Mean girls. Yup, they are an infuriating fact of life! In an ideal world, women are supposed to support and uplift each other. Sadly, some ladies struggle with basic kindness toward other women. It’s something that almost every woman has experienced at some point in her life. Judging, belittling, or good old gossip seem to be alive and well despite the damage it does to individuals. Being mean affects every aspect of our well-being, from our self-esteem to our relationships. Let’s look at some of the meanest things women do to each other and how to overcome these negative behaviors.
Most of us are guilty of gossip. It’s hard to be a human and not participate in gossip at some point. But when it becomes hurtful, it can have severe consequences, particularly on someone’s mental health. The rumors and lies that are spread can cause lasting emotional damage and potentially destroy relationships or careers. The victim of gossip often feels betrayed, embarrassed, and humiliated. It’s important to recognize the destruction that you can cause with your words. Gossip is never helpful or kind.
“She’s Just Trying Too Hard”
This one is the ultimate putdown that women use against each other. The comment invalidates what the other individual has accomplished and creates self-doubt. A woman says this to make herself feel better. It’s a way to level the playing field and protect your ego from feeling “less than.” Pay attention to your inner feeling of jealousy when you are tempted to diminish another woman. It’s very likely that you are speaking from a place of envy.
Unfortunately, women often tell lies to feel better about themselves or to achieve a specific goal. Lying, however, can cause more harm than good. It will break trust and make others doubt your integrity. Being honest requires courage and vulnerability but fosters trust and relationships built on authenticity. Lying makes life more complicated; use your energy to tell the truth.
Our appearance is a sensitive topic. Mean comments about our physical appearance can cause the deepest wounds. Women often criticize or make fun of another woman’s appearance, being cruel and insensitive. Criticizing someone’s appearance can have long-lasting physical and mental effects on an individual’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Body shaming needs to stop! Unless you are a medical professional who is discussing physical issues with your client, keep your opinion to yourself!
Being a mother is a challenging and exhausting job, and it’s tough to get it right all the time. Unfortunately, some women use motherhood as a weapon. Statements like “She doesn’t work” or “Why does she work when she has kids?” can create feelings of shame and inadequacy. The Mommy Wars never stop, judging each other’s choices and criticizing lifestyles. Rather than wasting energy on judging other moms, let’s spend some time offering sincere compliments when possible.
Undermining and Sabotaging
In the workplace, women may feel threatened by other successful women and resort to undermining and sabotaging their efforts. This can include taking credit for someone else’s work, purposely excluding them from important meetings or projects, or giving them tasks that are below their skill level. This behavior not only has the potential to damage her career but it also creates a toxic work environment for all women. Women need to find a mentor who will help them develop the skills and encourage ethical behavior within the workplace.
With the rise of social media, cyberbullying has become a prevalent issue among women. Things like making hurtful comments on someone’s post, spreading rumors and gossip through online platforms, or creating fake profiles to harass and bully someone. Girls participating in cyberbullying is on the rise; studies show girls are twice as likely to be bullied than boys. This behavior is toxic and deeply damaging without exception. Although there is no quick solution for cyberbullying, all women need to be mindful of their motives for posting negative statements online.
Exclusion and Cliques
In social situations, women may form exclusive cliques and intentionally exclude others. This can be seen in school settings, where popular girls often ostracize those who are deemed “uncool.” But even as adults, women can still engage in this behavior, creating a toxic environment of exclusion and judgment. Grown women need to examine their motives for engaging in cliques and exclusionary behavior. That type of behavior doesn’t belong in a grown-up world.
Mean girls are experts at using passive-aggressive behavior to manipulate and control others. This can include making snide remarks, giving the silent treatment, or using sarcasm to belittle someone. Sarcastic language comes from a place of unconscious anger. Passive-aggressive behavior is an acceptable form of anger for women. Unfortunately, it is a learned behavior that protects women from expressing their deeper negative emotions. Ditch the sarcasm and work on expressing your real emotions instead.
Stealing Boyfriends or Girlfriends
Unfortunately, some women see it as a victory when they manage to steal a romantic partner from another woman. There are few things more hurtful than having a friend steal your significant other. Mean girls may do this intentionally to hurt their “friend” or to boost their ego. Truthfully, no romantic partner can be “stolen,” but it is a serious breach of trust when a friend tries to destroy our relationship.
Taking Advantage Of Someone’s Vulnerability
Mean girls can be quick to take advantage of someone’s vulnerability or weakness. This could include spreading personal information, using someone’s insecurities against them, or manipulating them for their gain. Threatening to tell secrets or using information to blackmail another person is petty and immature. Women who participate in this type of controlling behavior are often operating from a place of low self-confidence or fear.
The mean things women say behind each other’s backs can be hurtful and damaging, but they don’t have to define our interactions with each other. By recognizing the reasons behind our own bad behavior, we can work together to end the mean girl stereotype. When we stop judging and start treating each other with kindness, we create stronger support systems, healthier environments, and happier lives.
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.