The Social Fit

Years ago, it seemed to be that there was a group of people who decided the standards of cool or pretty. I don’t know why this is. I don’t know who gets to decide what is fashionable and what isn’t.
Years ago, there was the popular side of the lunchroom. There was the social draw or the need to fit in and be part of a group.
Identity and identification is everything and so are the politics. Who are you? Who are your friends? It is ideas like this which dictated and determined your status of popularity.

Years ago, we learned about socialization. We learned this at a young age too, which I dare to say, but this is what we really learned in school. We learned about social differences. We learned who was cool and who wasn’t. We learned about the determination between pretty and not, cool and uncool; but more, this is where we learned to hide our truths. This is where we learned to shape ourselves to fit a mold. This is where we learned about insecurity or that something about our natural self needs to be adjusted or socially adapted.
We learned that the quarterback on the football team is likely to receive more attention than, say, someone who taught themselves physics. We learned that the captain of the cheerleading squad held more of a status than say, someone who just aced a geometry exam.

I remember seeing something about this:
There was a video of a young valedictorian who addressed the different distinctions of the crowd. No one noticed this young person until then. No one would have known the valedictorian or remembered their name, which is why this person decided to stand up and make a statement.

I often discuss my first moment of awareness in a big school. I was in my junior high school (kids call this middle school now) and I can recall the large cafeteria. I remember the faces and the different crowds. I recall the difference in prestige. I remember the cool and the popular which ranged from the local fame to local infamy – and then I remember the faceless. I remember the middle of the lunchroom kids who never went to parties or were never invited anywhere. I remember the fear of being a nobody but more, I remember the determination to be noticed and liked. I wanted to be included and accepted. Then again, who doesn’t want this?

I always wondered who decides the standards. I always wondered why a person can walk into a crowded room and, for whatever reason, all eyes are on them. Yet, someone else might walk in the room, no differently, but somehow, no one notices. No one cares. No one says “hello” or celebrates their entry – and yet, we find ourselves talking about equality in the world.
We talk about equality in the workplace but the issue spreads further than race or gender. There is more to note, especially when we have these ideas. There is more to it now when we have these descriptions or social constructs of what professionalism looks like. Or, dare I say this (but I have to) there is a real problem when people discuss what the corporate model look like. Is it the right suit and tie? Is it the right outfit? Or the right hair cut? Is it the connection to a secret handshake? Or a school?
What makes a person noticed in the vast sea of large corporations?

I used to think the social pressures would change once high school was behind me. I certainly never expected to see the pressures of cliques in my adult life.
I never thought there would be a “cool kids” table at work or there would be a social draw to the powers that be who are only noticed simply because they are the powers that be. 

I can recall listening to a worker who detested their boss. They hated the so-called inner-circle. They hated the upper teams and the chosen few. They slandered these people. They leaked information about these people. They swore that they would never be one of these people; that is, until a position opened up. This is when that person’s position went from a low-level employee to an upper level manager in a livestock position.
Oh, how quickly their tune changed. It wasn’t long before their current friends became old, forgotten friends and their new friends were the people they once hated. 

It interests me when people say that pride comes before the fall. It also interests me when people say karma’s a bitch and you and I and everyone who’s ever sat in the middle of the lunchroom –  or anyone who felt the social pressures of upper-elitism or social bullyism, or anyone who objected to the social pecking order, we sit there and wait to see if the saying is true. Is it true that what goes around comes around? 

I often talk about the upper-elite and the social pecking order. I often talk about executives and the assistants and how both can enter the room; one receives smiles and attention and the other receives little to none. 

I think about the word equality. Then I think about the streams of unanswered emails or ignored questions or phone calls. And why is this?
Is this because we are all equal? 
If we practice equality or diversity, equity and inclusion, then why are there executive washrooms? Isn’t this exclusionary?
Why is there a distinction between people in the workplace at all. The answer is because not everything is equal.

The ideas of equality are untrue. I say this because not all things are created equal.
At best, I will pay for a ticket to enter an arena. However, there will never be a time when I sell tickets to a sold-out crowd who comes to hear me sing. 
Talents are unequal. So is socialization. So is popularity. So is the lunchroom in middle school. But yet, we call ourselves grownups.

We aren’t equal and the world is an unbalanced place. I learned this a long time ago. I learned this in the cafeteria at school. However, there is one lesson that I overlooked – and this is the lesson on how to endure.
The biggest lesson we will learn about our life is not how different we are but more so the idea is to learn how to act, operate, move and motivate yourself regardless of your differences. Success is living in spite of your looks, talents or lack thereof – the most successful you will be is when you learn how to maneuver through life without regarding others as better or worse.

I have seen people win friends by selling their old friends to achieve a more popular crowd. I have witnessed people move forward and forget where they came from.
I’ve seen people forget who helped them in the beginning. I have seen people forget themselves and lose to the same social draws as when we were kids. And I’ve seen people become the standard that made us call someone an asshole in the lunchrooms back in high school.

I suppose there is this idea that we will eventually mature. I suppose there was a belief that bullying stops in the hallways at school.
I suppose there was hope that one day, we would leave this behind and get away from the different divisions of popularity. And that someday; social cruelties would no longer be a “thing.”

I have seen far more bullies in my adult life than I ever saw in my youth. As a person who has run empowerment programs in jails and drug rehabilitation centers as well as homeless shelters alike; I can say that I have seen more honesty in the worst places than I have seen in traditional boardrooms.

I go back to my favorite quote from Henry David Therouax:

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth – certainly the machine will wear out . . . but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

I often forget myself too. In fact, my biggest regret are the times when I traded myself away for acceptance. However, it is through this that I realize what freedom truly is.
Freedom comes from within. This comes to us when we stop seeking external acceptance and finally, we understand the only acceptance we need has to come from within.

2 thoughts on “The Social Fit

  1. So, I was homeschooled and never had to deal with the cliques of a high school, but I did see them play out every where else in my life.

    I am a people watcher, and I remember going to events with my parents and watching them change into a different persona depending on who we were around.

    My mom would act more intellectual around her smarter friends and my dad would talk about sports he never followed in front of his “jock friends”.

    I’ve seen this at all of the jobs I’ve worked at too. The smokers all clique together, as do the stoners. The nerdier people such as myself either sit in it’s likeminded nerds or we perpetuate the loneliness we’ve felt throughout life and do just that sit alone.

    I mention all of this because I believe that deep down most of us fall into these groups because of insecurity and now I try to follow Oscar Wildes advice “be yourself, everyone else is taken”.

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