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LEADing when you think you aren't popular!

Today's picture took a lot for me to find. I found this picture after searching for terms like "group with loaner", "alone", "isolated".

That was how I felt.

When I was in high school. I knew I was different. I hide the fact that I was gay for the longest time. Gym class, for example, we had a split class where guys were on one side and girls were on the other. I dreaded (there isn't enough underlining and bold that I could place with the word dreaded) gym. Don't get me wrong, I excelled at running and volleyball BUT I was bullied for being different. It was like there was a scent upon me in my younger years that encouraged people to bully me.

Did this ever happen to you?

I am sorry if you were bullied. I know how you feel. There is a part of you that is saying you will be fine or everything will work out. There is that other side of you that is saying I am done. I considered on multiple occasions to just skip gym. But I never did. I ignored and persevered. I actually did really well in gym class because the focus, at least what I thought, was learning how to become a team.

I excelled at this part.

I loved being part of a team and supporting each other in reaching their goals. Our teams always did well. I was many of my peers biggest cheerleaders. Not with the pom poms...I received that upgrade in my later high school years. I learned from this exercise (pun intended) that being different was ok. It wasn't great because of the bullying BUT I made the bullying work for me.

Fast forward to my final years of high school. Oh to reminisce with you. I was a busy guy. I had a part-time job, I had tons of school work to do and I was the co-chair of my student council. Not only this, but I was sitting on community committees. I also had the fun part of starting my day with the daily school announcements. I was having fun and I also came out that I was indeed gay. I figured that those that were my friend would accept me for who I am and those that didn't, well I didn't need them either. This is where life was strange for me. I didn't feel popular.

I felt alone.

I had this feeling because I was never...well I shouldn't say never...ALMOST never invited to parties. I thought wow-all the cool kids are going to these events and I was at home. I also found myself socially awkward at times ESPECIALLY on Mondays when I would be hearing the background noise of people talking about what they did on their weekends. KEEPING in mind this was over 15 years ago and Facebook wasn't a thing and social media was not in operation. Texting cost money where is calling on our cells were not. I would listen intently on how so-and-so's parents were away and they had a party. I heard about all the antics that were going on and that now these two people are dating OR these two broke up. To be honest, I was upset. I kept thinking to myself that something was wrong with me and, as a result, I wasn't getting invited. I never really shared this with many people because I didn't want to burden them with my own insecurities.

I was wrong.

I was popular and I didn't know it.

It wasn't until later in life I had the reality check from some of my closest friends. We were all together watching an episode of Big Brother. I will never forget the challenge. What happened was the houseguest was being placed on teams based on how they were perceived in high school There was the jocks, the misfits, the nerds, and the popular group. We were all chuckling with each other about some of us in the group where it was clearly defined who would go where. Then it hit me. It was my turn and I said that I would be in the misfits because of how I saw myself. My friends all basically stopped dead in their tracks. One of my friends looked at me in shock and said 'you're kidding,right?!'. I looked at them and was blindsided. Another friend said "you were the most popular person in school...EVERYONE knew you". I did agree with them that everyone knew me because I was the co-chair of our student council and on the daily announcements BUT that didn't mean I was popular. Then...the statement that truly hit me right between the eyes was "we all looked up to you".

They saw me as a leader.

Someone that was extremely popular in their view was by default a leader. Now, looking back and the positions I held had leadership all over them. But the reality was I felt alone. I didn't belong to any clique at school because I was in the popular crowd. The popular crowd in this instance that wasn't invited to events because they thought I would be off doing something else.

As you can see there is a disconnect here for sure. But what I DO want to share is that, even if you are or think you are unpopular, how others perceive you can be two different things. Looking back, yes I was popular. BUT I never felt it. I felt the opposite. Now, as I share my stories with my clients about making decisions and popularity, the reality is that how you are being perceived by others can be TOTALLY different than how you perceive yourself.

So how do you perceive yourself? What steps do you take to make sure you are self-aware of yourself and your surroundings? Join me in the discussion chat forum to discuss more in-depth about how you are doing as a LEADer when working on your perceptions.

-Dr. Drew's Daily Digest

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