Popularity can come at a steep a price. The goal of being liked and admired by countless people can practically become a full time job.
Once we are out of grade school, popularity takes on a whole new meaning. With social media being so dominant in our culture, popularity can now translate to the number of likes and comments on your posts. It can also add extra pressure to make sure your life is one big fabulous photo op to give off the impression that you are killing it!
Now, I’m not here to write off true, meaningful friendships. We all need friends to experience that sense of community, understanding and fun. But once you find yourself adjusting things about yourself to appeal to the masses, you’ve really got to take a look inside and ask yourself if it’s all worth it.
One day, I finally decided that it wasn’t.
I was fresh out of college and beginning my life in the “real world”. My first real job was working for a popular TV show and I was out on my own for the first time. I had a massive group of girlfriends from college that made serious efforts to keep in contact regularly, and go on girl’s trips often.
From all outward appearances I was thriving. I had all the Instagram posts, hash tags, inside jokes and vacation pics down.
But despite all these seemingly great things in my life, I found myself feeling unhappy and drained all the time- and I had no idea why.
I decided I was going to try and get to the bottom of it. So, my plan was to stop and pay close attention to when I felt my happiest and when I felt drained.
It wasn’t long before I realized that one of the times I felt my absolute worst was after a long weekend with “the girls” (spent with me and seventeen of my closest friends).
For starters, I realized that I am not the kind of person who can have 17 best friends, nor did I want to be.
Most of these relationships were surface level and shallow. For me, this was totally draining. I spent entire weekends carrying on conversations I had no interest in, and having to put up a front that I was someone other than who I truly was.
I got the impression I had to like what the group liked, wear what the group wore and laugh at what the group thought was funny. I felt alone and awkward in my own skin.
I was spending all my time (and money I didn’t have) with so many other people because I thought this was the normal thing to do.
This one realization opened my eyes to the concept that maybe all of these things I was doing to stay relevant and keep my calendar booked weren’t so great after all.
Finally, I came to my own bold decision- I didn’t care about being popular if it meant sacrificing my joy.
I craved real, meaningful friendships. I didn’t want to have to match my outfit with everyone else, so we could take a great picture. If I couldn’t give 100% of my time to somebody, I needed that friend to understand I was trying my best.
It turns out, the older I got, the more introverted I became.
Alone time became my favorite time. I needed this time by myself to figure out what I liked to do. I was so wrapped up in the group, that I never even explored what made me happy as an individual.
So, I started implementing these small changes in my life and noticed a change:
Learn to Say “No”
Stretching myself thin to please other people was never going to make me happy. I needed to set aside time for myself to relax.
Learn the difference between events that are important (supporting friends and family for achievements and life events) and events that are not (going out to a big, expensive group dinner because someone’s sister I’ve never met was in town).
Say yes to the important events, but learn to say no to the other stuff.
Stop Doing Things Because it Makes Other People Happy
This is not to be misconstrued as never doing anything nice for anyone else; that’s not what this is about! It’s about learning to quit making other people happy at your own expense.
Let me explain… for me, this meant quitting binge drinking and “hanging out” with my friends every hour of every weekend.
I felt a ton of pressure from everyone around me to drink heavily every Friday-Sunday (I’m talking shots-shots-shots-shots).
I had terrible hangovers constantly, and on top of it ate crap food in an attempt to feel better.
Truth was, this was getting old. Now that I wasn’t in college anymore, this was not what I wanted to be doing with my two days off the entire week.
I wanted to wake up in the morning and feel good. I wanted to get outside, be productive, and be healthy. Making the most of my precious time off was actually my favorite thing to do. In a way, I’m kind of addicted to feeling good.
Quit worrying about what others will think, or what’s popular, and just do you!
Surround Yourself with People Who Inspire You
You should surround yourself with people who make you feel most like yourself. They should bring out the best in you. The people in our lives should encourage us to be the best version of ourselves we can be!
Do you want to be like the people you surround yourself with? If the answer is no, you need to think twice about who you are spending your time with.
If you cut out all the extra noise and invest your time in people who truly support and understand you, you will experience the greatest gift of all.
The older we get, the more valuable our time becomes. Don’t settle for any relationship that is less than you deserve.
Spend a Little Alone Time with Yourself
When I did this, I went big. I went to Europe by myself to get away from it all.
But for the first time, I was alone with my thoughts and myself. I went wherever I wanted to go- on my own time. I talked to strangers who didn’t know anything about me. This allowed me to reinvent myself into whoever I wanted to be.
When I was by myself, I learned to appreciate all the good things I had in life. It became clear to me what was important, and what was extra baggage.
Spending alone time with yourself doesn’t have to be as drastic as this- it could be going to the beach, going out to eat or going to see a movie by yourself.
As long as you are doing something alone, you are doing it right!
Your relationship with yourself is so important, and it needs to be nourished like any of your other relationships. You can’t give others the best part of you if you never pay attention to your self!
Once I decided I was going to give up being “popular”, I was OK with the fact that living my truth might have some repercussions. I might not be the most likable, or the most “liked” on Instagram, but the most important thing to me was that I was happy.
Implementing these changes into my own life has proven to be incredibly freeing.
Of course, there were some things I said goodbye to along the way. Some friendships have dissolved, I am no longer invited on all the annual girl’s trip (I’m really OK with this one). I am not the girl who goes to some wedding every weekend. And I am definitely not the girl who gets hundreds of “omg you are so perf I could die” comments on my Instagram posts.
But what I can say for sure is that I have gained an even deeper appreciation for the true friendships I’ve made and maintained over the years. I’ve experienced the most respectful, deep and loving romantic relationship of my life. I have gained confidence in who I am. I know what I like and just as importantly, I know what I don’t like.
And honestly, this self-awareness kind of makes me feel like a bad ass.