If you were unpopular at school, you probably have these 9 traits as an adult

Kids can be so cruel.

“We can? Thanks, Mom!” 

While that’s one of my favorite Simpsons gags ever, it was clearly misinterpreted. Despite being a sort of lone wolf, Bart Simpson still had friends at school and wasn’t shunned like some other characters. Or real-life people.

Were you?

You may have been unpopular, picked on, or even bullied during your formative years. Or perhaps, like me, you really just kept to yourself and had only a small circle of friends. 

Being unpopular could have been a choice, but for the most part, it’s usually the result of any number of factors like being introverted, highly individualistic, anti-social, non-conformist, or just plain different. 

And it can be a lonely experience.

Even if you weren’t picked on, you were still never picked first, and that can have lasting effects on you into your adult years.

If you were unpopular at school, you probably have these nine traits as an adult because you haven’t really lived down those school-age experiences. 

1) You have low self-esteem

If you were unpopular in school, we can assume that you didn’t have a high status at that time and weren’t broadly liked.

This may or may not have been due to your behavior, but the result is the same. This experience of not being accepted by your peers can go deep to your core.

In fact, you may not have been popular because you had low self-esteem, a poor conception of yourself and your value when you were in school. And when others essentially rejected you, this could have reinforced the way you already felt about yourself.

Or else you may have had higher self-esteem when you started school, and it was slowly chipped away because you didn’t feel that others liked and appreciated who you were.

Where does this leave you as an adult?

It’s entirely likely that you continue to have self-esteem issues now that stem from your school experiences.

2) You’re independent

If you’re an independent adult, you may have high school unpopularity to blame. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

When you’re not popular in school, this can mean that you have few friends, just one friend, or even no friends at all. So what choice would you have had but to do things by yourself and for yourself?

For better or worse, people who weren’t popular at school tend to learn to look out for themselves. 

So you might be someone who’s really comfortable being alone and on your own. You can walk into a restaurant, sit down, and eat a meal by yourself, while other people might find this a really intimidating thing to do.

You’re probably really used to your own company and being able to satisfy your own emotional needs.

3) You’re a recluse

You may not only be independent. You might be a real recluse.

This means that you actively distance yourself from other people, even to the point of isolating yourself.


Well, if you weren’t just unpopular in school but actually had some really bad experiences that left you injured, you may not have recovered from this hurt. That can make you view other people as hostile and dangerous to be in contact with.

So what do you do?

You keep yourself safe and protected by having as little contact with humans as possible.

If you work from home and have all your groceries delivered because you don’t like to go out, you could be a recluse, and it could all stem from what happened at school.

4) You prefer the company of older people

Another possibility is that instead of avoiding all people, you tend to avoid only people your own age, at least within a few years either way.

A lot of people who were unpopular in school had trouble finding friends their own age then and, therefore, went for younger or older options. Students a year or two younger than you may have been more open and appreciative of you and made you feel welcome.

What’s more common is that you aimed higher.

Many people who feel they don’t fit in with their own age group feel like their peers don’t understand them gravitate to older people who they expect to be more mature and accepting.

And often, they’re right!

So, if you’ve spent most of your social time with people who are older than you rather than with your own age group, it’s very possible this behavior stems from your high school experiences.

5) You’re academically inclined

What do people do at school if they’re not busy socializing, joining clubs, going to events, and taking part in sports and other extra-curricular activities?

Hmmm, study?

In fact, this connection may go both ways.

Students who were very bookish and focused on learning may have been unpopular. They might have been seen as anti-social because of this focus, or they may have been rejected as brainy and arrogant.

On the other hand, they may have thrown themselves into their studies because they needed an outlet for their energy that their social lives didn’t provide.

Either way, there’s often an association between a lack of popularity and interest in academia.

And if you’re still more interested in books than people, this is probably something that has stuck since you were in school.

6) You struggle with social skills

Not everyone has great social intelligence

Some of us struggle to understand other people’s feelings as we don’t have great capacities for empathy. Others are anti-social and full of angst and anger. I know I was in my student days.

It’s not always easy to read other people’s actions, emotions, and intentions. This can leave many students confused and falling between the cracks in the complex social networks that develop in high schools, especially larger ones.

That could have been why you weren’t popular back in your school days – you didn’t have great social skills.

Well, the bad news is that your school years are when you would normally learn to navigate social situations and relationships to develop your social skills. But if you were rejected and isolated, then you may not have had enough exposure to others to develop yours well.

So, you may still struggle to meet new people, make friends, and maintain relationships as an adult.

7) You’re introverted

Or maybe you just really can’t handle a lot of time with people.

As an introvert myself, I understand how tough it can be to be social, especially when you don’t want to be. 

As an adult, you can often choose to be social or not, while as a student, you were thrust into social situations you might not have been comfortable with.

These could include anything from just being in class to doing group projects or mandatory activities.

See, introverts tend to overthink social situations, and that can be really exhausting. They tend to need to get away from people to recharge when they feel tired.

If you are one, that may have been a big reason you weren’t popular. You didn’t like spending a lot of time with others, and you still may not.

8) You struggle with money

It’s possible that if you were unpopular in school, you may not make as much money as many of your peers. 

Now, we know from the examples of extremely wealthy nerds like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs that this isn’t always true. However, research suggests that popularity in school can be linked to income in the future.  

Why would this be a general pattern? 

Researchers suggest that income is strongly linked to likeability and the ability to network and socialize leads to more open doors for more-social people.

If your income isn’t what you’d hoped for, or you see most of your peers making more money than you, this could be because they had the social skills to help them in the world of work while you didn’t.

9) You fear rejection

If you were essentially rejected in your adolescence, it makes a lot of sense that you adopted fear of rejection as a personality trait.

You may be really apprehensive when you meet new people. You could be afraid to put yourself out there and then get rejected since it has happened before, and that really hurt.

This is normal for people with low self-esteem since they’ve internalized the rejection of others and made this a part of their value judgment of themselves.


If you were unpopular at school, you probably have at least some of these 9 traits as an adult. Your early experiences with others have shaped you as they’ve shaped all of us, and this informs your adult life.

But at the same time, the opposite could be true. 

Your school may have simply been a toxic environment that didn’t allow you to grow and spread your wings. And once you got out of it, you may have managed to really come into your own as a truly well-adjusted person.

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