Philippine Daily Inquirer / 02:10 AM December 16, 2011
On finding friends and overcoming socio-economic insecurities
Hi! I really love your column in the newspaper. Your advice is really good. I’m currently a sophomore in a private school. My mom works as a librarian in our school, and that’s why we’re schooled here. I’ll admit we’re poor. I don’t have a cell phone or a computer. I always feel alone in our class. I try to mingle with my classmates, but it doesn’t seem to work. Please help me with my problem.
~Anonymous (via Tumblr)
Please let me take a moment to tell you: Your mom is amazing. I admire her effort to get you to a great school so you receive the best education. You’re very lucky to have a loving mother who is working for your future.
Now, when it comes to fitting in, everyone in high school has that concern. I remember being a young, insecure girl who just wanted to fit in, too. I would also compare things I owned, and wanted to keep up with the latest trends. But I realized that, being “rich” or having the latest material things aren’t (and shouldn’t be) a requirement for making friends.
I’ll tell you what I always look for in a friendship. I look for genuineness. I look for humor. I look to bond with passionate people. I look for trust and honesty. I look for great, inspiring conversations. I look for a person who supports me in my times of success, and is there for me in my times of darkness. As you can tell, none of these requirements require having the latest cell phone, computer or wardrobe.
Instead of focusing on the material things you lack, recognize the inner qualities that make you awesome! Focus on developing your own personality. Excel in a sport. Join a club that can develop your passions. If you just focus on being happy and great at the things you love, you’ll attract the right friends, who will love you exactly as you are.
You will find yourself bonding over the things in life that make you both excited. You will laugh over movies you’ve watched, books you’ve read, jokes you’ve heard, and connect over tough experiences that you go through at your age. It’s not about comparing the things you don’t have, and she has.
The thing with money is that you can have it one day, and then lose it the next day. But being a well-rounded person with a passionate outlook on life and a warm personality is something you can never lose. You will be rich with fulfilling life experiences and memories. And that’s something money can never buy.
Imagine this with me.
Once upon a time, there was a girl. She went to the most exclusive school in the country (which really just meant it was the most expensive), and spent her days walking amid students who came from the richest families in all the land. Their parents owned almost everything she could think of—electric companies, banks, restaurants, clothing lines. Goodness, even the malls that the restaurants and clothing lines were found in, these families owned! There were no uniforms at this school, and so the girls put together outfits every day, which meant shopping was not just a luxury—it was a necessity.
Cars with drivers, bodyguards and yayas would pull up to pick up the children from school. But the girl, she didn’t come from a family that had any of that. Her father had an old but sturdy car that got them from place A to place B. Her mom had started a landscaping and gardening business. They had a jeepney to transport plants and sacks of soil. On some days, the girl had to ride to school in that jeepney—but because of peer pressure, she would get dropped off down the street, and walk the rest of the way to the school gate.
The feeling you have inside you, everybody shares to a certain extent. For some, like you, it may be because you don’t have the coolest new gadget, or the prettiest material things. For others, they may share that same feeling of “unworthiness” because they aren’t as good in school as others. There are even those kids that seem like they have everything together, but really just wish they had a mom or dad that loved them and spent time with them.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that ANYBODY in this world, when you get to know them, has a) something to teach you, and b) something to learn from you. If you can find out what you’re really good at, and share that with others, let that be the basis of why people want to spend time with you—not because of some overpriced piece of metal or plastic that really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.
And, by the way, that girl I was talking about earlier? She eventually decided she would use the embarrassment she felt in school to motivate her to work hard, so that she could afford nice things for herself. Glad to say, everything turned out beyond okay :)