Having distance from my experiences with girl bullying and a stronger sense of who I am has allowed me to revisit these memories with clarity, rather than emotion. However, I’m reminded every day of the impact those girls had on how I view and approach relationships; I often feel desperate when making plans with friends and struggle to feel assured that others care.
But it wasn’t until I read Queen Bees and Wannabes* that I realized the dangerous impact this skewed perception can have on young girls. Author Rosalind Wiseman shares her own experience in which she found herself in an abusive relationship following her struggles with girl bullying. She explains that the validation she so strongly valued and craved, yet never received, from friends forced her to seek it elsewhere; furthermore, she felt she ignored red flags that appeared within the relationship in order to receive that so desperately needed confirmation.
Like Wiseman, I attest that validation was (and is) the greatest missing component in these friendships. Though I am fortunate to not have endured abuse as she did, there was a strong correlation between our stories. Throughout high school and college, I found myself latching on to friends that were bad for/to me for fear of otherwise being alone. Somewhere within myself, I felt unfulfilled, and at times hurt, by these friendships, yet continuously turned that voice off to avoid finding myself back where I was in middle school.
So how do we break this cycle? We need to validate these girls from every angle. Not only do girls need to validate and empower other girls, but parents and educators also need to acknowledge that these concerns are not only real, but also very detrimental. If we write off these issues as something that all girls/adolescents have to go through, we’re telling them that their gut is wrong. This blurs the line for them of what is okay and normal, and what should not be tolerated, and is actually dangerous. Our inner voice exists for a reason, and is there to serve as our protector and compass. We need to stop telling girls to silence that voice, and encourage them to speak up and fight back when they’re in these situations. And when they do, we need to listen to them. Don’t allow these friendships to convince you that you should be tolerating such pain; you are worthy of better.
*Check the Resources tab for this, and other books on the subject!