You see the looks; feel the chills.
All of a sudden, your friends aren’t you friends anymore.
Or at least they aren’t acting like your friends. They give you one-word answers (or as few words as they can get away with).
They don’t wait for you at the end of the day, or when going to lunch. They even seem to be giggling at your jokes made at your expense.
Poof! It’s as if the relationship you’ve had just… disappeared.
Although you might be walking away confused, sad, anxious, hurt, or just plain MAD, you’re not alone. This is something that has happened for ages. In fact, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education from 2015, 23.7% of a nationwide sample of 12,251,000 girls, ages 12 – 18, were bullied during the 2013-2014 school year. This sample included 9,550 households with children in this age range. 12,862,000 males were part of the study as well.
Of these 2.9 million girls, 920,405 (31.7%) reported specifically being bullied by “being made fun of, called names or insulted” and having “rumors spread” about them. The top 3 places (in order) where they report bullying taking place are a hallway or stairs, in a classroom, and outside on school grounds.
Also in the study, they researched cyber-bullying. Of 12.141 million girls who responded about either being or not being cyber-bullied, 8.6%, just over one million girls (1,044,126) reported that they WERE cyber-bullied.
The top 3 ways they reported this happened was by (in order) unwanted contact via text messaging, hurtful information on the internet, and unwanted contact via instant messaging.
All these fancy numbers illustrate that the “mean girls” phenomenon and bullying are actually common. Getting through it is made easier when you understand who they are and what their motivations are. You’ll find it really has nothing to do with you!
Who are Mean Girls?
In any population of people, young or old, groups (or cliques) develop. In middle and high school, one of these groups is usually known as the “mean girls”. They may seem to be the popular group of girls who make it a practice of spreading rumors, excluding others, or making fun of others for who they are or how they look.
Inwardly, it’s an entirely different story. Typically, it turns out that mean girls tend to be rather insecure people who take out their feelings of inadequacy on others. In other words, they can’t face how much they don’t like themselves, and so they take it out on others.
Sound familiar? There is a name for it.
In reality what these girls are doing is manipulating others into thinking poorly of you (or someone else) so their own social status is thereby improved. There’s a name for this: relational aggression. Relational aggression by definition is a form of aggression that seeks to do harm to one’s relationships or social standing.
Social status in middle and high school is an important thing. Many girls (and boys) are finding their own way. Adolescence is in full gear, brains are developing right and left, and often times underlying all these changes is fear of need be accepted.
Why are they so MEAN?
As the fight for popularity starts, girls may begin to feel jealous of other kids and start feeling threatened that they may lose their friends or their place in the group. As a result, a girl rallies the others with gossip and manipulations to exclude the one of whom they are jealous. It’s really all about them not having the confidence in their group and needing to preserve their social standing.
So what are the tactics that these girls use?
How can you know if this might be happening to you?
Verywell.com shares these common signs of relational aggression:
- talking badly about others
- backstabbing one another
- making fun of others for who they are, the way they dress or how they look
- excluding and ostracizing others
- leaving hurtful or mean messages on cell phones, social media, desks, and lockers
- intimidating others
Technology has made this much more challenging.
Just a decade ago, all of this was done by passing notes in class, whispering around lockers or at lunch, or at the Friday night football game. And that still happens.
But now we also have smart phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a myriad of other social media platforms on which girls can assert their power over others. It’s important for parents to understand that because of these advances, relational aggression can escalate much quicker than when they were kids, and it can persist beyond the confines of physical gatherings.
All these technological tools also mean that the perpetrators of the rudeness and harassment can hide and not be truly accountable. When things are written online, it’s easy to not see the impact of your words, and much less chance of an adult intervening. This also creates a prime way for mean girls to keep up their harassment.
Tips for how to deal with Mean Girls
- One of the biggest errors you can make is to go through this alone. If you are the victim of bullying, the very last thing you want to do is silently endure these mean girls. This will do damage to your self-esteem and has proven to not be a good coping skill.
- Instead, reach out for support. Don’t keep it to yourself. That will only make things worse because it will intensify your feelings of loneliness. Reach out to your parents, friends, teachers, or school counselor for support.
- Don’t succumb to the temptation to get revenge. These tactics often backfire.
- Stand up for yourself. This lets the girl(s) know you are confident and not easily intimidated. Have friends by your side too! A united front is more effective.
- Love yourself. When people bully, manipulate, or harass others it’s because of their thoughts and feelings about themselves. It was never really about you but it feels like it. You are wonderful just the way you are!
Your future will look brighter if you can remember the following:
Here’s a tip that so many of my clients have found helpful. Remember this: The mean girls you are encountering now in your life will, very likely, not be the people you associate with when you are older. It’s doubtful that any one of them will wind up being your BFF and certainly not your bridesmaids or maid of honor! Although I haven’t seen a study of mean girls, it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that they wind up having higher divorce rates.
As the father of two daughters, this is one of those areas where I feel very strongly about helping teens and young adults. Everyone deserves to live their life as free and happy as possible.
If you are having challenges with “mean girls” around you, please contact me. I have a great deal of experience with this and I’m happy to offer you support and guidance that can help you in this situation.