Many years ago the movie, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” portrayed a nerdy, high school lawn boy who finds his way into the “cool” crowd by going out with the most popular girl in school. His way of buying love was through money; money that the most popular girl desperately needed. He gave her $1,000 in agreement that she would go out with him. The majority of the movie shows how he went from being thrown into lockers to strutting down the hall high-fiving everyone. In the end, he realizes that popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and goes back to his old friends and mowing lawns. The point of the movie: It’s what’s on the inside that counts. Share that bit of wisdom with your adolescent and they will likely laugh in your face. But is it really true? When it comes to social acceptance, very much so.
Social acceptance is all about what adolescents are putting out there. If they feel confident, they’ll act confident. If they feel desperate, they’ll act desperate. More than looks, clothes and talents socially acceptance is given to those who feel they deserve it the most. In the movie, Ronald Miller felt he deserved it because he was dating the most popular girl in school.
But what happens when an adolescent who was once confident and accepted gets excluded from their friend group?
They try desperately to get back in. But in doing so, they give off a sense of desperation. Getting back into the friend group is tough enough but when they begin feeling awkward and desperate, they begin acting different. Instead of calling people, they wait to be called. Instead of making plans, they wait to see what everyone else is doing. Instead of asking someone over, they wait for someone to ask them. They stand on the outskirts waiting for something to change but it rarely does.
If your adolescent is going through this, you feel their pain. You may have already offered suggestions that fell on deaf ears but if your adolescent is open, here are some suggestions that may get them on the right track:
- Step away from the friend group for a while.
- Regroup with people who are safe and low-risk.
- Join a sport or group that has built-in friends. Start hanging out with kids from other schools. Become interested in new things.
While you may get resistance, your adolescent may actually take your advice. Social exclusion is grueling for teenagers so even if they aren’t up for advice, you can still be there to listen and help pick up the pieces.