Estimated Lesson Time: 6 minutes
I once saw a movie where a twenty-something-year-old posed as a high school student to help his sister become popular. He gains instant popularity when he wins a school cafeteria tub-of-coleslaw eating contest and exclaims, “I’m the coleslaw king of the world!!!” I wish I could say that this was just a movie, and that is not how popularity works in high school, but I can’t. I can say, however, that this type of popularity is like building a house of cards—easily collapsible. Later in the movie we see this character turn from hero to zero just as quickly as he became popular, when his identity is discovered. True popularity may take longer to build, but when built with a solid foundation, it can make one’s school years some of the most enjoyable and memorable years of one’s life.
What is so important about being popular? For the most part, it is about acceptance. Acceptance to the average adolescent is much higher on the hierarchy of needs than it is for the average adult. This is one of the main reasons parents and teachers often find it difficult to understand the actions and behaviors of adolescents. Popularity is not only about being accepted, but it’s about being liked or even admired.
Before we discuss specific ways to become popular, let’s dispel some of the myths that most associate with being popular.
- You don’t need to be good looking. In high school, looks certainly can help but are far from a requirement of popularity.
- You don’t need to hang out with the “popular” group. Being popular means not needing to follow the crowd.
- You don’t need to do things you feel are not right. Being popular is about being a leader, not a follower.
- You don’t need to beat up the toughest guy. The goal is not to have others fear you, but like you. It is hard to really like someone when you feel physically threatened by him or her.
- You don’t need to be mean to others. Popularity seems to be associated with being conceited, self-centered, and just plain mean to those who are not as popular. This is only the false popularity that does not last.
True popularity can be gained using the many success principles in this course. It is the kind of popularity that leads to a lifetime of success-centered habits. Although the following suggestions were specifically written with high school students in mind, the same principles can be applied in the work environment for adults.
- Be friendly with everyone. In school, students have a tendency to befriend those who are most like them and ignore everyone else. Students are categorized by other students into groups, and rarely do any students socialize outside their group. Remember that despite the label, everyone is still a person. To be popular, show others that it is okay to socialize and even choose friends outside your own little group.
- See the good in others. Being genuinely friendly with others requires that you learn to see the good, or positive qualities in others while choosing not to focus on their faults. Being human, we all have faults. The key to getting others to like you is by showing genuine interest in them. Looking back to my high school days, I remember deserting many friends because I did not approve of their actions and behaviors. I chose not to bother to focus on the positive qualities of others, which caused resentment in those I deserted, and me to lose the friendship of some really great people.
- Have self-confidence. Self-confidence, or the lack thereof, can easily be detected by others. It is one of the most admirable qualities one can possess in high school and in life. It is the self-confident individual who takes the initiative to meet new people and socialize with potential romantic partners. Those who lack self-confidence usually bond with one who possesses self-confidence as a way for them to enter the social arena. Self-confidence is a must when it comes to popularity.
- Stand up for yourself. Never let others walk all over you. Nine out of ten times, those who bully others and threaten with violence are just big talkers. Bullies prey mostly on the weak minded, not necessarily on those physically weaker. If you stand up for yourself, the bully will most likely move on.
- Be a leader. Being a leader is about standing up for what you believe in and learning how to say no. Never give in to peer pressure. Instead, create your own positive peer pressure by being a positive role model for others to follow. Leaders make their own choices and do things for their own reasons. If you want to win the respect of others, show others that you are not afraid to go against the crowd.
- Don’t talk about others behind their backs. Being kind to others includes being kind to them when they are not there as well. Gossip and backstabbing (figuratively speaking) is commonplace in high school, and you can choose not to participate by simply excusing yourself from any conversation where others are being talked about negatively. Be considerate of the feelings of others.
Reputations can be changed. If you were a little scrawny, geeky kid in the fifth grade, and since then, gained weight and grew up, you first need to lose the old self-image you may still have. Then show others that you are no longer this person through your self-confidence. If you are currently one who is disliked by others because of your attitude or the way you treat others, it is not too late to change. True popularity does not happen overnight, so have patience. Treat others with respect and kindness and work on your self-confidence, and even if you are not considered “popular” by your peers, you will have built a solid foundation for your success and happiness in life, which is far more important.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)