Friday, March 22, 2013

The Popularity Contest

A fine actor once said "Life is like a box of chocolates."  The underlying message is that you never know what you're going to find inside til you bite into it.

That actor was quite right in a lot of ways...but in a lot of ways he was so, so very wrong.

Life is about the never ending popularity contest.  It's no wonder so many of us have issues with our mental health.  The hamster wheel that is this thing called popularity is pretty freaking exhausting.

When we're kids, it's all about how many friends we have.  EVERYONE we know is our BFF.  Then as we get into highschool, BFF's seem to change with the season, but it's all about having the RIGHT friends.  You know, those friends who don't necessarily impress your parents, but sure as hell command all the desired kinds of attention from your peers.  And then as we get into college, university or we start working, we all seem to delude ourselves into thinking "whew.  At least now we can be ourselves, and not worry so much about what other people think of us."  We know who we are, we know who our closest peeps are, and we're perfectly comfortable with not having to reach and manipulate our lives to fit in with the RIGHT crowd.  Bullying miraculously stops right?  And the feelings of inadequacy, well, they are a page in our history books, right?

Until we find out, that's not so much the case.  Then the profs are too judgemental of your work, or your boss just doesn't like you and well, he's in a position to make you pay for whatever off the cuff thing you must have done when you weren't even looking, for a good long time.  Yeah - at least highschool only lasted four years.  Some jobs last a lifetime.

And then there's the people you work with.  They're all seemingly on this race to be most adored by management, well because if you're the most adored and respected member of the team, well, then you get all the perks of annual raises, particularly high bonuses, and promotions.  The brass ring can be yours if the right person takes a shine to you.  And if that's not bad enough, let's look at how parents transfer that onto their children.  Reality is, there is no greater popularity contest in adulthood that is more pervasive than the one between the most perfect stay at home moms and the mom's who also work outside the home.  A working mom more often than not feels woefully inadequate because she misses so much...and it would be a cold day in hell to find a stay at home mom who doesn't relish in reminding that working mom that she didn't miss it.

Who the hell said bullying and popularity contests were for teenagers?  I so wish it were.  I think the world would need a lot less antidepressants if we let it go with our teens.

For the most part, I'm pretty good about not comparing myself to others.  I fail at this miserably sometimes, and I'm certainly not perfect, but as I'm fast approaching my 40th birthday, I'm coming to be very aware of when I do compare myself to others, or feel woefully inadequate at something.  I also notice that I'm more adamant than ever to do things without the aids of networks of people or votes, or that whole social media netting that helps people bolster their self esteem in extremely superficial ways.  I don't need 300 friends in facebook, and I really don't need a pile of work colleagues knowing what I do or say in my private life.  I also don't need to depend on my friends to socialize my writing.  I'm working hard at this to both better my sense of self, improve my mental health and earn my readership full stop on the merits of what I'm messaging.  I want people to find me organically.  I want them to share my words with absolute sincerity.  I don't want to have 300 of my closest personal friends tell their other 300 closest friends to read I can feel you know...more liked and successful.   As a result, none of them even know about this blog.  Not even my husband knows about it.  This is 100%, unedited and completely me.  If people follow along and share me with their friends, well, that's a success I can be fully proud of.

In a way, I suppose it's one of those things I'm doing to maintain my mental health.  In this space, I'm competing only against myself.  This way, it's not a popularity contest, it's about craft, thoughts, and leadership of ideas.  It's about being me, rather than finding my way in or out of some community.

How do you deal with the desire to fit in v. be yourself?  Are you on that hamster wheel, praying someone asks you to sit at the cool kids table in life's cafeteria?

No comments:

Post a Comment