Mean Girls

Dealing with Mean Girls......

Have you ever felt like you just got hit by a truck but you couldn't see it coming and you can't see where it went???  You feel like you are in a lot of pain, but you just can't figure out what hit you?????   Don't doubt yourself... don't think you're confused......   You probably got hit by the force known as "MEAN GIRLS."  For some crazy reason, girls and young women can get hurt really badly by other girls or young women, and it happens so fast, and in such a sneaky way, that if it happens to you, you don't know what hit you!!   it's a crazy kind of thing.

When boys are mad at each other, they fight it out with words or fists! Everyone sees it happen and everyone knows when it's over. Often, guys get over it pretty quick. They are lucky that it goes this way.

When girls, teenage girls, or young women get mad at each other or when they feel angry or threatened, their behavior is TOTALLY different. They get very sneaky about the way they express themselves. Girls and young women may show their anger or their insecurity by  excluding  other girls from conversation, or by ignoring other girls/young women -- basically finding ways to let you know you aren't included in their discussion.  This is called "relational aggression" - not that it helps to know the technical term :(   . It just may help if you recognize that's what you're dealing with. Then you can figure out what to do about it.....

So when you are faced with this kind of situation, the first thing to do is to remember that it's not you....the person who behaved aggressively towards you is obviously insecure, not particularly insightful, not compassionate, and clearly has her own problems!!  There's nothing you can do about her. She has her own problems to deal with. What you can do is understand that this person and her group of friends aren't who you should be approaching these days to try to make friends. They aren't ready to deal with new people, and who knows how long it will take before they mature?????    You've got to move on and find kids who are open to getting to know you. 

The main thing to think about right now is that you can't waste time trying to relate to people who have problems of their own with relationships. It's a better use of your time to find people who are open to new relationships and new activities and experiences. As you think about the future, there's so many things you'll be doing, and so many different and interesting people you'll be meeting. You really won't have time for people who are limited by their own hang-ups.  So no matter what has happened with kids from the past, think about who's coming up in your future. There's so many people to meet and so much fun to be had!! 

I always feel so worried!

Guess what?  Lots of people feel worried at times, but sometimes a teen may feel like she's worried all of the time! If you are biting your nails, chewing on your hair, fidgeting all the time, rocking or picking at your nails or skin, you may be showing some anxiety.   So what's anxiety?  It's a feeling of worry, nervousness or panic; sometimes it feels like you're scared even though there doesn't seem to be anything to be frightened of. You might notice that your heart is beating kind of fast, your mouth feels dry or you start to perspire. Sometimes when kids get really anxious, they can't think straight.  So it's probably a good idea to figure out what's going on and fix it. You can learn what anxiety is, how it affects you, when it is most likely to happen to you, and (most important) what to do about it!   

OK, lots of teenage girls get anxious. It might be worse for teenage girls because our bodies are changing as we grow up, and hormones (chemicals in our bodies) start causing us to get upset easily and sometimes have trouble calming down.  So, let's think about this......

First, there are so many reasons whey we can get anxious. Erin Monroe, an expert on anxiety in girls, made a big list of all the things teens worry about, so take a big breath and read this list of worries:

  • I'm not sure I like how I look
  • I don't always know what to say
  • I'm not sure whether other kids like me
  • I don't think I'm going to do well on that test
  • I keep forgetting things
  • That teacher might yell at me
  • i hope I don't embarrass myself
  • What if they other kids won't talk to me?
  • What if my parents get mad at me?
  • I'm not good at gym/ at band/ at art/ at dance.....
See all the worries that teens have!!  It sounds very hard to get through the day when you have things like these on your mind.... 

So, the best thing to do is to decide to TAKE CHARGE!   You, yes you, are going to learn how to manage your worries.  Some pretty smart scientists have worked on how to help people feel better when they're feeling worried.  We think the best thing to do is work on this problem with an adult. We are going to tell you what the steps are but you do not need to fix this problem on your own:
  1. The first thing to do is to talk to a grown-up who is willing to listen to you as you solve this problem. It could be your mom or dad, an older sister or brother, another grown up in your family, or a teacher or counselor from school. You must choose a grown-up who is willing to talk to you about your concerns, not a grown up who says "Oh, don't worry about that."  Even if he or she wants to help, that kind of response won't really help. 
  2. Next, make a list of the things that usually worry you. Write down everything you can think of.  THEN, put the list in order from the smallest worry to the biggest one. It doesn't matter if it is a silly thing to worry about or not, if it bothers you, it goes on the list. 
  3. Now, sit down with your Grown-Up friend, and show him/her the list. Tell your friend that you need some help to cope with all your worries. Ask your Grown-Up friend if they can help you, or help you find a counselor that can help you. There is a special kind of counseling that helps when a person is worried all the time.  It is called "Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy." If talking about your worries with your Grown-Up doesn't seem to help, ask him or her to help you find a counselor who does Cognitive-Behavioral therapy.

Cognitive-Behavioral therapy is all about examining your worries and changing how you think and behave. It really helps when you find you are worried all the time. At Yale Child Study Center in New Haven we have a special program for worries and anxiety, called the Yale Anxiety Disorders Program. You may want to ask your Grown-Up friend to check out the website and perhaps given them a call. 

A book that might help you with your worries is called: The Anxiety Workbook for Girls. It is written by Erin A Monroe, LMHC, and published by Fairview Press. This book is all about the worries that many girls and teens have and what to do about them. It has quizzes and exercises you can do to help you learn about why you worry so much and what you can do about it.

Why does everyone focus on clothes and appearance?

What about just caring about who a person is, deep down inside, and not judging by appearances?  Shouldn't life be this way? Maybe it should be, but it's not. Whether we like it or not, people judge each other based on appearances. And how someone looks might make the difference in whether anyone talks to that person or wants to get to know them. So, if you want to make friends or just have other people listen to your opinions, you must think about how you present yourself.

Does this mean you have to dress like everyone else or dress up in the latest fashions or in clothes that are uncomfortable? No it doesn't! it just means you have to realize that the way you present yourself sends a message to other people about what you think about yourself. If you haven't bathed or showered, if you haven't brushed your teeth, and if you have messy hair and dirty clothes, others will think that YOU don't care about YOU! And if you don't care, they reason, why should they?   

So there are some things to think about, even if you really don't want to put a whole lot of effort into how you look. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I shower and wash my hair every day or every other day?
  2. Do I brush my teeth before I go out in the morning and before I go to bed?
  3. Are my clothes clean?
  4. Do my clothes fit me well? Are they too big, too tight, too small? 
  5. Do I have the right clothes for the weather?

If you can answer yes to every one of these questions, you are doing ok. If any one of these is a NO, then you've got to find a way to fix it. 

Now comes the big question.  What kind of message do I send out about myself based on my appearance? The best way to figure this out is to take a picture of yourself (use a full length mirror if you have to) in three different sets of clothing. Print the pictures out if you can, and then ask one of your parents, your brother or sister or a close friend what your appearance says about you. Only ask people who you can really trust!!!   Then spend some time thinking about what you can do to improve your appearance.  

One thing lots of people do is pick out pants and tops or dresses or skirts and tops, and see how well they go together when you have plenty of time to think about it. Get the help of someone who can give you feedback you like. After all, you don't want to dress up looking like someone else!  if you can put together some outfits ahead of time, all you have to do is grab one set of clothes when you need to get dressed! it makes things much easier. And when you go shopping or are buying clothes online, always think about how what you buy will work out with an article of clothing you already own. That way, you build outfits that are ready to wear as needed. 

If you really want to figure out how to do this, you could take a look at: Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Style: How to find your perfect look, by Ann Shoket. It is published by Hearst Communications, Inc. This book shows different styles that some teens may like, but... you don't have to choose one of the styles in the book. You can use the ideas to create your own look. 

How do I know who's really my friend?

It can be hard to tell if someone's really a friend. As kids get older, friendship gets much more complicated than they ever was before. Sometimes kids you thought were your friends can be mean or just act like they don't want to hang out with you.  What do you do? And how do you know whether someone is really a friend?   

Think about how this person acts and what this person says when they are with you, because a true friend:
  • is glad to see you
  • understands how you feel
  • likes to spend time with you
  • feels comfortable sharing some of his/her thoughts and feelings with you
A false friend:
  • is sometimes nice to you and sometimes not nice at all
  • is friendly to you when it's just the two of you but isn't friendly when there's a whole group of people hanging out
  • makes fun of you -even if it seems like it's just joking
  • tells other people private things you shared 

So if you think that someone isn't really a friend, maybe it is time to spend a little less time with that person. Sometimes we hang out with other people just so we won't be alone but this isn't always a good idea. if you are hanging out with someone who isn't nice to you, or teases you, or ignores you when other kids are around, it might be better to be on your own. This might feel lonely in the beginning, but it can get better over time. The best way to handle feeling lonely is to remember that the feeling won't last forever. You can choose to have some alone time to think about what fun things you like to do and decide to do these things or try something new. You may meet some new kids that way.

The other thing you can do is learn a bit more about why girls and teens have friend troubles. Did you know that this problem is so common that people have written books about it? Two really good books to read while you are having your alone time are: A smart girl's guide to friendship troubles by Patti Kelley Criswell, published by American Girl™ and The Girls' Life must-have guide to making and keeping friends, edited by Karen Bokram and Jodi Lynn Bryson, published by Scholastic, Inc.  Both of these books can be really helpful with understanding the complicated, crazy world of friendship. 

Finally, if your friend problems get so overwhelming that you can't think of what to do on your own, talk to an adult you can trust. Counseling or a social group might help and an adult can help you find these resources.

I get so sad sometimes!

Feelings can be so intense when you're growing up!  Lots of teenagers can feel very sad at times, especially when things aren't going right with parents, with teachers or with other kids. Other reasons for being sad might be that you feel lonely and can't find a friend, you can't do as well in school or in a sport or class (dance or karate, for example) as you'd like, or you feel overwhelmed by homework or something else.  It's pretty normal to feel sad sometimes, and to even cry if you feel like it. In fact, it's healthy to let yourself be sad if you feel sad - and not try to cover it up.  If you feel sad and blue from time to time, it's ok. You might be able to help yourself get over it by watching a favorite movie, reading a book, or doing some great exercise. 

The problem comes if you feel sad most of the time, and you can't seem to feel better. Then it's time to talk to your mom or dad or a school counselor and tell them what's happening. Sometimes talking things out will help you feel better. Sometimes it's best to arrange to see a therapist to help you deal with your sadness. It is especially important to tell a trusted adult if you are having trouble sleeping or you want to sleep all the time, if you are feeling annoyed at everyone all the time, if you don't feel like eating or are always eating to much, and/or if you have thought about hurting yourself.  Don't wait!!!  Tell a trusted adult right away.