"My reputation has been ruined. I don't even want to go to school anymore," says 17-year-old Hannah, a senior in
Hannah says that other kids started ruining her reputation when she was in the seventh grade. "Just because I developed early, I got labeled a slut ... I had an older boyfriend. They were telling people that I was having sex with him, and that I was dirty," Hannah explains. "When I was in eighth grade, someone said that I was three weeks pregnant, and then there was a girl that told people I was a whore with crabs." The rumors got so bad, she had to switch schools.
Emily, a former friend of Hannah's who has known her since the seventh grade, admits to spreading rumors. "I've called Hannah a bitch, said I hated her, and asked her why she hadn't gone to another school," says Emily. "The reason I said bad things about Hannah is because I heard she was saying bad things about me. She called
The kids at school write mean things about Hannah on the bathroom walls. "I start crying. I always go straight to the principal or the guidance counselor and start yelling at them, because this shouldn't be happening," Hannah says.
"I'm worried this damage to my daughter's reputation will have a permanent effect on her self-esteem," says Hannah's mom, Laurie. "As a mother, you know that there's no way that you can take away that pain that they're feeling." She has gone to the principal of the school for help, but, "The response I usually get from the principal is, unless he actually has proof, there's nothing that he can really do about it."
"I don't know why people want to ruin my reputation. It embarrasses me. I just don't feel happy," Hannah says. She turns to Dr. Phil for help. "Please give me advice on finishing out my senior year without my reputation being ruined."
"Are you the victim here? Or are you the perpetrator?" Dr. Phil asks Hannah.
"I'd say both," Hannah admits. "When I was younger, I was mean to girls too,
Dr. Phil asks Emily, "Does she do it to you now?"
"Sometimes I hear that she does," Emily replies.
"Do you ask her about it?" Dr. Phil asks.
"No. I try to just avoid it," Emily says.
Hannah avoids it also. "When we see each other, we just walk past each other like we don't even know each other," she explains.
"You admit that in the ninth grade you called Emily a slamhog?" Dr. Phil asks Hannah.
"Did that hurt your feelings?" Dr. Phil asks Emily.
"I laughed. And my friends, we'd just joke around about it," Emily replies. "It hurt at first, but I didn't care."
"Because at that time, Emily was supposedly saying a lot of things about me, and we just weren't getting along," Hannah says.
"Were you saying things about her?" Dr. Phil asks Emily.
"Yeah," Emily says with a smile.
"This has really gotten to you, right?" Dr. Phil asks Hannah.
"Yeah, but I deal with it, from not just Emily, from a lot of girls," she says.
"By the way, I don't want you to come out of this as the villain that's in here picking on her, because you two go back and forth about this. So it's not that you're like the mean girl," Dr. Phil says to Emily.
All of the fighting and rumors have caused Hannah to miss 60 days of school, she has even transferred schools, and she skips sporting events and school dances. She feels her reputation has been damaged and people accept the rumors as truth.
When Dr. Phil asks her how she feels, she says, "Hurt, upset, embarrassed. I don't want to go out in public, I don't want to go to school."
"Where criticism, and rumor, and innuendo can really become hurtful is if you join in with them â€¦ you take over for them,
"It's what we call leveling. And, in psychology, leveling is when somebody is kind of inferior feeling, they're inadequate, and they're trying to level themselves with the other person." People either do this by inflating their own ego to the level where they want to be, or they try to criticize another person and bring them down to what they perceive to be their level. "People that are gossiping, and telling rumors " it's about them, it's not about you," Dr. Phil assures her. "But if you start taking over for them, you start saying those things to yourself, then it's really going to get to you."
"You haven't been your own best friend, have you?" Dr. Phil asks her.
"No. I'd rather just hideout, hideout at home, and not have to think about it," she says tearing up. She explains that she is ashamed of getting called names and being chased by other girls.
"The way you can tell who your real friends are is they're the ones coming in the door, when everybody else is going out," Dr. Phil tells her. "If you're hiding and hanging your head, then you have agreed with them. You've given your power to them. And you've got to take your power back." He continues, "Your internal dialogue is you're
Dr. Phil points out that everyone has been talked about at one time or another in their lives, including him. "I think that what I do, and who I am in the pattern of my life, speaks a lot louder than standing up and responding to every gossip story that's out there," Dr. Phil tells her. "You can't respond to that stuff â€¦ You're not going to be able to control what people say about you. But what you can control is how you react to it." He asks Hannah, "Who are you really? Are you a tramp and a slut?"
"No," she says. "A fun person, I don't know."
Dr. Phil points out that she quickly came up with answers when she was asked how others describe her, but when she was asked to describe herself, she couldn't come up with very many things. "Don't you love and care about people? And aren't you pretty smart? â€¦ Aren't you loyal to your family?"
"Yeah," she says.
"Do you have an ugly spirit?" Dr. Phil asks. Hannah shakes her head no.
"How come I see those things in you, and you don't?" Dr. Phil asks.
"I guess I do see it, I just feel no one cares. No one wants to be my friend, everybody would rather just bad-mouth me, so why show it," Hannah replies.
"The first person that's got to be your friend is you," Dr. Phil tells her. "Because what you do when people say things about you, you run and hide â€¦ You can't do that. I mean, you learn that as you get on, you've got to get thicker skin."
Asked for her thoughts, Emily admits, "I think that people get a wrong impression of Hannah. And she is a nice girl, and I don't see why everybody talks about her. I don't even know why I talk about her."
Away from one another, Emily and Hannah share their honest opinions
"I'd rather be friends with Hannah, than fight with her all the time," says Emily. "I would like to patch it up with her, if we could just talk face-to-face without fighting."
"I don't think Emily and I could become best friends, but I would like to be sure that Emily and I don't hate each other," says Hannah.
Dr. Phil asks Emily about her comments.
"When I have no one else, I'd like to have somebody there," Emily says. "Instead of hate her, you know, have somebody to talk good things about with. Tell all my secrets and not talk bad about other girls."
"What do you think when you hear that?" Dr. Phil asks Hannah.
Hannah says she agrees. "I want to be friends. I want us to get along, and finish up our senior year having a great time," she says. "I don't want us to end up leaving high school and feeling like, 'Wow, I didn't have friends,' or 'This girl didn't like me.'"
Dr. Phil offers them advice. "Sometimes somebody just needs to step up and say, 'You know what? This is crap. We're going to stop this.' And you've got to decide that you're going to have emotional integrity, and that you're not going to vent your anger by blasting her ... You two need to agree to talk, and t
He addresses Hannah. "You've got to stop living like what you think people are saying about you," he reminds her. "You have to decide that you are not going to hang your head. If you know who you are, then be who you are ... If you are a good, solid person that you can be proud of, then you walk down the middle of the street, you don't hide under the bleachers. OK? You have to believe in yourself and behave your way out of this."