Being Wanted Feeds the Ego


Hayden H.

Three students are talking and gossiping behind another student’s back.

Liam C., Brynlee S., Sienna G., and Alice L.

According to Merriam-Webster, a people pleaser is someone who “has an emotional need to please others, often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires.” 

No surprise. People just want to feel special. Many of us struggle with our identity, even altering our personalities and interests to connect with those around us. We want to feel needed, but what happens when trying to fit society’s perception of “cool” is overwhelming? 

“[Kids wanna be cool] to be more popular, get more clout, be known, and get more friends if they’re ‘cool.’ You get friends you can relate to. [Popularity gets tiring] when too many people wanna be your friend, and there’s too much drama. Everything gets [to be] too much. I just try to be myself around other people,” said Dylan P.

The need to feel special is common. We don’t recognize our own personal achievements and feel like we need validation from the people surrounding us. We are often insecure about our interests, personality, and appearance.

“I feel like I always have to be good enough for other people; people’s opinions matter to me,” said Noah R.

There is an unspoken idea of having to change ourselves according to whomever we’re hanging out with. Different people have unique ideas, mindsets, and beliefs. We often find ourselves morphing to fit in with our friends.

“If you’re hanging out with more popular people, you have to act cooler. But if you’re hanging out with [unpopular] people, you can kind of be yourself. If they like new shows. I might watch them so we can have more in common,” Katherine Y.

The desire to feel wanted is never satisfied. It’s a never-ending desire to be perceived as “relatable” or “popular.” This isn’t just in person. It’s online too. Social media apps, like TikTok play a big role. For You pages are filled with viral videos. People get big by being pretty, funny, creative, and smart. Kids start to believe that they can blow up too, and disappointment quickly follows when they don’t. 

“My TikTok is private because I don’t really want people to judge me, and whenever I make [TikToks], they’re for fun and for my eyes only. My parents have always told me to be careful on the internet, so I am,” said Shine A.

But does the number of followers truly represent your popularity? Not necessarily, but the idea does linger in the air. When a ‘friend’ doesn’t return with their own follow, teens may wonder if something is wrong.

“Tiktok followers don’t matter. Being viral on Tiktok doesn’t matter because having a lot of followers or likes doesn’t determine your status and worth,” said Sanaya S. 

For some, finding a good friend group is tricky. The idea of always having friends to be with, even if the friendship isn’t that real, seems more appealing than being friendless. But over time, flaws in friendships become more noticeable. And sometimes, the entire bond between two people just falls apart. So what happened? 

“In sixth grade, I was really alone, so that was really hard for me. I felt like I needed to be in [this specific] group, I felt like they were cool and I changed myself for some reason,” said Makayla P.

And what about the consequences? In a friendship, secrets do come out. And those same secrets can quickly become rumors if heard by the wrong ears. 

“Rumors can kind of ruin your life because if someone is talking about you behind your back and saying that you did stuff that you didn’t actually do, it can ruin your reputation with your peers,” said Miya W.

Rumors are like colds or viruses. They trend in small conversations among peers, but eventually lose their effect. Although it might seem frightening being labeled “the person who ___,” it seldom carries on to the next grade level.  

“I had a rumor that I was pushing someone to [start a] fight, but it settled down [since] people usually forget about things. It’s only middle school; people don’t care unless you [continue to] speak,” said Averi A.

But a lot of teens crave attention, even if it’s in the wrong kind. Whether it’s rooted in home neglect, or the feeling of not being good enough for friends, the hope to be liked is everpresent. Yet, popularity in middle school matters little over time. Overthinking does little good. There may be days where it feels like no one really likes you, but the truth is: regardless of who it is, that’s rarely if ever true.

“It only matters who you surround yourself with. If you surround yourself with good people, you’re going to be a good person. You don’t have to listen to everyone’s opinions about yourself, you need to do what you want to do. Do you,” said Kaity G.