What does being unpopular mean?

The thought of being unpopular used to be one of my biggest fears. It may come as a shock to you, but throughout my life I have struggled with feeling as though I should do whatever it takes to be liked by most people. This belief has allowed me to maintain friendships far longer than I should have, it’s encouraged me to give far more than I knew I’d ever get back from people, and it’s lead to me to being walked all over by others because I felt too awkward to stand up for myself. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized that most of those relationships have helped mold me into the man I am today. I’m proud that I’ve been able to learn and grow from many of those moments.

In the video posted below, Rethinking Unpopular: Erika Napoletano at TEDxBoulder 2012, Erika describes her difference between being “unpopular” and being “unlikeable.” Being unpopular, she explains, means making decisions based on honoring two groups of people: those who will love us for everything we are (and everything we aren’t), and ourselves. Being unlikeable, however, stems from the belief that everything revolves around us. When applying that distinction to my job as a personal trainer, it means although I may not always make the most popular decision in the gym, I’ll always make the one that has the best interest of my athletes at the forefront of my mind.

My goal in coaching the way I do is not to try to impress other people. In fact, the older I get, the less I try to impress others, and the less apologetic I am about my desire to add value. Relinquishing the need for validation of any kind has allowed me to truly give as much of myself as possible, simply to try and improve the lives of others.


If you watch the video, you’ll hear her hilarious story about the graphic above. For the purpose of MY post, let’s change the word “Swear” to the word “Care.” I can’t explain why I care so much about my athletes, but I do. When I lead a class, my style of music may not be the most popular, but I’ll rarely play songs with lyrics that offend an entire room. I often stop athletes from adding weight to their bar when form starts to break down, which may lead to some not wanting to take classes I lead. (I think that it also leads to fewer athletes getting injured on my watch, however.) I regularly suggest that the volume of a workout be reduced or movements scaled based on an athlete’s ability or experience. While this decision may bruise an ego here and there in the short term, it usually leads to those same people being able to come back the next day instead of being so sore they can barely move. They’re not always popular decisions, but they always ones that come from a place of caring, and a place that prioritizes safety over everything else.

To some, these choices are logical and expected by a coach. To others, they’re an attack on the abilities and character of an athlete. I’m not able to control how others react. When I lay my head on my pillow at night, though, I know that I tried to help every single person I came in contact with in the gym that day. Being so unapologetic in those decisions makes me feel really good about what I do.

Every day I hope that through my actions over time, I will build the trust of those around me and prove to them that I always have their back. For those who don’t feel that way, over time, they’ll slowly move on. While that scenario doesn’t always make me happy, that’s how it goes, and it’s alright to let those people out of my “blanket fort” of life.

Please take the time to watch the video below. Let it inspire you to reassess and remind yourself why it is that you do what you do. Today, I’m more comfortable with the thought of being unpopular than I ever have been, because I know the choices I make at work are made to try and help others.

Love me, hate me, just don’t be indifferent!” she says. I feel the same way!

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