Strong Women Raise Strong Girls. Does Your Message Mirror You?
My strong girl….
“Speak your truth. Be brave, be bold and be beautiful.
Embrace your flaws, celebrate your wins and smile because you want to
not because someone told you too.
Hold your ground, spread love and take no shit.
Don’t play the victim, become the warrior.
Know your worth, protect your energy and tell your story.
Share your magic, laugh loud and proud and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
– the gypsy mumma
Rivalry. Gossiping. Mean Girls. Frenemies. Back-Stabbers.
Queen Bee’s. Cat Fights. Bullying. Cliques.
Excluding and Passive/ Aggressive Types of Behaviors.
What do these behaviors have in common? They are spiteful, typically indirect in nature and for little girls, they can begin at a very young age.
As a strong woman, a mother or someone who is a role-model to a little girl, what does your behavior say about you? Do your messages truly mirror your beliefs? Do your actions uplift and empower the young females in your life to be the best she, she can be?
We can only heal the mean girl culture by demonstrating to our girls inclusion, love, and empowerment, modeled in turn, by how we treat other women.
In the words of Margie Warrel, “As you think about how to raise your daughter to be a confident and courageous woman – sure of herself and resilient under pressure – begin by considering where you need to practice a little more bravery yourself. Any time you tip-toe around an awkward conversation, allow someone to treat you poorly, avoid taking a risk for fear of failure or let other people’s opinions matter more than your own, you’re missing an important opportunity to teach your daughter how to be brave.”
Adolescent Aggression.It’s been proven that at a young age all children exhibit similar direct aggressive traits. Indirect aggressive traits however, begin to appear in little girls around the ages of six to eight. It’s typical that little girls develop social intelligence before little boys do. As a result, they can begin to exhibit indirect aggressive behaviors earlier than their male counterparts. Boys routinely use direct forms of verbal and physical aggression more so than girls, while indirect verbal aggression is more common in little girls than little boys.
Indirect Aggression is defined as, “any behavior aimed at the goal of harming another living being that is delivered circuitously through another person or object, even if it must nevertheless be intended to harm someone.” Indirect aggressive behaviors as named above, occurring from one female to another, fall into the category of females at any age failing to help each other. These types of behaviors do not support female empowerment or the female sisterhood.
Females use indirect aggressive behaviors as a way to be and feel more powerful, especially in situations where they are lacking power. Indirect aggression is not as blatant as direct aggression. Feelings can be expressed without bringing a lot of attention to oneself.
I recently interviewed Patricia about incidents of rivalry she’d experienced from other women at various stages throughout her life. One story she shared was from her late high-school years in which she’d moved from a large private school to a small-town public school on the other side of the country.
Upon her arrival Patricia was accepted into the “popular crowd,” something she had not previously experienced. “Of course I had friends before” she said, “but I’d usually hung out with the “smart” not “cool” kids. Several months after living there Patricia voiced her opinion against something the “Queen Bee” of the popular clique wanted to do. She could tell that while others also disagreed, no one else had the courage to stand up to the dominating female.
After the disagreement Patricia was out of school for a week with the flu. Upon her return she found out the “Queen Bee” told everyone that she’d been out of school because she was pregnant and had an abortion. None of Patricia’s “friends” stood up for her or warned her ahead of time about the gossip. It was a small school and Patricia said everyone heard the rumor. “It got so bad” she remarked, “some of the teachers even believed the story and questioned my actions.”
I asked Patricia how she coped and was able to navigate the negative experience. “I was mad, sad, hurt and humiliated. I was betrayed not by one, but by many -- by people I thought were my friends. But I was also strong. I was a senior in high school and my time there was short-lived. I also knew there was a bigger, better, broader world out there, that wasn’t as small-minded as the town I was living in. I knew after I graduation I would never have to see those people again. Had I not had that knowledge, I would have ended it all.”
As a strong woman Patricia was able to move on from the negative experiences she’d encountered. She relocated to her previous home and now mentors people in adverse situations to help them find peace. Going through what she did impacted her ability to trust people, but she now has the empathy, knowledge and understanding to help others cope and navigate mean behaviors and bullying.
I share Patricia’s story because events that happen to you when you are young grow with you through adulthood. Scars from indirect aggressive mean girl behaviors can cause pain and life-long negative effects. If you’ve experienced similar types of negative behaviors as a young female, even though as an adult you have moved on and are stronger, present day situations can elicit those negative experiences and bring them back up to the surface. Those previous harmful encounters can undermine you, trigger anxiety and a lack of trust, impact your self-esteem, and cause you to feel shame.
As an adult, a present day encounter from an alpha female, an unfavorable action from a clique of women, an encounter with a neighbor or intense words with a female colleague at the office may be completely innocent… But it may spark your sense of victimhood, sending you back to that little girl, that tween, that teen, that young lady in college. Because that little girl is always in there. Negative mean girl behaviors can bring old personas and experiences back to the surface, to your real life, your present, your now. Which means they never really go away.
As a strong woman, a mother or someone who is a role-model to a young girl, you are an influencer to our future leaders. Rivalry, gossiping, mean girls, frenemies, back-stabbers, Queen Bee’s, cat fights, bullying, cliques, excluding and passive aggressive types of behaviors start at such a young age. In order to heal the mean girl culture, we have to model our beliefs and messages to enable our daughters to ensure they extend the same behaviors to their peers as we do to ours. In a positive manner.
My husband and I are raising our daughter, our children actually, to be includers. It’s including by being mindful, modeling kindness, and accepting others as they are. It’s enabling their generation to have respect for themselves and others, so they grow strong with wild hearts, yet also fierce with compassion. It means demonstrating values of collaboration over competition, progress over perfection, avoiding the fear of failure, extending gratitude, forgiveness, and being grounded in authenticity.
Being an includer however, does not mean letting people walk all over you. Quite the opposite. It’s knowing who you are as a person, being firm in your beliefs but also being able to recognize when a friend, phase, stage, relationship or job has ended and is no longer healthy for you. It’s having the ability to let go and walk away. It’s demonstrating these behaviors to your daughter and the knowledge with it, that it is truly ok to give yourself grace to exit situations you have outgrown. It’s liberating to say, “this isn’t serving me,” and calmly walk away with peace, clarity and no drama.
Sometimes letting go of something or someone you once held as important, can be the hardest thing ever, to do. And sometimes it can be the absolute best damn decision you ever made. Because some people will never hear you no matter how much, how loud, how truthful or how loving you speak.
As strong women it is so important to share these powerful messages with our daughters. To help guide and support them so they have a positive self-image, self-esteem and self-acceptance. So that our future female leaders become includers, ones that support the female sisterhood of collaboration over competition.
At times it can feel like a weight of responsibility… raising a young daughter to become a confident, courageous, strong, kind, independent, fierce, brave, adult female. And while there will always be unexpected hurdles to cross, so much of the foundation comes from what is modeled at home. Do you represent positive behaviors to your daughter, or are there areas where you need to practice a little more bravery? What example are you setting for your daughter to equip her to grow into a strong woman. Does what you do, mirror what you say?
What you model, they will see. The more we share these messages, the more these young ladies will be aware of, and know how to deal with potential unpleasant circumstances that may cross their path.
I am always searching for stories about competition between women, negative or positive. Please reach out if you have one to share. Additionally, if you are struggling with rivalry from another woman at work or in your personal life, or if you have a group of women who could benefit from additional knowledge about this important topic. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can help you with that.