This article can apply to many people and situations, but if you know a girl in jr. high or high school, please encourage them to read this if they've struggled with mean girls or bullying.
I was a girl in jr. high and I was a girl in high school. Now I'm a woman getting her Bachelor's degree in college. Everyone has different experiences during all of these stages, but because of the impact they've had on me and the lessons I learned, I thought I would share. Hopefully (and not hopefully), there are girls who may identify with my jr. high and high school experiences.
Even if you don't identify with these specific experiences, it could interest you to see school from another girl's perspective. I encourage you to read both sections below, to understand the entire spectrum of experiences. This post strays a little from mental health, however, adolescent mental health is rarely spoken about and should be addressed in various forms.
To the Mean Girls
Truth is, nobody knows they're a mean girl. Nobody would admit to that and some girls just don't realize the consequences of their words and actions on others. I've encountered dozens of mean girls, and regretfully I've even been one.
Some girls in school encounter other "rude" girls, "jealous" girls, "vengeful" girls, "hurt" girls, etc. I've eaten my lunch in bathroom stalls and been excluded from many "groups". I have been made fun of by mean girls for:
Buying shoes that were popular at the time
Liking a certain boy
The way I phrased my words
The effort I put in school
Pictures on my social media
My nail polish
Going to church
Going to a party
And many, many other trivial things.
Here's the truth: mean girls are insecure and they've plateaued on developing their individual self (meaning they aren't growing as a person or changing their thoughts and behavior as they learn new information about the world).
But here's another truth, girls at these stages in life are more alike than they think. The difference? Mean girls either have a platform to be mean without major repercussions, or they haven't been taught yet that using compassion will get you farther in life. Empathy and compassion develop at different times and in different ways in people's lives (their life outside of school could also affect their behavior).
In simpler terms: one girl may grow up in a wonderful home with kind parents, while another girl may grow up in a home where her parents fight a lot or aren't always nice. Now, before you jump to conclusions, it's important you know either girl could be the mean girl. Life outside of school is unpredictable and has many different influencing factors.
This does not imply that mean girls are "lesser than," it just implies that they need a better environment, a better way to work through their insecurities, or different coping mechanisms for the challenges life will bring. In school, I took every attack personally, and it turns out none of the attacks were really about me when I think about them years later. This doesn't mean I can brush off every hurtful remark, but now I have an understanding of the possibilities behind the wrong-doings made against me.
If you're an older influence on a younger girl, please don't encourage slandering conversations about other girls, or better yet, be a good role model and avoid slandering other women yourself (at least try to avoid doing it in front of an impressionable (pre)teen girl). Work on increasing her self-worth and self-compassion, rather than self-esteem (which relies on feelings of worth based on your interpretation of how others view you). Here is a great website by Dr. Neff that encourages self-compassion.
It's very hard to speak up to your friend if she's being mean towards someone else (I've been in this role and the receiving role), but you will help everyone involved if you speak up for what is right and wrong. I've had groups of girls call me just to take turns saying hurtful things to me, groups of girls mimic and taunt me while standing just a few feet away, and girls telling me that I was a slut because I was doing more activities and making more friends after a break up. What you do and say to hurt others, most likely will hurt others (obviously, right?).
To the Weird Girls
(or every girl besides the 5 "cool" girls at school)
I don't think anyone who knew me in jr. high or high school would have considered me to be "cool". I was obnoxiously hyper and "attention-seeking" until I started my sophomore year, when I became quiet and tried to stay hidden. In jr. high I played basketball and would yell all over the court, and in high school I joined the swim team so I could be just a small part of a huge team.
I hardly raised my hand in class, and never tried to run for student office or draw any extra attention to myself. I went through the dark blue eye shadow phase, the bright weird clothes phase, the rebel phase, the high school sweetheart phase, and many others. I wasn't too smart, too athletic, too sociable, "too" anything. I wanted to blend in to avoid any criticism or opposition. It didn't always work but I always tried.
Now, I wish I wouldn't have cared so much about what other people thought of me. I wish I could have understood that you can't please everyone and you shouldn't even try; that it's okay to discover yourself and your abilities, and realize everybody is wrong sometimes. I'm still an introverted person, but I've finally started a blog (something I've wanted to do for years) and I realize now it won't be for everyone and that's okay. I like to write, I like to learn about psychology, and I'm fascinated by the mind and how I can use mine to help others.
I thought my mindset, goals, friends, and appearance would never get better in jr. high or high school. I was so wrong, I haven't been in high school for 3 years now and I like myself now more than I ever have before. I continue to grow as a person and find myself able to admit when I'm wrong. Unlike before, I'm not trying to remain unnoticed, become noticed, or worry about how others will perceive me. Only you know the most about you, and so how you treat and express yourself should be done for your benefit and growth, not limited by other's perceptions.
Me in Jr. High: (on the right)
Me in High School: (on the right)
And me now:
Get to know Kay by heading to >>> About