How to deal with high school rumours and gossip

by Jessica Holsman

Dear Jess,

Over the holidays I heard that some of my so-called ‘friends’ were saying mean things behind my back and I don’t know if I should confront these girls because I find it hard to stand up for myself.

How should I handle this?

Anonymous x

Hi Lovely,

I'm sorry to hear how some of your friends are treating you. No one deserves to have mean things spoken about them behind their back (or their face!). Unfortunately I can definitely empathise with you here and so can most, if not all people...

It's definitely important to stick to your morals and values and never stoop to their level - not that it sounds like you'd ever do that anyway. I hope you don't feel scared to show how you feel or voice your opinion, but I know that speaking up can be quite uncomfortable. I used to hate confrontation and I think I was one of those people who would plan out exactly what I was going to say even before I met with the other person. Actually, I'd plan out all of their potential responses too! 

Standing up for yourself doesn't have to result in an argument or raising your voice, it's just a matter of how you phrase things and the intention you enter into the conversation with. If your intention is to vent and let your anger out, then there's every chance the other person will match your tone and get defensive. But if your intention is to try and mend the friendship, understand what went wrong, or just put a stop to this type of behaviour then you have every right to stand up for yourself and voice your concerns. 

If you don't think that they'll stop talking about you behind your back, then it might just be one of those situations where you need to confront them by telling them that how they are treating you is not ok. This could be face to face, or even over the phone. I'd just avoid text messages because I can't tell you how many times I've heard my friends say they sent a text, only for it to be totally misconstrued! Definitely not a good idea...

Also, I'm wondering if it's worthwhile to give your friends an opportunity to explain what's been going on first. I only say this because when I was in school, I remember a really uncomfortable time when I thought my closest friends were saying the most awful things about me, only to find out that one of my new friends had actually been incredibly jealous of my friendships and had made everything up! Sometimes it's worth it to give people the benefit of the doubt first, but other times you might be certain about things that have been going on in the background and approach the situation a little differently. 

This honestly just sounds like a really upsetting situation to be in and I hope you have at least a couple of people you can talk to about everything that's going on. If you haven't already, I'd definitely suggest speaking to your parents or a close friend, just to make sure that you feel supported and know that you aren't alone in all of this. No need to isolate yourself or handle this on your own. 

Regardless of how things pan out with these friends, I think it's also important to remember that friendship groups change over time. At least, in high school they did for me! A lot of the friendship groups actually seemed to just break away and we didn't really have cliques by the time we graduated from high school. I guess this is also an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your friendships and be open to forming new ones or strengthening others. I think I've mentioned this before but your tribe affects your vibe. It's so important to spend time with genuine friends who love and support you. Better to have 2 or 3 amazing friends that you can always rely on and that will have your back and vice versa, than 20 friends who enjoy spending their lunch times gossiping or gravitate towards people who they think can benefit them in some way. Conditional friendships are never the way to go!

I do hope that things settle down with the girls in your year. You deserve to feel happy and comfortable at school and not have to worry about what others think or say about you. My Dad told me a little saying which I do my best to live by whenever I start to feel worried about how others might perceive me. He says, "what other people think of me is none of my business." It reminds me that I have to accept who I am, know that I am doing my best and have good intentions and that we can't please everyone. Not everyone will like what we have to offer and unfortunately, other's opinions of us are going to be bias, based on where they are in their own life and how they feel about themselves. Just remember, judgemental people judge themselves the harshest. 

I hope this helps and I'm sending you a massive hug!

Love, Jess x