01 Mar Team Drama: The Best Way to Deal with Mean Girls
I bolted into my mom’s bedroom crying. I was 13 years old, first experiencing the volatility that is being a teenager. I also faced my first encounter with a mean girl.
My teammate Emily and I were having a conversation on AOL instant messenger, which was one of the first forms of online communication in the early 2000s. Mind you, the first form of cyber bullying and keyboard warriors, who could hide behind a screen and sit comfortably at home. Emily was relentless in her attacks, and said things to me like, “you suck at soccer!” and “you don’t deserve a starting spot!” and “you’re awful!”
“Why does Emily have to be so mean? I didn’t do anything!” I sobbed to my mom.
I couldn’t understand why Emily would hate me for getting more playing time than her. We played the same position, left midfield, and I started over her the entire season. Eventually, Emily went from being a supportive friend to a backstabbing and jealous bully.
“She’s jealous and you can’t do anything to change how she feels. Take the high road,” said my mom.
She was right. There was nothing I could do to fix Emily’s resentment, and it would’ve been more work on my end to try and change her. Micromanaging another out of a behavior is downright exhausting. All I could do was continue to be friendly and supportive to her, even if she wasn’t the same way back.
Mean girls are everywhere. They can exist on your team, or you may encounter them in the workplace when you grow up. Every female athlete is going to deal with difficult people. It can be a lot take on, but what are you going to do about this inevitable reality?
You could start by having a conversation. You could start by expressing your feelings boldly and courageously to the mean girl. Tell her how her words are hurtful. Challenge her to be better.
And if she doesn’t budge, take it to your coach, who is the one who must take responsibility for the team dynamic. If that fails (which it’s sad it did), you must consider changing your environment. Go to another team, even if it means sacrificing playing at a different level, or far away in another town. I know this is a hard path, but is the pain of suffering through the bullying greater than the sacrifice of changing your environment? If so, then leave. Are you willing to endure a mean girl forever? You must outweigh the costs and what you’re willing to put up with. Draw a line in the sand.
Your final option could be staying where you are, with extra focus on being a good person. Aim high. Be the light in the darkness. Lead by example. Maybe the mean girl will be so illuminated by your light she can’t help but shine, too.Maybe the mean girl will be so illuminated by your light she can't help but shine, too. Click To Tweet
Even when others bully, love them back. What other choice do you have? I mean, your other option could also be being malevolent back, but what good does that do? Does it make the situation better? Does it make your team better? Does it make the world better?
Or perhaps, is the alternative to be kind, patient, encouraging, and supportive? If you’re going to suffer, you might as well suffer while doing good.
The best way to deal with mean girls is not to be a mean girl.
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