- Maggie Kappler, Licensed Professional Counselor
Mean Girls, Pt. 1
My husband introduced me to Maggie and I fell in love with her vivacious personality and ability to make the best cake. Ever. We stayed friends because we are like minded and she is BRILLIANT. In this post, we're going to talk about "mean girls" and in the next one, how to handle these situations. I'm so happy to bring her words to you here! LP
Why are the "plastics" plastic?
Hey, all. I know we have all had experience with “mean girls”. Maybe one, or a few have abused you. Maybe you’ve witnessed the destruction they can cause. Maybe you’ve been one yourself. So, what was it you saw? I’'ll wait while you recall a particular instance. When you have one, read on! I think to understand any phenomenon in life; it’s best to get behind the basic scientific questions. So let’s ask who, what, when, where, why and how—but not necessarily in that order. What do they do, and what are the goals of those who are “mean girls”? In my experience and understanding, they want to hurt, embarrass or generally alienate others.
Where do they do these things? IRL at school, social settings, etc. as well as online. How are their methods carried out? Rumors, lies, physical, mental and sexual harassment or assault. When are these things done? Seems like it happens when their target is at a particularly vulnerable place—interesting, no? Why? OOOH, this is where it gets good. What is your “why” for being a part of the Lotus Project? You want to discover and foster the best things about yourself, find radical acceptance in the things about yourself that aren’t your favorites and ultimately lift yourself and others up. I’'m just guessing ;) What is the “why” for behind being mean? There are a few reasons for this, I doubt I’ll cover them all, but let's look at some.
t’s a very powerful feeling to control someone else’s emotions. To control someone so completely you can make him or her cry at will is intoxicating power.
This desire for power can be linked back to our most primal selves. Think back to the days of the cave people. Our DNA is tricky, very smart and SUPER arrogant stuff. It wants to be passed on because it believes it’s got the best combo of genes on the planet. So back when humans were discovering fire, strength and power rendered an individual desirable as a mate, so displaying strength and power was important so your self-important DNA could continue to grow more DNA in future generations.
As fantastic as empathy and higher order emotions are, they didn’t outrun or intimidate predators…just saying. So, that’s a long-winded, way too in-depth answer to one word:
Because they truly believe making someone else look bad makes them look good. Throw that RIGHT out of your personal credo box NOW. Why is it that the homecoming king who gives his crown to another student for a heartfelt reason makes national headlines and the homecoming king who bullies people doesn’t? Because nobody EVER made themselves look good while trying to make others look bad. I’m going to caps lock say that again. NOBODY EVER MADE HIMSELF OR HERSELF LOOK GOOD WHILE TRYING TO MAKE OTHERS LOOK BAD!! Other people’s perceptions of them are important to them. Following onto that this one gets a little weird, because it’s a double-edged thing. They either want to divert attention away from themselves and onto a victim (rumor starting, slut shaming, etc). Or, they ONLY want to be seen noticed for these powerful plays. In short (I know, I know, too late), they want to control the way they are seen by others.
Last, and for good reason:
Who are the “mean girls”? This is the most important discussion. We know who we think they are. I was a good student, when my social life wasn’t more important. I was in band and choir. I had a fair amount of friends and a close, tight knit inner circle. I my experience, my personal bullies fell into one of two categories: 1) The traditional “plastic” mean girl. The ultra-popular, Regina George, has it all and has it all together while playing the entire school (faculty included) like puppets on strings. 2) The “bad girls”. The girls that got suspended for fighting, were promiscuous (either deemed so by rumor or self disclosure) were into drugs and seemingly had it pretty rough all the way around. Truth talk, I have a 3 year old. He has recently learned embarrassment. If there were ONE emotional response I could wipe from his life, this one would be it. Used to be if he bailed and he was hurt, he’d cry and want to be cuddled or soothed. Since picking up the tortuous embarrassment. If he falls down and is hurt, when I ask him if he’s okay, he will stiffen his little body with his fists clenched and yell: “STOOOP IT!” Shortly after, the adrenaline from the embarrassment fades and he will come to me for the cuddles. Cute story, Maggie—WTH? When you see someone sad, lost, or in pain, what is your instinct? You tend to feel drawn to them or to lend some type of assistance. Sadness and hurt are very vulnerable things to feel. Feeling them in front of people means your walls are down. People will likely come to your aid. More of that primal psychology, eh—protect the wounded to protect the tribe DNA because our tribe DNA is the BEST—but I digress.
What about when you see someone angry? What happens inside you if you perceive someone as hurt or sad and they tell you to “FUCK OFF”? Do you feel drawn in? Is there a compelling pull to help? Anger is a quick shield people put on to push people away and hide the fact that there is sadness or hurt. Ever hear the idea of staying away from a wounded animal because they are dangerous? That animal is very primal. They are hurt and relying on anything within their power to just survive the injury, so your loving soft kitty might claw your face off just to keep you away. More DNA stuff? Hmmm?? Hmmmmmm?? So, lets look at the “plastics”. What are they trying to hide under that hard, shiny flesh-toned armor? My best guess is they are wounded. They are scared. They are hiding some pretty big stuff. They are not strong enough to be vulnerable to their own feelings of hurt, sadness, betrayal and loss. What could some of these things be: Eating disorders, sexual abuse, drug use, poverty, parental alienation, self-harm, physical or mental abuse and all of the worst experiences on earth. So, they walk around with this hurt, don’t want to be vulnerable, take CONTROL of the feelings they feel are undesirable by taking POWER over others. Because, for whatever reason and whatever framework their lives, situations and family of origin has given them that has shaped their lenses to see POWER and CONTROL as more desirable than empathy, vulnerability and genuine human connection. Are these broad generalizations on my part? Sure. Are they likely true? Yes. Potentially, there could be a true-blue sociopath walking amongst you, but the odds are much lower than the potential that these are just other kids who are really hurt and who don’t have the coping skills to sit with their hurt. They are the wounded beasts who would rather scream “FUCK OFF”, than to have the pity, sympathy and empathy of another. Makes me sad to think of it.
Stay tuned for PART 2... Dealing with Mean Girls
Maggie Kappler is a roller derby playing boy mom and Navy spouse. After 10.5 years in the Naval Nuclear Power field, she decided to flip her script. She pursued psychology and has a BA in Psychology, a MA in Counseling Psychology and holds a Licensed Professional Counselor license in South Carolina. She is dedicated to helping people see the best in themselves and others.