Dealing with the mean girl syndrome

Cultivating Happier Dancers

February 3, 2022


Michelle, Susanne & Kristin connect this week over events in their lives as artists and the science behind the art. Creating space with the intention to shine a light on dark corners with the hope to support you. Come join us with no judgment. We are holding space to learn, laugh, and downright pointe at ourselves.

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Cultivating Happier Dancers with Michelle, Susanne & Kristin | Dealing with the mean girl syndrome

 Susanne: And we’re back, welcome to cultivating happier dancers. We’re so glad to be back with you. Thank you for the beautiful downloads that we have received from I’m talking to our audience right now over a thousand downloads for our first episode. I mean, that’s frickin rocking may I just say. So, I want to quickly shout out to us three right now because it is Sunday morning at 8:00 AM.

We are recording batching. And we have lives. We have kids, we have families, and we’re still showing up for this community for our communities for making a difference and for what we’re standing for. So, this is to the three of us and it’s to everybody else who can feel this and who’s in the same boat.

We see you. We hear you. And we love it. So, thank you.

Kristin: I’m like, yeah, like I thought I was good and inspired and ready to go, but now I’m like even greater and inspired and ready to go and by the way, you must go to the YouTube video just in case you’re not looking at the audiogram on Instagram, the earrings that are in the house today, they top everything very good.

Susanne: Yeah, we’re good. All right. So today we’re going to talk about the mean girl syndrome, what that means where it comes from, what the little bit of science behind it and how you can prevent it, or a set an atmosphere in your studio, in your company, in your world that something like that doesn’t have room to exist.

Kristin: Okay. So. Storytime I got a story. Okay. So, I’m super fortunate in that my story is not from being a dancer and having to deal with this. I never did. And I know that that’s not usual. I think a lot of young dancers, especially young girl dancers, and young male dancers as well have dealt with, with this, you know, group mentality and being mean towards each other.

I never did. And again, I’m super, super grateful. However, I have come across it as an educator many times. And so that’s sort of where my story is. So, I’m a young teacher, it’s, you know, I’m like in, you know, I think I know what I’m doing. This is the kind of, this is the phase of teaching I’m in where I think I know what I’m doing now.

I just. No one knows what they’re doing. So, I’m still kind of thinking, I get how the world works and I know how a studio works and I get people. I come across a class. It was ballet class. It was all girls or female-identifying from what I could tell. And they just were me. Like, there were some cliques in there that really made it uncomfortable and like the energy was palpable and I felt it as an educator where, okay, there’s something happening in this room where people aren’t getting along, and I don’t know the whole back story. I don’t want to know the whole backstory on the young teacher. I just want to get through this hour and a half and have the students learn and have it been a fun experience selfishly for me too. Cause this is a drain on what I’m doing. Right. So, I’m just like, oh my gosh, I have no idea. I don’t, I don’t know how to fix this.

Like, do I separate them? Do I throw somebody out of the room? Like I just didn’t know what to do. My instinct was to just try to make it a safe space as well. So, here’s what I started doing. I cut out group work. We’re not going in groups anymore. I don’t care how smushed you are. One group only because I don’t like it when other people are feeling watched by other people in the room.

So, we stopped doing groups and we just went one group only then across the floor and this is a true story. I’m like, how do I do this? I made everyone stand and I specifically started each across the floor combination facing upstage. You know, a fourth arabesque so that, and they had a look towards the corner and I’m saying like, we’re staging this.

I staged the entire class to hardly look at each other when they were dancing. And I made it a thing like we’re learning this because it’s, this is how you would enter the space. If you were in ballet, you know, all the, all the stuff. And I did it for weeks and it was hard because of course everybody’s natural inclination is just to watch, watch what’s happening in the room and I’d have to be like the head, head.

I mean, I treated it like a rehearsal, and here’s what happened, not to my surprise, the students in the room that I felt like were very aware of being watched and maybe the quieter ones and the ones that were maybe the ones being. The recipients of this mean, girl energy started to blossom because they didn’t feel the eyeballs of judgment on them from the people that were being mean.

Right. That wasn’t a shock to me. I felt like, okay, great. We’re finally getting to a space. What was a shock to me is not only did the ones blossom that were the recipients of that energy but the ones giving off that energy also blossom? And I was like, well, this is interesting, right? As an educator that was a moment for me where I went, oh, so the ones that are loud and what we would consider meaning are just struggling too.

And I know that as a human and it was a point in my educator’s journey where I kind of started connecting, connecting the dots between dancers and humans. And we’re all just humans in the. And these, you know, regardless of where you are in this mean girl drama, everyone just wants to feel good about themselves and feel supported and not be scared to try new things because they don’t want to be judged.

Right. So that’s my mean girl educator story.

“And I know that as a human and it was a point in my educator’s journey where I kind of started connecting, connecting the dots between dancers and humans. And we’re all just humans in there.”-Kristin

Michelle: It’s interesting. Well, I’m glad that you didn’t have a lot of like mean girl stuff and dance. I had a lot of mean girls, but you know, it’s, it’s hard when you’re in it. Right? Like my mom picked me up from high school for almost a year because I kept getting so many death threats in my locker from the mean girls at my school.

Like, I mean like pictures of knives drawn like blood and like, I mean, it was like a whole thing. But, you know, looking at it from afar, like when you’re not in it, you’re like, oh gosh, those people are hurting. You know, like they’re hurting so much that they need to put the hurt out onto the world, like on, on to other people.

So, I did a little research on like the mean girl, you know, syndrome and like how we treat each other poorly and why we treat each other poorly. And I mean, I think we all know this like it’s natural to compare ourselves to others. Like this is what we do as humans and that’s, this is it’s sometimes good for us.

“it’s natural to compare ourselves to others”


Right. So, our comparisons can, can be good. They can build us up. They can also bring us down usually because we want to feel good or when we need to feel good, we compare ourselves to people that we don’t think are as good as us and like it’s a downward comparison, right? So, we’re, so we want to feel good.

So we like put each other, put other people down and you know, it can be like, you know, social comparison theory is something that’s, really interesting and complex, but in the dance world, it’s even more complex because dancers are like, I’ll put in the same room and like basically compared to each other because we’re casting them and like, you know, we’re like calling people out in class and it’s a whole thing.

I found this interesting. I read a little Freud, Freud, suggested that people cope with negative views of themselves by seeing their negative traits and others. And this is something I saw a lot. Right. Or have seen in teaching and that like a dancer that, struggling with body image issues, like whether they’re thin or, or, you know, or larger, or like perfect or not like they’ll call other students.

That or they’ll make fun of other students’ bodies because they’re thinking about their own body and their own body image issues, and like projecting that onto other people and seeing that. And then that’s them seeing that and then projecting that it, like, you know, It like brings them into like a downward comparison, like situation which is unfortunate, but it is also like kind of an indicator like as dance teachers, we don’t always hear and see what’s going on.

We don’t like, you know, me girl syndrome is something that like, we can, we get the whispers of right. Like we don’t always like what most dancers aren’t going to like. Say something really means to like their fellow dancer in front of their teacher. Right. But when we do hear it, it’s something too good to know, because if we’re hearing what they’re saying to each other, we can have a little window into what the mean person is struggling with.

So, I think that’s interesting. But also, like most researchers also, I have a quote, researchers discovered that threatened self-esteem drives aggression. So, dancers’ self-esteem is, often wrapped up in their identity as a dancer. And I think that’s a big problem because dancers, you know if they have a bad day at the bar or mess up a performance or fall on stage then not only do, they, but you also know, not feel good about messing up, it’s like, it’s a, it’s a dart to their entire identity. So, like it’s not oh no, I did a bad performance. It’s I’m a bad dancer. Thus, I’m a bad person. Right? So, so one of the things that’s important for, you know, really bolstering the students’ self-esteem is, is finding a way to separate their identity from there dancing, like seeing dancers as complete humans. Like what do you do? That’s outside of dance? Like what kind of hobbies do you have? Like, you’re a smart person. You’re a good sister. You’re like all those things, which seems kind of counterintuitive, especially for dance teachers who have. like 90 minutes to get through all these things and like three months to get these kids ready for, you know, this performance, but it’s so important to, to build up dancers’ self-esteem outside of the dance world so that they can feel good about themselves. Even if the dancing doesn’t go well.

Susanne: Hey, I think our episode is going to be three hours long. No, just kidding guys. Don’t worry about it. There’s so much in there because these two core things that were, you talked about Michelle about self-esteem and comparing the two core things that we see.

Happening in the ballet studios in the companies with mostly every dancer that is struggling with the lack of it being too much. Right. And we are not educating ourselves to the point where we’re understanding why we’re comparing and why self-esteem is so low. Right? So, this is, I listened to one of the I.G. Lives that you did this week.

And was it Andrea, her name? She had just this beautiful. Tiny little thing that she did. And she put out a whiteboard, she had it in class and she had things written on it and it made such a huge impact to everyone in that studio. And it doesn’t take much to make a difference. And I think that is the message over and over and over again, you just got a start and, we have three suggestions on how you can actually break through that mean girl syndrome, meaning that energy that may be lingering and your studio and your company, that feels off where you can just, you know, people are not treating each other with respect and dignity, but yet you don’t have any kind of I would say like proof to it.

Right? So, the first thing I personally would do is to define what mean. Being mean to each other really means like, what does that look like? Many people maybe don’t even know what that means. Many people may have not received that kind of language yet in their upbringing, from their home.

That could be, so it’d be clear about what means or being mean to each other really means and how that is not acceptable for A B C reasons. Right. Then go further, actually and define the words, gossip, teasing, taunting, humiliation. What is click cyber bullying dealing with that a lot nowadays?

Right? So have that written out in your studio, very clear, and whenever you feel like, oh, I feel like this is going on, tap on it and ask and check for understanding with your crew, with your people, with your girls and boys that are in your, in your class that is in your hands and really want to you know, learn from you.

And then from there, you choose to really set clear expectations and boundaries. This is the expectation. Here’s the boundary. You go beyond that. That is the consequence. We’re not accepting this we’re talking it out something. And I wouldn’t even go as an, you know, you’re being thrown out of the class, or this is all like so old school.

No, we got to talk about hurt people, hurt people. That is the only reason why we’ve seen this kind of behavior. In our studios and our companies, right? Because we don’t know how to vent. At any point, we feel so low that we try to lift ourselves up through others. So, expectations, boundaries, and really have consequences into place.

And then number three, model those expectations every single hour, every single minute you’re in the studio. Talk about it. Motivate your people like you can learn, and we talked about this in an episode prior to this one that we only learn. We only feel safe in a space where we talk, where we do not assume where we, where we are open with each other, where we’re not judging where we’re not comparing where our self-esteem is high, where we can be who we are and not trying to fit those.

Poor people into boxes, right? So, model that behavior and meaning don’t exclude anyone, even if they show perhaps behaviors that are not fitting in your expectations, have a conversation with them without singling them out, include them because I bet my bottom dollars that they’re really, really, truly hurting.

And there, they just want to be included. it’s their cry for help, Michelle. I see you want to add something.

Michelle: Absolutely. Yeah. Well, and I just wanted to say like, so we call it mean girls syndrome because mean girls is, you know, a term, but just to like to be clear, this is, this applies to all, all students who identify as any gender, like this is, you know, this is it’s, it happens a lot and it’s, and it can be a lot more prevalent in, in dance, but it’s everywhere. Like for everyone.

Susanne: So, it is everywhere. And by the way, I was bullied by boys when I was going through school, not by girls. So just to put that out there so it can be everybody. And thank you for bringing that up. That’s true. Yeah. Okay. Ladies, anything to add. Anything we want to send off by wrapping up this episode?

Michelle: Yeah, well, just that we have a PDF, extra worksheet for you all to use it in your classroom. And so, make sure to check it out. We just need you to sign up for it. We’ll send it to you. And feel free to share this with your, with your friends, with your fellow dance teachers.

It’s so important and it’s, there are so many small changes that you can make to really make huge differences in your classrooms. So please share and check out the PDF.

Susanne: Sending you so much love. Thank you for listening, Kristin, anything you want, add something?

Kristin: I’m just over here, like chill, I’m absorbing all the love and the energy, and I couldn’t agree more with what everyone said on this whole episode.

It really is so important. Tiny shifts make a huge difference in young people’s lives. Really, huge. And I know like to sort of call back to the beginning of this, I know as an educator, it can sometimes feel like the easiest decision is just to ignore those students that are giving you a hard time.

And sometimes that is the right decision in many cases, but don’t give up on them because they’re, they’re usually the ones that need the most.

Susanne: Don’t give up. There’s a reason why you wanted to educate others, right? Like really tap into your why. And remember that regardless of how hard it is. Thank you for saying that.

All right guys, like follow share review. That means the world to us and we’re sending you so much love. So, until next time guys, bye.

So much ❤ Susanne

  • Important Links to Danscend:

  • About Danscend

    Hi. We’re Kristin & Michelle.

    Kristin Deiss and Michelle Loucadoux have a shared sixty years in the dance industry. Both have worked extensively as professional dancers and are well-versed and experienced in the realm of dance education.

    After working together in the education field for seven years, the idea of Danscend was born because of an overwhelming need that Deiss and Loucadoux observed in their students. No stranger to the need for mental health awareness, both creators wrestled with various issues in their professional dance careers as well.

    In Danscend, Deiss and Loucadoux have created a resource that they wish was available when they were beginning their dance careers, a resource that will benefit not only their students but also the dance industry as a whole.


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