1. You’ll learn rather quickly that while good merit and hard work play roles in determining an outcome, being physically attractive or understood as “popular” can get you rather far in college. With that said, there’s no justifying “nice guys finish last” scenarios, but this is just how things go sometimes. We don’t let nice guys win for a long time, until we let go of the pre-conceived notions surrounding how others perceive us. We don’t want a stranger to hold the door for us as much as we desire the slightest glimpses of attention from a physically attractive individual, regardless of the personality that comes with the package. While the initial appeal of being popular never quite loses its glow, placing a person atop a pedestal ultimately gives that individual a longer ways to fall, increasing the lasting force of impact. We all desire acceptance from others, we’re wired that way. It makes us human, but it can also lead to self-destructive patterns and skew our ability to create a life we can be proud of.
2. Being “popular” in middle school taught me all the wrong things. Possessing a believed superiority made me self-centered and unapologetically ruthless. I had no need to academically define myself because I was defined by my peers’ opinions. It took years to acknowledge the damage I had done to others, as well as myself. People are always telling you, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and they (and Spiderman) are correct. No pre-teen deserves or is entitled to be a reigning dictator, nor will this benefit them in the end.
3. The transition from being cool to being an individual with a life I could be proud of was not “Eat Pray Love,” but I have found that being acutely aware of and responsible for my actions has made me a better person. It took a few unforgivable, muttered comments and unjustified, insensitive remarks towards others to understand how powerful words can be. I also learned the importance of silence and how the damage caused by another’s words is often times irreparable.
4. Being popular was extremely lonely. My phone rang often, and making friends was generally easier for me at first. I did not have to be overly nice or wear an outrageous outfit to get attention. It was just handed to me. Although it had been engrained into my head that nothing great in life would be simply handed to me, this warning never outweighed the high of being popular. I should have known then, but we rarely understand or are able to grapple with these kinds of things until it is far too late. If I sat down with my 15-year-old self, I’d slap her in the face and caution her that she will be extremely weird and accepting of this weirdness in due time.
5. Popularity came with a cost: In order to be well-liked, it meant giving up my true passions and interests in exchange for my peers’ approval. There were times when I desperately needed a friend to be there, or a person to call after dumping my first boyfriend over AOL instant messenger, not a single person was there to pick up the pieces. Of course, I had more likes on my Facebook profile picture and my invitations to parties never got lost in the mail, but these benefits were far outweighed by the feelings of loneliness. Let people love you for who you are, because they will if you just let them.
6. We learn as we grow up, that a majority of the things that we considered life-shatteringly important were never so, and vice versa. It is not until after college that we realize how necessary it is to embrace your surroundings. We learn only after reaching an extremely low point that knowing yourself and building a life you, above all people, truly love are instrumental in the journey of self-discovery. Everyone will tell you that you cannot love another until you love yourself, but we rarely consider this when it comes to our own relationships. Take your own advice, Listen to the quiet voice inside of you when you’re left to make a decision on your own. Consider how central honesty is when it comes to defining yourself. People will judge you by your actions, your appearance, and basically anything of their choosing. However, we are given the ability to define ourselves, apart from others’ opinions and how we define ourselves holds far more weight in the end.
7. Being cool was all right I guess, but the freedom to be myself has served a far greater purpose. Looking back, I’m not very certain why I was popular, other than my willingness to abandon parts of myself to fit the mold of “cool” at the time. I did not fit the mold entirely, but I had myself convinced that other peoples’ approval could lead to happiness. Well, it can’t so that was a letdown. But I found within myself, true happiness that stemmed from accepting who I was completely. I no longer needed a filter for the picture-perfect image I had created, because the flaws and quirks completed me. We often overlook the things we already possess when searching for ourselves. In life, you will find that sometimes the things you truly need have been there the whole time. These things are simply waiting, patiently, for you to embrace them.