This post is a little different from my usual content! Nathan Brown has written a guest post below on the concept of popularity and the effects it can have on mental health and well being. I hope you enjoy!
Popularity… what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!
We all grow up. That much is certain. It’s that yearly, monthly, or daily challenge that all of us, boy or girl, fat or thin, short or tall, black or white have to face in our early adolescence, framed within the walls of our school rooms and those of our own homes.
For myself, growing up was something of a chore, an uncomfortable, difficult and infuriating process that felt very much controlled by the concept of popularity and the power it can hold. So, here follows a brief discussion of everything wrong with being crowned popular, and the virtues we should adopt in its place.
Popularity is as much a construct in itself as beauty and fame are. People can become trendy, much like a pop song, or a cult tv series, whether or not they have any genuine value or worth in how they act or what they say. The concept of popularity begins at the start of your primary school career, yet it takes some time for cliques and groups to be forged, from the cool kids and the rest. I was certainly in the latter. But now that I am 23 and what is considered a fully fledged adult, I’ve learned to appreciate the benefits it has bestowed upon me, intentionally or unintentionally.
It struck me when I began to plot out this article that much of our youth and our education from 4-18 is informed by our popularity as kids. Of course, it is no one persons fault for this and there is no blame to be bare. Yet, for me personally, I still struggle to feel included and comfortable within a group of people considered popular, whether they’re as welcoming and inclusive as possible, I am never at ease, forever at tenterhooks with myself and my thoughts of what they might think of me privately.
I am sure at some point, each and every one of us has felt uneasy within a certain posse of people, and we needn’t feel so. It is foolhardy to the extreme to not feel able to talk and converse with anyone and everyone. Being the 90’s and 00’s generation, mental health issues are perhaps as prevalent and ripe as they have ever been, in what is becoming a worry trend amongst the youth of this country. Popularity most certainly has played its part. Body image issues, self harm, social anxiety, and countless other conditions can easily be linked to how you are perceived at school.
They’re all under a similar sphere and all so difficult to tackle and overcome, which is why it is so vital during the formative years we all experience, the puberty years especially, to stick together and be supportive to one another, putting aside our social stereotypes and popularity complexes. To use myself as an example, and to remain as brief as possible in talking about myself. I was bullied heavily from the ages of 4 to 18, and still to this day I don’t truly understand the reasons why. But, my body image and internal confidence in my personality and my ability to make friends aren’t what they could be as a result. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always worried about what people think about me, or say behind my back, always fearing their kindness is masked within a joke, or some form of prank. It’s daft, I know. But it very much highlights the point, popularity can be so highly damaging to anyone.
Of course, being popular is often linked to confidence and self belief. Being confident in today’s society is an incredible test of personal and mental strength, with so many ‘perfect’ celebrities and public figures who the media have deemed almost godlike. There are girls wishing they could have the figure and features of Kim Kardashian, and lads who believe having the baseless confidence of Connor McGregor makes you something of a legend. Neither are achievable or necessary images to pursue. It really is as unhealthy to you as drinking a whole bottle of Vodka within the hour. We all should, and we all can, feel confident and content within our own skin. It just takes some teamwork and perseverance.
I understand that every human, popular or unpopular will come across body issues, mental health struggles and battles mentally and physically that they will have to fight and overcome and I respect anyone and everyone that has done so. That is one thing we all have in common, and something I would eagerly like to stress.
Popularity creates bullying, and anxiety within us, and that is inescapable. It is a concept that should have never existed, but perhaps it’s a prerequisite of being a human being. Some will be liked, others less so. Despite this I pray one day, before I’m 91 years of age and casting my mind back to 1995 and the timeline that is my life from there onward, I hope the kids in all the schools have found a way to get along from the off, and not judge or dissipate one another. We are all trying to live our lives as happily as possible, and we spend far too much time disliking and judging others for doing exactly that.
I for one, see no use in the notion of popularity, and I hope maybe, now you don’t too.
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