On being popular…

Dear Daughter,

Yesterday while you were at your dad’s house, you and I had the following convo via text:

You: Hi mom i am almost at home and i am so happy
Me: Good! Why are u so happy?
You: Everyone was saying bye to me at the end of the day
Me: Cool. You’re getting popular. šŸ™‚
You: I know it’s so weird. what makes me so popular?

Uh-oh.

Popularity is funny. Everyone wants to be popular, even adults! But in youth and adolescence, popularity is the ultimate goal. If you’re considered popular at that age, it’s like you’ve “made it,” you’ve accomplished your lifelong mission. Not every kid views it that way but most do. It’s just a natural rite of passage.

You’ve already seen how movies portray popularity. It’s not pretty. With a few rare exceptions (like High School Musical), the popular kids in movies are the jerks, the bullies. They pick on the loser kids and snub their noses at anyone not worthy enough to be in their elite group of “friends.” I don’t completely agree with this image of the popular kid. It wasn’t that bad at my school growing up, and I hope it’s not that bad in most schools, but I do know there is some truth to the stereotype.

Here’s what happens, psychologically: For the most part, people become popular by being well-liked, by being nice, fun and confident. Everyone wants to be around nice, fun and confident people, so it makes sense that such characteristics can be found in popular people. The problem is, once the nice, fun and confident kid has “arrived” and reached Popular Status, he sometimes forgets what got him there in the first place. Because so many people want to be around him and be like him, he becomes like a god. After awhile he views himself as a god too. Before you know it, nice, fun and confident are replaced with mean, entitled and arrogant. He relies more on his established status rather than his good qualities to determine his worth. And that’s when bullying and alienation begin.

Daughter, I want you to be popular. I’ve seen how happy it makes you to be well-liked, and that makes me happy. But don’t ever forget what made you well-liked in the first place. Don’t ever stop being sweet and funny, your two greatest qualities. Don’t ever, ever look down on anyone else for not being as “cool” as you are. For some kids, cool doesn’t come as naturally as it does to others, so give them a break. Don’t ever let your popularity get to your head, because doing so could mean hurting others.

Be the exception to the rule. Be popular by being nice, always.

Love,
Mom

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