I'll never forget the day when I realized that we all have a mean girl living inside our heads. Just like a mean girl on the playground, she makes you feel left out, lonely and like you don't belong. Or like the mean girls I used to encounter at the office when I had a corporate job, the Inner Mean Girl can be manipulative and competitive, driving you to work really hard (to the point of exhaustion), to compare yourself to those you think are "father ahead," to make you keep adding more to your already-full plate.
In short, I believe all women have an Inner Mean Girl inside that cause her to feel like she’s never doing enough, never being a good enough mom/daughter/writer/entrepreneur/artist/you-name-it. The result? Women have become bullies, to ourselves.
Your Inner Mean Girl is the pushy, sometimes critical, force within that fills your head with negative or obsessive thoughts. She drives you to make choices that sabotage you instead of support you, using harsh (but very effective) tactics to do so. She is the force that catalyzes those toxic habits like overworking, overthinking, over-giving, comparing, trying to perfect, procrastinating. The list goes on. Does it sound familiar?
Since coining the term "Inner Mean Girl" along with Amy Ahlers, we’ve worked with over 30,000 women around the world, and discovered 13 types of Inner Mean Girls specific to women and girls, including "Doing Addicts," "Good Girls," "Perfectionists," "Worry Warts" and more.
There are some simple but helpful ways you can stop the self-bullying that exists inside you, depending on how your Inner Mean Girl (IMG for short) likes to torment and sabotage you. Try these ...
1. Transform comparison into inspiration.
What you see in others also exists within you — it’s just not fully expressed yet. So when your Inner Mean Girl (IMG) compares you to someone else, and tries to make you feel inferior, use it as an opportunity to get inspired. First, see what it is that you're responding to, and what you want to express. Then reach out and tell that person they inspire you.
2. Don’t strive for perfection, just do enough.
When you can’t stop yourself from doing more, stop and ask, “What would enough look like?” From there, just do enough. This is a practice in creating emotional freedom, and will get easier with practice. As you practice, you can then enjoy all the extra space you created for yourself.
3. Instead of pushing yourself forward, love yourself forward.
Your IMG thinks being critical will motivate you. But guess what? She's just plain wrong. Compassion is the force that will motivate you. Next time you feel inclined to judge yourself, imagine a child learning to do something new. What would you say to them to encourage and support them? Then tell yourself those compassionate words.
4. Stop piling more onto your plate.
Practice saying "no." It can be hard — which is why I use the word "practice." Be patient with yourself; when you feel pressured to say “Yes,” like you "should" or "have to" do something, stop and breathe. Inhale, exhale and then respond, “No.” Finally, you can tell your IMG that saying "No" leaves space for other things to shine.
5. Find evidence of how much you’ve done and how awesome you are.
Sometimes the IMG conveniently likes to forget all of the awesome things you've done, just so it has ammunition to engage in self-criticism. So kick your "Achievers Amnesia" by making a list of five things you’ve accomplished recently, and five things you love about yourself. Read these over and over and soak them in.
6. Find the desire under the pressure.
Usually when you are pressuring yourself to be farther ahead, it’s because you desire something, so your IMG pushes you to get "there." Find the desire and ask, “What is the next step?” Just do that.
7. Learn what triggers your Inner Mean Girl and be prepared for her attack.
Know what your top IMG “hot spot” is. In other words, does she show up in your career, your romantic relationships, your relationships with your body or with money? Once you pinpoint this, you'll be more empowered: when feel yourself get especially afraid or stressed in this "hot spot" area, you can remember that it’s probably your IMG attacking you, rather than some set-in-stone truth.
8. Let your Inner Mean Girl rant.
Stop repressing the self-bullying and say or write out what your IMG is filling your head with, so you can see just how "crazy" the thoughts are. Then, next time you have that thought, you’ll know you’re having an “Inner Mean Girl Attack.”
9. Create a stronger relationship with your Inner Wisdom.
In moments of fear or uncertainty, take a breath, put your hand on your heart, and ask yourself, “What does my Inner Wisdom know?” This is your truth.
10. Out your Inner Mean Girl to a friend.
When you are in the grips of your IMG and her fear, stress and criticism, it’s hard to shake her off — you need a “love line," a support system to talk to about what's going on, so you can free yourself from the restrictive force of your inner bully. So call a friend, tell her you are under Inner Mean Girl attack, let your IMG rant and then ask your friend to tell you what her Inner Wisdom knows.
While you can’t exactly stop your Inner Mean Girl from showing up — especially in times of stress, uncertainty, and vulnerability — you can reform them so they stop sabotaging and start supporting you instead. Yes, there’s actually a seven-step program for learning to heal from the effects of your Inner Mean Girl. Start with these 10 tips and you'll be well on your way.