The Rumour- A Lesson in Blocking Out What People Think of You

Earlier this year, after completing my Master’s Degree, I reconnected with an old friend from high school. Socially, high school was a terrible time for me. I was the (more) socially awkward, lanky kid who wasn’t good at any sports and who had nerdy interests: not exactly a magnet for friends or girls. This friend I met up with was one of the few who hung out with me and accepted me for who I was, and I’d been meaning to see him again for a while. I had a great time catching up, but actually went back home with a bad taste in my mouth.

My friend let me know that some other high school acquaintances were spreading a very damaging rumour about me. He told me exactly who he heard it from, and who that person heard it from. There was another University of Ottawa alumni at the end of the chain, let’s call him Neill, one of the few ones from high school who graduated in the same year. It was easy for me to figure out who Neill heard it from, since we had few common acquaintances at OttawaU.

I tried to get in touch with the person who started the rumour, let’s call him Dylan. I messaged him on Facebook and when I didn’t get a response a day later, I called a friend at OttawaU. Dylan often hung out with some of our friends, and I was able to get his number. I sent him texts, and waited days for a response. Finally I called multiple times. I managed to get a hold of Dylan once, but he said he “had nothing to say to me” and then hung up.

To say that this situation angered me would be an understatement. It weighed on my mind more heavily than anything else. It was all I could think about at work and at home. I actually ran into Neill at my local gym and approached him politely, advising him I heard he was spreading a rumour about me. He wasn’t man enough to own up to it.

I realized that what bothered me so much about the situation wasn’t just what Dylan said. I had wronged him in the past and I figured the rumour was his way of getting revenge. It was petty, but it made sense. When it came to Neill and the other person spreading the rumour (let’s call him Mark), I was lulled into thinking there was some level of respect between us. We weren’t friends in high school and I know that during high school they thought of me as a loser. There was no bullying, but I knew they never wanted to hang out with me.

At one point, I though the social stratification of high school ended with those four years. My first year at OttawaU taught me that wasn’t the case. I was still a socially awkward, lanky guy with nerdy interests. I still repelled plenty of girls, although I had an easier time making friends. University was an improvement but it wasn’t the utopic, nerd-friendly, clean slate that it’s made out to be. Knowing this, I never thought Neill and I would be best friends at OttawU. I knew he would still be the popular guy with money and all the other things girls valued. We saw each other around a few times, exchanged a few words and moved on. I thought that there was some semblance of respect there.

Dylan started the rumour during first year, so it was clear that Neill was already spreading it by the time we graduated. Behind all those smiles and kind words was someone who refused to see me as anything but a loser. He heard the rumour and immediately believed it. My good friend didn’t do that. He told me about it. Gave me a chance to clear things up. He did that because he either didn’t believe the rumour, or didn’t want to. This realization is what made me realize that the rumour didn’t matter. People who believed it, spread it, and treated me differently because of it obviously never thought much of me. I wasn’t losing any friends. I wasn’t losing any respect. I never had any from these people in the first place, and that’s fine.

It’s always easier said than done to ignore what people say or think about you. We hear that mantra from kindergarten on, but it can take decades of self-improvement before we finally start applying it effectively. I know writing about this may seem to negate that message, but I hope that this post can help anyone who has struggled with people’s perception of them. I never thought that I would be able to think about this situation without getting angered. Now I write about it just to share a lesson with others, and to reflect on my own progress with developing more mental toughness and maturity. There was a long time when I thought I would want to kill Dylan the next time I saw him. Instead, we’ve now buried the hatchet. As for Mark and Neill, they’re little men and what they do doesn’t matter.


Sometimes, it honestly seems like some people can’t cope without drama in their lives,

It gives them a sense of purpose,



As long as someone else is being ridiculed it takes attention away from them,

By joining in the ridicule, they also get to  be part of the accepted group,

Even if that sense of inclusion is only in their heads,


I’ve fallen into this trap myself,

I was surrounded by people whose acceptance I craved,

I wanted them to like me,

So when they singled someone out for their derision,

I was quick to join in with them,

Even though I knew,

Deep down,

That I was not one of them,

It was hard for me to accept this at first,

I was in denial for months,

I ignored one comment after another,

It was harder to ignore the way everyone avoided me,

I was only a conduit for my roommate,

I only mattered if I knew where he was,


It was during this time I also noticed how quickly people follow a crowd,

My roommate was the most popular person on the floor,

He started hating someone,

So everyone else started hating that unfortunate person,

That person’s tics, habits, shortcomings,

Were magnified,

While the same ones were ignored in everyone else,

Even when I realized I wasn’t going to be accepted,

Part of me was happy that someone else was more maligned than me,


That was when I realized I wasted too much time trying to please these people,

Nothing I did was ever good enough for them,

And it took a while for me to realize that was fine,

For me to finally realize that I needed to branch out,

I wasted four months of my life in a miserable situation,

Before finding friends that I now cherish,

In  a way,

Those four months,

Saved me from wasting years



University= High School 2.0

I was hanging out with a friend yesterday, one of the few from high school. Our conversation drifted to old high school friends at one point and it brought up an incident I recalled from my first year in university.

My department arranged a boat cruise for the incoming class, as well as a group of school buses to bring the students to the pier. On the way there I figured I would try to talk to the girl seated across the aisle from me. I made eye contact, said hi, and was promptly shut down as the girl looked away. On the trip back from the pier I see an acquaintance (friend is a very strong word) from high school getting the same girl’s number.

This acquaintance, let’s call him Noah, was the same type of guy that was very successfully with girls in high school. He was on the football team, had a benz and was one of the most popular people in high school. As I saw the girl grinning as she gave him her number, I realized that university wasn’t the game-changer the media and society made it out to be. There is this pervasive fiction that the guys who struggled socially in high school will find their niche, or that the roles might even be reversed: People who were once ostracized will rise to the top due to their personalities while the jocks and the popular kids will fall behind because they have little to offer. I feel like an idiot for ever believing this.

The same high-schoolers you endured are the same people who graduate and go to university with you. That is one of the reasons I did not want to go to a local university, since I knew I would see far too many people that I was already sick of. University offers a larger group of people to mingle with. There are basically larger cliques so there is more room for anyone to fit in, but do not believe that social dynamics will change just because you’re no longer in high school. Popularity still means a lot to some people. Girls still like guys who look a certain way and are fun to be around. Us nerds might not offer that, but the people we hated in high school do. There is the old fiction that the popular kids are lacking in terms of intelligence or career aspirations, but this dichotomy is also fiction that is mean to comfort us. Of course it is true sometimes, but not all the time. I would dare to say it might not even be true most of the time. While I can think of some idiots from high school that are destined to be failures in life, Noah is currently doing better than I am by any measure: money, career aspirations, friends, girls. I can’t comfort myself by saying that I’ll go farther than him in life, because I might not.