Sunday, May 22, 2016

When You're the Unpopular Kid in School

You Fear Whispering

When you were in school, every time you walked into the classroom the group of girls huddled in the corner would start whispering and giggling and saying mean things about you. As an adult every time you see a group of people speaking in hushed tones and occasionally giggling, you assume they're talking about you. After all, that's what it always meant before.

You Become the Teacher's Pet

The other kids have rejected you, but you know there's one person in that classroom who can't reject you. It's her job to love you unconditionally, so you get to a point where you'd rather stay in from recess and spend time with the teacher than go outside where no one likes you. As an adult you get a job and do everything in your power to please your boss. You work late. You run errands. You go above and beyond what's expected of you because you know your boss doesn't have to accept you. He can reject you at any moment, and you'll do almost anything to keep that from happening.

You Have a Hard Time Delegating Authority

As a kid, every time you went up to someone you didn't know very well, they told you to go away because they didn't want to play with you. Initiating conversations meant guaranteed rejection, and if you happened to make the mistake of touching someone, you also had the pleasure of watching them wipe off your cooties. As an adult you don't like to ask anyone to do anything for you, even if it's part of your job, because delegating requires initiating conversations and initiating conversations means setting yourself up for rejection.

It's Difficult to Maintain Friendships

When you were in school, the question wasn't if they'd stop wanting to be your friend, but when. As an adult, you pray that your friends won't leave you, but you wait for it to happen nonetheless. An unreturned phone call, a cancelled lunch date, or an invitation to your home that isn't followed up quickly by a return invitation are all signs that the person doesn't want to be friends with you anymore. You become so terrified that your suspicions are correct that you stop trying to be that person's friend.

You Wonder What You Did Wrong

You remember that as a kid you picked your nose, or you failed to clean under your fingernails, or you wore a hand-me-down shirt that was a little too threadbare. There was some event that caused all the other kids to abandon you, and you knew you had only yourself to blame. As an adult you look at yourself and see a mature, responsible individual. You're not the same person you were back then, and neither are the other people your age. You're better at fitting in and they're better at accepting the differences of others. So when someone does reject you, you beat your head against the wall and wonder why. Haven't you worked really hard to make sure this sort of thing will never happen again? You're tempted to think that there is some part of who you are that is just fundamentally unlovable.

You Don't Trust What Your Parents Tell You

It's confusing as heck to have your mother fix your hair in the morning and tell you that you're the most beautiful little girl in the world and then go to school and have everyone else tell you how ugly you are. You weigh the word of your mother against the word of everyone else and conclude that it must be your mother who is wrong.

It's Easy to Forgive

Kids are kids, and kids can be mean. You know that you're not the same person you were when you were eight years old, and neither is anyone else. How can you hold a grudge against someone who doesn't even exist anymore?

You Have a Soft Spot for Other Social Outcasts

You have forgiven the people who teased you all those years ago, but you don't have to forgive the people who are still doing it to others now. Nothing bothers you more than seeing someone pushed out of their social circle just for being...well...themselves.

The Grown-Ups Just Don't Get It

Okay, your teacher gets it because she sees it everyday, but family members and friends of your parents don't understand at all. They'll playfully ask, "Do you have a boyfriend?" and when you respond, "All the boys pick on me," they say, "Oh, if they pick on you that means they like you!" It most certainly does not mean they like you.

You're Fine, Most of the Time

You don't think about elementary school twenty-four hours a day. You don't have nightmares in which the other kids surround you and sing that song. You know that song. The one where they changed the lyrics so they could sing it to you and let you know what a worthless individual you were. Yeah, you hated that song back then, but now you rarely think of it. After all, everyone has grown up and life has moved on. But sometimes...when you hear whispering...when you're waiting for a friend to return your call...when you catch someone in the wrong mood and they snap at morph back into that scared little kid and wait for everyone to reject you. But only sometimes. Most of the time, you're fine.


  1. I feel like this post is written about me. I'm also an introvert, and I've never been accepted socially. I never fit in down in GA, and was deemed an outcast almost from my first day of school up to adulthood. I don't really have any close friends now as an adult either. But out here, pretty much everyone is aloof and introverted, and it's difficult to make friends here too. Google "Seattle Freeze" sometime. But I also don't really feel like I fit in either way. I'm not liberal like the majority of people here, and I think many people view me as cold or mean. I don't go out of my way to convey that, but maybe they are right. When I was very young, I just wasn't that socialized. I was an only child with a stay at home mom who is a bit of an oddball. (She's always been hyper overprotective and super critical.) There's a lot more nuance than that, but I think that my maybe my upbringing did make me "wierd" and that it's followed me into adulthood. And although I try to recognize it and change my behavior the best I can, I'm still not doing a good enough job, and my weirdness is obvious and off putting to everyone else.

    1. This is an old post. The reason you never saw it is because I'm Facebook friends with a lot of the people I went to elementary school with, and I thought it might be awkward sharing it there and having everyone wonder, "Is she talking about me?"

      I think you and I became friends because we recognized the mutual oddball in each other. I've found that to be true of a lot of the people I was friends with in school.

      Like you, I blamed my mother for a lot of my social quirks. But my personality is completely different from my mom's, and I see in my kids a lot of the same behaviors I exhibited as a child, despite the fact that their upbringing has not been at all the same. So I've come to the conclusion that sometimes our inborn personality is what works against us more than anything else. And apparently I passed some of my social anxiety on to my kids, but I think it's more attributable to "nature" than "nurture". So maybe your issues have been partly your mom's fault, but don't discount the fact that it could be the genes she passed down to you rather than any terrible mistakes she made raising you. Though I'm sure she did make mistakes because all parents do, and it can be hard to forgive mistakes in the person you spent the early years of your life thinking could do no wrong. Yeah, I know all about tense mother/daughter relationships.

      Thanks for commenting. I always enjoy reading your thoughts on my blog posts.