Be Yourself – Don't Worry about Popularity!
Nate Waters wrote us about how a friend of his learned not to pay too much attention to what other people think of him.
Throughout middle schools and high schools, there are many different groups and cliques of kids who roam the halls. One group usually seems to be the most popular, and striving to be part of that group is a major issue with teens.
At my old school, popularity was a huge deal. The popular or "cool" kids always hung out with each other, went to "cool" parties, and sometimes even declared themselves to be better than everyone else. If people were not popular, it seemed like the end of the world for them.
Lots of people tried to change themselves to be popular. They would abandon their old friends, buy new clothes, talk differently (usually using swear words more often), and even walk differently! They would lose the individuality they once had. But in their attempts to be like the popular kids, they wouldn't really be better.
This happened to a friend of mine. He was a really nice person and had a group of friends who liked him. But he abandoned them to be like the popular kids. They were not friendly or nice to him at all. They told him he wasn't cool enough or athletic enough. They made fun of him, and he would accept their torment and abuse. Even girls were mean enough to tease my friend.
The Bible says that "my judgment is just" (John 5:30). To me, this says that we shouldn't rely on other people's judgments or opinions, care what others think, or let other people judge us. We should only let God judge us, because He has created us. I sure wished my friend didn't care that other people judged him or told him he was not good enough. It was especially hard to hear these words from a group of people who thought they were better than other people and made fun of others.
The Bible also says that "the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken "(Prov 3: 26). People can be confident because they are individuals and express unique qualities. So if someone knows himself well, there really is no reason for him to listen when others say that he isn't cool or popular. We all can have confidence in ourselves. We're not in the business of criticizing other people's unique qualities.
Just think about what Jesus went through. He endured persecution from many people. Some people accused him of awful deeds. But it wasn't true; his good deeds were twisted by those who hated him. The Bible says people even tried to stone him. No matter how many times people "took up stones again to stone him" (John 10: 31) or tried to hurt him, Jesus did not change who he was. He was not affected by their stones. Jesus continued to preach the word of God right in front of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who eventually had him crucified. Jesus was an individual who practiced what he preached. He said, "Heal the sick, cast out demons, and cleanse the lepers" (Matt 10:8 ESV).
If people would have the mindset of Jesus, they wouldn't strive to be popular and wouldn't care what other people think of them. They would continue to be individuals and express their unique God-given qualities.
My friend finally realized he needed to be himself. He stopped caring what other people thought of him, and decided to express his own qualities. This change made such a positive difference in his life.
We would all benefit from having the mindset of Jesus and realize that only God's concept of us matters. If we all stopped caring about what other people thought of us and instead focused on being kind,
- bullying would not exist;
- gangs would not exist;
- kids would not tease others about their looks, skills, ethnicity, or other things (and kids would not go home crying because of this);
- illegal drug use would decline because peer-pressure would not be put on teens to be cooler or hang out with a certain clique;
- we really could live in harmony.
Teenagers have the chance to see the world as God saw it when He created it: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good"(Gen 1:31).
When entering a new school, we should search for people of similar interests to them, such as sports or music, rather than searching for the most popular group. If our focus is on being popular, we might try to be someone we're not. We really can find friends who we can trust – not friends who can give us temporary popularity, but friends who will be good friends in the long run, no matter what happens.