Some of the most mature, socially-emotionally intelligent tween and adolescent girls I know feel lonely and out of the loop with peers. It used to shock me, but no longer. Adults love these kids. Their struggles to find likeminded friends has more to do with them than their peers. Their stories reveal the truth behind their disconnection.
Andrea, 17, doesn’t take crap from anyone. If girls say disrespectful things to her, she calls them out and moves on from that friendship. She has been willing to stand up for herself and others her whole life, resulting in lots of girls despising her for it. Queen Bees don’t like girls who won’t give them their power. Andrea defended a girl with Downs Syndrome from being teased by her group. They blew her off and called her names as well. Andrea used her anger to create a new prom for teens with disabilities. She showed me photos of kids in tuxes and dresses who were as happy as can be.
In 8th grade, Christina started feeling uncomfortable with her friend group’s behavior. They were having parties with alcohol, vaping, and had become boy crazy. After attending one of my weekend retreats, she gathered up the courage to move on from the group even though it caused her to be alone. Christina sat alone at lunch for several weeks until she found some new friends who shared her values.
What these girls share is an uncommon maturity, confidence, and wisdom. I like to describe them as ‘old souls’. Many of these girls become the “mom” or “therapist” of their group because they are so mature and trustworthy. They understand relationships and life at levels way beyond their years, making it hard to connect with the petty dramas that swirl around them each day at school. They refuse to play the hurtful playground politics with peers, and this sets them apart. It’s a hard row to hoe because they have a tough time finding like-minded souls to connect with, leaving them feeling alone and isolated.
In the book Smart Girls, Gifted Women, author Barbara Kerr studied the upbringing of some eminent women to find out how they had managed to transcend stereotypes and challenges to attain success. Some examples of the women studied were Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, Marie Curie, Georgia O’Keefe, and Margaret Mead. One commonality was they had all spent a lot of alone time where they learned to set their own goals and pursue their passions. Most had a hard time fitting in with their peers and felt different, increasing their alone time where they focused on their dreams and achievements. Time alone enabled them to develop a clear and unique sense of self. They had an easier time finding their tribe as they got beyond high school. Many of the old souls I have worked with tell me they noticed feeling different than their peers in early grade school.
How to support your old soul daughter
If you are a parent of one of these incredible girls, know that one of the best gifts you can give them is being seen and understood for who they are. Listen whenever they share about feeling different or left out, empathize, and let them know that you truly see them. I demystify what they have experienced so that they have a deeper awareness of who they are and why they feel disconnected from peers. Old souls need reassurance that they have done nothing wrong. Help them reframe any negative, limiting beliefs about themselves they have adopted because of being excluded and alone.
I encourage these girls to read a lot of biographies of eminent women so that they know they are not alone. They need safe spaces like my weekend retreats and summer camps where they can be appreciated by peers for who they are and to connect with likeminded friends. Perhaps most importantly, give them hope that they WILL find friends who can match their depth and maturity. It becomes easier as they get into later high school and beyond. But I encourage them to start noticing the energy and behavior of people in their school and in their activities. There are other mature kids out there, but they may not be the loud, most obvious ones in the hallways of school. Many girls find their tribe through activities like theater, sports, or service work.
I love working with old souls like Andrea and Christina. Give them the awareness, understanding, support and hope that they need to flourish.
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