Route 66 Installment #60: mean girls and even meaner womenReading Time: 4 minutes
“We all hate her…she looks so young.”
That was a sentence that was uttered by the organizer at a local meet-up of women over 50. She said it in front of a group of women I had never met before. WHOA!
At least she was honest.
She could have said “I” rather than “We” but I’m not the vocab police (which is hard for me to accept as a writer and former English major).
Hate is a strong word and I know that the woman who uttered it was probably going through some of her own stuff.
I laughed it off and mumbled something about good genes and the restaurant lighting but thought afterwards about the role that jealousy and insecurity play in our actions in work and in life — especially as we age.
Mean girls are all grown up and some are meaner than ever.
Several years ago, I wrote a book called “Bitch Slap” about women’s behavior towards other women in the workplace.
I thought that as we got older, we might become more supportive of each other and more comfortable with our places in the world.
But the “youthification” of media has actually made insecure women even more insecure and some are even less likely to collaborate or support other women.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned to dig deep and resist the green meanie of jealousy and resentment.
What fuels later-life insecurity?
Ads and entertainment are filled with young (or younger-looking) women. My “matches” dropped significantly on dating sites once I got past 60. Gendered ageism is a reality in the business world. Women can easily feel “over the hill” and marginalized.
Even non-profit membership and activity/activism groups sometimes treat other groups as if we’re competing for the Super Bowl ring and not for an hour or two on women’s calendars.
“Grumpy old men”…this is for you!
“Bad behavior” doesn’t just affect female relationships. A study shows that conflicts increase, and collaboration decreases among couples of a certain age.
Our body chemistry can also play a role in mood.
Media perpetuates the stereotype of mean/sad older men. Even loveable Tom Hanks gets nasty for his latest role. And Clint Eastwood (who was always a bad ass) played a racist and angry older dude in several films, including Gran Torino.
Speaking of cars, as “classics,” we need to stop running each other off the road and learn to win races together.
Build “muscle” and be nice.
If you’ve been nasty and resentful or have lacked empathy your entire life, you’re not likely to wake up tomorrow transformed into a kinder person.
Chances are, you might not even be reading this post.
Here’s what you CAN do:
- Get to the heart of what’s making you feel inadequate, jealous, or mean-spirited and listen hard to feedback from others.
- Resist the urge to compare yourself with others. Especially on social media people may appear to have more of something than you do. The only person you’re competing with is yourself. Remind yourself of the benefits of aging — wisdom, more free time, memorable experiences, and sometimes money.
- Surround yourself with collaborative and happy people. Don’t be afraid to simply walk away from toxic situations. I’ve been calling it my “Hi/Bye” strategy in 2003. If I’m not feeling a good vibe in a social setting, I simply exit early.
- Find and embrace your inner superpower. This is a process and I teach a workshop on this topic for people of all ages. Once you know your “special thing” you tend to feel less jealousy and only compete when you need to (i.e., in business).
- Rise above. If you’re in a situation where other people are being cruel or gossiping, either (gently) intervene or walk away (see #3).
- Think before you speak. But don’t hesitate to speak. My own daughters and close friends call me out when I act like a grump or say something mean. Master Crucial Conversations in all aspects of your life.
- Apologize when you f-up. When you hurt someone, say “I’m sorry!” and look inward. Learn from your lapses.
We all have those days when being kind and compassionate is difficult. But try to stop, think about how your actions could have an impact on others, and keep that inner mean girl (or grumpy guy) in check.
Next in the series: Taste & smell (and how they can change our mood and longevity).
Links for Learning
|Women and jealousy
|How to deal with people you just can’t stand
|Irritable old man syndrome and what may cause it
|On a positive note: The best movies about female friendships