Mean Girls Ruining Your Life

07/16/2015 12:44 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2016
Pensive businesswoman in office window
Pensive businesswoman in office window

She is so darn loud! Her voice starts out as a whisper of sorts but turns louder and louder, like she's right next to your ear with a giant megaphone. You think, I wish she would just shut up! Who is she anyway? She's your inner Mean Girl. Your very own, personal Regina George... and she's ruining your life!

Call this voice what you will: your Inner Mean Girl, Devil on your shoulder, Gremlin. No matter the name, the voice is detrimental to your daily functioning and your confidence; it's the voice that always challenges your inner compass. The one that shuts down an idea before fleshing it out. It's the one that tells you in a loud, condescending voice, you aren't good enough to do that. It's the one that questions your judgement and bullies you to play it safe.

At various crossroads in my life, I've encountered the loudest version of my own Regina George. When I'm trying desperately to make a decision that's about to change my life (usually for the epically better,) she slinks in and dumps ice-cold water on my blazing fire of "I can do it!" She makes me doubt myself and consider, maybe I can't. I've let that doubt stop me from things I know I'm qualified to do. Her voice makes me question whether I'm smart enough, sharp enough, funny enough, pretty enough, friendly enough... and I've had enough!

Have you felt how loud your Mean Girl can be? Maybe you're looking to write a book, or apply for a new job, date a new guy, ask for a promotion, run for public office, make a new friend, or be considered for a club team sport. Has something stopped you from doing what it is you wanted to do? Your Mean Girl is a jerk and it's time to put her in check! In the light of day, when you're thinking about your amazing self, she doesn't stand a chance. But once you really get into taking that first step toward committing, doubt creeps up and Mean Girl jumps right in with that megaphone screaming See! You're not good enough! Often, it's when we compare ourselves to the "competition," a real or even hypothetical person or groups of people who are just "better" than us, and we wonder, why even bother trying?

What the Mean Girl Wants
The Mean Girl is a bully. She wants you to stay on the safe side so you don't make a fool of yourself. Her voice is always telling you that she's "looking out for your best interest," but in reality she's just holding you back from the rest of your potential.

But the Mean Girl has some kind motives too. She wants you to stay safe. She wants things to stay the same. She likes life the way it is now and doesn't want to ruffle feathers. She doesn't want you to look like a fool or make a mistake that could "end you." Her motive is to keep you from tripping and skinning your knees, to help you remain "perfectly calm." Maintaining the status quo is the Mean Girl's oxygen and she thrives on sameness. Mean Girl is okay with mediocrity and isn't on board with the high achiever that you are.

Just when you're ready to take the plunge and make a change, Mean Girl sees flashing lights and hears sirens. Mean Girl wants to rescue you from this soon-to-be catastrophe! But it's not a catastrophe, is it?

One thing to remember is that the "safety" logic is really about maintaining the status quo. She doesn't like you rocking the boat and you should just be grateful for all the things you have and don't look any further. In fact, the biggest decisions I've made despite the alarmingly loud Mean Girl voices have been some of my best decisions. It usually indicates to me (as it should for you too,) that I'm on to something and I need to keep being confident about the direction I'm going because there's about to be a breakthrough.

What's the worst that could happen?
If you listen to the Mean Girl, the worst that could happen is that you don't take advantage of opportunities. For me, this brings out FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out. When you back down, there's a chance that the opportunity won't show up again. There's a chance that you'll regret not going after it when it was available to you.

Pretend that you're killing it at work, but you don't love your job. Your colleagues respect you and the pay isn't too shabby. Out of the blue, a recruiter for a high-profile company contacts you on LinkedIn saying that they're looking for somebody with your talents and skills. You're super excited because out of a billion people, the recruiter found you. You're pumped because the company that the recruiter works for is one that you admire but you never applied because you thought it was out of your league. As you're getting ready to respond to the message in a state of excitement, a feeling of doubt kicks in. What do you think you're doing? They're going to find out that you're not good enough. Instead of replying, you just close the window and the doubt dialogue streams through your head.

You just let Mean Girl burst your bubble and miss a great opportunity. If you step back and look at the consequences of you replying to that email, you'd see the worst that could happen is not getting the job -- which you certainly won't get by doing nothing either.

Thanks, but No Thanks!
She's ruining your life by not letting you be in the driver's seat. If you take time to notice, that voice isn't even you! After you notice her obnoxious banter, it takes a little reflection to know what part of her you may actually want to listen to. Gay Hendricks, author of the Big Leap says, "fear is excitement without the breath." He means that fear and excitement are closely related; by examining both, you'll notice that fear is one that requires the breath being held, while excitement is full of breath. Change can induce anxiety and it's easy to let it grow into fear rather than a happy nervousness -- and Mean Girl thrives on fear.

What would happen if you turned down Mean Girl's volume a notch or two? It's good to acknowledge Mean Girl; "I hear you, but I think I'm just going to see what happens." Afterall, there's no harm in responding to the recruiter to set up an interview. Sure, you might still end up not getting the job, but at least you won't have to blame Mean Girl for holding you back.

In order to not let Mean Girl ruin your life any longer, you need to first recognize that she's talking. Then you begin to distinguish between the messages to listen to and ones to disregard. The final step in the process is to learn to turn her down. Much like a dial on the stereo, you take that loud, blaring banter and turn the noise way down to a dull whisper.

Tips to turn down the mean girl

1. Recognize the doubt or anxiety you're feeling.

2. Is the anxiety I'm feeling butterflies or dread? Butterflies are the feeling that there's potential and excitement. It feels expansive and hopeful, even if it's a bit scary. When you're here, I recommend you ask Mean Girl to hush because she doesn't know what's best for you.
The other end is dread. It feels heavy and wrong. It's just a burden to go there. I'd go with your gut on this one and tip toe around this with caution and figure out what about it feels so wrong.

3. Once you identify that it's Mean Girl talking to you about the butterflies, you can choose to ignore her or just turn her volume down. As in, "what if I just didn't pay attention to her for a little bit?" When you do this, you may notice a change in the way you see the butterflies. You may be able to see the possibilities and excitement more clearly, rather than focusing on what you don't know or who else may be able to do it better. If you're a list girl, make a pro/con list of chasing those butterflies or not doing anything with them. If you're more of a dreamer type, do an exercise of closing your eyes and imagining what life would be like if you did follow the butterflies. What would be different in your life? How would it change you? What about this feels exciting?

How would life be different if you turned the Mean Girl off completely, if she no longer existed at all? How would it be if you had her turned down to just white noise in the background?

The Mean Girl isn't necessarily a bad thing. She's got a bad habit of being loud and obnoxious, but she has your best interest at heart. She can be a bully though, if you don't take control and let her know you don't want to hear from her. When she's running the show, you don't trust your intuition and it drowns out the possibilities. Wouldn't you say it's time to start running your own life? I think you're smart enough and most definitely capable. From today, commit to trusting yourself. Besides, what's so great about Regina George anyway?