Too Much and Not Enough
The new Mean Girls movie is hitting theaters, and many millennials who grew up with the original are excited to see this musical rendition. It will be fun to see the actors who were the mean girls play the moms in the latest version. It’s a funny twist of fate to see them play out the “I’m not a regular mom but a cool mom.”
What isn’t funny though is that some of that mean girl energy never died off when we became adults, pursued careers, and became moms. This is not a post about mean moms or mom cliques, but it is a post about how grown women still use relational aggression in the workplace. And we wonder why it persists among our preteens and teens.
I just left a profession dominated by women, and the reason I left was because of the women. Ultimately, the relational aggression was tearing me down. Instead of women supporting and uplifting each other, it was a constant comparison. And I was found lacking. Not in effectiveness or job-related skills, I was lacking in keeping up with the mean girls. Who was the best dressed? Who ate the tiniest salads in the lunchroom? Who knew the most about reality TV or Tiktok? Who could talk the most $h!t about other people to make themselves feel better? As someone who acknowledges that I am not as adept in the social skills department, it was absolutely exhausting. I have never been up on fashion, TV shows, or small talk that so many girls and women seem to easily maneuver. And at work, there were social cues and undercurrents that I just did not get or even realize mattered. It was so confusing. I thought we were there to do a job, not win a popularity contest.
My priority was my job – doing what was best for the clients and therefore the business. I advocated for my clients, I pushed for change when needed, I wanted to make a difference, and I did. I made an impact both in numbers and client satisfaction. But although I went above and beyond to constantly be better at my job; apparently, that wasn’t enough. I didn’t fit the bill for promotion even though I had seniority, a better resume, and better outcomes.
And when I tried to advocate for myself and my proven track record, I was gaslighted, and then they eventually even started to personally victimize me a la Regina George. It wasn’t about my qualifications, experience, or expertise. It was a comparison. I came readied with facts, data, and information, but none of that mattered. I wasn’t even allowed to prove myself. I was rejected before I had even begun.
So I left. At almost 38-years-old, I felt like I could finally stand up for myself and just leave. I didn’t need to stay at an organization that not only undervalued me but also tore me down. I needed to be an example for my daughter so that she doesn’t get taken advantage of so that she can stand up for herself, and so that she doesn’t fall victim to relational aggression. And after about six months of reflection, I came to some conclusions.
I wasn’t enough, and I was too much at the same time. My drive, my determination, and my strengths were a threat to the other women. They were intimidated, and they didn’t want the status quo to shift. Therefore, the administration of “plastics” didn’t even give me a chance. They wrote me off as too much. And then tried to manipulate me into believing that it was because I wasn’t enough. I didn’t do enough. But what it boiled down to is that I wasn’t enough like them. I wasn’t a “yes girl” adept at the social games at play. Even though I had talent, experience, gifts to give, and heart, those things ended up not being what mattered.
And the real kicker in the whole situation is that some of the people who I thought were supportive or at least valued the job that I did, it turns out that they knew how to play the game. They didn’t advocate for me because they weren’t willing to risk speaking up. They understood the social gamble of going up against “the plastics.” They knew that the culture of the organization was saturated in relational aggression, and they weren’t willing to go up against Regina George. Instead, they joined her. In order to maintain their status in the social hierarchy, they ostracized me. Their social standing was more important than doing the right thing.
I thought long and hard about writing this post. I typically would not be the type of person to be so candid about calling others out. Many of the people I am closest to don’t even know all of the circumstances around my choice to leave a career that I loved. But that being said, there are still Regina Georges out there in the grown up world, and if we don’t find the courage to stand up to them or even acknowledge and discuss what happened to us, then we allow the Regina Georges of the world to continue to bully, belittle, and personally victimize us.