Remember that in the 'nature vs nurture' debate, you must also include input from peers, relatives, authority figures, news, movies etc. As a parent you are doing everything you can in the best way possible - but you can't edit what goes into her mind from all these other things. You are doing the right thing by giving her choices and advice. You cannot 'stop' her from wanting to be popular or the best, you can only show her the different options, why they are both negative and beneficial to her, and leave her to make the choice. And then life itself has the final say (barring of course a choice that leads to genuine damage or injury).
Rememeber that teenagers know EVERYTHING. If you tell her that those kids aren't the best to hang out with, you are likely to be dismissed. To her its the most obvious thing in the world that 'hanging out with the best' is the ONLY option. She needs to SEE how it may not be the right way. Are these the girls that are shunning her? If so, tell her a story about a friend you had at school who knew a group of friends (could be acquaintances of someone you know or knew, doesn't matter - make it up. Its a white lie to help your loved one) who were all very pretty, but liked to prey on other people's emotions. They were popular and hung together in a little tight knit group. They knew when someone desperately wanted to be their friend and could control and manipulate those people because, they would say, "everyone knows you want what you can't have". They had other girls and even boys doing homework for them and giving them money, and would sometimes be really nice to them ("to mix the pain in with the medicine") .Instead of becoming popular and part of the group though, these girls just used them and were mean to them. For a while your friend was caught up in it, but eventually decided to break free and find out what her own personality was. She found out what she liked to do that made her happy, and gradually without realising she generated an infectious sense of joy that attracted others to her, instead of her trying to pull others close. With time she had her own group of friends who were close and respectful of one another. Try Leaving pamphlets around for groups and activities in the area. Help her to cultivate her own personal talents and interests and show that you appreciate and support her in whatever it may be. Even if its cricket
Make it feel liker HER choice, and don't compare her to other teenagers - this sets kids up for the Magnification Error which features heavily in CBT thinking errors.
This may not be the best example, but an indirect route that she needs to think through HERSELF will be the best way for her to see it.
Get her to notice the good things she does in life, even the small things. Make her give herself rewards. If her homework is really well done, very occasionally say "you should treat yourself". Give her $10 and let her decide what this will be. If you see someone in a movie or on TV handle teasing or put downs well, in a balanced way, then say "oh didn;t they handle that well! I'd love to do that.". Subtly point out the alternatives ...
I think equipping her with assertiveness techniques and the ability to view herself and others in a more balanced way will be helpful. The xperience of being assertive in an every day way does huge amounts for confidence, and with time she may not feel the need for so much outside approval. Her need to be the best and be liked may be characteristic of the teenage years, but as we know, if the need becomes a demand, and the person in question is unable to GAIN the approval they desire, then this is a recipe for mood disorders and problems later in life.
This period of time is when teenagers start to define their identity, and they need a certain amount of freedom in doing so. You can guide, but restraint will only be reacted against - if you pull too tightly on the reins, she will slip out. Give her facts and choices. Give her concrete examples and possible outcomes from her chosen behaviours. Tell her if you wonder if her other friends feel sad that she wants to be with the popular ones more. Ask her WHY does being pretty or popular make other people more important? Try to have an intellectual debate with her and try to prove that prettiness + popularity doesnt equal worth. Ask her if she thinks that you need to like yourself before others will like you, and if so, does she think it is more important to be liked by popular people than to have a genuine esteem for yourself? Agree that the more you seek approval, the less you get, and perhas by loving yourself more you may give off a warmth that others are pulled towards, and you are more able to give others approval. Ask her how she thinks she might learn to like herself more and try to steer the conversation towards learning, development and personal achievement (not just schoolwork). Be balanced and try to curb your own worry
. When she sees you are strong she will feel safe and supported, and will believe in what you have to say. There will be struggle and conflict, that is guaranteed - but how you handle it is what will define who both you and your daughter become.
Try not to take her problems to mean that you are a 'bad mother' - there is no such thing! You are doing what you see as best because you love her. Identify what you do that helps her, identify things you feel may not help her (both positive and negative). If you feel that you are having difficulty with this, then you might want to go and speak with a counsellor. Talking it through can take a huge weight off your mind and open up possibilities you hadn't thought of. Is dad around? Get him to provide a little insight on standing up for yourself. Girls tend to look to fathers for the more aggressive side of life and its important they get this type of input. If not, then try to find a male counsellor who can provide these views or find an understanding male teacher she RESPECTS. Gender balance is important and you should not place all the emphasis on yourself to provide this.
I'm sure as a user of this site that you will be aware of symptoms of depression and anxiety, so just keep an eye out for those behaviours in her. If alarm bells start to ring, don;t panic, and don't fire worried questions at her - just calmly ask and give support. If she needs a therapist, well then so be it. It is much better to have it at a young age. Remember - the prognosis for SA and depression is better the sooner it is treated.
Best of luck