Everyone has a “mean girl” in their lives.
A “mean girl” is that someone who gets under your skin; the someone who includes everyone else in their life—except you.
It’s that person who can turn everything upside down with a statement or two.
They come in the form of a boss, an ex-lover, a parent, a professor, a friend.
They are the people we compulsively seek some kind of approval from but never quite earn. We tell our friends about what the “mean girl” did at yoga or at the water cooler at work, often looking for justification for our feelings.
While we’re busy pointing fingers we forget about what’s really going on.
That we all have that “mean girl” inside us too.
We all have a part of us that wants to shock and cause chaos, just because we can. I, too, am a “mean girl,” probably one of the worst kind. Especially if I’m hungry, lonely, tired, or simply just hurt. The most egregious “mean girl” moment of my life happened with my college roommates during the last night of my undergrad.
Here’s the scene.
We are all dressed up sipping drinks at a local restaurant. We are laughing our butts off while taking unflattering ridiculous selfies. We are celebrating the fact that someone is graduating tomorrow. That someone is me. (Yes, my most horrible “mean girl” moment of my life was at a celebration, for me.)
My roommates saw me through everything: every break up, every fall and failure. They drove with me at 2am to Taco Bell and then sang operatic songs to me while I sat in the bathroom. As we ordered our dinner, my feelings got hurt over something one of my roommates said. Mind you, this was a roommate I had some beef with but never talked to her about it.
In front of everyone, (happy restaurant go-ers, the waitress, my roommates) I decided to tear into my roommate, leaving her and everyone else speechless.
Not only did I announce what I thought about her, I pulled the rest of my roommates into it. Saying they agreed with me, but didn’t have the balls to say it.
I just had to go out with a bang.
No one said a word about it. No one really said more than a word to me, ever again.
I have since written them over the years, apologizing ferociously. But it is just not easy to bounce back from something like that.
So what was I saying before about mean girls?
Yes, a “mean girl” doesn’t take the time to think through an action or thought—they just act on it. They say the most stupid sh*t at the precisely wrong moment. They can be cruel and callous.
And I am that girl. We all are.
We can’t help but look into the eyes of the bullies and jerks, and wholeheartedly smile. We all have been there done that, or have done worse.
For me practicing compassion looks like asking for forgiveness and learning to forgive others no matter what.
Something beautiful happens when I don’t get so judge-y of my perceived “mean girls.”
When I decide to ask for forgiveness for my resentment and behavior, instead of expecting them to apologize, an energetic shift occurs. They start to do weird and unexpected things like compliment me or include me in their conversations. No longer imprisoned by my judgement, they are free to be themselves.
This phenomenon of someone changing when the perspective of the beholder changes, is backed up by science. It is called the “stereotype threat.” When we are presented with a stereotype about ourselves—that we don’t care, are selfish, etc.—we will act in ways that are cohesive with that judgement.
When we are reminded of our greatness, when we are treated as if we will do wonderful things, we fall into suit with that perception and become the best version of ourselves.
In other words, we are so much easier to embrace when our arms and hearts are wide open.
The ancient poet Tukaram figured out the best way to keep our hearts open, even to the ones we think we can’t love.
I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog, “God.”
First he looked
then he started smiling,
then he even danced.
I kept at it: now he doesn’t even bite.
I am wondering if this
Let’s get busy calling people names behind their back like God, Love, or Gift. That frees us up to do more important things, starting with confronting the “mean girl” within.
When you’re faced with your own darkness, offer her a shoulder to lean on. Give her some compassion. When you do, you can finally face the people you thought you couldn’t face before; with gentleness and compassion, even for all those “mean” things they say or do.
Author: Maria Palumbo
Editor: Sarah Kolkka