Walking Away From Mean Girl Energy at Any Age
For as long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around the mentality of a mean girl. Having been a spectator to the many ways a person can be affected by this form of bullying, I have learned the hard way how even the smallest things can trigger repressed pain. Cruelty that can never be allayed by the words “I’m sorry.” Choices made without ever realizing how you’ve made another person feel. It breaks my heart to think about how prevalent this is in our world and how the widespread use of social media has made a bad thing worse.
Are Mean Girls Born or Are They Created?
Throwing out the question of nature versus nurture leaves me baffled. I have always believed that children are born a blank slate, slowly becoming influenced by genetics and experiences. And yet, even in preschool settings you can find examples of girls who act naturally kind and inclusive, while others exude selfish and boorish behavior. Is it possible for a 3-year-old girl to innately possess and display such hurtful conduct, or are they mimicking behavior they learned at home? For this reason, it’s so important we teach our children empathy at a young age.
Unsavory Experiences Have Stayed With Me
As a young girl, my family moved many times during my middle school and high school years, always putting me in the position of being the new kid. Each time I started a new school, the same scene would take place. The girls would give me the once over, assessing whether I was worthy of their friendship. Did I wear the right clothes? Was I cool enough? Which group would I best fit into? Meanwhile, all I wanted was to find someone to eat lunch with so I wouldn’t have to eat alone.
Seeing My Kids Be Victims Was Much Worse
I thought I had it bad until I saw the 21st-century version of this behavior inflicted upon my own children. Social media brought to light everything they were missing out on: Parties they weren’t invited to, weekend trips they were left out of, and even girls they thought were their friends suddenly deciding there were much better people worth spending time with. Having to live with snubs and disappointments can leave a child with cumulative pain, especially when a hurtful scenario repeats itself over and over again.
I Realized Mean Girls Turn Into Mean Women
Now that I am in my 50s, I have come to the realization that the only path some mean girls will take is to turn into mean women. My mother is almost 80 and she is still dealing with some of this all-too-recognizable behavior. Groups of friends excluding an undesirable woman along with the timeless practice of talking behind her back. And if that weren’t bad enough, when my then-90-year-old grandmother moved into an assisted living facility, the first people she encountered were the mean women who would not allow her to sit at their table to eat her meals. So if any of us think there is an ultimate cure for mean girls, I think we might be deluding ourselves.
Surviving Mean Girl Energy
Age can often bring wisdom, which was much appreciated when I woke up one day and decided to embrace my power in choosing who I wanted to be friends with. At that point, the bullies in my sphere were probably more of the passive aggressive variety, but it was time for their bad energy to go. No more drama. Only people who were non-judgmental and fun. Friends I could laugh with and who accepted me for who I was. And as my circle of friends changed to fit the new me, it felt great to discover that I had women in my life who could be supportive and kind. No more settling for anything but a mature and healthy female friendship because it turns out that having the right women in your life can actually be quite awesome.
The Bottom Line
Sadly, some mean girls are here to stay. Even if you are somehow spared in childhood and adolescence, one could be lurking around the turn of any decade. It might help to remember that a lot of this behavior stems from insecurity — theirs and yours. Time is supposed to be a helpful factor, but some will never break free from the desire to make themselves feel better by hurting the people around them. That’s why it’s so important to grow from the experiences and find empowerment on the flip side of the pain. Because when you get to the finish line of owning and controlling your own life, a mean girl will never be able to hurt you again.