This post is singing related, but can actually apply to other aspects of life as well. I felt inspired to write this blog because of very recent non-singing related events in my life that reminded me of some things that I had to deal with as a younger singer. And it’s something that I’ve heard happen with my students as the years have gone by as well: being the victim of jealousy.
A few years ago, I got a facebook message out of the blue from a girl I had gone to high school with. It was actually quite touching, as she went on to apologize for the way she had treated me in high school. She said she had been so jealous of my voice, and instead of just admitting that, she (and her friends) had been mean, cruel, and rude to me. I don’t remember the other details of the message, but I was glad for it, as she was part of a group of girls that had made it their mission to make my life a living hell – all because they were jealous of me. So I wanted to take a brief look at something that girls deal with regularly – whether it be related to singing or in other parts of life. “Mean Girls Phenomena” is the phrase that has been coined for this type of behaviour.
I had always been a very good singer. Of course, I had to go through years of training to get where I am today, but the natural instrument was always there. By the time I did get to high school, I was getting regular solos in choir and doing very well in our school’s music program. But I felt the back lash almost immediately. There were other girls that were very upset that I was beating them out of the solos that they wanted. By the time I was a sophomore, things really started to get bad. These particular girls were a year ahead of me, so it was actually my sophomore and junior year in which I suffered the most. They would regularly say mean terrible things to me to make me feel bad. They spread rumors about me all over school. They even went to the choir director and made up a story that I was going around bragging about my solos and giving them a hard time. I don’t know all the details of the story that they made up, but it was enough that I actually got called into the office to be talked to about my attitude. I sat there crying trying to get the director to believe me that I never did such a thing. There were even more vicious things that happened because of them, but things not to be discussed in public. (Yup, that bad.)
As a result of their vitriol (mixed with other horrible events I had to deal with at that age), my insecurities went from bad to off the charts. I had my close group of friends, but outside of them, I was actually quite afraid to talk to people. Anyone. And I always was scared of what these girls would do next. I tried to avoid being anywhere they were at any time in the building. And the painful comments just made life miserable.
Looking back, it makes me upset that I had to deal with that. Especially since I never actually did anything to any of them. I just did my singing thing. But their jealousy was expressed in a very hurtful way. They could have just let me be, but there seems to be something in some girls (and women) that turns them into viperous harpies when they see another woman who has something that they want, but they can’t have.
I’ve heard this story from some of my students as well throughout the years. There always seems to be a few girls who are jealous of the current reigning singer (or singers) in the choir. Some students just progress quicker than others. Some are just born with more natural talent. But there’s always someone waiting, ready to say and do things to bring said singer down.
I was very lucky to not encounter any of this kind of behaviour in college or grad school. And in fact, in grad school we were constantly coached to always be supportive of our fellow singers. ALWAYS. One day your competition might get the part, but your turn might be the next one. Be supportive of her, and she’ll be supportive of you. And the group of singers that I went through grad school with all shared that attitude – it was a very nurturing supportive environment.
So it truly bothers me when I hear about this behaviour going on and on. (And it truly sucks to feel its sting again, even as an adult.) I think it’s something important enough to be addressed with girls when they are children. It needs to be reinforced in every child to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Period. That’s how I was raised, and it’s just the right thing to do. Fortunately, some of these mean girls do mature and feel sorry for their evil ways (like the girl who sent me that message), but sadly, some just keep up with the behaviour well into adulthood. The trick is to rise above it. Oh yes, it still hurts, but if you are miserable, then they win. Don’t let the haters win! Happiness is your best revenge, ladies!