Mean Girls Never Left it On the Playground
When I was a kid I dreamed of a day when we would all just be adults and want the best for each other. I guess you could say I was a dreamer and learned the hard way that mean girls really just turn into mean women and the meanness comes from the inside--out.
When I recently read the post Mean Girls at Work it was like deja vu all over again. The article quotes the book Mean Girls, Meaner Women by Drs. Erika Holida and Joan Rosenberg:
“…Self-hatred is the key link between girls’ early hurtful behavior toward each other and women who suppress other women. A woman with a strong sense of self and high self esteem is much less likely to hurt others.” The authors explain that women are socialized from an early age to avert, rather than express anger, and to feel that any expression of anger whatsoever is wrong. Perhaps this is how the wires get crossed, making appropriate anger morph into backdoor, gossipy, passive-aggressive behavior.
Well at least that explains it. You don't outgrow self-hatred unless you consciously do something about it. As a result the cattiness of schoolgirls becomes the cattiness of professional women. I personally steer clear of all such cackles and gatherings and have always hated it with a vengeance. Perhaps it was the relentless bullying I received as a young girl and later as a young woman that makes me flee like a person with their pants on fire. I'm sure that plays a role. More importantly I know both personally and professionally that the energy you put out and the way you treat others is what you will experience.
Given that you can't change anyone else - think about it, how could you possibly raise the self-esteem of someone who has been full of self-hatred and mean behavior for decades? Your only tools for survival and ultimately thriving despite the cattiness of others comes from within. Here are a few of my favorite proven bits of advice.
Be Your Own Best Friend
The fastest way to confidence, your own success, and leaving the mean girls behind is to literally become your own best friend. When you know you can count on yourself no matter what the hold anyone else has over you is lessened exponentially.
Don't Bite the Hook
Mean girls want to make themselves feel better by making you feel badly. It's the same as stealing a kid's lunch money but now it's about stealing job opportunities and credit for work accomplishments. Mean people will lob hooks constantly. If you don't bite at the bait they will eventually go elsewhere and find someone else to bother. Without the thrill of "getting at you" they will quickly get bored or desperate (or both) and find another place to get their fix.
Get Comfortable Being a Lone Wolf
Part of the hook with a gaggle of catty women is the power of the group. Typically they have always been the type unable and unwilling to learn to be ok with standing on their own two feet, alone. In the Yahoo! Shine article "How to Conquer Catty Women" it shares:
They may have experienced some kind of criticism that marked them early on in childhood "and they saw how important that criticism made others feel or proved them right. They want the same power," Reid says, which is why they often team up against alpha females--strong, self-defined women who do not follow others, who are okay being the lone wolf. They also abhor successful or very attractive women, "and conspire to break that self-esteem down," she adds. "They need attention, and they act out to get it, be seen, and heard."
Learn to be comfortable in your own skin…not only to beat the catty crowd but also to step into your own leadership and success potential.
Ditch the Drama
Drama is like fuel for the catty car. If you choose not to engage in drama, gossip, and other such low level activities you create an environment around you in which this sort of madness and mean spiritedness cannot thrive. As a result you start to attract more positive women and role models into your circle.
Have you been the victim of the grown up version of bullying from mean and catty women in the workplace? If so, how have you dealt with it? Would love to hear your stories and insights in the comments.
Paula Gregorowicz, The Intuitive Intelligence™ Coach
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