this group will come around, when life circumstances get tough and they realize they need real support and not a plethora of fake friends. But until that happens, they will be happy “believing” they run the show.
Second, there are the drainers. These are people you become friends with because they like what you have to offer. They take and take, and take some more. It’s a one sided friendship, fueled by your efforts. The friendship is great, until you get tired of giving. When you need them to give, they are nowhere to be found. By takers, I don’t just mean moochers. I mean friends that only text you when they need advice, to vent, a favor, or to ask for business tips when they have shown no support of yours (ok, personal example there but apply it to your “thing”). Friends that prioritize you when they’re going through a rough time and need you, but once it passes, you’re dispensable to them. They emotionally abuse you because you are kindhearted. They feed off of and drain your positive energy, without ever giving back.
The third group is the downers. The downers are a negative bunch. They thrive more on talking about what’s going wrong than what is going right. They constantly need pep talks and to be told they’re awesome. The real problem with having these women as friends is that you have to be apologetic, or quiet, about your happiness or accomplishments. I’ve had people like this in my life and it took me a while to realize, if something fierce happens and I want to celebrate it, but I have doubts about sharing it with them for how it will make them feel, they’re not my friends. Negativity is contagious and if you hang around it enough, you can start to have that outlook. Be careful and don’t hang around people that will consciously, or subconsciously, dim your sparkle.
So, how do you deal with mean girls? Honestly, you don’t. You can’t change them, and your honest efforts might only give them more to talk about. Owning up to their wrong doings is also not their specialty so you won’t get very far. What you can do is learn from these encounters and raise the bar to which you measure your friends up to.
My standard, which I hold true to my life and friendships, is:
“If it doesn’t inspire, uplift, or support me, it needs to go.”
I created this blog and measure everything I put in it around that principle. Not everything and everyone in my life has to meet all three but if they are able to at least one, they are worth working out the quirks, having the difficult conversations, and flourishing the relationship with. If your friendships are not doing any of those, chances are you’re watering a plant that will never grow, and should redirect your efforts.
You have to get ride of the old to make room for the new. Don’t be afraid to separate yourself from people you know are not good for you for fear of being alone. I know a lot of people, but I still consider myself a loner a lot of times. Sometimes I’m more at peace flying solo and am completely okay with it. Sometimes God places people in my life at the right time when maybe it’s better to have a sidekick. Either way, I’m content not forcing anything, and content if I have to stand alone.
If you have people in your life your intuition is telling you to separate from, do it in peace knowing you are making room for new and better. It is about quality versus quantity after all. You might be missing out on the quality 2 friends that will richly enhance your life if you are surrounded by the 20 that will drain it.
To recap all of this with a solution, versus a problem, just be aware of the patterns of behavior held by the women that have not been a positive influence in your life. No need for a big dramatic separation. Just distance yourself and work on being the type of friend you want to attract. Stay true to yourself, stay true to what you know is right, be kind, and the nice girls will follow. And as far as the mean girls, you can get your fix of the drama on Netflix or Bravo TV;) Don’t allow it into your life.
*Thank you for reading. As usual sharing and feedback is always welcome! To stay connected, please follow social media links and join e-mail list on home page.