We sent Barbara, a Playboy model, to ask strangers for directions and other simple questions. The women she asked had these judgments about her:
"I just thought she looked really slutty."
"I thought she seemed sweet, but kind of ditsy."
"I'm sure she knows she's beautiful and walks around thinking it."
"She absolutely wouldn't be the type of person that I'd want to be friends with."
Two of the women who made judgments about Barbara try to explain. "She seems like a nice young lady today," says one of them. The other 'fesses up: "First impression, she looks like a playmate, like a model, and that isn't typically the kind of person I hang out with ... She doesn't look like the type of person who hangs out at the book-of-the-month club."
Dr. Phil jokes that when he meets other men he can't even remember what color hair they had, while women notice every detail about other women. He asks Barbara if she's usually treated this way.
"When I grew up, I got a lot of that. I felt really alienated," she says. And it continues to be a problem. "That hurts my feelings. Why wouldn't they want to be my friends just because of the way I look?"
Four women who work together in a Las Vegas casino constantly argue about tips, time off, stealing tables and more. Sick of all the fighting, one of them wrote in to Dr. Phil: I want Dr. Phil to help us so we're not angry all the time and bitter toward each other.
Dr. Phil made a list of all the problems each of them brought up: no trust, hostility, defensiveness, gossip, anger, conflict, judgment, stress, competitiveness, evasiveness, manipulation, insecurity.
When the women try to justify their behavior, pointing to their stress, PMS, the nature of their job, and just "being women," Dr. Phil wonders if they really want to change their ways. Emphasizing that they are the only ones who can change how they interact, Dr. Phil asks, "Have you ever asked yourselves, 'What can I do to make this relationship better?'"
Recognizing that all four women are very different from each other, Dr. Phil asks, "Have you ever asked yourself how you got to be the precise personality that you are ... so you can own the result?"
"You either contribute to or contaminate your relationships 24 hours a day," says Dr. Phil. "Whatever you bring to the situation with you is either going to contribute to the health of it or it's going to [add] to the toxicity."
When Carinne, (far right), shirks responsibility by saying that she's the peacemaker, Dr. Phil asks, "How's that working for you?"
He suggests they read Self Matters so they can get a better understanding of how they became who they are, and what factors cause them to contribute to or contaminate their relationships. Dr. Phil also says the women are playing the victim role, and they need to own up to their behavior before things will change. Dr. Phil jokes that they need not get around a fire and sing songs to bond. "What you have to do," he says, "is figure out a way to co-exist and support one another, instead of living all that toxicity."
"I have been unable to make close, enduring female friendships," says Andrea, who's always related better to men.
As an adolescent, it was a turning point for her when her one close girlfriend, Laura, became better friends with two other girls and left her behind. Her high school years were filled with snickering, gossip, and other painful memories.
"After that, I still tried to have friendships with women, but I kept having the same experience over and over again," she says. "When my husband, Gary, and I are out socializing, I immediately end up shooting pool and drinking beer with the guys. We even laugh because he relates to women better than I do."
Now, she turns to Dr. Phil for help. "I really would like more women friends. What am I doing wrong?" she asks.
Laura, for example, was a pivotal person in Andrea's life. Andrea recognizes that because she felt left out as a youngster, she continues to feel the pain as an adult. "Inside, I will always be an ugly, awkward little girl. I will always be the geek that doesn't fit in," she says.
By letting other girls define who she was, explains Dr. Phil, Andrea was living as her "fictional self," and not her "authentic self."
"As I've gotten older, I've embraced the not fitting in and my geekness," Andrea says. "That's part of why I do improvisational comedy, because I've had people laugh at me for so long, and now I do it professionally, and find it very freeing."
Andrea tries to defend the label she's put on herself. "What's wrong with being ugly, awkward, geeky and a misfit ... almost?" she asks. Andrea and the audience laugh, recognizing how absurd that sounds.
"I just have to say that if I was going to make a list of my goals for 2003, becoming an awkward, ugly misfit would not make the short list," says Dr. Phil. "I wonder about what you've missed by labeling yourself that way, and taking yourself out, saying, 'I am an outcast.' I wonder what you've cheated people out of because you never let them get to know you."
"But I don't feel that way with men. That's why I have mostly close male friends," she says.
"That's half of the population!" Dr. Phil responds.
Dr. Phil suggests that since she can't change what happened more than 15 years ago, Andrea should change her reaction to what happened.
"Did you know that you had betrayed her?" Dr. Phil asks Laura, who's now a high school teacher. "Did you know that there was this big rift?"
Saying that high school girls make "stupid" decisions, Laura says she didn't realize the extent to which she had hurt Andrea. Dr. Phil points out that the whole time Andrea felt betrayed, Laura was in fact thinking highly of her.
Dr. Phil reiterates that everyone should identify the 10 defining moments, seven critical choices and five pivotal people that have impacted them. Then, once you figure out how you got to be who you are, you can rid yourself of the bad feelings, which may have come from situations that were misconstrued.
Dr. Phil tells the women that they live 15 minutes away from each other, and offers them a $400 gift certificate for a restaurant so they can catch up with one another.
Miranda, who's been competing in beauty pageants since she was 3 years old, says she doesn't know how to connect with other women. "I have extreme difficulty making friends," she says, pointing out that she often goes to the movies and eats dinner by herself, and doesn't know what a "girls' night out" would be like. Her husband jokes that she needs a girlfriend because he's tired of going shopping with her!
She thinks her confidence may alienate other women, who are quick to judge her. "It hurts. Nobody thinks you can be pretty and smart and successful in your own right, when you may have worked really hard to get there," she says. "It's just very, very lonely."
Having friends is especially important for women, Dr. Phil says, because research shows that women cope with stress and hard times by seeking out a friend. Men, on the other hand, tend to withdraw or get angry. Not having a girlfriend could adversely affect Miranda's health because she keeps so much inside.
"I just really wonder if this boils down to what I've identified as a self-defeating game people play, and that's 'Get them before they get me,'" says Dr. Phil. Also, because beauty pageants are so competitive, Miranda may be looking at other women as competitors.
Dr. Phil suggests Miranda take ownership of the problem. Rather than telling herself that there's something wrong with the way other women perceive her, she should ask herself, "What can I do to make this person feel comfortable around me?"
Miranda asks, "Should I knock my confidence level down, even though it's been hard won?"
"That is not at issue," Dr. Phil says. "That's a pre-judgment ... There's a whole lot of women in this world that aren't intimidated by you or anyone."