Thank you to the Mean Girls
There's a fine line between not taking any shit, and being just plain mean.
I like to think I'm firmly in the 'take no shit' category, as anyone who knows me now will agree with, but this has developed over time, years actually, and is mainly the result of a severe case of bullying that I went through at the end of High School.
Now that it's coming up to 'National Mean Girls Day' a day I firmly will be celebrating, it feels like the right time to share the life changing experience of beating the Mean Girls in my life, and how I've turned something really shitty into a positive series of life lessons, that have certainly shaped me into a better person, and a better business woman too.
I know I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't go through the experience, so hopefully this helps anyone else who's feeling isolated, ridiculed, or threatened to rise above it and put two fingers up to anyone who thinks they have the right to make you feel like crap.
No I do not feel personally victimised by Regina George right now, but back in high school which still doesn't feel that long ago, I definitely did feel victimised by a group of 7 very mean girls.
School didn't start off so bad, I was happy being in the middle of the class for most subjects, and just being pretty good at the creative ones like Art and Photography. I had one best friend who I used to do everything with in school, and then also on weekends we were pretty inseparable. Hannah my sis had her own girl gang, and was one year younger than me so we were always there for each other but we couldn't spend as much time together as we'd have liked, as we were in different year groups and different classes.
At age 15 I'd work all Saturday in a cafe on Barry Island for £2.50 an hour, for 10 hours, just to get £25 to go out with. Hannah happened to be working in the ice cream shop further down the road, and was on double my wage, but I didn't care. I'd serve up chips all day and slather them in gravy just to get my going out money for the weekend.
One thing me and my best friend used to do was go to the local under 18s club on weekends, which was really terrible and stunk of fags because it was back when everyone could smoke inside, the music was rubbish and our outfits were definitely questionable, but we didn't care because it was a good laugh.
That was where we started talking to another group of girls from my year, who were a bit more on the grown up side and like me loved going out and socialising on a weekend. So my bestie and I started to integrate more and hang out with the group you'd call the 'cool' girls.
It was all good for a while, maybe 6 months or so, where we'd meet up, go to the cinema, go shopping, have sleepovers, and also (bad but true) get drunk on the weekends using our measly wages to get some booze. Then my best friend moved away, and that's when I was effectively left alone, and started to spend more time with the Mean Girls, which looking back probably changed me a bit for a couple of months while I was trying to fit in with the group.
I did realise that I was acting differently, drinking and not trying so hard in school, I was never a bully to anyone else though, but still the changes in my personality were noticeable enough to myself and my parents.
At the time I didn't really have the confidence to be myself as the one who was a bit more on the outer circle of the group.
So that's one thing that I now strive to do every day and in every situation. It's so important to always be yourself.
The bullying started really suddenly, and over something stupid as it usually does.
One weekday we were supposed to be going to the cinema and get drinks. I didn't really fancy it, I was going to go shopping with my mum instead, late night on a Thursday, but rather than say I was fobbing them off for my mum (who is way cooler and more fun anyway) I said I felt unwell and was going to stay in.
So....I did go shopping with my mum, and I think Hannah too (we'd rarely go out separately) and we had a lush time, but I hadn't noticed the 'cool girls' in the shopping centre which also housed the cinema, but they had noticed me.
Later that evening I had texts asking if I was OK, if I still felt like crap, and if I wanted to go out on the weekend, etc. etc. so I said I felt better and yeah I was up for it. 'So why are you lying' was the reply. 'I'm not I said, I do feel like going out, where shall we go, meet at mine?' Or along those lines.
Anyway, it ensued that I was a lying bitch and they were ever so clever in catching me out for my lies, and that was it, I was completely black listed and shamed for not going to the cinema and being caught out with my mum and sis instead.
This leads me to another point which will be elaborated more on another business post, otherwise this one could go on forever...never be afraid to say 'no'.
What happened after that point was quite simple really, I had no friends.
It turned out the 'cool' girls took way more pleasure in really bullying me and making my life a complete misery than they ever had in being my friend.
Every day I'd be threatened in the toilets, the usual group surrounding and threatening to 'fuck me up' for no reason other than I guess, entertainment in an otherwise really badly run and boring Roman Catholic School, who by the way knew all about the bullying but turned a complete blind eye, I think because they were threatened by the parents of the 'cool' girls, and they were too afraid to stand up for themselves, a great example to all students.
Another point here that I try and live life by is always stick up for the underdog, and if you see someone being an asshole, call them out on it.
So I was very often alone, miserable and a bit frightened of getting fucked up, as you would be when a group of 7 girls who could all look after themselves threaten you. Also, no one else was interested in being in my company, for fear of also being threatened.
Hannah was in the year below, but always tried to be in my company when she could, for some reason the bullies didn't take offence to her or threaten her, probably because she was tall enough to kick them in the head, and she had a strong group of friends that would come to her defence. I had basically no one, which shows you what kind of people the bullies were.
Anyway, the bullying and loneliness went on for quite a while, and gradually I started to think that their threats were empty and they were just showing off to each other to prove who was the hardest, so I started telling them where to go and leave me alone because I wasn't bothered by what they thought of me.
This time spent alone was actually great in a way because I began to feel stronger in my own company, and that thick skin I've now got started developing. My inner confidence was starting to come through, which the bullies really didn't like.
Remember to always back yourself, your confidence will help you appear to be a strong opponent in life and business, and bullies don't often take on strong opponents.
Sadly this only worked for a relatively short amount of time, as my new found don't give a fuck attitude aggravated the group and led to a couple of fights. I'd also developed a major resting bitch face, probably from being alone so much and genuinely trying to avoid everyone.
One girl, who happened to be someone I'd spent most of my time with before she turned out to be mean, started a fight because I'd given her a dirty look and she didn't like it. Her face was the definition of resting bitch face, so I probably did throw her a look back, but anyway she went for me behind a school wall and it was just a case of hair pulling and face scramming.
Sadly for her she came off worse with a huge bald patch at the front of her already terrible hair, it was in such bad condition it just came out in my hands, and when she realised loads had come out she screamed and ran away, my hair was pretty strong so I didn't have so much missing or a scratch on me, (I also had really long and strong nails which came in handy for digging into her puffy red face.)
I realised then that when I go into fight or flight mode, I fight like a bitch.
That was the first fight, and because she came off worse, the threats got worse, they even said they'd stab me outside the school gates.
By this time a couple of people had tried their hardest to defend me and intervene in the disgusting behaviour that the school pretended never happened.
I did tell my mum and dad about the bullying, mainly because I wanted to move schools. My dad went into school most weeks to demand to know what was being done, as he'd prefer for me to stay rather than move in the year before GCSE's. The head teacher and deputy head who was his sidekick said that I was the one who was antagonising and causing the disruptions. They probably didn't appreciate the resting bitch face I'd developed either.
My dad stuck up for me constantly, argued until he was blue in the face, and not once was he heard or acknowledged, and neither was I.
I said again, 'Dad I want to move schools', 'We can't let them beat us he said', I'm not sure if he was talking more about the bullies or the teachers, they were really both as bad as each other. So I was miserable for a bit longer, and things got worse again.
I was segregated further from the whole school by being told I had to sit in isolation, and also banned from all school trips, including an abroad one skiing, the reason being I was accused of dealing drugs...weed actually...and who had accused me? The bullies. I definitely wouldn't have been working my ass off all weekend in a fish and chip shop for £2.50 an hour if I was dealing drugs, but obviously no one believed me.
The teachers bought it without even asking me, it was only when I went to pay an instalment on the ski trip I was booked to go on (lower years were going too so I could stay with Hannah and her friends) that the teacher collecting the money said 'Oh I'm so sorry, you've been taken off the list and you can't go.'
That wasn't the only 'out of school' activity they got me on. The fish and chip shop I worked in on weekends had a word with me the following Saturday saying that customers had complained about me, that I was rude and gave them terrible service. I was fired without pay and it was only on Monday that one of the bullies asked if I'd had a bad day in work and if anyone had complained about me, and then told me they were the ones who had phoned and complained.
This is something that's stayed with me, and I was seriously amazed how quickly everyone just believed what they were told, no one even questioned anything, or asked me outright what was going on.
So now I don't tend to take much at face value, I question most things so I know exactly what's going on, and I take everything people say with a pinch of salt. You'll find a lot of time in life and business, if something sounds like bullshit, it probably is.
I realised then it was starting to take over my life and not just affecting school, but holidays and work.
The last altercation I had was just before school ended for summer. One of the bullies had come to my house and pretended to be sorry for what happened, and wanted to be my friend, asking if I wanted to go into town and go shopping and meet a few of the other girls, like the old days, and forget about all the bullying and move on.
I was definitely dubious, but also naive, and thought it would be great to get back to normal, anything was better than the current situation.
So I went with her to the train station, but we walked a funny way down some back alleys, and eventually we hit a dead end and the whole group were there waiting to fuck me up. specifically one girl who was the 'hardest' was ready for an all out fist fight. I was on my own, as usual, and faced with the choice of be completely battered or give my best go at fighting back, I fought back and actually came out without a scratch (again annoyingly for them).
I lashed out first and managed to land a backhander on the girl. While she was in shock and everyone else gathered around her to have a look at her red face I pretty much ran home and didn't come out for a few days.
By this point thankfully I did have some friends in my corner, new friends I'd made from a different school.
While the threats from the bullies were getting worse still (threats that the teachers continually turned a blind eye to), the friends I made at my future new school, would take themselves out of their last lesson which they always got into trouble for, got the train from Penarth to Barry, and waited outside the school gates for me, to watch out for me, and threaten anyone who came near me with so much as a dirty look. They did that everyday for around 3 months, until the end of year 10 and summer break started.
I did leave the school, and in no way do I consider it giving in, I just was past the point of caring, past the point of 0 fucks given, past any kind of trying to defend myself anymore, I was just done, and I had better friends elsewhere, why would I waste time and energy in a place that was so toxic?
Anyone who's ever read the Spectrum back story will notice that we always credit St. Cyres in Penarth with helping us grow the brand and contributing hugely to our success. I was only at that school for 3 years and Hannah never attended, but it was the best 3 years of school I'd ever had, and the teachers were incredible supportive and nurturing of the create talents they could see, but that I'd lost sight of.
I never went back to my old school, I started my new school in year 11, and my dad was happy that I was happy, having to let the bullies win in a way was really hard for him, I think he felt like we gave up, but I always knew it was in my best interest to get out, and start working again on what I'd completely forgotten about, actually learning in school. I had new amazing friends who are still my best friends now, and I absolutely felt like I'd beaten the 'Mean Girls', even back then, but most certainly now.
Don't be afraid to call quits and admit defeat if something doesn't feel right, sometimes it's just better to let go and move on, you'll feel better and definitely won't regret it.
You know that feeling when someone who was a complete bitch to you years ago comes up and tries to be nice to you, and be your friend a few years down the line? I've had that a few times.
I've also seen some of the others around as I still live in the same town, and they're too ashamed to make eye contact, a few are mothers and I really hope nothing like what happened to me happens to their kids.
I've had a chat to a couple of the girls who've actually grown up and have become better people.
I'm not bitter and certainly not a bitch, that's something I'll never tolerate from myself or the people around me. Years have passed and I really have only taken positives from the experience, so I don't even hold a grudge.
Remember that sometimes people are arseholes because someones being an arsehole to them, you never know, and you should always be nice to everyone, you never know what they're going through.
So to anyone else who may be going through something similar, I hope this post helps you realise you can come through the other side as a stronger and more sassy human being. Also, just be a bit more Janice, she's the secret heroine in the film. Also shout out to Kevin G who's got the right kind of attitude.
Finally, thank you to the Mean Girls for making me an absolute boss. I wouldn't be where I am today without you.