Do I want to be popular?

When you’ve got good friends who make you happy, what more could you want? This middle-schooler asks our elder if she’s missing out.

Dear EWC:

I know this may sound stupid, but something’s been really bothering me ever since I started middle school. I’m currently in the 8th grade and this all started during the beginning of 7th grade, which is um a long time ago from now already.

Anyways, I go to a private school, and yeah some people in here can be um, how should I put it… let’s just say they get on my nerves. They’re those pretty popular girls who get all the attention, and they have those lives that everyone envies. I had an opportunity to become one of them during the beginning of school, but I threw that chance away, because I decided to stay with my close and true friends. I currently only have 4 to 5 really close friends in this entire school, and frankly that doesn’t bother me really much. I love spending time with them, whenever I’m with them I just feel so happy and lucky to have them. But during those times when they’re not here, I start to realize how alone I am without them.

I still have a chance to join those popular girls, and maybe make my life a bit happier, because this problem is really hurting my own confidence and self-esteem. At the same time, I don’t want to leave my group of close friends, because I really love them so much. I don’t know what I should do, I know that I wont be truly happy while hanging with the popular girls, but NOT hanging with them just makes me feel like a loser with no life. Should I go make friends with the people that are able to elevate my popularity status? I really don’t want to ditch my friends, because I really love them so much, but at the same time I just want to be confident and happy.

Any tips on how to do that? Thank you 🙂
Catherine replies:

Every once in a while, I will read a letter from a person who is so bright and self-aware that it is clear they already know what to do, they just want someone else to reinforce their thinking. Yours is one of those letters.

The popular girls get on your nerves. Yes, they’re on everyone’s radar, and, yes, from the outside, they seem to have perfect lives that everyone envies. In truth, though, you don’t know what their lives are really like. What you DO know is that you don’t enjoy spending time with them. You aren’t drawn to them. The only reason you are thinking of joining their group is to elevate your popularity status.

You have four or five close friends. You have said that whenever you are with your good friends you feel fortunate and happy. To trade in your friends for a chance at popularity would be a bad bargain. Here’s the crux of the issue, though. You write that on occasions when your friends aren’t there, you start to realize how alone you are without them. The thing is, we are all alone at times, no matter how many good friends we have. You can feel alone surrounded by people. One of the tricks in life is to enjoy time alone. You might try to cultivate your enjoyment of alone time through short periods of time you purposefully spend by yourself.

You asked how you could feel confident and happy? You are already happy with your friend group, so I think you’d be wise to stick with them. In regard to confidence, it comes in several ways. First, follow your gut. You knew what you felt was the right thing to do in this instance, for example. Don’t back down from what you believe is right. People will respect you and that will help you to feel more confident. Second, work at your skills and interests. The better we become in our areas of interest, the more confident we feel. True self-esteem comes from competence.

I hope my advice proves helpful. Please feel free to write again to let me know how matters resolve. I care.

Friendship #461442

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