Journeys with Julie- Popularity Contests

It doesn’t matter if you’re still in high school or not. Popularity contests still exist. When I was a teenager, they most often appeared in the form of a “friends’ list” on AIM or MySpace Profiles that asked you to rank/list your top 10 friends. In college, it was whether or not you got invited to a party or got accepted into a certain sorority or fraternity.  Today, it’s whether or not you’re included in the office staff party or the office survey that asks you to name your favorite ____________ (fill in the applicable title here).

Much to my dismay, I was hoping these sorts of contests stopped in high school. But with social media and our increasingly egocentric community, it seems popularity contests are here to stay.  I think part of the reason for this is that our society has come to thrive on achievements and titles, however empty or meaningless they might be. In addition, because we now have Facebook, Twitter, etc. there are about a 1000 different ways of knowing whether you’ve been included or left out of a certain event or group. Third, media has taught us to rank everything, right down to the nail polish worn by celebrities. Finally, I think there’s a part of us all that wants to be liked and appreciated by those around us and every once in a while we like to receive validation of that. But, here’s what I have to say:

  • Popularity does not always equate to being a good person or a good employee. I was told recently that I should view working with children as a parenting type role. Parents aren’t out to be their child’s best friend. They are there to guide and nurture children while also enforcing the rules. Being their kids’ best friend is a relationship that’s earned in time.
  • There is a difference between being liked vs. being respected. These traits are not mutually exclusive, but in order to gain respect, you sometimes have to make decisions that aren’t the most popular.
  • So what if you’re not named employee of the year or given the title of someone’s best friend? This doesn’t make you or the work you do any less important.
  • You should still value what your coworkers, friends, bosses, kids, etc. have to say, but don’t let one opinion or one group override how you feel about yourself. This one seems so simple, but I often let one person or group’s opinion of me monopolize my thoughts to the point where I’m nearing a total breakdown.

-Julie Wagenblast
Lead Her Intern, Campus Calm™

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