Revenge of the Nerds: Most Geeks Well Adjusted

Moreover, experts stressed the danger of seeking popularity over close-knit and meaningful relationships, which truly allow teens to grow as people and become familiar and comfortable with themselves.

"The way you think about and perceive yourself is connected to many necessary factors of being healthy: confidence, intimacy, motivation, forgiveness, resilience and so on," Brown said. "Social success should not be measured only by popularity, but by other social factors in relationships like give-and-take reciprocity, integrity, cooperation, loyalty and communication. These factors are far more useful in adult life."

Finding a Niche

In order to teach adolescents to care less about popularity and more about being comfortable in their own skin, many experts stressed that teens should be encouraged to seek validation from extracurricular activities rather than from the popular group at school.

"Look outside of school if you aren't fitting in there, or look at niches and groups not on the radar at school to find your place to be," McElhaney said.

Some teens involved in the study who weren't popular in school still fared well socially because they seemed fulfilled by their extracurricular activities or social groups outside of school, such as church youth groups, she said.

Kaslow added that she would encourage teens who are struggling socially to try to connect with people over shared activities, such as sports teams or music classes outside of school.

The overall message of the study may be that popularity doesn't matter nearly as much as how one perceives oneself -- a revelation that should come as a welcome relief to unpopular teens and formerly unpopular adults everywhere.

"For many adolescents, being well-known equals being well-liked; this isn't necessarily accurate thinking," Brown said. "Relationships should be about quality, not quantity. Legacy and integrity far outweigh popularity."

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