Important To Be Popular?

We all like to be liked. If we feel that we’re not, we think there’s something wrong with us – that we’re not smart, or good looking enough, or that things would be different if we’d made the varsity team or had a car.


Being liked by a lot of people means being popular. When you’re popular, people accept you and pay attention to you. And right or wrong, our society stresses that it’s important to be popular. On this page, we’ll try to explain why it sometimes seems to be especially important to feel popular during the teen years. We’ll also suggest some right and wrong ways to go about becoming more popular.

When someone lets you know he or she likes you, they’re saying “Hey, you’re O.K.!” This is just what most young people need to hear, because the adolescent period is a time when we really aren’t all that sure that we are O.K. For one, we’re starting to form our own ideas and opinions about a lot of things, rather than just accept those of our parents and teachers, as we’ve always done. Some of these ideas and opinions may seem weird or frightening to us and we feel bad or guilty for thinking them. If we express them to other people, we often get put down.

Sometimes we do or say things that shock or hurt other people. That’s only natural, we’re just starting to learn about ourselves and others, and are bound to make some mistakes. But when we do, we may feel that the people we’ve hurt or embarrassed may never like us again.

Our bodies are into weird trips too, right now, and we may not like the way we look, or worry about what others think about the way we look.

The point of all of this is that during the teen years, we rely on our peers for reassurance that we’re likable human beings, because we’re not that sure about it ourselves. When other people seem to accept us, approve of us and pay attention to us. we start liking ourselves. We gain self confidence. We become more satisfied with the things we think, say and do. We start thinking that the way we look may be O.K., too.

But there are wrong and right ways to go about becoming more popular. Going about it the wrong way will get you false popularity rather than being genuinely liked for yourself. You might think that if you get into a status group at school, for example, all your popularity problems would be solved. Or if you put out sexually, you’d have more dates. Or if you were really nice to people and paid them a lot of compliments, they’d have to be grateful and like you. Or if you worked at being funny, others would enjoy being around you. Or if you got into dope and booze, you might get invited to more parties.

When you use methods like these, you create a picture of yourself that people will react to. It’s not the real you they’re reacting to, though, but the false picture that you’ve created. Ask yourself what would happen if that group dropped you, or if you decided that having sex with just about everyone who asked was really messing up your mind? Or what if people suspected that you really didn’t mean those nice things you said about them? What if the strain of always trying to be funny eventually got you down? Suppose you couldn’t handle the booze or the dope?

If you’d rather have people like you for yourself, there are certain positive things you can do. Being part of a group can make it easier for you to feel accepted and liked. But the key is to find a group that’s right for you. What the group’s into should reflect what you’re into. You shouldn’t have to change yourself to be accepted. If you fake to get in, you’ll slip up some day and be dropped. And if you can’t be yourself when you’re with your friends you’ll be uncomfortable.

Maybe you’re not especially interested in belonging to a group, but you’d still like to be more popular. How can you do that? One of the best things you can do is to be yourself. This means something different for each of us, because we’re all different from one another. One way to be yourself is to stand up for the things you believe in. Don’t be afraid, for example, to express your ideas and feelings. This doesn’t mean pushing yourself on others. Be honest with others. If you falsely flatter them, they won’t necessarily like you. But they will probably become suspicious and wonder what you want from them.

Another thing you might work on, is to try to be more outgoing. This may sound hard, especially if you think the reason you’re not popular is because you’re so shy. But it’s not all that hard if you think of being outgoing as going out of your way to be more interested in people and talking to them — rather than waiting for them to talk to you.

Feeling that we’re popular is important to everyone, but it seems to be especially important during our teen years because that’s when we really need some positive feedback about ourselves. If you think you’d like to be more popular, avoid doing those things that will get you false popularity – like faking it to get into a status group, or getting into booze or dope to get invited on dates or to parties. Try finding a group in which you feel comfortable. Let other people know what kind of person you really are. Be more outgoing by becoming interested in others and taking the initiative in talking to them.

Try to remember too, there is life after high school.

For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.