(4.5 minute read) In an ideal world, the topic of friends would elicit nothing but warm, fuzzy feelings and fond memories. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.
I hear stories on a daily basis about girls feeling excluded and/or judged, and about them doing/saying things just because of their deep desire to fit in- typical girl drama. Unfortunately, these sentiments are at their worst in middle school, when girls are experiencing physical changes to their bodies and hormones are raging. At this same time girls start to separate from their parents in an effort to figure out who they are and who they want to be. And friends begin to yield a greater influence on our daughters than parents. As a result, girls begin to focus on things like popularity, status, fashion, and appearance. They try to find the right group, believing it will ultimately lead to happiness. But when girls befriend people just for the sake of fitting in, looking impressive, or maintaining the status quo, the pressure they feel makes it difficult to think and act for themselves. Thoughts like “everyone is wearing that new style of shoes, I have to get a pair” or even “she has the best figure, I need to eat what she eats,” can become all-consuming. Most girls focus on “keeping up with the joneses” instead of being their own person.
These unhealthy patterns of group thinking are perpetuated (and even rewarded), as girls bow down to the queen bees of the world and blindly follow their lead. For instance, if the queen bee of a particular group likes one person, then so do the other girls. Conversely, if she has an issue with somebody, then the girls take that issue on as if it were their own. Further, if girls are unsure what the queen bee will think, they become paralyzed and do nothing at all. They won’t rock the boat or stand up for what they want/believe in. Why? Because their biggest fear is doing something she won’t approve of, as their goal is to either maintain or increase group status. Consequently, girls often exclude people, are mean, and drop friends for no reason of their own (or they sit idly by watching others in the group doing it).
The hidden reality is that being part of a clique is what often leads to girl drama, insecurity, anxiety, and depression.
Don’t get me wrong, that is by no means always the case. There are actually some benefits to cliques – like the sense of belonging girls can feel when they are surrounded by others with similar interests. However, when girls only see and experience cliques based on superficial values and selfish intentions, it’s not surprising they believe this is what true friendship looks and feels like.
Being part of a group dynamic as described above makes it necessary for girls to conform in order to uphold the image of who they think they need to be. Otherwise girls run the risk of being downgraded, shunned, or ousted. Ultimately, that further diminishes the little self-esteem that they already had.
I’m sure many of us can remember similar experiences from our teen years. We thought our so-called friends would support and protect us. But instead they were often the very same people that caused us to feel inadequate and pressured us to be something we were not. They are the ones who hurt us in one way or another.
The sad part is that there are many adult friend groups that aren’t any different.
I hear countless stories from moms who feel judged and/or excluded by their own friends. Which means that even as mature women with far more life experience, many of us fall prey to the same superficial friendships. And that’s because in this type of group it seems rare to form genuine relationships – ones where both people feel appreciated. And if it’s hard for us as parents to navigate these friend groups and to develop real relationships, how can we possibly expect our daughters, who don’t yet have the same experiences, knowledge and strength, to find their way?
It’s time to recognize the role we as parents play and break the cycle.
Try pointing out the benefits of having various friends – especially ones who are not all in the same group. When we have friends outside of a one group, we know that the relationship was not developed because of wealth, status, appearance, or power. There’s no ulterior motive. The relationship is based on who you are. In that friendship you will both Be the Bra, and will lift up and support one another. That is what it means to be a real friend.
So how else can we help our daughter learn to foster true and meaningful friendships? The answer is simple, and is one of the recurring themes in the Be the Bra blogs – LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
We need to take a step back and think about what our friendships look like and if they are true. While it may be tough to admit to yourself, are you friends with people for superficial reasons like…
- Who their other friends are?
- What they wear?
- Where they live?
- The car they drive?
- The size or location or decor of their house?
- How much money they seem to have?
- Their job?
Next, ask yourself, when we are with our friends are we true to ourselves? Or do we worry about…
- What we say?
- What we do?
- What we wear?
- Where we live, work, eat, travel, shop, hang out?
- Who our friends are?
If you said yes to any of the above questions, then it’s time to redefine the word friendship.
It can be helpful to talk with your daughter about what it means to be a true friend. Let her begin to learn what real relationships are made of. Share stories about…
- Support you’ve given and gotten.
- Advice you’ve given and received.
- Fights you’ve had and how you’ve resolved them.
- Differences among you and why you appreciate those differences
Relationships worth having aren’t necessarily easy to find. And like most things in life they aren’t going to be perfect. However, learning to recognize which ones are worth fighting for, and which ones are holding us back, is an important lesson that a lot of us have had to learn the hard way. While we can’t dictate who our daughter is friends with, or protect her from making mistakes and possibly getting hurt, we can guide her. We can show her how to cultivate true friendships. We can teach her the importance of understanding her worth and to embracing her authenticity. And then, she will hopefully surround herself with people who love and appreciate her just as we do.Share: