SINGAPORE - This is fortnightly series on issues about teenagers.
What if no one likes me?
Q: I feel very left out of social circles in school because I'm a quiet person who doesn't know how to say the right thing, and have nothing interesting or funny to contribute during conversations. My classmates usually ignore me when I join them during a conversation.
I am also very self-conscious because I am ugly and have a bad acne problem. The girl that I have a crush on always moves away from me when I try to talk to her. She once said she found me boring, so even if looks didn't matter, my personality isn't attractive either. Please tell me how I can be more popular.
A: Dear Upset,
I am sorry to hear that you feel so left out. The two issues that you have brought up seem to boil down to your sense of self-worth. What can we do to change the way you feel?
First, though this may not be much of a consolation, you are not alone in your plight. Many teens your age also suffer from a certain awkwardness when socialising with others.
However, without being presumptuous, I wonder whether you may have confused being socially skilled with being popular.
The difference is that while the majority of us are able to find and maintain friendships, becoming popular means being admired or liked by many people. Even celebrities and superstars have a tough time maintaining their looks in order to stay ahead in the popularity race.
Thankfully, normal people like us don't have to look good to be accepted. People can still be drawn to you for your funny personality, your kind and giving nature, or if you are a good conversationalist.
If you have nothing interesting to contribute to the conversation, be a good listener. Yes, even being a good listener takes skill as being truly involved in what the other person is saying requires you to ask questions and stay interested.
As for the girl you have a crush on, she too may be feeling just as awkward socially if she is around your age. Forcing her into a social situation may not be the best move.
Have a chat with your parents and if they are honest with you, they will share stories about themselves when they were your age and suffering the plight of pimples as well.
Fortunately, the acne that you are going through is a phase and can be quickly remedied. See your family doctor who can prescribe some medication or refer you to a skin specialist to help you with your problem.
Learn to like yourself because each and everyone of us is special to someone. Make a list of all the positive attributes you have, what your family and friends say of you, and derive self-esteem from that.
Most of all, people are attracted to people who like themselves and are comfortable in their own skin, because this shows that they have the capacity to like others.
- Answered by Dr Carol Balhetchet, PhD, a clinical psychologist, for The Straits Times. This excerpt first appeared in Dr Delinquent: A Guide to Decoding The Teenage Years. The book is available at stbooks.sg
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