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Geeks rule: Being labelled a misfit can be good for kids

Being a nerd may be beneficial in the long-term.


The future belongs to the freaks, geeks, loners and nerds who were ignored in high school.

According to U.S. author Alexandra Robbins, being unpopular may be a good indicator of success later in life. In her new book, titled The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School, Ms. Robbins suggests that parents needn't worry too much if their children don't fit in.

In fact, her "quirk theory" explains how fringe status might actually give young people a leg-up in the world.

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"Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting," she writes in her book. She notes that plenty of successful celebrities, including J.K. Rowling, Bruce Springsteen and television fashion guru Tim Gunn, were all self-proclaimed misfits in high school.

Ms. Robbins, who also wrote bestsellers Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities and The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, says that even though being labelled an outcast can be lonely, it can also be liberating for young people, allowing them to "embrace and express their true selves" and resist conformity, since they're already considered different. In this way, outcasts can even count themselves as lucky because they're not expected to act like everyone else, she adds.

She also suggests that conventional ideas about popularity are wrong.

"What if popularity is not the same thing as social success?" she writes. "Being an outsider doesn't necessarily indicate any sort of social failing."

What do you think? Did your social status in high school affect the way you've turned out, for better or worse?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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