“You’re Not Invited to My Birthday Party”, and Other Girl Grievances
by Bailey Powell
…Oh my gosh. Why do we do it to each other? I don’t have to be Tina Fey and take a poll of all the women reading this to find out that we’re all guilty of “girl on girl crime”. Mean girls always bother me, but today an old wound was opened.
While shopping, my mother and I ran into one of her flight attendant friends who was also with her daughter. Our introductory conversation eventually evolved into the horrors her daughter has recently been experiencing, better known as junior high. She’s been bullied, intentionally left out, had it rubbed in her face, repeat. It got so bad that she transferred schools. Transferred. Schools.
I was deeply saddened by what I was hearing not only because I could relate but because I know at that age it’s hard to be sure that things won’t always be like that. High school is a little better than junior high and college is a little better than high school, but the truth is mean girls don’t change, you just get better at dealing with them. I touched on this topic a bit here, but I think it’s necessary to delve deeper.
I simply do not understand why it is that women treat other women the way we do. I’m not some kind of hardcore feminist, but I can’t help but call on the idea that we as a gender have been oppressed for so long that you’d think we’d be especially supportive and uplifting to each other, and yet- here we are… laughing at someone’s “muffin top”, ripping into someone’s choice in clothes, positively asserting that that girl has an eating disorder and that that girl is a slut, etc. I’m having a hard time picturing Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton polishing up the 19th Amendment draft, grinning at each other and then saying, “All right! Now let’s backstab the livin’ daylights outta each other!”
I believe the mean girl saga ultimately boils down to competition, and there’s a fine line between healthy competition and one that manifests jealousy and (if it gets really out of hand) breeds hatred. Here’s the secret to striking that competitive balance: healthy self-esteem. This means staying competitive enough to always want to improve yourself, but never going so far as to start believing you’re “not good enough”. Here’s the secret to maintaining a healthy self-esteem: acceptance. Let me elaborate. No matter who you are there is always going to be a girl that’s prettier, smarter, wealthier, and more popular. Now, before you get mad at me and start reaching for the Prozac read this: there is no one that is you. There is no one that can be you, have your experiences, or cultivate your life. There is no one with the same combination of flaws and blessings, both of which are at your disposal to utilize in whatever unique way you choose. Not to get all kumbaya but the freedom to do whatever you want with what makes you special is awesome, and remember- no one has exactly what you have. The saying about being yourself because everyone else is taken rings true.
Still struggling? Here’s how to pare jealousy down to healthy competition: sincerity. I’ve found that sincerity is key, and you can never go wrong with it. It’s beautiful on anyone who wears it and it radiates a warmth that people are drawn to. Be sincerely joyful for your life (see: Things I Love Thursday posts) and what’s more, be sincerely joyful for the blessings in other people’s lives. Be joyful that XY girl has the gift of beauty, brains, popularity, or whatever. When you learn to start seeing other girls’ assets as inspiration opposed to personal threats you’ll notice those wasteful emotions of jealousy and hatred begin to melt away. People will begin to see you as someone they want to be like, something they want to strive for.
So junior high girls and grown up junior high girls, this one’s for you. As someone who also transferred schools due to flying rumors and the misery that accompanied them, I can tell you that it gets better. Not only will some of the mean girls lay off a bit, you will begin to gain a sense of self that will help propel you away from Negative Nancy (and all her back up dancers) and toward people as fabulous as you are.
Take comfort in the fact that mean girls have a deeper-seeded issue that has nothing to do with you. That piece of information is not meant to be used as ammo but to help you understand what’s going on. Perhaps a girl has picked up things from her grown-up-mean-girl mother, or even worse, perhaps her mother is living her mean-girl-life vicariously through her daughter. (Good heavens.) It’s possible that neither one of those are the case and the mean girl in question is immature or simply trying to fit in, which is why it’s important to always give people the benefit of the doubt (but that’s another story). Do not ever fall to the temptation of morphing into a mean girl for the sake of acceptance or popularity. (“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”) Use your former victimization as incentive for you to never treat a girl the way you’ve been treated. (“An eye for an eye is a blind world.” -Ghandi)*
Invite all the girls to your birthday party.
One of my favorite movements is the Kind Campaign. Molly and Lauren, two amazing Pepperdine graduates who had particularly rough girlhoods made it their mission to spread girl love and travel around the country speaking to groups of women of all ages. They came to North Texas and spoke to all the Panhellenic sororities (woowee, talk about catty!). I loved their message and one of them is from DFW-bonus! If I wasn’t a broke college student I’d definitely donate to their cause (if you happen to have the means, feel free!). Anyway, they’ve recently released a documentary of their travels and girl stories collected across the U.S. Unfortunately it’s only showing in NYC and LA as of now, but I’ll be certain to post on here if I hear it’s coming to Texas.
*Boy oh boy, am I an inspirational quote machine tonight!