Mean girls. Sooner or later we all run into them. I remember when my baby girl had her first mean-girl experience, at the tender age of seven no less!
A classmate, whom she thought was her friend, gleefully announced to her in school that she was having a birthday party! The girl went into detail how it was going to be a wonderful theme party, all of their girlfriends in the class would be there, and then she cruelly added with dramatic effect, “but you are not invited!” And to add salt to the wound, she continued to remind my daughter of this fact throughout the day.
That night at home, with a hurt, confused look in her eyes, my daughter told me what had happened at school that day, “Mommy, it’s not so much that I mind not going to the party, it’s just that I don’t understand why Haley has to keep telling me that I’m not invited. It feels …. mean!”
I felt the mama grizzly bear rise up within, all eight feet of her, claws coming out, eyes narrowing… (one glance at her, and the life coach fled the room!) The inner dialogue went something like this: “My baaaaby! How dare this girl do this to her?! Oh, I’m going to do something about this! Can Haley’s mother possibly know she’s acting like this? I’m going to call her mother!! Yes, that’s it, or perhaps I’ll call the teacher! Or maybe a well-worded email instead…”
My wise little daughter interrupted my thoughts with, “Now Mommy, promise that you won’t say anything to her mom, this is between Haley and me.”
The coach in me slunk back in and sheepishly sat back down. “Of course, sweetie,” I replied.
A deep breath, and an observing moment later, we started talking about feelings, how people treat each other, and true friendship. And, the biggie, what others say, and how they treat other people is really a reflection of who they are on the inside. (And in this case, a fun trip to the movies & ice cream the day of the missed party helped soothe hurt feelings as well.)
Odds are, during childhood or adolescence, each of us has been on the receiving end of a mean-girl dialogue in one form or another. Even as adults we still have mean girls in our lives!
Sure, they look a little different now, but the concept is still the same. They might show up as the critical relative who seems to make it their life’s mission to keep an archive of your every misdeed, or as the angry neighbor who has nothing good to say on any day, the boss who just can’t seem to find the words to put together a true compliment, or the woman at work who has an endless supply of complaints and criticisms customized just for you.
The underlying consistency here is in the message which all of these people seem to be saying —- You are not good enough! And what about that doesn’t hurt?
Well, it can only hurt if you believe the person to be a credible reflection of your makeup, or if you decide that the words are true and do mean something about you, and so you anchor them into your beliefs. And once either of these things occurs, you start to be on the defensive, looking for the next situation which might hit that button.
So, the trick here is to not let the mean words of others register for long on your radar. And to do this, first you have to step out of the situation as if you are the observer, rather than a participant. Take a few deep breaths, let a moment or two pass, and ask yourself: How do I want to respond here?
Perhaps the best and healthiest thing would be to not respond at all! Which of course is the biggest deflator to the egoic rampage of another. To help you make that decision as to how to respond, a guiding principle applies here:
WHAT YOU HEAR IS ABOUT THEM, WHAT YOU SAY IS ABOUT YOU.
It’s pretty simple really, as most guiding principles are. But to actually live that principle isn’t always so easy. Case in point, my immediate internal reaction to my daughter’s predicament.
Remembering the process (deep breath, pulling back & observing) gives me the opportunity to respond instead of jumping right in and reacting with the hurt feelings, emotions, and actions which follow.
Having a process such as this puts you back in charge, instead of handing your power over to the person trying to pull your strings hoping to feed and support their ego.
And it’s their ego that is on display here. A reflection of their experiences, their filters, their insecurities – which they are trying to project onto you in hopes of making themselves feel better about, well, themselves!
And, as it turns out, the only place the words of “mean girls” can truly thrive is within our own judgements and perceptions. Because at the end of the day, those button-pushers wouldn’t even bother us if there wasn’t a button to push somewhere within us. A huge concept for a seven-year-old to grasp, and for that matter, it’s even tough to master for those of us that are all “grown-up.”
So, try giving this principle a try with every conversation you have today. Especially around those who tend to push your buttons. Take a breath, detach, and remind yourself, what you hear is about them. And on the flip side, what you say is about you!
Reclaiming your power feels amazing at any age! But wouldn’t it have been great to figure that out at age seven, before the habit of reacting kicked in?!
Photo Source: Ambro, FreeDigitalPhotos.net