to clique or not to clique

To clique or not to clique? Well first, we need to define clique. A clique is not just a group of friends with common interests or history.  If that is all it was, all adolescents would belong to some kind of clique. Instead, we talk about cliques as being small, exclusive groups of friends where each member is either directly or indirectly connected to each other member. Cliques usually refer to groups of girls; however, boys are also involved in cliques. There are usually hierarchies of cliques among teens, from the populars to the losers, and there are often many different cliques in schools; some examples of cliques that may be around are: goths, geeks, band geeks, stoners, freaks, book worms, math geeks, nerds, punks, skaters, drama people, tomboys, and jocks just to name a few.

Most people want to be accepted and feel that they belong to a group. Being part of a group can be a very good thing; you learn social skills, share ideas, figure out what matters to you, and have fun. When it’s not so good is when members of a clique intentionally exclude others by being mean, by gossiping or making fun of those who are not a part of their group. No one is entitled to be liked by everyone else but intentionally excluding or being mean to someone just because they are not a part of the inner circle is wrong.

Researchers have found that oftentimes, the people who are the leaders in a clique has very low self-esteem; they rely on the group’s acceptance to bolster their own feelings of worth. You may know someone who is completely nice when they are by themselves and turn into someone totally different when they are around their group of friends… that is a sign of someone who is struggling to ensure that their position in the clique is not in jeopardy.

Everyone wants to belong…

… and usually middle and high school are when you are trying to figure out where you fit in; who you really are. But if the group you are hanging out with is starting to make you feel uncomfortable, or if they are asking you to do things that you don’t like; it might be time to find a new group or clique.

Here are some ideas that might help when dealing with cliques:

  • Know who you are and don’t change to suit other people. Think about what you really believe in and what you value, then look around and see who else seems to have the same interests as you. Don’t ever feel like you have to be someone else in order to fit in or to be approved by the group.
  • It may sound corny or something only an adult would say, but everyone really needs to like and respect themselves. If you feel “yucky” after doing something in order to fit in with the group, then that probably isn’t the right group for you.
  • Meeting new people is hard, but having a bunch of different friends with different interests is a really great way to figure out who you really are. Learning about different people – their values, their cultures, their beliefs, and customs can really broaden your horizons.
  • Have your own opinion and don’t be afraid to voice it. And don’t think that you can only hang around with those who agree with you… sometimes someone with a totally different point of view can change how you see the world.

And finally, talk to an adult. Believe it or not, cliques have been around since time immemorial.  You and your friends did not invent cliques. The adults in your life, your parents, other family members, or teachers may be able to help you. Whether you decide that stay in a clique or leave is your decision. So… whether you decide to clique or not to clique, make sure you’re making the right decision for you.


Shelley Magnusson

Executive Staff Officer, Government | The Alberta Teachers’ Association