When the term “mean girls” comes to mind today we tend to think of wearing pink on Wednesdays, sweatpants being the only thing that fits us right now and OMG, how hot is Aaron Samuels?!
But regardless of how much we love the pop culture legend that is the high school flick “Mean Girls”, our society has a real problem with women disempowering other women.
There are a lot of hard questions to be asked and a lot of hard answers to be discovered here. Each one of them could be a blog post of its own. But today I want to talk to the mean girls. The mean girls that know they are mean, the mean girls that won’t admit it to themselves and the mean girls who don’t even yet realize their actions and words are harmful to another girl.
Unfortunately, we all have it in us to be a mean girl – and it doesn’t go away with age. I have been both a mean girl and a victim. So coming from that perspective, here is How to Not Be a Mean Girl – In 5 Easy Steps:
Step 1: Know Your Own Story
It’s pretty well accepted in the world of psychology that when someone acts out or is abusive and demeaning to others that they have faced some type of trauma in their own life. Not everyone experiences the same level of trauma, but even something as simple as a parent not spending enough time with you as a child or having a boyfriend dump you for another “prettier” girl can leave a scar that you are desperate to heal but don’t know how. It can be terrifying to dig into your past and identify your scars, but with the support of someone who loves you, you can do it. There is no shame in acknowledging the things that make up your story, and the result will be a better understanding of why you react to things the way you do and what makes you tick. You may consciously or unwittingly be taking out your pain on someone else when what you really need is care for your emotional needs.
Step 2: Seek to Really See Other Girls
What does that mean? It’s easy for us to stereotype other girls just with a glance, to put them into a category based on their appearance, one interaction, or something they said in a conversation that put you off. But if we can recognize that we have a deeper story – full of disappointments, failures and hurt – maybe they do too. That offhand comment you made to your friend about how she really needs a stylist to help her get a new wardrobe? You were just joking right? But she has struggled with her appearance for years. Your thoughtless words added another seed of doubt that maybe she just really isn’t good enough.
Step 3: Know When to Say You’re Sorry
We all mess up. There will be times we will say something careless, we’ll forget to invite someone to the party and feelings will be hurt. There will even be times when our anger will get the better of us and we’ll spit out hot words like lava that we wish we could take back. Know when to apologize. And really be sorry. Let go of pride and a need for justification by realizing that at the end of the day relationships are worth more than being right.
Step 4: Be Intentional About Affirming Worth
Just like it’s important that we receive affirming love from our family and friends, it’s vital that we’re intentional about affirming the worth of the other women in our lives. Whether it’s your sister, mother, friend, co –worker or even the woman working the counter at the gas station – be intentional about speaking kind words, mailing a quick note, or inviting her out for coffee to talk about her life. I know this type of action isn’t first nature to all of us, but find your niche. If you like writing letters – send encouraging notes! If it’s washing dishes, go over and wash her dishes. Look for a little thing that makes her happy and then just do it! Letting her know you care in small ways goes far in establishing trust that you really have her best interests at heart.
Step 5: Forgive Yourself
You reached out to understand her story, you apologized for your unkind words, you even bought her Cami’s cupcakes! But she still seems upset about what happened between the two of you in the past. Accept that there’s nothing more you can do but keep loving her. Hurt takes time to heal – just like your pain didn’t go away overnight. Keep diligently investing in the relationship and don’t allow guilt to overcome you. When you first realize you’re being a mean girl, it can sting. Use that feeling as an inspiration to start empowering others, rather than letting it disempower you.
Of course, at the heart of turning from our mean girl ways is the desire to change. If you find yourself struggling, grab some friends that can hold you accountable! Intentional love makes all the difference in a woman’s life.
By Kate McGaughey