They are the manager who passes off your work as their own whilst suggesting you aren't pulling your weight.
The flatmate who sniggers to your new boyfriend, making little 'jokes' to make you look small, then accusing you of having no sense of humour when you suggest it hurts.
The 'friend' making pointed digs on Facebook, all the while smiling to your face and denying her barb has anything to do with you.
They are the bullies, the real life Regina Georges, with tables you can't sit at in every area of life and according to Psychologists like Cheryl Dellasega, PhD and author of the seminal work on female aggression 'Mean Girls Grown Up', their numbers are on the rise.
image courtesy of shutterstock
If you feel like you have met one of these delightful social treats, you are not alone - I know I certainly have, and recently. When bullied as a child I struggled to process what was wrong, as a grown adult, it left me hollow, shattered and totally paranoid.
A recent street-survey of 65 women in their twenties and thirties revealed that 82% felt they had been targeted by another woman in this way at some point.
When asked in Rachel Giese's 2010 Flare article on relational aggressors, Irene Levine, author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend and professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine said:
"Bullying isn't uniquely female, but there are always women who need to build themselves up by knocking others down. They may exclude, gossip, or do other things to demean one individual--particularly someone who seems vulnerable. Making someone feel alone, rejected and treating her as an outcast can be as vicious as a physical assault."
The official term for their behaviour is 'Relational Aggression', or Queen Bee syndrome - a type of bullying quite specific to girls and women and utterly devastating in its ability to upend your emotional stability.
Statistically most of us will deal with them from the playground to the political arena and the best thing to do is learn to diffuse their toxic influence well before their toxic games cause emotional harm:
1. Don't Torture Yourself with 'What Did I Do Wrong':
When finding yourself socially excluded or professionally downgraded, it can be so easy to torture yourself with what you did wrong.
A strong friendship is one that relies on honest communication - if what you did was so bad, and the other person genuinely cared for you, they would have sat you down, not shut you out. The same goes for work. Professional people communicate professionally.
Repeat after me - it's them, not you. Look deeper into their history and you will find a litany of people who have experienced the same things you have.
2. Do something you love
Being isolated gives you a lot more of a precious resource - time. Devote it to something you enjoy. Doesn't matter if it's shaking your butt at a workout class, or sticking stamps down - if it makes you happy, do it and if you don't know what it is, try something new.
Yes, getting out there can be terrifying, especially when your sense of self is low but mental health charity Mind says it is one of the very best things you can do to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem.
3. Just say no
Mind advocates learning assertiveness as a great way to ensure that you don't allow the same bullying patterns to repeat in your life in the future. Their advice includes saying no to unreasonable requests and being aware of the body language you use (especially helpful in work related power struggles).
It can feel impossible, not least because as women we are conditioned to be compliant, but the freedom that results is worth it.
Repeat after me. NO.
4. Share your experiences
Find someone close and talk about how you feel. Getting someone else's perspective is invaluable in feeling supported and understood. Under no circumstances though should you make that someone else in the group you are being targeted by.
No matter how smiley and approachable they seem, chances are they haven't survived their time in the clique by being nice to the Queen's latest plaything and there is every chance they will betray your trust.
Find someone independent, kind and most importantly safe.
If you don't know someone like that there are agencies, like that Samaritans that can offer support.
5. Escape the social mind-games:
Avoid posting pointed remarks on your social feeds. We have all gotten annoyed and put something silly on Facebook, but that way lies mean-girl imitation games and nobody wants to be that. If you have something to say, say it. To someone's face, not their pixels.
If however your tormentor is using social media to torture you, with hidden digs and snide comments with the rest of the gang, don't be afraid to hit unfriend as fast as you like. Don't give them the stick to beat you with.
Finally, take heart. This will pass and things can change, as Content Editor Maryse Farage experienced when her bully had a baby. Suddenly she was the one isolated ironically this leveling of the playing field led to friendship.
Whatever your experience remember, the very best form of revenge is a life lived well, and these women only have the power you give them - so get out there and live till they learn!