Fox Radio Tour -- Popular Teens and Adulthood

I woke up at 3:45 a.m. MST to be ready for a Fox Radio Tour that started at 7 a.m. Eastern. I was worried because when your voice is the only thing that carries you through an interview, it is important to sound clear-headed and succinct. I had done a radio show for Ethan Bearman on KGO San Francisco earlier in the month and thought I sounded foggy and circumstantial at best! I did not want to repeat that experience.

It was dark outside. I quietly crept out of bed and into the kitchen to make my ‘pour over’ coffee. I had filled the little red teapot the night before and ground the beans to ensure I had fresh and strong coffee. I turned on the gas stove and the teapot slowly began to speak to me as it heated the water. My goal was to have my first cup of coffee about a half-hour before my first interview.

The teapot was whistling and I had already helped myself wake up with cold ice water in my face. I actually was starting to feel alive. It is not that I can’t work a night shift – in fact, my first job at the Y.E.S. Crisis Center in Minneapolis necessitated many 4 a.m. shifts answering calls to the lonely and isolated people who had no one else to comfort them in the middle of the night. I just had not worked in the middle of the night for a long time.

I checked my emails and retrieved my schedule. I had seven interviews throughout the country starting with Fox Radio in New York, each about ten minutes in length. The focus was a study that had been published by the University of Virginia in the Journal of Child Development about the relationship between high school popularity and a lack of adult close relationships resulting in more adult social anxiety. However, teens who had a tight-knit friend group at fifteen (but who were not popular) fared better at twenty-five with less social anxiety. Being a psychologist, I love my field but I'm also aware of how social science research repeats the obvious! Of course, it is true that having ‘real’ relationships in high school required good relationship skills that would be helpful later in life and reduce social anxiety.

The question for me was – how does this relate to my research and book, The Adversity Advantage: How To Turn Your Childhood Hardship Into Career and Life Success?  

The first radio interview was a little rough as I was struggling to make the connection. And then, I thought back to high school and remembered the group of kids I hung out with. Similar to my research, almost half of them were dealing with adversity, including alcoholic parents, the witnessing of domestic violence, and having been abused themselves. We were a tightly knit group quietly discussing the problems at home with friends we knew we could trust and staying away from those we couldn’t. If we were accidentally popular, there was a disparity between our superficial worlds and how we really felt inside.

The shame of what was happening at home led to the keeping of secrets that impaired being open with large groups of people. This led to superficial popularity and  ‘pseudo-mature’ behavior, but not meaningful authentic friendships. Kids who experience daily family hardships and have not had the benefit of at least one close friend need to learn relationship skills later in life by being students of communication and replacing bad learned behaviors with stronger relationship- building skills as an adult. Most often, the kids who lived with adversity and no close teen friends needed to get out of the home to find a whole new group of people to learn new ways of being in the world. Regardless of your family troubles, however, one or two authentic and close teenage friendships can be a  great buffer between yourself and lots of adult social anxiety. 


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