The desire to be popular and well liked is nothing new. While we all want to have friends and fit in to some type of social group, the popular clique has long held the reputation of being the “cool, hip, elitist” crowd – the group to which everyone aspires to be included.
Interestingly, recent studies show the characteristics which keep kids out of the popular group in high school, such as their unwillingness to conform and give in to peer pressure, contribute to their greater success as an adult. So I wonder, what is the importance of popularity to teens? How important was/is it for you to be part of the popular crowd and why?
I don’t think my time in high school was so much about being in the popular group for me as it was just finding a group that I belonged in. My high school was very very cliquey. But cliques weren’t exclusive. I was lucky. I found a group of solid friends that I was able to maintain throughout high school but I also mingled in several other circles outside of my own.
The simplest way to find a group that you belonged in was to join a club or a sport. For me it was our award winning show choir group, The Great Expectations, that helped me sail through high school unscathed, relatively known throughout the school and surrounded by friends. For others it was soccer, football, cheerleading, drama club, etc.
High school for me was a time to discover who I was and who I wanted to be. And who would stick by me as we left high school and went to college. My friends and my choir didn’t really pressure me into being someone else or conforming to a certain standard. We were all different, we all liked different things, but it was the love of performing that brought us together. I think that is why I am still in contact with many of them; we were all so different that we never got bored of each other and at the same time we had a common interest.
Now don’t get me wrong we had our fights and issues and the typical high school drama. But my closest friends came from that clique. Because of that one decision to sign up for a group in high school I will have several weddings to attend, I will be the godmother or auntie to many babies, and if I am ever in need of a road trip get away I have several people that will jump at the chance.
I was lucky enough to realize early on that the “popular” crowd is a contradiction unto itself. The number of people in the popular group are so limited that they have fewer friends than other groups. It’s not like the popular kids walk down the halls and everyone flocks to them. Also, from I what experienced with them (not that I was one of the popular kids), a lot of them weren’t even that close with each other. So right off the bat, being labeled as that type of kid isn’t really so cool. The only kids who actually think that crowd is elitist are the ones in that crowd.
The truth is, the sooner you find independence in your school social situation, the more prepared you are to face the world. Knowing one’s place in the world and how one can work that to their advantage will give any kid a huge advantage over those who clump together behind school labels. This does not mean a kid should make a point out of being as unpopular and counterculture as possible. He or she needs to take that element out of the equation altogether. There is no importance to popularity. High school cliques are irrelevant to the future.
So I just made friends with whoever I felt I should, and took actions that I was comfortable with, and I was very happy with myself in high school. Now, homework is a different topic…
It’s nice to think that being unpopular in high school leads to wild success later in life or vice versa (especially if you were unpopular). I’m skeptical of articles that suggest that a strong correlation. Sure, it does happen, but I suspect more often than not it doesn’t.
We all know losers in high school that stayed losers. Lebron James was very popular in high school, and he seems to have done just fine in life (although his popularity seems to have suffered in Cleveland).
I would much prefer that you kids are just comfortable with who you are. A confident kid who knows what he/ she wants out of life, and is not afraid to work for it, is probably going to be the real success. It doesn’t matter which group you associate with in high school.
I try not to see kids as popular or not in high school. I think that is how a lot of kids try to see it. However, if someone were to ask you who the popular kids are in your school and said if you could answer correctly you would get one hundred dollars, I’m fairly sure kids have an idea of who the popular kids are. The popular group usually consists of the good athletes, the good looking girls, and some of the other kids that aren’t athletes, but talk to the girls or the athletes.
But does being in the popular group or not reflect on your future? The way I see it, the kids with the most ability and determination to succeed, are the kids that will be successful. Sometimes that is the athlete who will go on to the next level of college or professional in their sport. Sometimes it isn’t. The quiet, shy, not very social student who is quietly brilliant in science or math, is often very successful. Maybe the girl in your science class you’ve never talked to will be one of the country’s finest marine biologist. Or maybe the boy in your math class you’ve never said a word to will be the next great inventor.
These kids aren’t always in the popular group. Sometimes they don’t have a group at all. But I don’t think that really matters. The kids that will be the most successful in life will be the ones who want to be the most successful, whether they’re popular or not.