Updated: Apr 27
There are lots of different opinions about being cool, being popular and being liked. Some people will say it’s not important, some will say it doesn’t matter. Some will say there’s more to life. I’m going to be honest with you. Being cool, popular and being liked is important. Very important.
What’s more important, however, is WHO you are popular with, WHO thinks you’re cool and WHO likes you. These people become your tribe. Your tribe can be filled with people who can make your life better, people that can make your life ok, or people that add very little to your life – and perhaps even make your life worse. Sometimes we need to take a step back and ask “why am I trying to impress you? How does you thinking I’m cool really affect my life? Positively? Or negatively?”
“Why do I want you in my tribe?”
Take your average teenager. They try so hard to be cool, popular and liked by their peers, but sometimes this means behaving in ways that make them unpopular with parents, teachers and employers. The question that I ask the young people in my life is “will being popular with your friends help you or hinder you, in the long term? Or will being popular and liked by your parents and your teachers actually do more for you? Who is best to be part of your tribe?”
Now don’t get me wrong, being popular and liked by as many people as possible is the best outcome, because then you’ve then got an army of people supporting you. But if being popular with one audience makes you unpopular with another, you best make sure you’re choosing the right one to be popular with. Your current tribe might well be letting you down.
A young person close to me is in this quandary at the moment. He’s bright, articulate and mature, but he’s behaving in ways that are making him popular with his peers and decidedly unpopular with his teachers and his parents. Social norms have determined who he sees as his current tribe – his friends. My questions to him are around how conscious a choice that has been for him. Did he CHOOSE this tribe, or just fall into it? And if the only way to impress this tribe is to piss other people off, is this tribe helping him or hindering him?
Now of course it’s important that he have a peer group. No teenager is ever going to shun friends completely for parents and teachers, and we shouldn’t wish them to. But could he CHOOSE his peer group based on who will bring out the best in him, not the worst? Or better still, could HE be the member of his peer group that brings out the best in others - using his popularity to positively benefit his tribe?
I’ve learned over the years to be a bit pickier about the relationships that I cultivate, and to be more deliberate in how I come across to people. I adapt my style to be as relatable as I can be to others. I choose my words carefully, and I share appropriately. I think about how others can enrich my life and how I can enrich theirs. Ultimately, I want to impress people that matter to me, that enhance my life and that hold me in high regard. I want my tribe to elevate me, so I choose my tribe wisely. Others will want me in their tribe for the same reasons.
So it IS important that we are popular, cool and liked. But there are two conditions:
1. We’re being ourselves - true to our self and the best version of our self that will yield us the best possible results in the future, and also attract the best possible people to be part of our tribe.
2. The people who we try to impress – the people in our tribe - can make our life better. They have the power to support us and to elevate us, long term, and they won’t hold us back in any way.
So first choose your tribe. Choose the people that will bring out the very best in you and that you bring out the very best in – and THEN do all you can to be cool and popular with them.
Anyone else will just hold you back.