I was in kindergarten the first time I encountered a mean girl. Her mother used to babysit for me before and after school. This girl made fun of me, called me names, and told her mother I’d done things I didn’t do, just to get me in trouble. I would tell you her name, but I like to hope she’s grown beyond her days as a mean girl. Though it may seem unlikely to anyone who has ever been the victim of a mean girl, they can change. I know this, because as horribly ashamed as I am to type these words, I was a mean girl.
It was a truly brief time in my life, but I still want to vomit every time I think about it. So, why was I a mean girl, then? Well, I couldn’t have told you at the time, but as an adult, hindsight is much clearer and I suspect that it was because I was miserable and insecure.
My actions had nothing to do with anyone but me. I wasn’t just insecure, I was sad and angry. I’ve learned this to be the trinity of all mean girls. Meanness and pettiness come from a place of shame and insecurity, plain and simple. My behavior at that time in my life sits firmly at the top of my list of biggest regrets.
I want to explain what was going on in my world at the time, not to excuse my actions, but to give insight into the mind of a mean girl.
My world was on fire when it happened—middle school. I didn’t know who I was, or what I stood for. I was being bullied myself and didn’t know how to handle it. Girls I once thought were my friends tormented me on a daily basis.
They called me names, made fun of me, and spread rumors about me. I was a giant ball of insecurity. I wondered if what they said was true. I worried—was terrified, actually—that I was all the things they said I was. That I wasn’t worth having as a friend. That no one liked me, including my family and my teachers.
I became a miserable person, and I took that poison and threw it at someone who didn’t deserve it. Someone who was likely an easy target, because mean girls never go after someone who would stand up to them or put them in their place. They prey on those more vulnerable than they are. It’s disgusting and shameful. My venom didn’t have a specific target, but I know I wasn’t a nice person.
There is no excuse for my actions. I made fun of others and I was unkind. I hate typing those words–it’s as if I’m talking about someone else. Someone who is so far removed from the person I am today, more than 20 years later. Today, I’m an advocate of love, kindness, and acceptance. Today I am a much more emotionally healthy person who knows who she is and who she isn’t.
I understand why I did what I did—it’s common for kids who are bullied to bully others—but understanding it and forgiving yourself are two very different things. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I’m writing this for anyone who has ever been victim of a mean girl, because I want to say this:
It’s not you. You did nothing wrong. What they say isn’t true—don’t even let that thought enter your mind. They are mean because they are broken. They are mean because they are miserable, and insecure, and most likely they see something in you they wish they had. Something they will likely never be. And even if one day they see the error in their ways, they will likely never forgive themselves for how they treated you.
Because not matter what caused them to treat you so unfairly, you didn’t deserve it.