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Overcoming Mean Girls: How She Coped, Part I

When you think about the concept of coping, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? What does it mean to you, personally?

Coping is personal and quite different for everyone.

I initially think of coping as a way to get over something unpleasant. Something that occurred or happened to you. Specifically something, that you didn’t ask for.

This is the first, in a three-part series, about how women cope with female rivalry. Part 1 addresses immediate, in the moment type of coping. Part II addresses the long-term, get-on-with-your-life-coping. And Part III, talks about forgiveness.

Coping means to, “invest one's own conscious effort, to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to try to master, minimize, or tolerate stress and conflict” (Wikipedia, 2020).

When it comes to mean girls (and yes, they happen at all ages and stages in life), there are many ways females cope to get over it, or attempt to get over the negativity they experienced from another woman. Attempt is the key word here – because the manner in which this behavior packs a punch 🥊, means it may live with you for quite a long time.

In order to bear what they encounter, women develop coping skills to survive and deal with the experience. Traditionally, females who deal with a negative rivalry experience eventually find a manner to cope and/or ultimately leave the situation. It’s in coping, that they are able to find a reprieve and escape.

Rarely do women confront the situation while they are experiencing it. Speaking out induces fear that doing so entails the risk of potentially losing a job, friendships or social standing. (It’s actually very rare altogether that a woman who’s involved with this type of behavior will ever confront the “other woman,” but I’ll save that topic for a different conversation).

I define in the moment coping as, ‘coping at the scene.

“It’s an immediate means of escaping the experience as it occurs. It manifests during the situation and appears often, not to incorporate a deep internal reflection. Rather, it’s reactive in nature and simply a way to break free. It’s an, “on the surface, exterior type of coping mechanism” and is not accomplished through direct confrontation with “the other woman.”

Coping at the scene is a form of reactive coping,

It’s a stress-management strategy that involves efforts to deal with a past or present stressful situation (e.g., marital dissolution, losing one’s job) by compensating for or accepting the associated harm or loss. Reactive coping may also involve efforts to readjust goals, find benefit, or search for meaning” (APA, 2018).

In my research work, many women have shared the ways in which they’ve resorted to coping at the scene as a means to deal with this ugly behavior. They,

  • leave the situation

  • seek therapy/ counseling

  • exercise

  • confide in/seek advice from family and friends

  • turn to religion

  • seek legal counsel

  • use education as an outlet

  • turn to wine/food/or other substances

  • talk to other women in similar situations

The emotional impact of a female rivalry experience can be all-consuming. An on-going negative incident with a female leader, supervisor, person in a role model position, or social acquaintance can be devastating. And how you choose to cope with it, can be pivotal in how you overcome it.

Coping isn’t a ‘black and white’ reaction to something. It actually lives in a very grey zone because for so many people what they do and how they do it, is so vastly different. What may work for me, may not even be a thought on your radar. And that’s ok.

It really doesn’t matter how you do it – what matters is, you’re doing it. You’re trying to deal with it and move forward. You go girl! That’s the first key step to leaving this negative behavior behind.

P.S. Stay tuned for Part II of this series. My next blog will talk about dealing with mean girls and long-term coping.


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