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Facebook, Mean Girls, and Self-Love

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

In fact, I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of social media, as documented here, but Facebook is the worst.

1) accept friend request 2) get tagged in a photo like this 

The background information: I grew up in a very small town. When I was in fifth grade, I was very popular. I was invited to all the parties. I had sleepovers with the other cool girls every weekend. I was cool too. In sixth grade? In sixth grade, a girl who I thought was my best friend told all of the other girls in this very small school [graduating class of 25ish people] that I had said some horrible things about them. The cool girls? They dropped me over night. Everyone dropped me over night. I was persona non grata.

I was all alone. I hated myself. I prayed every single night that all of my friends would like me again. I developed really bad insomnia, and the only way that I could fall asleep was listening to A Wrinkle in Time. Those girls tortured me every single day. I stopped going to school.

Flash-forward to current day: These girls want to be my friends on facebook. Now, to be fair, at some point they did stop hating me so much, and we started hanging out again. But, I never forgot how quickly they went away, or how much I hurt. As an adult, I expect people to be talking behind my back – being nice to my face and then talking about how much I suck when I walk away. As an adult, I have to remind myself again and again that this is not sixth grade. I have found my tribe. I am loved. I deserve to be loved.

But at this moment, I have 17 friend requests that are awaiting a response. As an adult, I thought that I had moved on, worked through it, gotten over it. However, I keep finding myself freaked out whenever I think about the fact that those girls want to be my friend on Facebook when they never wanted to be my friend in real life.  In my mind, I feel like I already know what they are going to say: OMG she’s still so FAT, embarrassing! And she. is. engaged. to. a. WOMAN! WTF! Disgusting! And she’s still a total know-it-all. HAHAHAHAHAAHAA.

Why do I think that they are going to respond like that? Why is that my go to feeling? What hidden shame and discomfort do I have about my life am I projecting onto this experience? What is the probability that they have grown up, and that they are just wondering what I’m up to?

Why do I still hold onto their rejection?

What do you guys think? Do you accept any and all friend requests on Facebook? Are there people in your life that you don’t want to let back in?

Also, please refer to the photo above for reason # 12934939349373 why this makes me very, very nervous.  I’m sharing it with you (even though it is mortifying) because I LOVE MYSELF and I am not interested in holding onto any shame.

And that friend request box? I just accepted all of their friendships, because I would not be me if I did not shut my fears down, offer kajillionth chances, or hold myself accountable when I feel like running and hiding.

44 Comments to Facebook, Mean Girls, and Self-Love

  1. RockStarMel's Gravatar RockStarMel
    March 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Now… I’m a bit older than you, so maybe this phenomenon hasn’t hit your graduating class yet, but I experienced similar apprehension when a number of the “mean girls” from my class wanted to be FB friends. And the amazing thing that I discovered? That many of them had kids and got fat. Some are divorced, some are queer, and nearly ALL struggle with their self image. Still.

    So… do not be afraid. And remember that if they act like they did as teenage girls, you can drop ‘em and block ‘em, no explanation required.

  2. March 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this, Mara! I’ve been neurotically checking your blog for a new post since Monday, lol. :D

    Facebook IS really strange. I deactivated my account once, and actually deleted all my friends, and had to re-friend request them. In the process, I was more selective about who I requested and who I accepted. Not to be bitchy, but just as a way of thinking, “Okay, first-do I know this person? Do I at least like them to some extent?” There are still people I haven’t requested yet, and honestly, if they are upset that I haven’t responded, then they don’t have much of a life. There are better things to worry about than wondering if someone is going to accept your friend request, in my opinion. I’m so sorry they were so mean to you (though where we both grew up in such a small place-it’s bound to happen-things like that happened to me, too!) and hopefully they have matured!

    AND congrats on your engagement, Mara! That is super exciting! :D
    Hannah recently posted..Aaaaand This Vacation SucksMy Profile

  3. March 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I had a girl who made my life miserable in middle school recently try and friend me on FB. I was stunned at the request, and then puzzled. Didn’t she remember how cruel she was to me? Didn’t she know how she made me cry every day? Why would I want to be friends with her? I considered telling her exactly how I felt. My curiosity got the better of me and I explored her FB page. It turns out there’s been a lot of pain and sadness in her life, and seeing who she is now changed how I felt about her. A lot of the anger went away, and while it wasn’t replaced by love or friendship, it was replaced by a sense of calm in just letting the past go. I didn’t accept her friend request, since I really didn’t feel that our journeys needed to cross, but I let go of some of the pain that had been my burden for almost 20 years.
    Katie recently posted..FFB- My Feminism- My WardrobeMy Profile

    • RockStarMel's Gravatar RockStarMel
      March 18, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Similarly, I had a girl who bullied me in middle school who surfaced out of the blue and wanted to be FB friends. Turns out she had a story to share about how a (physical) fight she started with me (and I finished, much to my own surprise) changed her life… and how she went on to start a bully prevention program in her town (in part based on how our parents handled the situation) when her son was in school and encountering similar problems.

      You just never know how people touch each other’s lives, and with the magic of the internet it’s now possible to find those people now that we’re grown.

  4. Ellen's Gravatar Ellen
    March 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    this post really resonated with me. i was dropped by two of my we-spent-every-moment-together best friends over the course of middle school. i am only friends with one on facebook, and while she seems to be a much nicer person, she also APPEARS to have a “picture perfect life” and it bugs me. the other one, well, lets just say that i am in no way jealous of her life.

    the most amusing thing was when i got friend requested by this guy that was a huge bully to me. he seriously ruined my self image and later, after graduating, those residual issues propelled me to developing an eating disorder. i accepted him and he proceeded to send me several messages on facebook telling me how beautiful i was. i ignored him because it irrationally angered me. facebook is definitely a bizarre phenomenon.

  5. Liz's Gravatar Liz
    March 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I was bullied, ostracized, and made fun of in high school. I have exactly zero real-life friends that I went to high school with.

    I deleted my Facebook about 8 months ago because I figured that anyone who mattered in my life would have another way of contacting me if they wanted to badly enough, in addition to not wanting my personal information all over the internet.

    I also deleted it because Facebook did nothing but make me feel BAD about myself. I would sit there and look at people’s Facebooks and berate myself: “Look at Allison’s life! She’s so happy with her perfect husband and perfect baby and perfect job. Wow, I’m a failure at life.”

    “Look at how much hotter than me my ex’s new girlfriend is! Man, I suck. I’m disgusting.”

    “Look at how successful Mary is! She’s a big-time lawyer, wow. I’m unemployed right now… God, I hate my life.”

    All it did was make me feel awful about myself. Now, whether their Facebooks are reality or not, the effect they had on me was very real, very negative, and very unneccessary in my life.

  6. March 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Yes. There was this one woman that I thought was my best friend. I was in the throes of postpartum psychosis-the embarrassing kind of pre-psychosis like Charlie Sheen-and she was constantly pushing me to go further. She said it was my destiny.

    I found out after my hospital stay that she was laughing about it with another close friend. She continued to tell me that I was fabulous and needed to fulfill my destiny. I could not handle it and keep my grip on reality.

    Now she is a remembrance of the most horrific time in my life. So. I declined her friendship.

    I hope you find peace and love and acceptance, if only continuance of it within yourself.
    JourneyBeyondSurvival recently posted..Someones In the Kitchen WithMy Profile

  7. KCLAnderson (Karen)'s Gravatar KCLAnderson (Karen)
    March 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    One of the most enlightening things that Facebook has done for me is to give me a window into the lives of those with whom I went to high school and college. Like one of the other commenters said, as adults, we start to see things differently and we understand things differently. The kids who I thought were popular and who had it all? Well, they didn’t. The bully? Well, her mother bullied her. The clown? Well, her brother was schizophrenic and eventually committed suicide. As a 40-something adult, I now view all of this from a more…parental? perspective. That said, it doesn’t mean I want to “friend” everyone who comes along. So far, I haven’t rejected any friend requests from those I went to school with…maybe it’s because A LOT of time (~30 years) has passed (in comparison to how little time has passed for you). Things change over time, that is for sure.
    KCLAnderson (Karen) recently posted..Does Meaning MatterMy Profile

  8. March 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Oh man, I think we all have those FB requests. I decided to shut down my fear of them laughing at me–for not losing weight, for not being more successful, for whatever ridiculous thing I dream up–by not interacting with them. If we weren’t friends then, why do we need to be FB friends now? I have proof that they only serve to make me feel bad about myself, and letting them back into my life, even on such a small scale, would just make me feel bad about myself AGAIN. Why would I do that, especially when I’m just now learning to love who I am?

    Answer: I wouldn’t. Request denied.
    Elisha recently posted..Goings OnMy Profile

  9. March 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    you’re awesome. that photos is awesome. the fact that you had the cajones to share it is awesome.

    i totally, totally understand the facebook dilema. recently i actually deleted my facebook because one day, as i scrolled through the hundreds of familiar faces from high school, i realized none of them were really my friends. then or ever. i’ve since reinstated myself on facebook and find myself reluctant to add some “friends”.

    i remember when the girl who dumped our seven-year-best-of-friends-friendship for the popular crowd in seventh grade (by telling me everything she found wrong with me, by the way) asked to be my friend on facebook, i nearly laughed. why? but more importantly, why was i holding onto that rejection? i told myself i wasn’t. and i don’t think i am. but something about being abandoned at such an influential age really shook me up. i definitely understand your hesitance! it’s hard to forget being treated so unkindly no matter the age. it really sticks with you.
    zoe (and the beatles) recently posted..i’m not working out todayMy Profile

  10. Beth's Gravatar Beth
    March 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I deleted my Facebook a few months ago, but before I did, I did not accept friend requests from people who were bitches to me, in high school or otherwise. They don’t make me nervous or anything, I just don’t feel like letting them into my life now. I don’t see the point.

    I mean, why should I give them the privilege of knowing what is going on in my life now? The people who care about me, who are truly my good friends? I don’t need Facebook to keep in touch with them. Odds are, the people who know “of” me or obscure people from high school just want to nose around my profile and pictures and see how my life measures up to theirs. I don’t feel like indulging them, so I don’t.

  11. March 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Seriously boo, deny them. Why waste your time with haters? Would you hang out with them in a bar? Probably not. So don’t give them the time of day online either.

    When I joined Facebook, I got requests from a band of girls who were TERRIBLE to me in high school. I don’t just mean gossiping and bullying (though that was a part of it), they physically fought me on more than one occasion. And as silly as this may sound, one of the happiest moments in my social media life was clicking the “decline” button on each of their friend requests. I’m not interested in them at all, and so I can make that decision.

    You can too. These girls sound petty and silly, so why waste your time? Decline.


  12. March 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Social media (the internet in general) can be a wonderful tool. But it can also be a unneeded, time-suck, stalking tool. (so positive, right? lol)
    Anyway, I know what you mean. Mean girls in school magically want to “befriend” you after they treated you badly. It hardly seems right. It hardly seems like something you’d like to do: press accept.
    And they may say those things that you wrote, reject you again, but they may not. They may have changed. You have changed- as a person. You have a successful blog, love in your life, and acceptance. I think that’s pretty great in itself- befriend or not, you’re doing well for yourself and that’s all that matters. :)

    At least that’s my two cents.

  13. Liz's Gravatar Liz
    March 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    I’ve gone both ways with this. In one case, a girl who had been a good friend and then stabbed me in the back reached out on Facebook. I probably would have declined, but she accompanied the request with a note, and wrote really kindly about her regret at the way our friendship turned out.

    Another time, I’ve received the out-of-the-blue friend request from a bully in high school – I wrote back to him and told him how he had made me feel. He wrote back and said he was a different person now, but I still didn’t see myself flourishing in any kind of relationship with him, so I declined.

    And then recently, I got a letter and friend invitation from a woman who had hurt me, while we were both grown-ass women. Her letter was all about her life and how she missed how I made her feel about herself… Decline.

    My husband reminds me constantly – I don’t have to have a relationship with anybody I don’t want to. And neither do you M! Good luck with your decision, and as someone said before… you can always change your mind later.
    Liz recently posted..Interviews from the Healthy Living Blog CommunityMy Profile

    • Liz's Gravatar Liz
      March 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I didn’t get to the point…. I think a whole lot of it for me comes from how the person approaches me. Do I feel like they’re trying to grow their friend count, that they want to use me again, or that they really truly want to have a relationship with the me that I am now.
      Liz recently posted..Interviews from the Healthy Living Blog CommunityMy Profile

  14. March 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never had a facebook account ever for this reason and more.

    The sad truth is, some people ARE malicious and want to friend you just to nose around in your life so they can talk about you badly to other friends . . .

    I can’t tell you how many conversations i have heard starting like this . . .

    “Oh guess who friended me on facebook?! . . . He/she is this or that (insert mean girl talk here)”

    I get it, people are miserable and need something to talk about to make themselves feel better. If you can avoid that by not accepting them then good. Don’t give them the pleasure of knowing you without truly knowing YOU!

    Choose to keep only the positive in your life :)
    Val @ Balancing Val recently posted..The Meaning Of ThunderMy Profile

  15. March 17, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I just deleted a third of my facebook “friends” and it felt/feels amazing. And now my plan is to only accept and add people that I am happy to connect with.

  16. March 17, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I left facebook this summer. In part this was because I generally didn’t like the liberties they were taking with their users’ data. But in part it was because I shied away from deliberately un-friending all the people I’d only been friends with because they were friends of a borderline-abusive ex-boyfriend. So I can absolutely relate. I would reject those friend requests immediately!
    poet recently posted..Pink and blueMy Profile

  17. Ana's Gravatar Ana
    March 17, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Ooh! Good stuff! Amazing how many of us can relate to your story. I too remember that day when all of my best girls “dumped” me. The “ringleader” of the group simply approached me and declared “we’ve decided we don’t like you anymore.” Ouch! My mom talked with a counselor/friend who explained that at that age, the most insecure girls see their friends like possessions and build themselves up by breaking ties with anyone who is a little different than the perfect, popular girls they are trying to be. While I was devastated at the time, I eventually found different friends, and learned to steer clear of the drama that is tied so closely to those years. When those girls friended me years later on facebook, I accepted. I didn’t feel the need to have them back as friends, but I also knew I had forgiven them and wouldn’t allow myself to be affected negatively by them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had grown up. They had figured out their lives too, and were much more like the sweet girls I used to know. This reassured me somehow, that we all have a difficult time growing up and that we can all overcome the pain of adolescence. While I wouldn’t wish the experience of getting dumped by friends on anyone, sometimes I think about how strong/independent I am because it did happen. Anyway, good luck- I hope your mean girls have grown up too :) xoxo

  18. Ela's Gravatar Ela
    March 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Yuck–that’s a tough one. Sticks and stones will break my bones…but words hurt more and for longer than any physical pain…

    I think it’s enormously brave of you to accept their friend request–and it is ‘only’ facebook, but can still hurt. And you can always ‘unfriend’ them if they’re mean–I don’t think they even get notified if you do that.

    Been on the road a couple days–sorry, I meant to talk to you more about EFT which has been helping me with body image: I’m just trying to get caught up now.
    Ela recently posted..Anecdotal EvidenceMy Profile

  19. March 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    In 2008 when I signed up for Facebook I was innudated with friend requests from people who either bullied me in school, acknoweldeged the bullying but didn’t do anything to stop it, or were nice to me. I happily accepted every request until I received one from a guy that had made high school miserable for me. I hemmed and hawed and accepted it anyway. After awhile, when I realized Facebook was just another means for these people to assert how popular they were, I stopped accept every request and started ignoring more people. Last fall I did a mass delete of every “friend” who wasn’t interacting with me–I deleted about 50 people. I’m still tempted to go back in there and delete people I’m not in weekly contact with.

    I say Facebook shouldn’t be some measure of popularity and to accept requests from people you want to interact with in your day to day life.

    • Liz's Gravatar Liz
      March 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree! I always ask the question – will our relationship be improved by a Facebook friendship? In many cases, it will, but on the other hand few good friends and I have decided not to do the Facebook thing because having a service that manages our relationship would actually cause more distance rather than bring us closer together. Or likewise, I don’t want to have any other kind of relationship with someone, so there would be no reason to interact with them on Faceebok, so there’s no reason to Facebook befriend them.
      Liz recently posted..Interviews from the Healthy Living Blog CommunityMy Profile

  20. March 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Hmm. I think it depends on the person/situation and where you are in your life at the time. I totally get the empowering feeling one commenter had in hitting that decline button!! I also totally get the one who said their past tormentor has had a lot of pain in her life and how she feels compassion for her now. I guess it would depend on whether accepting or not could serve to be detrimental to your self-love progress or not. If you really think it could set you back or if you just flat out don’t have a need to revisit things, decline. But sometimes you just might get something out of the reconnection that you didn’t expect. You might even find out you’ve been through some similar situation in life that you can relate on.

    I’m friends on FB with a couple girls who either shunned me or made fun of me back then. I myself have been through quite a bit of pain since my adult life started, and it’s made me a lot quicker to assume that sometimes people hurt other people because they’re hurting too. It doesn’t excuse it, but it changes your perspective a lot…I usually feel sorry for people now instead of being angry, and I don’t take things personally (it’s usually not). One of them didn’t end up interacting much with me past the first catch-up email (“How are you? It’s been so long!”), but one of them I do keep up with, and one of them I’ve hidden because I don’t want to delete her and have nothing against her but still feel old, bad feelings stir up when I read her posts – not because of what she says but just from the situation it was. So that’s why I say it depends on the person/situation. Through some of their posts, I’ve seen posts from other high schoolers who were in the popular crowd and definitely did NOT pay me a bit of attention unless it was to be mean…girls always joke that they hope all the popular girls grow up to get “fat” and ugly, but actually, I’ve been really glad to see that most of them seem to have grown up into compassionate, well-rounded adults who love their kids and seem to have healthy marriages. Wow! They changed, and that’s better all around!! True bullying is a whole different ballgame and is not okay no matter what. (I mean, would I accept my verbally and emotionally abusive ex-husband on FB? HELL, no. Not even to throw it up in his face how happy I am now. I’ve moved past all the old baggage and have no desire to revisit any part of it.) But I think for a lot of kids, they were just immature and so insecure themselves (no matter how they may have portrayed themselves) and probably don’t even remember what they did or maybe are hoping we forgot about it because they’re ashamed.

    I don’t want just anyone seeing my pictures and knowing exactly what’s going on in my life all the time, so I’m pretty selective about who I accept on my personal profile. But for me, FB helps me keep up better with people – it’s enhanced a lot of my friendships. And to the commenter who deleted her FB because everyone else’s life looked so great…you just gotta remember that it’s so easy for people to portray that online, even when they don’t mean to. For instance, I’d probably never post a pic of myself crying, only smiling and laughing. You just never know what’s really going on in someone’s life behind the online scenes, so first mentally offer them compassion (because EVERYONE knows pain at some point) and then offer it to yourself too. :)

    A BIG CONGRATS on your upcoming wedding!! Woohoo, super exciting! Remember that you can customize your settings to hide certain things from people if you don’t want them to see…but gal, you got nothin’ to hide or shy away from. :)
    Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist recently posted..More self-lovin music for the soulMy Profile

  21. March 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Wow! That was, like, as long as your post itself. lol
    Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist recently posted..More self-lovin music for the soulMy Profile

  22. March 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I had a very similar middle school experience and it has haunted me in a way. I have learned I LOVE women and TRUST them now, however whenever I think back to what they did and how it changed me, it hurts. I honestly have not had friend requests from them, but I wouldn’t choose to anyways, because they weren’t a part of my life, and I know my true friends. Thank you for your honesty.

  23. Claudia's Gravatar Claudia
    March 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I received a friend request from a 9th grade boyfriend who manipulated me emotionally for fun. He really was that malicious. He’d break up with me one day to make me cry and then ask me out again 2 days later just because he knew he could make me say yes. He told people secrets I asked him not to repeat and told his friends I was his “personal whore.” 12 years later I get a friend request from him. I debated for days before I accepted it. “Maybe he grew up, maybe he’s a better person now.” Not really. He wrote me a 2 page apology for breaking up with me, he said he knew it hurt me and he was sorry. At first I was thrilled to get such a long and sincere apology until I realized that it was not for the way he treated me, he wasn’t apologizing for anything I wanted him to. He’s sorry he broke up with me in the 9th grade? That’s okay, I think I got over that pretty quickly, it’s not the type of thing I focus on 12 years later. I found it self serving for him, as though in all this time I never got over him? I was pleased to discover though that his fiance, after being emotionally manipulated by him, left him for another man and it broke his heart. He hasn’t changed but now his actions are hurting HIM. Oh well. We haven’t unfriended one another but we never talk.
    Facebook has also positively enhanced my life, because of FB I got back into Animal Rescue and have been directly hands on involved in the Rescue of 44 dogs since October because of Facebook posts. 2 dogs I Rescued on the day they were scheduled to die, I am 100% certain that they would be dead otherwise. Others may or may not have made it but all were in kill Shelters. I have made friends through Facebook in other states, when I adopted a dog from across the country it was the kindness and generosity of strangers that brought him to me. He was driven from the Shelter to a Foster and then a Trucker drove him from MD out to Denver, she had her entire route changed so she could bring him to me. All of these people were strangers before this, all of these people I found through Facebook. I have met people on FBand now they are real life friends, some I have met in person, some I’ve just talked to on the phone, others I just message back and forth. The Facebook Rescue community is growing every day and it is amazing to see people all of the country rally together to save the lives of lost, lonely, unwanted, abused, or otherwise forgotten animals. It really is making a difference especially in small rural shelters with high kill rates.
    Of course this has only made my Facebook addiction worse… :)

  24. March 20, 2011 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    I think people love to brood. facebook makes it impossible to relinquish the past. I had an enormous fight with a very good friend and essentially discovered that he wasn’t who i thought he was. we haven’t spoken since. and yet. i can’t seem to unfriend him on facebook, and go on with my life without checking up on him every once in a while. not because i miss him, i’m far past that stage. but because i have some sort of morbid fascination with what happened, and how a person that keeps such a decent facade could have been so cruel.
    It’s very self-destructive, honestly, and i should really delete him so i don’t have the opportunity to brood. for your own sanity i suggest you don’t accept those requests. some things are meant to stay in the past!
    ulterior banana recently posted..Growing Up UnSexyMy Profile

  25. March 21, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I’ve started to have a simple approach to facebook encounters – if someone adds me on facebook, I ask myself this question: If I were to see this person on the street somewhere, would they bother to acknowledge that they know me? (Or vice versa?) Or is it someone I’d glance at, think, “I know them from somewhere…” and keep walking? Or worst of all, is it someone that makes me feel uncomfortable to think about?

    If it’s the second or third one, they’re going in the “Ignore” pile. You don’t need ‘em.
    Tara Melissa recently posted..Words to Live By – Desiderata by Max EhrmannMy Profile

  26. March 25, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Oh the ignore button is my very dear friend. I am very picky about who I want in my life. I don’t want anyone who treated me badly when I was at school, or any other time in my life. I use the “hide” function. I create groups and filter my feed so that only some people can see stuff I post. My FaceBook is my online home, and I pick and choose who comes into that space.
    Kath recently posted..I’m In Love and You’re All Gonna Hear About ItMy Profile

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Welcome! I’m Mara.

I’m Mara Glatzel. I’m an intuitive coach and writer. I guide women home to themselves and teach them to create lives brimming with supreme self-care. read more
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