“I can’t wait until I leave this place and get away from all of the girl drama, all of the mean girls.”
Tears falling and noses sniffling, dozens of high school girls have expressed this sentiment to me over my years of teaching. I can painfully relate to them on a deep level because, several years ago and quite a few less gray hairs ago, I felt the same thing.
As a blissfully optimistic eighteen-year-old, I, too, though the reign of mean girls would end when I walked out my high school doors for the final time.
However, I quickly learned a harsh sentiment after graduation: The reign of mean girls doesn’t end when you throw that tasseled cap in the air.
As an almost-thirty, I can say with unwavering truth that the world is brimming with mean girls, some of whom only seem to intensify in cause with age.
Their presence and platforms differ, but they are still those recognizable girls from our hellish days of high school. Overconfident and overcritical, they rip down others to build up themselves. Rude comments, hurtful exclusions, evil glares, and manipulative games all are the hallmarks of the reigning mean girls… and I can say without a doubt I’ve unfortunately experienced their terror well beyond my high school years. Speaking with other women of all ages, I know I’m not alone.
Mean girls know no boundaries. From the workplace to the gym to local haunts, mean girls are everywhere if you’re looking for them. And at some point in our twenties or thirties, we realize the harsh truth: There will always be women rooting for you to fail.
In a world that’s already difficult and way more stressful than any teenager could expect, it’s disheartening to realize there are women who are waiting for you to fail. There are even women who, if you don’t fall, will stick out their stiletto heel to trip you into the mud.
I’m not trying to say it’s just women. I know that men also can play the mean card. However, in my experiences, it can be even more straining to recognize the harshness and cruelty in the same gender, in our peers, and in those women around us.
So what do we do? What do we say as a comfort to the crying high school girl who sees the meanness in others? How do we burst her bubble and tell her that mean girls truly don’t end after graduation? What do we do when we’re in the same shoes as the crying high school girl, only older and supposedly wiser?
We could get frustrated and give up. We could let the reign of the mean girl take over as we accept that karma doesn’t always take care of things.
We could put on our own stiletto heels and trip them back or even take out our anger on others.
We could try to get on their good side, which I’ve come to learn is a losing battle and often involves joining their cause.
Or, with a grace that stirs from an inner strength you only understand if you’ve had to muster it, we can paint on a smile and walk confidently into our future, stepping over the stiletto heel and letting the words fall to the ground beneath our confidently placed footsteps.
It’s not easy, and the reign of the mean girl will undoubtedly cause us to waver. However, it’s by building this strength as early as possible that one can learn to face the world with poise, to chase a passion, and most of all, to shift focus from the mean girls in the world to those women who are trying to lift each other up… because even though the world is full of mean girls, it’s also filled with brave, supportive, empathetic, courageous, and motivational women.
It is only by finding this inner fortitude that we can even hope to stand our ground in a world that seems ready to batter, to ridicule, and to tear down.
It is only when we realize we are in charge of our own destiny, happiness, and self-worth that we can stand unwavering in the winds of hate sometimes hurled our way, by the mean girls in the world or anyone really.
So to the high school girls and to all women, no matter your stage of life, I say: Strive now to find those women who will build you up and not cut you down. Surround yourself with them.
Most of all, do your best to be one of those women and never step into those mean-girl stilettos that can be so tempting. Wipe away your tears and walk confidently into the future knowing that the world is full of mean girls… but that you can stand your ground by knowing who you are and what you represent in life.
In a world full of mean girls, be the difference we all desperately need. Be the woman dedicated to empowering and lifting up.
In short, in a world full of mean girls, refuse to give in and be one too.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a sweet romance writer with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more about her books by visiting her website.