Confessions of a Former Mean Girl | Ellen Smoak | TEDxBartonSpringsWomen
But first, a note from Me, the Author of this blog:
I was a mean girl once, which I still regret, and vowed to never be again.
I had a best friend who I grew up with. She lived on the next block a fence hop away.
We were inseparable.
We slept over at each other's houses, played games, made crafts, were in Brownies together (her mom was our leader) and had each other to ask any question we wanted as we grew and changed.
We were closer than sisters.
I loved her family too, even though her oldest sister was so over us punky kids. And her younger sister wanted to hang out with us a lot, but we were our own secret club.
I loved sitting on the trunk of the car in her garage with the garage door open when New Jersey rain storms would tumble down.
I loved walking less than a mile to downtown to buy candy and talk and dream about what we wanted to do or be in life.
I loved waking up on warm summer mornings, before the sun came up, and riding our bikes down to the grade school to watch the sunrise. There was a pack of us who did this. It was adventurous, freeing and fun.
I simply loved hanging with my best friend.
When we entered junior high school, which during my time was seventh and eighth grade, things changed. In my small New Jersey town, all the area grade schools came together in one junior high, which meant a batch of new friends. And I took to it. I tried out for cheerleading for CYO and that set a new course of popularity for me. I wore my uniform to school and felt proud to do so.
My best friend opted for quieter endeavors and we drifted apart.
This often happens during junior high, or middle school as in today's world. Sometimes it's because our bodies change at different rapid rates. Some girls develop breasts earlier and are noticed more. Some get really tall and tower over their childhood friends. Some start to like boys. In my last post you read about how the brain changes so quickly in adolescence, and for me, it hit max speed in junior high.
I tried cigarettes in 7th grade and I fell in love with an 8th grade blond-haired basketball player. Talk about raging hormones. I couldn't wait to see him - always wondering if he saw me too. And guess what? He did. We dated until right before Junior year in High School when I moved to California.
And so, during my rapidly changing me, I drifted away from my bestie. So far that when high school came, she went to a private one due to my dumping her.
Years later, I wrote her a letter asking for forgiveness and asked her mom to deliver it. She did. The response I received from her mom was that my x-friend appreciated it but that she didn't want to reconnect.
Decades later I sent her a butterfly scarf (everyone who knows me well knows how much butterflies mean to me) and called it the Forgiveness Project. Keep the scarf or gift it forward with a note to someone who you seek forgiveness from. Send the note you got and the note you wrote forward. The 20th person sends the scarf (if no one kept it) and all the notes back to me and I was planning to write a book about it. I never did get anything back. I often wonder if my X-friend just threw it out. But I tried. And after many years of reflection and reading about mean girls, I finally forgave myself.
This from an article on mic.com
The study: Research out of Florida Atlantic University tracked the friendships of 410 adolescents "who reported a total of 573 reciprocated friendships that originated in the seventh grade." Researchers checked in on the friendships yearly until the kids reached senior year of high school.
A mere 1% stayed intact 'til the end.
I am not a mean girl. And when I was, I was so self-absorbed that I didn't even realize it.
I made it my mission after my painful experience, to always help other women. Whether in television, investment banking, recruiting or work happiness strategy, I have always gone out of my way to help other women.
Women should help women. We need to be our own club - together - so that we can thrive in a world dominated by men. We should always lift one another up, cheer each other on, and be our own best friends.
P.S. I later learned that my childhood friend opened up a B&B at the Jersey Shore called Butterfly Breeze. That made me smile. I have thought about making a reservation and showing up. Then again... I don't know.
Later in life when I married, I was the focus of mean girl's in my X-husband's family. Only one of them was nice, and thank goodness for that because I wouldn't have lasted as long as I did. They left me out of holiday events, they were rude to my face, they were competitive and gossipy and even tried to convince my close friends to dump me. It was horrible. I never figured out why when I bent over backward to be nice. One of the husband's brother's paid too much attention to me - maybe that was it. He grossed me out. Two of the family mean women were severely overweight and hated that I ran and played tennis. They basically just hated me for being me.
But thank goodness I refused to let them ruin my self esteem. I surrounded myself with support from friends that were true and I never looked back. I'm still friends with the one X-X female family member who is a doll. I have no wish to ever speak to the mean ones again.
So that's my story.
And now, here's Ellen's story. We can all learn from one another. I hope you enjoy her TEDx talk.
Ladies, it is time we have a serious discussion about how we treat one another and how urgent it is that we find a better way. My name is Ellen Smoak and I work with women entrepreneurs. Let's talk today about how we've historically treated one another as women, so that our little girls and their little girls, don't, have to grow up with the emotional wounding that so many of us have experienced in our relationships with other Women over the past eight years, working professionally with other women, I've, noticed patterns and how we treat one another, how we shame one another, how we use our power over one another to make other women around us feel small.
These patterns lead to bullying in schools, toxic work, environments, emotionally unhealthy relationships and devastating family situations. I know this because I & # 39. Ve lived it. My story begins in the eleventh grade when I had not my first, but my worst experience being mean girl.
My friends inviting me over to hang out after school one day, so when the bell rang, I grabbed my JanSport backpack walked as fast as I could to the parking lot got in my 1989 blue Honda Accord, drove over to Cara's house and Knocked on the door Cara had one of those houses where the front door opened directly into the living room.
So when I got there and the door opened, I realized that my friends were already there. They were sitting in a circle on the living room floor. What I didn't realize, however, is that they were waiting for me to sit down so that they could tell me everything they didn't like about me.
To be honest, I must have checked out disassociated disconnected from what was about to happen, because I don't even remember what they said and even though I don't, remember the context of that day. What I do remember were their mouths moving.
I remember them pointing at me and laughing that was 23 years ago. I was only 16 years old and I remember how awful it felt like it was yesterday. Emotional wounds, don't come with an expiration date and they can often last a lifetime.
I wasn't the same for many years. I dimmed down. I shut down. I bounced around from friend group to friend group too afraid to get close to anyone else in fear that it would happen again. Looking back, I've come to realize that mean Girling is an act of survival.
We get into places of power in our social circles, our work environments and even in our own families, and should someone come around who could threaten that power? Should someone come around who could take our seat at the table? We resort to emotional and psychological violence to keep that other woman in her place.
Sometimes it's deliberate. Sometimes it's totally unconscious, but either way it leaves an emotional wound on another woman and quite possibly for life. What's worse? What's worse! Is that once it's done to us, we often start doing it to others that's, the next devastating part of my story.
When I went to college, I actually became the mean girl. One of the head mean girls. Actually, I went so far one years to keep another girl out of my sorority, simply because I didn't think she was pretty enough or cool enough or whatever to be enough to be let in to be given a seat at our table.
An 18 year old legacy who wanted nothing more than to be in the same sorority that her sister had been in, usually legacies get in no matter what, but not this girl nope. We voted her out and I headed up that campaign to this day.
I am NOT proud of what I did. I am very ashamed of it, but this is what happens mean Girling is a vicious cycle. We get hurt, we will learn what not to do and we start doing it. Anyways studies by the Center for Disease Control show that twenty to thirty percent of kids are bullied in schools, and I can tell you from personal experience that many of us then turn into one.
I wish that we could blame mean Girling on teenagers. I wish that we could blame it on us being young and naive and not knowing any better, but we can't. We can't because it happens just as much, if not more, when we grow up fast-forward to the modern day workplace we women have had to he'll deal with a whole host of issues to rise to the top discrimination stereotype.
Sexual harassment, unfair pay, the list goes on and on and then guess what happens next, some women rise to the top and they get so scared to lose their seat that they go so far as to take other women aids.
Women's, resumes off the table. Some women treat every woman around them as competition, and they will do anything to take them out as if work wasn't stressful enough. Now we're, stressing each other out even more.
We have women holding each other back and holding each other small and keeping each other from being recognized for what we each bring to the table. Ladies, we are not each other's enemy, it is the opposite.
We've, had to fight so hard to get into the boardroom. What would it look like when, if we got there, we actually reached behind us and grabbed another woman's hand and pulled her up alongside with us? What would it look like if we actually created more seats at that table? I've.
Seen this happen in my colleagues, I've seen women encourage one another and support one another and cheerlead for one another. I've. Seen women invite even the quote: competition to meetings and events, and even girls nights out.
This is the empowering thing to do create more seats at your table, and this is absolutely the way this is the way sisters. This is the way we are finally going to move from competition to collaboration in the boardroom and beyond.
Let's talk about our families for a moment. I almost don't even want to get started here on how some women treat each other in their own families, especially blended families, but we have to talk about it because it's happening all over the place just the other day.
I was on the phone with a friend of mine. She's, been married to her new husband now for three wonderful years, and they couldn't be happier, but she has a problem. A big problem, her new mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law still haven't welcomed her into that family.
They still treat her like an outsider and they still exclude her every chance they get. It breaks my friends heart on a daily basis. When we women have gotten to a point where we even have to think we even think we have to compete with our set with our daughters-in-law instead of coming together and loving one another and honoring one another and loving that son together, we know we have a Problem, ladies, we have got to start changing the way we treat one another and we have got to do it. Starting now.
Studies by the CDC also report that being bullied in school can lead to loneliness sadness, anxiety and depression, and that these issues can persist into adulthood. Sadly, from personal experience, I can tell you that that is very true.
I can also tell you from personal experience that that is also true when it comes to being the bully alienating yourself from other women, whether it's, because you've been mean girl door because you are the mean girl is detrimental To your health and well-being, this game of being hurt and then doing the hurting sucks for every woman involved.
There is zero upside here, absolutely no one wins. So what do we do about this? Where do we go from here? We see that there are workplaces where women welcome one another. We see families even blended families, where women welcome each other to the table and we see thriving Sisterhood's where women empower each other's greatness.
How do they get there? How do we finally come together as women and start treating one another as the loving, generous kind, caring, capable wise women that we are it wasn't until my mid-20s that I started giving women a chance again for me, it took running away from Home all the way from South Carolina to San Diego, I needed a fresh start, especially with other women.
A few years after I got there. I met them, Lea Mia and Jess the first three women in my entire life, who looked at me and said things like. I see you, I believe in you, and I am so glad you're here. Hearing these things from these women started to change me and just as important.
I learned how to give these types of accolades to other women in my life and the results ever since have been phenomenal. Ladies, whether you know it or not, you have the power to disempower another woman in an instant the way you look her up and down there.
You're the tone in your voice. The way you don't call her back when something happens before being mean girl, I was a pretty confident little girl, I believed in myself, and I thought people liked me, but after being treated the way I was in high school, I had a Lot of work to rebuild my self-esteem, my self-worth and if it wasn't for those three women in my mid-twenties, I don't know who I would be today the good news.
The good news is that we also have the ability to empower another woman in an instant the way you smile at her. The way you speak to her the way you encourage her. The way you celebrate her, we all have the power to be like Leah, Mia and Jess.
We all have the power to help each other heal. So why aren't? We talking about this more. Why aren't we taking action as adult women to help each other heal our mean girl wounds and learn a better way to treat one another mean Gerling isn't something new.
It's happening all over the place. Every one of us knows a girl that's being bullied in school or belittled in the boardroom or mistreated in her own backyard. At the end of the day mean grilling is a human condition.
It's, part of our survival mechanism. Some people will do anything to secure their place and power their place in the pecking order, and many of these people are gaining more and more power in our schools, our communities, our families and our lives.
We're, conditioned as a human race to accept what always has been. We accept things as status quo. But, ladies, if we are going to continue to rise as women, then we absolutely must change the way we treat one another.
Often the smartest kids grow up and create the worst situations. Police officers report that it's, often the smartest kid in the neighborhood who becomes the number one drug dealer they control the corner of the street.
Ladies, if you're, the mean girl. That means you're, the top emotional drug dealer, and you are passing out toxicity everywhere. You go. You control the sorority, you control the neighborhood. You control the tone of your entire family unit, women, who are being mean girl, and women, who are the mean girl, need to know there is a way out.
You can quit the game, you can leave your toxic relationship or work environment. You can change the tone and your entire family and you could stop the cycle. Ladies, we are the problem and the solution.
I am living proof. If you're being bullied by a mean girl, you need to know, you can stand up for yourself and if you see it happen stand up with her and if you are one of those Mean Girls out there now your chance to change, I did, and so Can you mothers, Mother's? Your daughters are listening.
They hear those snide remarks. You're, making about that woman at the yoga studio or that woman at work or that woman in the neighborhood who just went through a divorce. I believe that this can stop.
I really do, but it's only going to stop if we decide to do it together and we decide that we're, not on opposite sides. Here's. What we're gonna do here's, how we're gonna start. Changing this stop having coffee with the office gossip, who has nothing good to say about anyone, walk away from the watercooler or the online chat.
When the conversation gets chatty or disrespectful better, yet stand up and say something take a woman out to lunch, especially that woman who triggers you. The wound is the way, tell a mother on the playground that you see how good of a mom she is, and you recognize her for that start.
Having conversations with the women in your life about their female friendships and be curious about their past, gather women together to find out what each other are up to in the world and how you can help.
And if you are one of those mean girls out there bless your little heart as we say in South Carolina. You know not what you do, but I think you do know. I think you know exactly who you are here's, how you can change! You can reframe what you're about to say to another woman.
If it's about to come across mean or as an attack on her character, you can call the women in your life that you've been mean to and you can make amends and if you don't know Who she is right or a letter burner burn it stay a prayer and hope she gets it.
You can tell your daughter-in-law that you love how much she loves your son. You can call that woman back home, you ghosted, and you can have a proper conversation about what happened. You can stop treating your ex-husbands new girlfriend, her new wife.
Like she's done something wrong to you. Chances are. She loves your children and your children would love you even more if you were nice to her being an empowered woman is not about saving the last seat at the table.
Ladies, it's about creating more seats for women to sit. Let's, stop hurting one another and start helping one another. Instead, no matter what side you've been on. Ladies or what side you're on, let's, practice compassion for other women like never before that woman, you think, is shut down or emotionally unavailable chances.
Are she's? Had a bad experience with a woman in the past and she's doing the best she can to survive. She might not have any other women in her life. She can trust, be that woman. She can trust you just might be.
The very first person to ever give her that so to end sisters and the misters who love us, we need your help. To the mean girl problem is real. It's, palpable it's extremely common. It is not going away on its own and we have no more time to waste.
Women are rising, it's the year of the woman. It is the decade of the woman, it is quite possibly even the century of the woman. Women are opening businesses and being elected into office and becoming CEOs.
Now more than ever in history, let's, not let our differences or our insecurities or our jealousies screw it up. We've. Come this far sisters. Imagine how much farther and how much faster we can rise if we decide to rise together, let's rise together sisters on one team in sisterhood.
Thank you. You