A persistent theme with many young ladies is around a concept called the “girl games”. These “girl games” are simply a description of the delicate and complex reality of friendships between adolescent girls. While the name sounds seemingly innocent, these games can feel very real and distressing to girls in the midst of them. It can be challenging for young ladies to balance fitting in with friends, expressing individuality and getting what they want out of their friendships. Most of the rules in friendships are unwritten and unspoken, and yet, feel powerful and unbreakable, leaving many girls feeling frustrated and hopeless.
Some of these rules can be seen individually between friends, such as, “I can’t say anything directly to my friend because she’ll get upset and won’t talk to me for a week.” Or the opposite can be true for example, “I just do whatever my friend wants because if I don’t, she’ll confront me and make a case about why I’m wrong.” The rules can also be found in groups or clicks with examples like, “The girls in that click are nice to outsiders, but they won’t really let anyone in. They can have friends outside the click, but when it comes down to it, they put the click first.”
These “girl games” pose a real challenge to our human nature to seek safety, belonging and self-esteem. A psychologist, Abraham Maslow, depicted this through a concept called the “hierarchy of needs”. The “hierarchy of needs” suggests that we all have the same human desires and that they can only be achieved when more basic level needs are fulfilled first—starting with food, water, shelter and safety before moving on to other, more advanced needs, such as, belonging, love, self-esteem and self-actualization.
Another way to think of the “hierarchy of needs” is to imagine that everyone has a cup they are trying to fill. Most adolescents’ cups are not full. And, ironically, young people look to fill their cup with peers who have very little to give. If, instead, girls can fill their cup with the people with much to give, like family, God or higher power, a teacher, a coach, a mentor, or a friend who is able to give in that way, they have a better chance to meet their needs and feel fulfilled.
While it’s easy for girls to get caught up in dissecting the details, rules and drama of the “girl games”, when there is conflict, it is more useful to get to the heart of the matter—focusing on yourself, your needs and filling your cup. By acknowledging our human nature and yearning to feel safe, connected and good about ourselves, we can begin to look for fulfillment in bountiful places. When those basic needs can be met by those who love us deeply, the “girl games” simply don’t have the same effect.
Many thanks to Erika’s Lighthouse partner, Lauren Schifferdecker, MA, LPC, NCC at Blue Life Coaching in Northbrook, IL for writing this post!
Lauren is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Life Coach who loves working with teen girls. She has spent more than a decade combined studying psychology, counseling and participating in her own growth work. As a teen who grew up on the North Shore and attended counseling herself, Lauren knows firsthand what it is like to participate and how to empower adolescents in coaching. In her personal life, Lauren is a mother of two young kids, a wife of nearly 10 years, a mom-blogger and she serves her community as a Youth Commissioner for the Northbrook Village Government.