When Your Friends Become ‘Mean Girls’: Soulfully Coping with Judgment

As a spiritual ‘so and so’, I generally go about my life in a waft of unfazed loveliness. Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. In reality, I’m happier and calmer and generally less emotionally dramatic than I was a few years ago. I’m a work in progress and I do my best to be loving to everyone, and I absolutely reserve all judgment on anyone. I figure we are all confused little sparks of soul, trying to get the best out of our current situations. Happily, these days I find all people quite lovable and deeply interesting. So that is how I approach the world: with love, forgiveness and a big touch of empathy.

I wrote at length in my last book about what I refer to as BMWing – in other words, Bitching, Whining and Moaning. We all step into our BMW shoes every so often, and when we do, we tend to believe we are right, we are the superior party, we set the world to rights and we expect all to conform. Those that don’t get cussed out over pizza and pink wine.

BMW-ing is more poisonous to the person inflicting it though than the person who is the victim of it. Or so I thought… Having not been a victim of BMW-ing since high school, I had forgotten just how painful it is to be talked about and to be judged.

The reason it is so deeply painful is that as we go about our lives, we try to do our best. No really, we do. We measure a situation and come up with whatever solution is going to work, whatever solution is going to make most of the people happy most of the time. So when our decision making is challenged, when people say we made bad choices or find cause to defile our character because of these choices, it is nothing less than heartbreaking. Then things turn Mean Girls on us, we can easily lose our ‘soulful’ and fall into a pity party, or worse, lash out with a touch of our own inner mean girl.

Recently I ventured out from my spiritual land of woo to attend a weekend long party. I had a bit of a ‘to-do’ on the first night with a friend. She had a strong opinion and to be fair, she said it to my face… though it was apparent from what she said that much had also been said behind my back, too. And apparently what she thought, everyone else agreed with.

In short, she annihilated a decision I’d made and made me feel as if I’d deeply upset a mutual friend. I fell right off my spiritual cloud at this point and told her in two short words where to go. I then put my spiritual head back on and apologized to her and tried to explain my rationale, my reasoning. But she continued to state her point, as I did mine. We were in a deadlock of difference. Then someone dragged her away and I was left to reconvene my brain. I have purposefully glossed over the content of the conversation, not because I was right, or she was wrong, or vice versa, but because the judgment itself is not the issue. Some of you will side with her, some with me, some may sit on the fence. But for the purposes of this article what matters is what I did with being judged…

In the first instance I got on with the night and had a really great time determined not to let her words drag me down. But the next day, the enormity had me crying into my tea and toast for the best part of an hour. I felt that I had done everything I could to make everyone happy, and had somehow missed the point entirely and spectacularly failed. I felt paralysed with fear and stress and deep unhappiness. I lost all sense of proportion and went to the land of self-sorry.

So for the first time in a long time, I was thrown heels and head first into the land of BMW-ing. I had been judged, and I knew about it, and the decision I was judged for was already made, so I couldn’t undo it, I couldn’t make anything any different. I was the pariah. Worse still, I was expected to turn up for the rest of the party, knowing now what ‘everyone’ thought of me. Eeeeeek.

So once my tears subsided, what did I do? I put my party outfit on, stepped out of my pity party, wore a slick of bright pink lipstick and I turned up to the  afternoon events. I wouldn’t say I was all guns blazing. But I was there. I smiled, I talked, I actually had a lovely time. It was all very mature and happy and soon it felt like a distant memory. Kind of…

As a bit of spiritual diva, I had to remember the books I had written, the advice I have given others and I had to apply it all. I had to go deep into my inner reserves and get over the judgment to respect my own decision and wear a smile on my face. I had to grow a pair. And quick.

Now that the weekend is over, we are all home and I’m in a place of retrospect trying to see some sense in it all. I’m searching for the lesson in this. The BMW-ing that I so unexpectedly encountered forced me into two places.

Firstly a place of pride, pride in my decision. The second place was a place of weakness. Weakness for the fear of what others thought, weakness about my own decision, weakness about my life and my choices. I could have let weakness win. I could have gone home early. I could have cried tearfully on another friend’s shoulder and ruined her weekend. I could have changed my decision to suit others. I could have launched a barrage of BMW-ing in the direction of my assailant and prompted all hell to break loose.

But this whole little mess made me lift my head up high and respect my own decision. It helped me see how far I have come in the last five years. Five years ago, this could have been drama central and a scene from Mean Girls would have played itself out, the party separating into warring factions. But it didn’t. She said her piece, I swallowed it and we all carried on playing happily. I don’t feel bad about her either. I’ve known her a while, she is a sweet girl. She, like me, like us all, is doing what she can with what happens to be a very complicated life on earth. We have opinions that differ. So what? Who cares? We didn’t agree, maybe it doesn’t matter. Not really. The dance still goes on. Sometimes quite literally.

It occurs to me that we often do the best we can, but still upset others. I have to acknowledge that the criticism of me did not come from nowhere. There is no doubt about it, I must have upset people. Just because I believe in my decision, does not mean I can put my blinders on to that fact. It’s horrible and heartbreaking but it’s true. The by-product of my best-made decision was someone else feeling sad, someone else thinking I wasn’t trying hard enough. And that’s their genuine feelings, and for that I can be nothing but sorry.

Just as when my friend challenged me about my decision. Was she doing so out of spite? I doubt it. In her way she was stepping to the defense of someone else. She was telling me what she thought, because at that moment, she felt it was the right thing to do. I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean to upset me. She was, like I was, making the right decision for her, at that moment.

There is a lesson there. Life is complicated, it is hard, and we all do what we can. Sometimes we are judged, sometimes we judge. All we can do is make our decisions conscious of the ripples they may cause, ready to accept that sometimes ripples become tsunamis. Either way, the best thing any of us can do, is don our pink lipstick, lift our head up high, forgive ourselves, forgive others and carry on playing.

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