The Popcorn Metaphor

January 24, 2024

Dear friend ,

Take a bag of popcorn kernels and heat it in the microwave oven for two and a half minutes. About 95 percent of the grains pop, but at the bottom remain the hard and unyielding 5 percent. You decide to heat the bag for another 30 seconds. The remaining 5 percent also pop, but what happens to the rest 95 percent? They get burnt.


Well, a proportion of people are like those unpoppable kernels – rigid and unyielding. You will have to invest a lot of energy to make them happy. 

How best to handle them? Until very recently, I used to believe in everyone who didn’t believe in me. If you didn’t like me, you were sure to occupy the biggest real estate in my head. I was obsessed with getting everyone’s approval. Then, once while opening a bag of popcorn and looking at the hard kernels at the bottom, I realized I am putting too much energy into pleasing the people who don’t wish to be pleased. I decided to change.

I told myself, “I will lease my brain’s premium real estate to those who accept me for who I am. I will believe those who believe in me.”

Does that mean I stopped listening to the critics and the naysayers? Certainly not. I value and welcome criticisms. We all need negative feedback to tweak our efforts and to grow. But we tend to globalize the negativity. If you told me my singing isn’t good, I would assume you don’t like me anymore. So, the change I have made is to limit the disapproval to the specifics. In your opinion, this evening, I wasn’t able to sing a specific song to your satisfaction. Who knows, I might do better tomorrow, perhaps with another song?

Friend, when listening to your critique, do not generalize it and do not assume it is permanent. Instead, limit it to the narrowest time span and to the specifics that are mentioned. 

And remember that some popcorn kernels are unpoppable. If it feels right, make a commitment to believe more in those who believe in you. That is not lowering standards. It is being kind to yourself. 

Take care,


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