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What Does Popularity Really Mean? A UNC Psychologist Explains


When you talk about enjoying the popularity and hanging out with the “crowd,” you probably have nightmares from the days of high school or college when you were trying to fit in. No matter your age, the desire to fit in with society never goes away. Whether in the workplace or within their community, people want to belong and be among the top ranks.

Mitch prinstein has been tackling this issue lately. As a praised psychologist from years of leading the department of psychology at the University of North Carolina, he puts a different spin on a familiar concept.

Many people are prepared to get the popularity card, but instead, they should choose to be nicer. Unfortunately, being popular and being liked are not always the same. How many popular kids did you hate in high school because they had the “it” factor that you didn’t?

Also, those who are part of the “crowd” often look down on others and bully children. They feel superior, and many have an aura of evil because they feel untouchable.

Now the nice person was different. People wanted to be around them regardless of their social affiliation because they made others feel good. They were cheerful or told the best stories and made you feel comfortable. Why do adults still struggle to be popular when it doesn’t matter so much?

Your desire for popularity comes from childhood

Unbelievably, many people want to be popular because they feel it ensures their place in life, and most of these wishes date back to their childhood. Both popularity and sympathy usually start in elementary school.

The nice guy does all he can to help others, and he cuts through social classifications and sees the real person. They want to create harmony and offer their peers their leadership and an example to do the right thing.

As a child ages and approaches preadolescence, things begin to change. The brain has a reward center that craves things like attention and visibility. It seems that when a person reaches puberty, these things become more critical than before.

Surprisingly, those with superior status in middle and high school are more likely to get in trouble and take risks. According to studies Mitch prinstein explains that difficulties in relationships are commonplace because they do whatever it takes to fill the length to fit.

Sympathy gains

The nice person is very supportive. While it seems to be so important in childhood, it is even more critical when looking for work or wanting to choose a love interest. If you were an employer looking for a new hire, did you care if they were popular in high school?

Sure, it might look good on the resume that a person was in Honor Society or played soccer, but those things don’t mean much in the real world. However, if a person comes to the interview with a smile and has a sweet and caring nature, it is something that strikes a chord with employers.

Another thing to consider is that those who are nice tend to live longer than popular people. Your brain is programmed to obsess over popularity. It started at the dawn of time, although the concept was a bit different. When a person was separated from his pack, it was more dangerous as it could cause injury.

Your body still has this mindset and programming that has been passed down from generation to generation. You automatically fear that being in the unpopular crowd could cause you some harm, and it’s hard to break those social norms when your body and brain are working in overdrive.

How to stop excessive desire for social status

How can you redirect your brain to stop seeking popularity and focus on being more likable? Certain parts of the brain respond to being noticed. Interestingly, the same area of ​​the brain stimulated by being popular is also stimulated when helping others.

When you go out of your way to help someone in need, the reward centers in the brain kick in and make you feel good. One could say that being popular and liking it will “scratch the same internal itch”. If teachers and parents could help make children more likable rather than popular, it could change their lives.

Four essential things go through a child’s mind on a daily basis, and these are the things that those who shape the next generation should focus on.

1. Acceptance

Children have insecurities about themselves because they are still trying to figure out who they are. You don’t solve everything until you are an adult and have matured. However, the surest way to feel the acceptance they need is by choosing the right group to join.

The “in the crowd” is where everyone wants to be. He’s the person who’s never short on prom dates, and they are always chosen for all the great things in school. These feelings are completely normal and all humans struggle to fit in.

However, a kid should be taught that he can blend in without running around with cool kids. Often times it’s cool kids who get into trouble and do risky and even dangerous things. There is nothing wrong with being nice and not getting into trouble.

2. Attention

One of the reasons kids like to be cool is because it makes them notice. Childhood is accompanied by many insecurities, and when you are in the crowd, it helps to validate your position. You can feel better about yourself based on your associations.

There should be lessons on self-esteem that are taught at a young age. Children don’t need external sources to give them good esteem. There is no reason to wait for people to look at you. Attention seeking behaviors are only there to make you feel left out.

How many times have you heard a teenager obsess over the number of friends or “likes” they have on social media? The more friends they have on these social media platforms, the better they feel about themselves. Is this why some girls dress provocatively because they need validation and attention?

3. Separation

When you think of being cool, you remember when you were a maverick and you felt great on this streak. Have you ever seen a teenager dye their hair pink, purple, blue, or some other color? They are obviously trying to find where they fit in and want to be noticed.

It is normal that wearing a certain item of clothing or listening to a specific type of music can influence your social position.

4. The Ego

The need for attention, acceptance and popularity is part of building the ego. The ego is formed during adolescence and helps to forge an identity. This little wish within each individual’s brain wants to be cool because it makes them feel accepted.

Who doesn’t want to feel like they belong? It certainly doesn’t feel good to be an outcast. This sense of self worth It helps establish power and ego, and in these times, a person will discover his true self.

What about the unpopular crowd?

The unpopular crowd is often afraid of having problems for life. They fear not fitting in with social norms and will feel marginalized.

Remember, they don’t have popularity or sympathy on your side because people don’t give them a chance.

However, the child who suffers to find his place in life does not mean that he will always be unhappy..

Some of the things you went through as a teenager will give you a psychological advantage when you reach adulthood.

Although the social outcast may feel bad and yearn for some popularity, he learns many lessons that suit him well. First, they learn sensitivity and how it feels to be left out. As adults, they can work hard to ensure that those around them never feel this way.

How many times have people returned to high school reunions and saw that the athlete was no longer the same person as before? Better yet, the chess player who got so caught up in all of a sudden owns a multibillion dollar corporation. The likability factor has a lot to do with making money as an adult.

Nobody wants to buy something from someone who was popular but has no knack for people. He is the nice sales professional who could sell anything to anyone, as he has a knack for people.

Final thoughts on being attractive versus popularity

It is normal for a person to strive to be popular. Nobody wants to go through life feeling like an outcast with few friends. However, instead of focusing on popularity, it is critical to focus on the likability factor.

Being nice has many benefits and it is hard to ignore them. You can get a job more easily when your personality and demeanor are friendly. Second, you can use your charm to win more friends. Who does not want a friend who is kind, affectionate, who shares, and go out of their way to be nice?





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