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Mean Girls

A friend and I have been working on a project to develop a group for teenage girls to work on issues involving self-esteem, confidence and a healthy body image. A kind of support group to discuss all things girly from dating and boys to nutrition and of course dealing with your peers. We are hoping that by starting early and providing strong role models and a safe environment for questions and discussion we can alleviate many of the problems that these girls could face throughout high school and beyond. While discussing this plan earlier this week I said something that has stuck in my mind ever since, “Teenage girls are the meanest people on earth.” I meant it when I said it and the more I think about it, the more I still do.

If you read my blogs, you have already read the one entitled ‘Lobsters!’ – if you haven’t, go back now and read it before continuing on with this one, it will help put what I am about to say in better perspective.

As we go through puberty, the changes in our bodies, not only physically but hormonally are playing havoc with our minds and emotions. With so many changes we can’t help but feel insecure and self-conscious about everything we do and say – without a positive outlet and better understanding of what we are going through, the inner lobsters start to take over and the easiest, fastest way to make us feel better about ourselves is to make someone else feel worse. It is the lobster pot theory on steroids.  We don’t have to be the prettiest in class, but as long as we are not the ugliest, we are OK. There will always be someone thinner than us, but as long as there is also someone fatter that we can draw attention to, we will be safe from ridicule.  Does that attitude sound familiar? It does to me because I lived it – I know first hand what it is like to be a victim of the mean girls in school – I also know what it is like to be one of them.

When I was in elementary and junior high school, I was always the one that was picked on. I was the easy target because whatever the other girls were insecure about, they could be assured that I was worse off and made a very easy target! I grew up as a victim of sexually abuse by multiple predators in an alcoholic home. I was the youngest of 3 by 7 years and my parents were struggling to deal with their own issues so while they were not my abusers, they were not exactly my heroes either, it was almost like I didn’t exist at all, at least that is how it felt back then. In order to compensate for this loneliness and the belief that I had that I was a born victim – that I deserved what I got and that no one did, would or could ever love me, I became a pleaser. Entering school, I would say or do pretty much whatever anyone asked of me, making up stories and living in a fantasy world to make myself seem much better than I was, hoping someone would like that persona enough to be my friend. It never worked, but what it did do was put me in a position of victim all over again – this time though the predators were my own age and were looking for something different from me. I was their vehicle to self and group acceptance because as long as they could laugh at, belittle or make fun of my flaws and short comings, no one would ever notice theirs, and their plan worked. i was the perfect victim for their bullying because I was so desperate for attention, any attention, I wouldn’t even fight back for fear of what I felt was worse than their constant abuse – being ignored.

As I grew older and physically bigger, I also became angrier. Add drugs and alcohol to years of suppressed rage and you get one very volatile and self-loathing girl and according to the lobster theory, how do you suppose that I made myself feel better? That’s right – I made others feel worse. Back then I was the hero of the underdog – I couldn’t stand to see anyone who I felt was defenseless or weak be victimized and those were the people I would protect, BUT I on the other hand would do exact;y what was being done to them to the ones that were doing it. I thought I was being a hero to those that couldn’t protect themselves but what I was really doing was using that as an excuse to become an abuser to those that represented everyone who had ever victimized me. Those that I felt were better than me. Bringing them down made me felt better than I ever had and it wasn’t until about 8 years ago that I realized that I was no better than them. I had been bullied and in turn, became a bullier.  I picked on every girl who I thought was better than me because when I saw what they had – confidence, beauty, clothes, friends, parents that loved them, a nice home, a family – they made me realize all of the things that I didn’t have and wished I did. Belittling them, insulting them, scaring them and yes even being physically violent towards them somehow made me feel better about not being them.

About 8 years ago I bumped into a women I hadn’t seen since the 8th grade in the lobby of a hotel. I walked straight up to her to say hi because in my new found life I was actually excited to see someone from my past, I wanted her to see how well I actually turned out! Funny thing is, she wouldn’t talk to me, look at me and when she saw me coming – actually turned around and practically ran away! I tracked her down later that night via phone and we spoke – I learned more about myself that night than the years of counselling I went through ever taught me – after all of those years, marriages, children… she was STILL scared of me. Scared of how I made her feel about herself. I learned that I hadn’t seen her since grade 8 because she left our school and went elsewhere in a new city BECAUSE of me. I did that to her – tormented her to the point of illness and even after 15 years, just the sight of me returned all of those feelings back to her. I hated myself for doing that to another person. I had to face the truth then and there, in that hotel room, on the phone with this beautiful woman who could not see herself the way others did because of what I did and the things I said to her. With tears streaming down my face, I confessed to her my reasons for what I did – not excuses because I had no excuse but with nothing more to lose, I had to tell her the truth – she deserved to know why I had tried to ruin her life. I was jealous. She was everything I wanted to be, had everything I wish I had and I hated her for that because every time I looked at her, I hated me.  Talk about a catharsis.

that was a turning point in my life. I could no longer pretend that I had vanquished my demons – could no longer go through life without confronting my mistakes, could not pretend that the past never happened. I was a Mean Girl – a very mean Girl and only by admitting that, accepting it and learning from it, could I ever make a difference in my life and the life of others again. I set upon (with the help of professionals) a new path – the discovery of the new me. I even changed my name from Renee (my middle name I had always used) to Michelle (my feminine first name that I always hated) – it was a symbolic move on my part that I was consciously changing who and what I was, and moving on to a new chapter in my life. I learned to amalgamate the two sides of my youth – the lonely victimized child and the angry victimizing teen to who I am today – an empathetic, independent and brutally honest woman. I have compassion for victims and bullies alike but value change and growth above all else. I am straight forward and honest because I have to be – no fantasy worlds or make-believe persona’s for me ever again – either I am loved for the real me, or I am not and for once in my life that is ok because I have learned to love me for me and with that, no matter what anyone else chooses, I will never be alone.

So all of that being said – back to my topic about the meanest people on earth – teenage girls.  I believe that through the building of individual self esteem, we can change this, we can prevent what happened to me and because of me from happening to our children and our grandchildren – that teh Mean Girl syndrome, that the bullying epidemic can be stopped but it will take honesty, open frank discussions and willingness to see both sides. I am hoping that our program works, even if it is just for one girl, because that alone will change the lives of her and everyone she touches throughout her life and on a personal note, if I can do that, if I can play a part in preventing even one child from enduring any of the pain that I did through both my own and the actions of others, than I know that everything I have endured will have been worth it, that even 25 years later, my pain had a silver lining.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 at 4:43 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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