If you’re like me and grew up with high school movies such as High School Musical, you grew up with a running narrative that success in middle school or high school meant being part of the popular crowd. The popular kids were the happiest and the prettiest, and popularity was the end goal of your school career. However, I can tell you first hand that being popular is not as amazing as this narrative makes it sound.
First, and perhaps most obviously, there is a lack of privacy. As one of the populars, your life is a public spectacle for your classmates. I would compare it to being famous, but I found that popular kids were not always the role models. In fact, in some cases, our peers even went out of their way to avoid us. Your life is on display and adamantly gossiped about, but a lot of that talk is negative.
I also found that those who are members of this group are often wrapped up in what their friends think of them. In striving to be the kind of person they think fits in, popular kids often end up hurting people along the way. I got so involved in trying to prove myself to my friends that I ended up hurting people who were never anything but kind to me. If I could go back and change that, I would in a heartbeat. However, I can’t, so I strive to make myself a better person today than I was in the past. Every now and then, though, I still get waves of guilt. I am not proud of who I was as a popular kid.
I lost friends as well – those I left in the dust when I rose to the popular crowd without so much as a goodbye. I didn’t make the effort to spend time with them anymore because all that mattered was spending time with people who would maintain my social status among the students of my middle school. Some friends waited for me to come to my senses and stop acting the way I did, but others didn’t have that patience. I certainly don’t blame them. In retrospect, I don’t think popularity was worth losing my good friends.
Being popular, even for a little bit, gave me a false sense of superiority that I didn’t have. I wasn’t better than anyone, but for a while, I felt like I was. If anything, the way I acted -arrogant and cold – actually made me worse than my peers.
When I transferred schools, I learned what it was like to be unpopular again. Honestly, it was great. I had genuine friends again, who didn’t expect me to live up to their standards. They let me be who I wanted to be. I made a conscious change in my behavior and my grades rose. Becoming unpopular was, to use a cliche phrase, a blessing in disguise.
In the end, having been part of the popular crowd did not increase my chance of success in life. In fact, it may have hindered it. I spent more time focused on what it took to be popular than what it took to keep my grades up or maintain a good relationship with my family. To our readers in high school: I urge you to be proud of who you are, popular or not. Celebrate the strengths you have and focus on yourself. In the end, you are the only person whose opinion truly matters.
“Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.”
-Cady Heron, Mean Girls