Back in May, I read a Newsweek article about popularity. A psychologist from the University of Virginia conducted a study and found that a child’s actual popularity may not be the only indicator of social success later in life. It turns out that believing you’re popular just may be enough. According to the article, this finding is consistent with “a growing body of research suggesting that our perception of how we fit into the social world is just as important – if not more important – than our real-life position in the social world.”
After watching more than a dozen hours of Freaks and Geeks, a show focusing on the brutal realities of life outside high school’s popular crowd, I’m convinced this is true. The times the characters (both freaks and geeks) were most conflicted was when they pondered their status, figuring out with what group of people they belonged and what that said about them as individuals. Toward the end of the series, Sam (a freshman and a sci-fi-loving geek, despite his brief relationship with a cheerleader) started feeling bad about his nerdiness, while Lindsay spent the entire series searching for her identity with the mathletes, the burnouts and the Deadheads.
The idea that how we see ourselves determines our level of satisfaction or success also makes sense when I compare my memories of high school with those of my friends. At our class reunion a couple years ago, the subject of popularity (predictably) came up. I had to laugh when we realized that while several of my friends didn’t consider us to be popular back in the day, I did. And that fact may just explain why my memories of high school are a little rosier than some of theirs!
Disclaimer: I am not in any way saying I was, indeed, the most popular girl in school. After all, I can’t pretend like nominating myself for Homecoming queen – and then not actually getting a nomination – just didn’t happen. (I know. Sad story.) But I had a lot of friends and we had a lot of fun, and for me, that’s good enough.
With that in mind (the study and its findings, not my debatable popularity), consider the impact our thinking can have on us long-term. The way our perceptions – whether they’re accurate or not – can build us up or drag us down. The way our own minds can betray us and hurt us…or support us and empower us.
In my more rational moments, I have to admit that this power we have over ourselves and the way we so often use it with bad effects is crazy! We are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Holy God! So what is my problem?
See, even though I have a pretty good handle on a few aspects of my life and my status and my position in the social world, I still struggle mightily with negative self-talk and assuming that I’m less [insert desirable quality here] than I really am. I don’t think I’m the only one, so I’m tossing around some ideas about how to use the community we have here in the blogosphere to tackle this issue. So stay tuned. I’ll be posting my grand scheme – I mean, ideas – soon.
Oh, and Carlos the Dwarf? That’s the D&D character that bad boy Daniel Desario got when he spent an evening with the geeks. Throughout most the series, Daniel bought into the belief that he was an outsider, a loser, a waste of space. But when he stopped listening to the cloud of voices telling him he was stupid for one night, he learned that he possessed the ability to succeed – and rescue the princess – all along.