Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Popularity vs. Being Yourself

There's been some pics floating around on facebook that reminded me of my high school days and struck a chord of annoyance.  I'm not going to share the photos due to the fact that I don't have all the information about what they applied to.  However, I am going to tackle a subject that has never made much sense to me.  Popularity. 

I loathe that word.  I always have.  For me it hits that "everyone must like you no matter what button".  I call bullshit right here and now.  There is no one on this planet that was created so everyone could like them.  Not even Jesus Christ himself.  We were created to be what we were created as.  Period!  I do not for one second believe popularity had a damn thing to do with our creation. So why oh why is there so much value placed on it?

I was lucky enough to be raised by people who pretty much let me be me.  That meant allowing me to go through style changes, friend changes, music preference changes, boyfriend changes, hair style changes, etc.  You get the idea.  And never once did my parents tell me it was not ok.  Not even when I was fascinated with Jim Morrison and The Doors.  Instead, they taught me how to respect myself and others.  They taught me what it meant to have dignity and integrity.  AND they let me find myself and who I was without judgement.

I've always marched to my own drum as the saying goes.  There was an incident in high school when my parents were out of town and all my friends wanted to have a party at my house.  I adamantly refused.  I was also tormented like hell for it.  I think to this day some of those people still call me "Cream Puff" because I wasn't willing to lose the respect I had from my parents.  I didn't much care then and I don't much care now what they call me.  I still had what was important, and I still do.

I did my run with the "popular" crowd for a couple years in high school.  It was the single most miserable experience of my life.  While there were some that were "popular" and human, for the most part it was a lot of back biting and oodles of fake crap I couldn't stand.  Didn't take me long to figure out that was not what I wanted for friends.  I didn't want friends who judged what my hair looked like every day.  Or what boy I liked.  Or what music I listened to.  Or who my family was.  Or what church I was a member of.  I wanted friends that would accept me exactly as I was.  So I found those friends and immediately became "unpopular".  It was wonderful!

I'm blessed to have children who realize the only way to have REAL friendships is to be yourself.  While we have had struggles here and there with the "popularity" factor, they are getting the fact that it's more important to be yourself.  They still get teased for being too big, or too loud, or too "weird", but they are building the confidence in themselves to move past the teasing.  The fact is if you can't like yourself you're a sunk ship. And doing things just to be popular will NOT make you happy.   I watch my kids move more and more into the people they are and I also watch the friendships they have grow into REAL friendships.  Ones that will last long after high school when popularity really means absolutely nothing.  No one cares after high school.  And... let me make this point ... if you were a popular jerk in high school you'll be nothing but a jerk when it's over.

My nine year old came home from school one day after being tormented and told she could not be in a club because she loved watching "Raising Hope" and hated "Glee".  To be in the club you could ONLY watch "Glee".  I didn't even have to tell her how wrong that was.  She already knew.  Needless to say she wasn't in the club and continues to watch "Raising Hope" after promptly telling that other girl where she could shove her "Glee" and her club.  Those things make me proud as a mom.  It gives me peace to know that she is comfortable with who she is and will defend it.  I like the fact that she doesn't care if the other kids think she's weird because she loves to wear mismatched socks and go for motorcycle rides.  That is who she is right now.  And who she is is beautiful beyond words.  She listens to herself and fills those needs.  If she doesn't feel like playing for a day, she won't.  Not because she doesn't like her friends, but because she needs some time on her own.  The friends she has know that and respect it.  And she has some pretty amazing friends.  In my book that means a whole lot more than being popular.

My point in all this is, better to be who you are and unpopular than who everyone wants you to be and popular.  Popular is a facade.  It's not real.  It's worthless.  If people can't like you for who you are, you don't need them in your life.  If you are one of those magical people who could be yourself and still be popular, kudos to you.  Most of us were not that lucky.

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