Writing has always been a helpful outlet for me to process something, devise solutions to deal with it and then move on from it. I try to use my experiences to help others.
Recently publishing an article about mean girls was timely as I had yet another experience with one – this time in a social setting (I know many of you know this, but mean girls lurk not only in the workplace but in your personal life too, and when I say “mean girls” I am referring to mean women, who can continue to be catty, cruel and jealous way beyond their adolescent and teenage years).
Here’s the short story of what happened – I went to a dinner party with several couples where I met a woman about 10 years older than me (again, mean girls can be any age) who was quite rude to me for no apparent reason.
When we were introduced, I noticed something was off as she sized me up and down (remember we all make snap judgments about someone within moments of meeting). While it was subtle, I could tell by not even shaking my hand in those first introductory moments that she didn’t like me right off the bat for whatever reason, again like I’ve said, it’s usually nothing you did per se, but rather something about you that triggers something in the mean girl to lash out and behave badly.
As I finished recounting what I thought was a funny story to the group, the mean girl, within very clear earshot of me, turned to a friend and said (about me) “She’s a lot to handle” – meaning I have a big personality or I’m loud – whichever one it was, it wasn’t nice or appropriate to say. And yes, while that’s true, and I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, I make no apologies for being me, and neither should you.
I was floored by this comment, the fact that she would say it on the other side of the kitchen island within earshot of me. I wanted to disappear. I was embarrassed and felt attacked. It felt like middle school all over again.
But I immediately addressed it, by saying to her “I don’t think I’m too much, and that wasn’t a nice thing to say.” She had nothing to say to that. I decided to be the bigger person and be kind to her the rest of the night but my upbeat, carefree mood darkened. I didn’t feel like I could be myself. I carefully watched my words and actions around this group. I felt uncomfortable for having a “big personality.” I just wanted to get through the night. I hate that I gave this woman that kind of power over met.
On the plus side, I consider it a blessing that I heard what she said (and that it was so early on in the evening) so that I didn’t waste too much time trying to get to know her. By saying what she did about me in a loud voice and so close in proximity to where I was sitting, I think she probably wanted me to hear it. Some women do that to be extra hurtful. Whatever it was, her behavior was mean spirited and unnecessary.
By the way, for as loud as I allegedly was during that social gathering, this mean girl was equally as loud and brash, but did I say anything negative about her behavior? Nope. It didn’t even cross my mind – because she was being herself, and we are all unique people. Also, I consciously make a choice to not be like her. Grown women should not be acting like this ever. Remember, when someone is mean to you like this it is usually because something about you triggers something that makes them feel insecure or bad about themselves.
You are inevitably going to encounter mean girls at work and in your personal life, so let’s learn how to better manage them so they don’t negatively affect us.
How to manage a mean girl in your personal life:
- Confront her in a mature way and let her know their behavior hurt your feelings and that it’s not okay.
- Don’t be mean back to her no matter how much you want to – “icing” them out or being polite will make a stronger point. Giving a bully ammunition is exactly what they want.
- Surround yourself with your tribe and support system. You need the people who believe in you when you’re being attacked. It’s okay to reach out to them to vent and to seek support.
- Find a constructive outlet to express your feelings – maybe this is your support system, a therapist or your partner. Or maybe it’s writing like I’m doing here. Whatever it is, don’t bottle up your emotions inside. Let them out, and you’ll feel better. You might even help someone else who has experienced a similar situation.
I wish I knew how I could stop women from being this mean to each other. Until I do I will keep writing and talking about it in the hopes that this helps to raise awareness and keeps us talking about it. I’m not even sure she’s cognizant of her mean-spirited behavior toward me. I know she has a daughter and what she did sets a bad example for her. I have a feeling she would say I took what she said out of context, and that she didn’t mean it. I really hope she thinks twice before saying something unnecessarily mean to another woman again.
Now so many women are supportive of each other and wonderful friends – this article is not about them. Let’s spend more time with those who truly love and care for us and be role models to future generations of women.