Dr. Mitch Prinstein is the author of Popular: The Power of Likeability in A Status-Obsessed World.
Dr. Prinstein says we all crave approval; it's how we go about getting it that matters.
He suggests that the experience of rejection turns on dormant DNA that immediately responds by shaking confidence. A single rejection experience can wipe away any positive esteem you had before it. Given this genetic disposition, it's no wonder people strive to be popular.
How to be popular
Being popular comes from two sources: status or likability.
Status can be granted to someone through social status within a group, or it is earned by working the ranks, surpassing others and gaining position.
Likability allows others to become drawn to you because of your friendship circle, and that you are friendly and easy to get along with.
Likability helps us and popularity hurts us.
The status conundrum
Some people have had their self-esteem bruised and are extra sensitive to rejection.
Looking for approval, they make the mistake of looking for status instead of going the route of being likable.
The trouble here is your confidence level hinges on others approval of you.
For instance, likes on Facebook may be a status marker but self-esteem crusher. If you overly rely on them, they can bruise your confidence.
After all, often the way to gain status is to make yourself stand out and make others appear less significant.
Ultimately, people who crave status end up becoming self-absorbed, turning others away and destroying their self-confidence. Higher rank has always been a desirable way to get ahead or protect your future.
Being likable is far better because it leads to intrinsic rewards like being more compassionate, caring, and a better listener.
Elevating others and helping them feel valued and included creates likability.
The basic human need for connection is accomplished by developing caring, genuine relationships. Rejection is less harshly felt when you are surrounded by people who care about you.
Altruism and intimacy are better than status; everybody needs approval - go after likability over status.
Status validation still leaves you empty. Caring too much about status sets you up for a lifetime of disappointment.
This blog was updated on December 28th, 2018.