Mean Girls the movie celebrates it's eleventh anniversary this year and even though the movie itself is outdated, the "Mean Girl" phenomenon unfortunately continues with today's tween and teen girls. As I travel throughout the U.S. speaking to young girls on the subjects of confidence and empowerment, girls unanimously raise their hands when asked if they've ever had a girl be mean to them. So why on earth do we continue to exclude, shame and spread negative gossip about each other when we know that Mean Stinks? The girls have raised their voices and their ability to quickly answer this question tells us that girls recognize the problem and understand why there is a problem, but they don't possess the tools to #NixTheNoise and end the drama for good, or at least put it at bay.
Girls have 24/7 tech savvy and access via smartphones, laptops and iPads to view and salivate over the most high profile celebrities and their "perfect" (or what appears to be perfect) bodies, glorious hair, flawless skin and pearly white teeth. The idea of advertising campaigns using the ideal, perfect specimen has been around for decades but the girls of Generation Z are bombarded and shaped to the point of believing if they don't achieve this idea of perfection they are not validated, and therefore are not worthy of the popular girl status award. What's a girl to do? Take a selfie and add several filters from applications that promise to transform you much like Cinderella's fairy-godmother? That's one option, but girls are left seeing the real deal. The mirror doesn't lie. Society has created "The Popular, Perfect Girl." She and her fellow "Pop Girls" will decide the hierarchy leaving a trail of glitter behind for their minions to follow. Beware: They might stink while spreading their epidemic of mean. I'd like to insert a personal point - I have known popular girls that are really nice and inclusive so this doesn't apply to all popular girls but the nice ones are the minority. How can we use our Girl Power to bend the shape of this trend and bring positive change and empowerment amongst girls instead of tearing each other down? It's really quite simple... go ahead, read on.
Today's tween and teen girls are generally not mean in person. They don't have to be. Instead of personal confrontation, girls are hiding behind a screen using various social media applications to exclude, shame, and spread gossip with a click. The entire process is like a hamster running in a wheel that can't stop long enough to jump off. In order to feel empowered, girls must feel CONFIDENT! There's something amazing to be said about a young girl who is confident and uses her Girl Power to find a passion, be a really great friend, and create goals that don't include negativity. It's a process, but with the right tools and positive mentors the magical moment will arrive when a young girl finds her voice and realizes she has the potential to rock the world.
How? The journey is much like Dorothy's experience in The Wizard of Oz. Glenda had it right when she told Dorothy she had the power all along. She just had to look inside herself to find it.
1. Stick with those who support you. Worry about the quality of friends, not the quantity. Having one true friend you can count on is better than having ten who won't be there to listen and help or, even worse, spread drama. You might go through a few friends before you find a BFF but it's worth it. Be picky and gang up with girls who have the same mindset as you and are interested in the same things.
2. Ignore the drama and gossip. Don't listen!! You are just as guilty of spreading drama when you listen... even if you don't re-tell. Change the subject and move on. Listening to the latest drama/gossip is a habit and this is one habit you'll want to break early on. Girls use meanness to harness their power. If we don't listen and react we take away their power, period. Remember your BFF? Stick with her!
3. Try new things and find your passion. Get busy doing things you love instead of worrying about how many "likes" you received on the latest Instagram post. "Likes" are pretty meaningless when you are rewarded with a larger focus that lasts more than a day.
4. Points 1, 2, and 3 will help you gain confidence. Being confident will help ease the pressures of society and you will soon see that being "perfect" won't be at the top of your list. Being the best version of YOU will attract better friends and before you know it you will #BeThatGirl who is focused on her path, not everyone else's. My definition of being popular means that your group of friends empower each other in a positive direction. Before you know it, you will be rocking your confidence and Girl Power in everything you do. People will respect you for being smart, driven and kind. That's the kind of popularity that sticks forever!
5. Even though it may seem like it, Middle School and High School won't last forever. Fitting in and being accepted are some of the most important things to girls during these years. Take it from a girl who's been bullied to the point of not wanting to ever go back to school. After high school, no one cares about who was popular and all the drama and gossip is forgotten. When you think of it in this way, it's really crazy to think how much emphasis we put on being "perfect."
6. ROCK YOU & ROCK THE WORLD!! Generation Z has the opportunity to re-shape the idea of beauty and #NixTheNoise as we empower each other for good. What are you waiting for girls? Be the generation that leads by positive example and #BeThatGirl who's a Girl Above Society.