Spouse and I were discussing teenage girls the other day because, well, we have one of those. As he never had a sister, and went to an all-boys high school, he has zero clue what life is like for teenage girls, nor what goes on in their heads/hearts, nor why they behave the way they do. And let’s face it, teenage girls just go through stuff – stuff that’s hard, and stuff that totally sucks.
He asked why some girls (probably too many girls) can be so mean. Sigh….the honest truth is that it all boils down to competition. Girls and women compete with each other almost 100% of the time. Some of us handle that better than others. Some can overcome that internal conversation completely. Some can have the competitive and comparative thoughts and move past them immediately while others can’t, and then feel the need to act upon those thoughts. The more a girl feels she can’t compete with a certain person, or doesn’t compare well against that person, the meaner she’s likely to be to that person. Trust me, I know it’s completely illogical, but it is the way it is.
As girls get older, most learn to keep that comparing and competing inside their own heads and don’t let it affect how they treat people, nor how they feel around other people. But teenage girls….most haven’t yet accomplished that skill. The more insecure a teenage girl feels about her position, her standing, more likely she is to be a mean girl, a controlling, manipulative bully. She will do what she can to make someone, anyone, feel less than she, and then keep them there.
I dealt with my share of mean girls in high school. When my mom told me what was behind it, I didn’t believe her. You see, I always saw myself as less than, ugly, awkward, nerdy, and I accepted that position. I was perfectly happy flying under the radar, until I wasn’t flying under the radar anymore and the mean girls showed up. It made no sense to me…..I was nothing, so why were they bothering me? Why did my friends dump me and then humiliate me? Why did these girls who had ignored me for three years suddenly find me their favorite target? Why were rumors swirling? Why the torment? What had I ever done to them? I didn’t even move in their circles. But, years later, I figured out my mom had been right. Shocking, that. Moms were once teenage girls too.
High school for girls sucks. It’s hard. You have so much going on as it is….classes, homework, hormones, boys, social hierarchy….and then mean girls happen.
I wish I had been stronger back then, more capable of defending myself. I did have amazing friends who did stand up for me, reminded me that I wasn’t “nothing”, and picked me up when I would get down. As I see my own girlie going through the process of high school, I want to relay the strength to her it took me years to find. I want her to be able to understand the reason behind the mean girls. So what would I tell my high school self and what would I tell my own high school girl? First, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re less than. Second, understand where the meanness is coming from – they’re comparing themselves to you and feeling like they aren’t measuring up, so they feel the need to bring you down. Third, don’t hold yourself accountable for their insecurities. Fourth, don’t ever let anyone in your life who continually reinforces your own insecurities. Fifth, know, honor and celebrate your strengths as well as the strengths of those around you. Sixth, it’s so okay to be different and do things not everyone else is doing.
I’d love to be able to say that mean girls eventually go away. Unfortunately, they don’t. There are just fewer of them, and most women learn to avoid them and/or respond better to that treatment. I’m blessed to have some pretty incredibly women in my life – women who build me – and everyone else around them – up. Navigating high school as a teenage girl sucks….but eventually, those four years come to an end, and you move on, find your people, and the mean girls become just part of your past.