Women always support each other right?!
A woman on her own has strong inner power. She can change the world. She can make it a better place. She can lock arms with other women and really compound this inner power for the greater good of everyone!
Doesn’t it sound wonderful and beautiful and make you think of sitting in a beautiful field with all your friends and feeling supported and loved?
Because women always support women yes?.....or maybe not so much.
Think about high school. Did you feel that every single female supported you, loved you, and was there for you - or did you experience emotional abuse or bullying, from the ‘mean girls’?
It is well known that the ‘mean girls’ are something many of us experience at high school - and then everyone grows up, and becomes caring supportive adults…..right?
Unfortunately, this just isn’t true in many cases. Maybe this happens for a while, and then some of those learned behaviours pop back up.
Let’s talk emotional abuse - and yes you might be familiar with many of the obvious signs of emotional abuse.
However, sometimes it can be very subtle, especially when it's woman to woman.
I was speaking with a woman recently who was saying she felt ‘bullied’ when she found out that other women had been talking behind her back to her friends and colleagues, and encouraging them to remove her from their social media, and their life.
This conversation triggered something in me, so I started researching and came across so much information on this very topic, including this point:
So yes, we hear about ‘high school behaviour’… and the emotional tactics used, but did you know that more and more this is being noted in the behaviour of adult women toward each other?
Sometimes it is hidden very well, and other times not so much. For example, maybe you start noticing people in a location, or friend group interacting with you less, maybe even ghosting or blocking you on social media channels.
This type of adult 'mean girl' behaviour is known as ‘relational aggression'. Women use actions to damage anothers' relationships with other friends/acquaintances. Basically, they use actions to ‘discard’ another woman. (Note: relational aggression doesn't just happen with women, however, it is more prevalent)
According to Paired Life “This is just a fancy term for bullying. They operate under the cover of darkness to spread malicious lies about their adversary, who usually hasn’t done anything wrong.”
- They may organise a party or event and invite everyone but the target.
- They may exaggerate a conversation or interaction and make it sound a lot worse than it was to another group of women.
- They may use personal conversations during a ‘friendship’ phase with the person out of context.
Basically, they look for ways to make the person look bad to others, and then subtly suggest actions that result in 'isolating' them.
Usually anything from
- the desire for popularity,
- pure jealousy or
- feeling powerful.
There are many behaviours however, the top 3 are:
Ostracising - Excluding someone. Ignoring them. This can be clear, however, sometimes the target may have no idea why she is being ignored. This can also include encouraging others to do the same, leaving the target out of group texts, and ignoring them at an event.
Gossiping - Spreading rumours or carefully chosen ‘pieces’ of information or a conversation with your friends, co-workers etc . This can also include sharing private messages or texts made during a 'friendship phase' with others now you deem the friendship phase over with. This is particularly damaging because so much can be taken out of context. It should also be noted that there are various forms of technology available for use these days that can 'make' a fake text or message up and it looks very real. So my advice, take any screenshots of messages or texts with a grain of salt unless you see them from both parties.
Cyberbullying - subtly and not so subtly. Posting or sharing via groups a harmful and untrue, exaggerated, or fake statement about someone. Ghosting or blocking someone and encouraging others to do the same.
When someone is targeting another person, sometimes their peers will join in. Others will remain silent, however they are still becoming part of it by simply doing nothing to stop it.
It can bring up a multitude of feelings, including
- isolation and
- low self-esteem.
Build your confidence. Find ways to work on this so that when they ultimately do their best to rattle you or make you feel uncomfortable - you instead look confident. Yes, you can fake it till you make it, however, consistently working on this area means you will ultimately bring out that confidence that has been pushed down through this experience.
Self Care. Strengthen your mind and body so when you feel stressed or insecure, your body can help you manage these emotions much more efficiently. This can include:
- Taking up a new hobby
- Mindfulness activities (meditation, deep breathing)
- Using grounding and calming essential oils. My favourite - Grounding by Young Living. (Learn more here. )
Of course please pay attention to your feelings and if you think your mental or physical health is suffering as a result, please seek help from a professional.
Finally, you may be asking why I’m so interested in this topic, and why this conversation sparked me to write this blog?
Because I have been keeping a secret. Something I've been working to overcome in the last few years, and have worked hard to hide because my experiences led me to a place where I felt I couldn't talk about it.
I have been experiencing relational aggression.
I'll admit that even though I am strong and have a lot of tools I use to help me hurdle any challenge, this experience at times has been rough. I've hidden it because being an introvert my coping mechanism is sometimes hiding myself away in protection mode to recharge my batteries.
It was only when I found myself wondering - ‘why would women treat someone like me who has faced so many challenges including possible death, and is using her experiences to help others’ - like this?
I realised I was falling into an area intended for me.
I fell silent.
I changed the way I did things.
I questioned things about myself.
My realisation this was happening had been compounded by the way I found out about it. I was attempting to pass on gratitude and gifts, yet found myself unable to contact them anymore.
Then one day I received the clarity of - it actually says more about them, than me.
I researched, and I found others who had experienced these behaviours and I no longer felt alone. I’ll also note here that yes I am all about self-care and one way to really look after yourself is to stop accessing content and being around people who are mistreating you, making you feel bad about yourself intentionally, or being abusive. Of course, if anyone is treating you in these ways protect yourself.
However, if they are simply triggering an uncomfortable feeling in you - I have some advice. Before isolating anyone that is triggering a strong feeling or defensive response from you - please really think through if what they are saying or sharing is coming from a well-intentioned place - and is really something you need to hear. Think "am I simply shooting the messenger and possibly losing someone who could really be an important positive part of my life, and simply want the best for me?"
Finally, if you have been experiencing relational aggression. If you have been feeling alone thinking it is only you. Today is the day to realise you don’t need to feel like this. You are not the only one experiencing it.
Do some self-care work, build yourself back up, and become part of the movement of women who do genuinely support other women.
I believe in you.