Lacey Chabert, Lindsay Lohan, and Amanda Seyfried in Mean Girls (2004)

11 Life Lessons From ‘Mean Girls’ That Still Hold Up Today

Though Mean Girls came out nearly 20 years ago, it’s been a powerhouse when it comes to pop culture. If I say, “on Wednesdays we wear pink,” you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. While the movie is old now, it still holds up. The life lessons you can learn from Mean Girls still work today, even if you’re now well into adulthood. After all, we probably all know a mean girl in our lives. And if you don’t, it might be you.

It’s never a good idea to change yourself just to fit in.

Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Heron suppresses her interest in math and hides her friendship with Janice and Damian just to fit into the Plastics. She isn’t the only one who does it in the movie, though. At the very beginning, Janice introduces Cady to the social structures in the cafeteria. Everyone’s sitting in well-defined groups. By conforming to a group, you’re denying parts of yourself that make you uniquely you, that make you happy. Don’t lose yourself.

Don’t spend your energy finding ways to tear other people down.

The biggest takeaway from Mean Girls is how hurtful gossip can be. It affects everyone around you. While I hope that you aren’t as embroiled in gossip as an adult compared to when you were in high school, it’s easy to fall into those old habits. If you tear someone down, you aren’t making yourself look better in comparison.

Focus on yourself and not on others

Cady starts hanging out with the Plastics to gain intel as a way to take them and Regina George down. She takes the info to Janice and Damian so they can gossip and plot. Obviously, all that work does nothing good for Cady in the end. You don’t have a limitless well of energy. Quit wasting it on others, even if those others legitimately suck.

You ARE really pretty, and it’s okay to think so.

There’s a classic scene when Cady is first hanging out with the Plastics. Regina George tells Cady that’s she’s really pretty. When Cady says “thank you,” Regina gives us this classic line: “So you think you’re really pretty?” She’s used Cady’s thank you as a trap to insinuate that she’s conceited. Truth is, it’s not only okay for you to think you’re pretty, but you should. You are gorgeous and you shouldn’t let anyone prevent you from shouting it from the rooftops.

Wear your spooky Halloween costume with pride.

Cady attends a Halloween party not realizing there’s an unspoken cultural rule that women are only supposed to dress “sexy” for Halloween. She arrives in a zombie bride/divorcee costume and is embarrassed to find that she stands out. Girl, wear what you want. Be that spooky zombie. Dress as your favorite character. Leave the sexy crossing-guard costumes for the people who actually want them.

If you “pretend” long enough, you’ll no longer be pretending.

Cady starts hanging with the Plastics just to get intel, but before she has time to notice, she’s become one of them. That’s the danger with pretending to be something that doesn’t fit your morals or interests. You might become the very thing you’ve been hating.

When people show you who they are, believe them (and that includes friends).

Soon, Cady starts to actually value her friendships with Regina, Gretchen, and Karen. Despite it being clear from the start that they’re mean girls, she feels that she’ll somehow come out unscathed. How could they be mean to her? She’s one of them now! If someone shows you that they’re terrible, don’t give them an ounce. Believe them and move on.

Everybody has the potential to become a mean girl.

When the Burn Book — the album that the Plastics used to tear everyone down — gets released to the whole school, it’s an absolute disaster. It unleashes the mean girl in the entire junior class of girls. While it can feel like there’s just that one group of mean girls and you’re perfectly fine, you have no idea how close you are to becoming one of them. Check yourself before you start talking shit about the people around you.

“Cool moms” aren’t actually cool.

Amy Poehler stars as Regina George’s mom. Her scenes always resonated with so many because everyone knows that one “cool mom.” She lets the kids drink at home because “it’s safer if they do it under my roof” and tries to look and dress just like her daughters. I think we can all agree that the “cool mom” is anything but cool.

The right guy will like you the way you are.

Poor Cady thinks she needs to act dumb to get Aaron Samuels to like her. She’s a natural math prodigy, yet she lets her grades suffer so that Aaron will spend his time tutoring her. In the end, he likes her only when she’s being herself. It’s a cool message, but what if he didn’t like her after she let her math freak flag fly? Then he’s not worth it. If he doesn’t like you for you, then he has bad taste and should be avoided at all costs.

Being honest about your feelings goes a long way.

The big cathartic moment of the movie is during the trust fall scene after the Burn Book is spread through the school. Each junior girl gets up on a makeshift stage and bares their soul, apologizing for anything they might have said. Although it can be hard, opening up and being vulnerable is the best way to move on and become a better person.

About the author

Trisha Bartle

Trisha’s your resident tarot reader, rom-com lover, and horror connoisseur. In addition to using her vast knowledge of all things cinema for Thought Catalog’s TV + Movies entertainment section, she also offers her astrological and tarot expertise to Collective World. Trisha splits her time between making art and being awesome.