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Having Certain Traits Won't Automatically Lead To A Social Payoff Down The Line

As they're growing up some less socially successful people tell themselves, "My social situation isn't great now, but I have Trait X, and when I'm older people will start to notice and appreciate it, and then everything will work out."

What trait they think will pay off in the future varies, but some common ones are:

People can come to believe one of their traits will change their social circumstances down the road because they've gotten messages saying so from their friends, family, or society. For example, their parents may tell them that one day people will appreciate how nice they are, or the lesson of a TV show may be that loyalty always gets you friends in the end. They may also come to that conclusion on their own ("The kids in my high school are shallow, but when I'm in college everyone will appreciate how I march to the beat of my own drum.")

The unfortunate fact is none of the traits listed will automatically lead to more social success in the future. I'm not just trying to be a buzzkill by saying that. It's just useful not to have unrealistic expectations about how the future will turn out. It can save you from becoming bitter and disappointed when things don't turn out as you hoped. Knowing you can't sit back and wait for a certain personality trait to eventually make everything work out also keeps you from wasting time. If you're not happy with where you stand socially there are changes you could be making now.

Reasons these traits won't automatically fix your social life down the line

It's not that the traits listed above are bad. They're positive in many ways, and lots of people do appreciate them. Some of them are more respected as people get older and their priorities change. It's like I said, having them just isn't a guaranteed ticket to one day having a better social situation. There are a few reasons for this:

Not everyone values every trait

While a trait like being a non-conformer has its benefits, not everyone cares about it. Some people are very conventional in their thinking and interests and are either indifferent to non-conformity or even judgmental towards it. Some mainstream people change their opinion about it as they mature, but many don't. It's not that they'll all wake up one day and realize they were wrong about you. Similarly, some people don't care if their friends are intelligent or morally upright or not.

Even if people do value a trait, it's only one of many factors they judge you by

Say you're a fiercely loyal friend. That's a plus, but it's only one trait of many in your overall personality and social package. People form an opinion on you based on the sum of who you are. When they're deciding what they think of you they may give a lot more weight to other considerations, like "Are they pleasant and fun to be around?" If you don't appeal to someone on the whole they're not going to like you just because you would always be at their side if you were to be friends. If your social skills are underdeveloped and you don't make a good impression on people that can overshadow many of your positive features.

Even if you can be well-rewarded for a trait, you often have to show it in a way people like and care about

If you're inwardly creative and non-conforming, but you work a typical job, wear the kinds of business-casual outfits your office makes you wear, keep your more controversial opinions to yourself, and have common hobbies, no one's going to give you points because you're a rebel in your heart of hearts. You could actively cost yourself points if you expressed your non-conformity in a snarky, arrogant way. On the other hand you may impress some people with your independent thinking if you used it to create some interesting, provocative art, come up with appealing unconventional sense of style, have thought-provoking views on the world, or live a successful, inspiring off-the-beaten-path life. Though like I said, even if you present them in the best light, not everyone will value every trait. Not every trait can be spun in a positive way either. Like if you're mature and responsible, there's not exactly an exciting, dazzling way to be super-responsible.


So if you were counting down the days until one of your traits would start paying off, and this article pulled the rug out from under you, what can you do? Mainly, and obviously, work on any social problems you're having directly. For example, if you're having trouble making friends, develop those skills. If you feel like you're surrounded by people who don't get you, try to find a group who's more your style. You could also think on if there's a way you could present some of your traits in a more appealing way. Whatever you do, don't passively wait for your fortunes to turn around because one day everyone will recognize aspects of you they don't now.