Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Greatest Fear

Mama Kat's writing prompt for today:
Where does that fear come from? Write about something that frightens you that other people might find ridiculous.
Why does popularity matter?
Why is popularity something we seek?
Tucker tutors a few kids, most of whom don’t know him outside the tutoring experience. One day he made the comment, “If A knew me in real life, if he knew how uncool I really am, he’d never speak to me, let alone learn math from me.” That intrigued me, so I probed further. He explained that A is so far “out of his league,” and he could tell by the way he dresses, how he acts, even how he wears his hair. A is a rising football star—running back—but he struggles with math. If he doesn’t get his math grade up, he won’t be able to start as a ninth grader for the high school team next year. He’s that good.

My son is just as good at what he does. Trying to avoid embarrassing T and bragging too much, I can safely say that he’s gifted. But his social skills have lagged behind his intellect for much of his life, until the last little while. That made for a few rough years. But I can honestly say that he’s come out stronger and better.

I guess where I’m going with this is here: Why is it cool to be an athlete and not cool or acceptable to be a math whiz? I would have thought that this generation would have that mastered. Isn’t this the generation that’s been raised with racially equal Barney episodes--series that assemble a ragtag group that are required to include gender-equal representatives from the geek, jock, Goth, shy, music, and cool cliques? Just because it’s on TV and touted by the media, it’s real, right? IF this has been the example that they’ve been inundated with, why aren’t our teens “living the dream”? Do these dream groups actually exist?

My experience is no. Like attracts like and that’s the way we work. Why? Why can’t society change this? Why is it that some kids are always at the bottom of the social ladder, no matter how hard they try to be in the upper echelon?

God created us all different, that is a given. Why is it still not socially acceptable to be comfortable with who we are? And why is it that junior high and high school are riddled with these issues of popularity, cruelty, exclusion, and social acceptance?

And why is it that many of these teens that were the center of their high-school worlds grow up to be adults that still live in the past? And why is it that these gifted ones, who grow up to change the world—Einsteins, Van Goghs, Tchaikovskys—can’t find acceptance while young? And then, when they do succeed as adults, all the cool kids exclaim, “I remember her! We went to high school together!” when in actuality they tormented these gifted kids to the breaking point.

Why are people like this?

This desire to be included and popular doesn’t end with teenagers. Even as adults, we struggle with fitting in and getting attention. People achieve fame on some level, and the fame fuels a fire for more. Kate Gosselin claims she’s dancing with the stars for money. Not even a little for the attention? Come on. And even as adults there are still the cool circles and the not cool circles. Who determines this? Aren’t we all adults and equals?

Even though I consider myself a pretty secure person that rarely cares what others think, I must admit that, on some level,  I do care. Why didn’t my family get invited to that barbecue? Why does nienie have so many followers? Why does cjane get hundreds of comments on her posts? Are their lives so much more interesting and important than mine? Are they better writers? Why? And who says so?

We must be predetermined to insecurity--either insecurity or an innate desire to want more. To be more. When are these feelings healthy motivators to change and grow? And when are these feelings destructive and harmful?

All this discussion of popularity leads to one of my biggest fears: being on the outside looking in. Not being liked. Not being “cool.” I wrote a post about this exact issue last year—you can read it here. And I’m ready to challenge that fear in myself by doing something brave.

I’ve been blogging now for almost 18 months—this is post #321, to be exact. And never, in all that time, have I posted my followers on my sidebar. Part of me really wants to know who’s reading and following. But part of me is afraid that everyone will have more followers than me, and then I will care more about who’s following than what I’m trying to say.

But I’m ready to throw that insecurity--that fear--to the wind.

Go ahead. Follow me.


  1. Great post, Jen, and (as you know) I already do follow you, even without the thingy on your sidebar. In fact, I am a very satisfied consumer of your blog.

    What's more, much as I enjoy reading cjane and nienie (and I do!), I like reading you better. Why? Because you have taken the time to become a friend.

    And that makes you very popular with me.



  2. Right now I'm scared that my teeanage sister will really suffer bad when it comes to the decisions she's making now.

    was that too much over sharing?


    I enjoyed this post.

  3. SO true on all levels. I have felt the same way on many situations. You are the best and I do follow you and read your posts daily....

  4. Just to let you know that I read your blog every day from Dunedin, New Zealand. Don't ask me how I found your blog because I don't know, but what you say in your blog really strikes a chord with me. You are so real and put it like it is for you - at least that's how it seems to me, the reader. I also read nienie and cjane but your blog is the one I read first. I am a non-Mormon Mum of four kids ages 15,12,9,6 and to many that's a big family. Just want to wish you all the best for Heidi's wedding - can't imagine how I'll be when one of my daughters reaches that stage. Are we Mum's ever ready for that?

  5. Oh how I ADORE you! This is a fabulously well written post, and one we ALL feel exactly the same way about, I'm sure. I for one am disappointed when there isn't a new post from you, if that makes you feel any better. And, all I could think was, T is totally gonna be one of those "men" that is ADORED, and noone will be any the wiser to his trials of the school years.

  6. Our FHE a few weeks ago was on THIS VERY SUBJECT! With two teenagers, and a nine year old brother following in their shoes, we had to address this. Being in the "it" crowd seems more pressing now than when I was in high school.

    While it's great and I'm excited if you're in the crowd of "athletes" or "smarties" (my sons' nickname for him and his challenge friends)...BUT remember WHO defines you. Heavenly Father. Christ. As long as we teach this message; and they listen and apply; I think as parents we can stand back and give each other a pat on the back.

    Love this post, love you!

  7. This is honestly the best post I've read all day and that's high praise because I've read WAY too many. This is all so very true. I'm guilty to more than one of these things...from both sides of the argument. Human nature is a strange thing.

    Well, you're my favorite blogger and I'd follow you 500 times if I could! How's that for popular?

  8. What a wonderful (and timely, for me anyway) post. I'm reading a book by Christian author Beth Moore called, So Long Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend To Us. It covers all the insecurity stuff you mentioned and more. I never really thought of myself as insecure, but there are little things that come up. Things like you mentioned (why weren't we invited to the _______ ) and I'm doing the tough work on those areas. I loved reading your post and hearing someone else's thoughts on the subject.

  9. So interesting.
    I know that one day I just stuck it on there and magically it got filled and I was like WOW! people like me. I had no idea. I am WAY cooler on my blog than I am in real life. Seriously :)

  10. It's funny how so many of us share this secret fear. As I tried to recruit for next year's PTO Executive Board I heard the same reasons over and over-basically came down to being afraid of rejection, afraid if they said yes they'd have to run against someone else and take the risk of losing-of finding out whether or not people liked them.

    Crazy when you consider how many people this fear keeps from serving, and not just in PTO, I'm sure. The truth is no one runs, so we beg and bribe and cajole just to fill the spots.

    I wonder how many other opportunities to serve we miss because we are afraid to step outside of ourselves and take a risk.

    So sad, because usually it's just our "supposed inadequacies" (T.S.Monson-Oct. 09) that make us feel this way.

    **By the way I noticed you've gained quite a few followers today-yea Jen! Like I said...supposed inadequacies!**

  11. Are you kidding?! I idolize math whizzes! Geometry is far more challenging than a touchdown, in my opinion. And if you want to feel better about the "uncool" or "unpopular" blog aspect, just hop on over to mine! Most of the "hits" are from myself! Your family is beautiful, by the way.

  12. I don't think there's a mother alive who hasn't lived through the agony of their kids' insecurities - it's even worse than (or maybe an extension of) their own. We're programmed to admire perfection, and that's why we love athletes and models and beautiful people. Beautiful minds aren't as obvious, and so we don't appreciate them as much until we achieve a little maturity. Most folks get there eventually, but sadly, some never do (they're the homecoming queens who relive their glory days the rest of their lives). Work with T on his social skills (he sounds very special already - and very wise.) Make sure he stays humble about his extraordinary brains (in other words, don't be a know it all) and the other kids will come to love him as soon as they can stop thinking about their own insecurities and problems. One thing to remember: other people aren't so much ignoring you, or passing you over, as much as they're just thinking about themselves, and their next move. EVERYONE is insecure about something. It's human nature. Even the most gifted athlete or beautiful girl. Sometimes ESPECIALLY them. (Yes, its true!)Tell T to hang in there. I think I love that kid! He has the sweetness you can't teach - it's just natural talent. You hang in there too, mom. He sounds like he's got the stuff.

  13. Oh - and I am a follower. It would make me less insecure if you would also become a follower of mine. Just sayin'.

  14. Great post and great comments. I am always amazed that we all want to be alike but different all at the same time. Of course this creates conflict within ourselves and for others. T is so charming and handsome he will be a great man.

    I was relieved that I was already a follower. I guess I should go and check if I am a follower of my other favorite blogs.

    Love ya

  15. I guess I'll quit lurking and start following.

  16. I can't imagine Tucker being anything other than the coolest kid at the school. I agree with the other gal--"smart" kids are on the path to a more interesting, richer (money and otherwise), more well-rounded life than someone who focuses solely on athletics. Not that they can't be both, because many definitely are. I'm know Tucker has his own athletic gifts as well. We got the beautiful announcement and Thatcher has his plane ticket. I wish I could come too! I still haven't met your last three kids. (sob). What an exciting time for your family--congratulations to you all!

  17. I'm the same way. I didn't have my followers up on the sidebar for a while. I didn't even know what following was or what the heck it was for but then I started branching out and reading more blogs and I saw how many "followers" they had and I got jealous. I wanted that. Just like a junior high student who wants to be popular. Lame!! I'll follow you. Not just for numbers. But because I actually like your blog!

  18. Jen- I waited until tonight to comment as I thought about your post all day. I blogged about this same thing a while back...that I didn't want to get caught up in all the blogging crap. It's hard not to when you look at other people's blogs and see their "followers, comments" etc. When I turned 40, I told myself I was done with caring about what other people think of me...and 2 years later I have to say I am more secure, more confident than ever in my life. There are still moments of insecurity but I recognize it and discard it quickly. I do think it is a part of our makeup as women...we are social, we want to be liked, to be popular...but at the end of the day what does it matter really? have a beautiful family, you are a beautiful woman, inside and out...I wish I could give you a hug! I wish we lived closer..I know we'd be good friends. Keep blogging..keep writing...I visit you every day!!

  19. I am a proud follower of your blog and have been since I found your blog. Like others said, your entries, I read first. I wish insecurity wasn't an issue as an adult, but unfortunately it is. I've felt bad because I put these cute pictures of Corbin on my blog and only got 1 comment. I know it's dumb, but for some reason those insecurities seem to creep up. I feel like I'm a confident person, but I still feel it sometimes. I liked what Jackie said, we have to teach our children and remind ourselves of what is truly important and that we are children of God.

  20. The ironic thing, of course, is that you'll be completely stoked that today you have more comments than you've ever had in your life.

  21. I think you are a MUCH better writer than those 2 mentioned Provo sisters (ahem).

    It's all about connections! We've got to find some! ;)

  22. The answer is found in watching chickens. It's all about pecking order. I have 7 chickens and there is a definite pecking order that I can't figure out. I know which ones are on the top and which are on the bottom, but I can't for the life of me figure out why.

    People are a lot like that...I guess.

  23. I am so with you on this post! The oldest of my 5 kids struggles at age 9. He is just not athletic...or he hasn't bloomed yet. He is much more sensitive and timid and less aggressive. This is apparently not the way to be at this age. SO he stresses and struggles. It is so unfair, because he is such a beautiful person. You will never find a better friend.
    I am now following you...a friendlier way of saying I am your blog stalker now...mwahahaha!!

  24. Ha Ha - I have already been following privately because you didn't have the follow thing so now I can follow you for real!

    BTW so glad I found your blog - You are awesome!

  25. OK so I just went and changed from following you anonymously to following you publicly and me with the little yellow car showed up way over in the 3rd row - that's how long I've been following - ha ha.
    Now I just sound like a stalker!!

    Have a super weekend!

  26. Ok, I just want you to know I follow your blog. I check it everyday. BUT, I am not a signed up follower. I always wondered about this. I follow many, many, blogs but I think I do it different than you "supposed" to. LOL. I just have all my favorites bookmarked and then, check them each day. When I go to those blogs I like and there is a new post, it is like a surprise little treat!

    Also I think I do know how I found your blog. I think it was off of Clover Lane. I LOVE when I find new blogs to read that I enjoy. It is so much fun and I have learned so much from other wonderful womens blogs. Maybe someday I will begin one myself. However, I don't have much to say about my quiet little life! LOL. Ok, really I'm intimidated!

  27. I don't "follow" any blogs, per se, but your blog is one that has gained a spot on my reader list, because I enjoy what you say and how you say it.

    And we're soon to be family (sort of)... I'm married to Sam's cousin, Michael.

    Good luck with your busy week!

  28. What a great post! I so get the highschool thing...reminds me of Kip in Napoleon Dynamite...when the highlight of your life was highschool be careful...because if that's as good as it gets...eeewwwww.
    I hate the Followers button too...had it up in the beginning, took it down, put it up, and thought what the heck am I doing? Now I hate how I even have to see the number in the Dashboard part. I don't even want to know...just want to write for me.
    Do you know what I tell my kids? That the kids that are considered nerds will one be the people who are doing surgery on them one day, or who will be running the companies that everyone else works for. I too, can't stand how kids and parents (I swear it starts with parents) embrace the sports and cheerleader vicariously through your child is NOT attractive.

  29. Very nicely said. I struggle with those exact same issues. My son is getting old enough now to start noticing the different groups at school and it breaks my heart if there is one he doesn't "fit" into!

  30. I guess I learn something every day, or maybe it depends on where one lives, but my 3rd son will be getting his masters in math (BYU) in just 4 months....and I never had an inkling this was uncool. Then he will go on to get his PhD. I never knew about the uncool part, I really didn't. Perhaps because my son was also popular in high school? and he is also athletic....hmmm. Which brings me to my next thought...if Tucker is in the math program at BYU perhaps McKay knows him being it's not the biggest group in the world.

  31. I feel like you are speaking my inner most feelings, which confirms yet again my wondering that we all are really more alike than we think. Thank you. You are officially ly new favorite blog, even over nie:). No disrespect to her.

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