In the August 2013 edition of Ask E. Jean in Elle Magazine, the advice columnist laid out these rules of girl-to-girl kindness and support, aka “the Girl Code” (or as she dubs it, the “Advanced Woman Code”):
- Never stay silent when a friend is falling for an asshole.
- Never refuse to write a recommendation for the offspring of a friend (no matter how big an idiot the kid is).
- Never agree when a friend says she’s flabby, baggy, saggy, lumpy, floppy, veiny, squishy, scrawny, etc., etc. Tell her to shut up. Tell her life is too short. Tell her to eat, drink and be merry. And finally…
- Never treat other women disrespectfully: It gives men ideas.
The last one especially caught my attention, and reminded me of my patient, Cheryl. Cheryl is a fabulous woman at the top of her profession. She has good friends and healthy family relationships, including a good relationship with her ex-husband, with whom she raised a couple of reasonably happy and independent children. Cheryl’s professional success has come from hard work, savvy interpersonal skills and a very powerful brain. She is not someone who has hurt others on her way to the top.MORE: The Best Skincare Strategy for Your LifestyleIn her personal life, Cheryl recently ended a romantic relationship with a man who disguised himself for several years as a fun and understanding colleague, but turned out to be a sociopath. Though difficult at times, she has stayed strong against his manipulative pursuit of reconciliation. Since the breakup, she has also discovered that many more stable men are also interested in getting to know her better and truly appreciate all she has to offer.In spite of all of these positive elements of her life, Cheryl goes through many days and nights with a cloud of stress and frustration hanging over her. This cloud is created and maintained every day by one women—we’ll call her Elphaba (Google this name if it doesn’t ring a bell). Using somewhat questionable tactics, Elphaba insinuated her way into Cheryl’s professional environment, and into the space directly above her in the chain of command.The past few years of Elphaba’s history reveal an indisputable pattern of creating situations in order to undermine Cheryl’s reputation and position. Since they’re all fabricated, she hasn’t succeeded. But the attempts at sabotage have caused major stress and taken up huge amounts of Cheryl’s time that could have been spent doing much more productive and pleasant things.MORE: Why Women Hate Working for WomenWhat a shame that one woman’s life is being seriously negatively impacted by the vicious behavior of another woman. Apparently Elphaba hasn’t read the Girl Code, because she would know that behaving disrespectfully (and maliciously) toward her female colleague is totally forbidden. Elphaba could make a difference in the other direction if she chose to do so. She could support Cheryl’s work and create a positive professional atmosphere, thereby fostering the growth and happiness of Cheryl, and advancing women within the profession instead of holding them back.MORE: The Evolutionary Advantage of Being NiceGirl-to-girl cruelty stereotypically appears in high school (and is starting at younger ages every year). Often, the most obvious mean girls institute a reign of terror, with their queen bee status clearly visible. But there are power struggles and difficult dynamics quietly lurking in most groups of friends, starting in elementary school. There is often enduring emotional fall-out from these social challenges, resulting in difficulties such as depression, poor self-esteem, eating disorders, poor body image, self-harm and self-destructive decisions in relationships. Starting young, girls need to be taught how to be good, true friends to each other, and how to stand up for themselves when necessary.If women are kind, honest and respectful to each other, and girls grow up seeing this behavior modeled by the women they know, maybe we will come to expect and demand such good treatment from everyone in our lives—women and men of all ages and in all settings. So, let’s all follow the Code, and use our Girl Power for good rather than evil.QUIZ: How Do You Interact With Others?Visit BluebirdPages.com for more stories, advice and information to help you feel better in your life, in your relationships and in your own skin, from our Self-Image Expert, Heather Quinlan. Topics include relationships, sadness, food, weight, body-image, stress, work, self-esteem, trauma and self-care.