We’ve yet to see the musical Wicked but every one of us can sing ‘Popular’ pretty much word for word. It’s the perfect silly cheer up song as you can see in this video– a night where Mary was overwhelmed with homework and Hans took over her dish duties. It’s nothing much (and you’ll see my shaky camera skills), just a little slice of happiness.

Worry about popularity was once a blight relegated to the teenage years. Do people like me? Will I be accepted? Is my outfit OK? But I fear it’s becoming a international obsession. Lately, it seems everywhere I turn, someone or something expects me to promote myself. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube– it’s all about how many hits or likes you receive.

And it can’t be good for us. It can’t be good for me. I’m a writer, a photographer– clearly, I have a need to be heard (and I’m afraid I love praise way too much). But promoting myself simply for the sake of vanity seems foolish. This constant need for approval devolves us to an eternal high school mentality. As much as I love teenagers (and I do), it’s pretty universally agreed– we should move on. Why? Because a constant need for validation turns our attention inward, promotes selfishness and insecurity. We should turn to God for approbation (He loves us, always) and those closest to us. Serving God and showing love to our fellow man brings us the greatest sense of satisfaction.

Easier said than done. My inbox is filled with “promote this on your blog” “get more hits to your website” and a scolding from a photography mentor about neglecting Pinterest– “put buttons on your website” “create boards of your best work” (I created one; then deleted it). Every article in my photography magazine refers to each artists’ ‘popular blog’ and ‘40,000 Instagram followers.’ I’m sure my interest in photography and writing leads to many of these solicitations, but I think nearly all of us are exposed to popularity pox.

Most of the adults I know aren’t buying into this craze– they use Facebook to find old friends, Pinterest for party planning and Instagram as a community gratitude journal. But I think we all need to be wary of the example we set for our children; none of us want to promote the idea our self worth is based on ‘likes’ or ‘follows’.

As my sister says, “We don’t gain confidence from external praise, but by serving and loving others.” Last Thursday, four of the loveliest 18 and 19 year old girls I know, opened mission calls to France, Canada, Texas and South Carolina. These teenagers aren’t the slightest bit concerned with popularity, they simply want to share the love of God with all His children.

p.s. My friend Emi shared this must-read quote from New York Magazine why it is important to raise a brainy girl: “Princesses are caught up in this external world that defines who they are,” says Eccles, “whereas if brainy girls claim they’re smart, that probably is who they are.” While those brainy girls were in high school, they couldn’t rely on their strengths to gain popularity, perhaps, but they could rely on them as fuel, as sources of private esteem. Out of high school, they suddenly had agency, whereas the princesses were still relying on luck and looks and public opinion to carry them through, just as they had at 16. They’d learned passivity, and it’d stuck.

p.p.s. still, I’m a huge believer in meaningful praise (as my friends and family well know) so there’s a happy medium, or perhaps simply a distinction between true words of appreciation and a meaningless quest for approval.

March 7, 2013
March 13, 2013



  1. ellen

    March 12, 2013

    EVERYONE should read this post!

  2. Tracy

    March 12, 2013

    I love this so much.

  3. Alison

    March 13, 2013

    Read this at the time when I really needed a reality check. Getting swallowed up with the numbers game and needing validation – when really, I don’t. Thank you.

  4. The Empress

    March 13, 2013

    Came here from Alison, whose taste I always trust. This post should be sent in to BlogHer.

    It’s what most people need to hear, because sometimes, they forget what is so important. really, you would be starting a quiet revolution.

  5. Kristi Pohl

    March 13, 2013

    Oh Michelle, lovely words as always. “Popularity Pox” seems to sum this trend up so well, and can we hope it is just a trend, and that someday we shall return to some semblance of ‘normalcy’?

    My time is better spent helping a friend who needs me, rather than writing my next blog post or putting together a Pinterest board. Not that I can’t make time for those things too, if that is something I wish to do for me, or that makes me happy, but lately I just choose not to. Real people make me happier than anything on my computer screen.

  6. Becky

    March 14, 2013

    I love seeing your son do the dishes, and so competently too! It really shows off his muscles 😉

  7. Heather

    March 15, 2013

    I like the idea of turning to God and service for others to increase self esteem. Thank you for this nugget of wisdom! I always enjoy your thoughts.

  8. Seagulljaap

    March 31, 2013

    Great post! And song. =)

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