Q: I really want to be part of the popular group at school. How can I become cool?
A: In high school, there was a guy who sat next to me during waiting periods on testing days. I knew he didn’t do very well in school, and he had a speech impediment. But during those long waiting times between tests, we started talking and playing chess. I discovered that he was kind and funny, and we actually had a lot of fun. Soon he asked me out.
Being thought “cool” might seem like a guarantee of acceptance.
Go out with him? Frankly, I would rather have gone out with one of the popular guys. But I ended up saying “yes,” because like I said, he was kind and funny. We went to football games, school dances, and generally had fun. But the whole time, I was uncomfortable with what others might think of me—going out with such a “weird” person.
After a few months, we stopped dating when he wanted to make more of a commitment. I didn’t want a committed relationship, but more important, I hadn’t resolved the conflicted feelings I had. Honestly, I was ashamed of the dilemma in my thinking. I knew he had some great qualities, so why couldn’t I overlook his uncoolness?
We all want to be included, and being thought “cool” might seem like a guarantee of acceptance. Certainly, that’s a message we might frequently pick up from social media, and in many TV shows and movies. I get it. In the situation with my high school boyfriend, I couldn’t get past the fear that being with him somehow meant I didn’t belong. However, when a friend introduced me to the ideas of Christian Science later on in life, I started to see things differently.
Through Christian Science, I learned that instead of a personality with both positive qualities and flaws, we each have one true nature, which is spiritual and completely good, because God, who is Spirit and completely good, made each of us in His image. And this nature is made up of spiritual qualities.
One way to start recognizing those qualities is to look beneath the surface appearance of things. So, for example, with my high school boyfriend, I could see that his kindness and quick wit were glimpses of the real man, which God created. And we can find such qualities in anyone, including ourselves, by starting with what we know about God. The qualities of God are boundless love and joy and fearlessness, among an infinite number of others. What does this mean for us? It means that right now, as God’s creations, we, too, can express boundless love and joy and courage, along with all of God’s other beautiful attributes. How infinitely and amazingly cool is that! And God will give us the opportunities to put those qualities into action in a way that magnifies our spiritual individuality and brings out those qualities in others.
As for the things about us that we might consider “uncool,” in some cases, those flaws and shortcomings are misperceptions about us—a view based on a mistaken sense of ourselves and others as mortals, instead of as God’s reflection. The more we stick with the real view and identify with that, the more those shortcomings will fade in the light of our true identity and individuality.
In other cases, we might come to see that expressing honesty when others are cheating, or treating someone kindly even if others are making fun, perhaps won’t be considered popular by those around us. But as we recognize, express, and stand up for these spiritual qualities in ourselves and others, we’ll be less focused on becoming more popular and more focused on seeing and feeling satisfied with what we are: someone who is lovable and loved right now.
Real acceptance comes from seeing beyond the surface appearances to the spiritual qualities we each express.
The pull to be “cool” comes from messages around us saying that being cool means we’ll be liked, have friends, and be successful in life. But I’ve seen from my own experience that real acceptance comes from seeing beyond the surface appearances in ourselves and in our classmates. The Bible encourages us, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psalms 37:37). This “perfect man” is not a human ideal of coolness, but the radiant reflection of God. When we commit ourselves to seeing this man right where a person’s human personality wants to grab our attention, we’ll find the peace and satisfaction of being at peace with ourselves—exactly as God made us.