Mean Girls Turn into Mean Moms
I can admit that for a good chunk of time, I was a mean girl. I ended up there kind of like the frog in boiling water. I jumped into a refreshingly cool and interesting atmosphere with other fun new friends. Time went on, I started adapting, and once I stepped back to really look around and notice what was coming out of my mouth, I was disgusted! I was confused and appalled - who am I? Why am I saying these awful mean things? Why do I even care? What happened to me?
Somehow I made it through my junior high and teen years without a huge breakdown of confidence and self-worth. I had acne and awkward style (let’s be real…no style...) but I had a small group of great friends who helped me create a happy bubble where style and popularity were irrelevant. I was a tomboy with a circle of neighborhood boys who I played sports and ran around with. I didn't get much attention at school since I was so quiet, but my friend bubble helped me not care if I was popular.
Then came college. I showed up with my carefree, easy-going attitude and left broken with my mask fully attached. I had a great first few months and became friends with a group of girls who became everything to me. We lived together, took all our classes together, and partied together. I thought the other girls were so cool, so stylish, and so good at hair and clothes and parties. I was none of these things and was like a sponge wanting to learn.
Looking back I now know these girls were wildly insecure. At the time this showed up in a typical mean girl fashion. We'd be sitting in the quad and every girl that walked by would be critiqued by my friends (ugh she’s too fat, those pants don't work, why would she wear those shoes with that, her hair is a mess). I would sit there and tell them to be nice and try to change the subject. I told them I wasn’t interested in picking people apart, I didn’t care what others chose to wear or if they didn’t have the right hair cut for their face shape.
The problem was it subconsciously trained my brain to look for imperfections. I was now aware of the subtle style no no’s and initiated into mean girl 101. It wasn't long before sitting there I would know in my head what they were going to critique about someone. That meant my brain was actively scanning, judging and noting all perceived imperfections. As hard as I tried to stay the positive one - it sunk in and activated my mean girl insecure mutation. I began getting dressed and critiquing myself from head to toe. I can't wear this, I'm too fat, my hair is a mess, and these shoes are ancient. It didn't take long for this brain cycle to throw me into a deep depression complete with severe binge eating, drinking and drug use to get away from myself and quiet my critical mind. The destructive behavior added pretty significant extra cushion to my mid section, which didn't help the cycle.
It got to a place where I would often call my mom to complain about everything. I was fat, I didn’t have enough money for the right clothes, shoes, haircuts, my roommates were stoners and had negative attitudes. Finally one day she said with frustration “Well, what are you going to do about it?”
That blew me away. Umm, me? I’m the victim here. I’m the one trapped living in a stoner house with judgy friends. I’m the one who eats too much and punishes myself for my imperfections. These girls are my whole world, what am I supposed to do? I have nowhere to go, no other friends. I would be totally homeless and alone.
My mom’s response was, “sooooo, move out.” Long mind-blown pause from me. Probably with some attitudy response I don’t remember, and hanging up.
But I couldn't unhear it. I couldn’t let go of the fact that she was right. It really was up to me to take charge of my life. My health. My happiness. So I initiated what to this day was the hardest break-up of my life. Breaking up with friends can be so much harder then boyfriends. It was awful, dramatic and exhausting to say the least. I found a roommate who was a family friend I barely knew and started over. It was a very lonely time, but at least I knew I would rather be healthy and alone then in the toxic environment I was in. I had a long road back to healthy and happiness that I am still on today.
Now my catch phrase whenever people complain to me one too many times about the same thing is, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”
I think about this now that I’m a mom. Sometimes I get down on myself, think "I’m not in the shape I was pre-baby, I dress frumpy (thank God athleisure is a thing), I haven’t fixed my hair in months, my son is eating sand, those other toddlers his age aren’t eating sand, he’s whining, those other kids are sitting there contentedly playing, am I a bad mom? Wait that kid is dressed totally sloppy, that mom just yelled at her kid, shouldn't that kid be out of diapers by now??"
I do my best to catch myself. My insecurity always triggers my inner mean mom. When I’m feeling good and confident I truly don't care (or even notice) how other moms dress. I know there are a million right and healthy ways to raise babies. I remind myself of this, take a deep breath, and send myself some love. I’m doing the best I can. I am a good mom. I tell my inner mean mom to relax, that her job is done. She has shown me that my real work is to love and be at peace with myself just as I am, whether it's a makeup on and joyful toddler day, or greasy-hair, tantrum, sand-eating delight of an afternoon.
How does judgement show up for you? Do you have an inner mean girl who rears her judgy head? How do you keep her in check?