I have recently been re-watching ‘The Office’ on Netflix as I work in a real office now and thought I could relate better. Spoiler alert: I can, but not in the way I had hoped.
Binge watching ‘The Office’ combined with the reflectiveness of my late (last stop) twenties has brought forward the most startling and frankly unflattering realization.
Back when I was a wee-un (think early to mid-20s) I was a Michael Scott.
Yup. There. I said it. (Errrr … Wrote it, actually, which feels much more official.)
Watching this show I can’t help but think back to my years working at Chapters, struggling at twenty (and twenty one, and twenty two and … well, I worked there for a while) to find meaning and purpose in my life while unknowingly turning into a repulsive and irritating person. Sure, I didn’t tell nearly as many racist jokes and I mostly just made fun of people behind their backs in an effort to belong, but I was just as awful and inept as Michael Scott on his worst days.
Let me backtrack a bit and explain a few things.
I was pathologically shy all through school. Now, I know that everyone always says they were shy (or are shy) and that this is not a unique thing, but for me any kind of social interaction frightened me to the point of nausea and sheer terror throughout my entire adolescence. I never had more than 6 friends through my years in school (total, not at a time) and I was never able to have a normal conversation with someone I didn’t know extremely well for longer than 5 minutes until I was 18.
(Now my record is 14 minutes!)
Then suddenly I moved to Edmonton and I was able to start fresh. It became easier (though it has never, not even once and not even now, become easy) for me to talk to people. It was as if I was a new person and people seemed to like me which was an intoxicating feeling for someone who had spent their entire life being disliked and bullied.
And then things got ugly.
I became obsessed with being liked and it became a desperate need. Everyone had to like me, even people that I myself didn’t like. If even one person out of a hundred didn’t like me I sunk into a devastating depression.
I started to become a chameleon, changing everything about myself to fit in with whoever I was talking to at the time. I started to insert myself in people’s lives and strategize for ways to be liked. I stressed and obsessed over it.
I started to gossip, meanly and desperately. Knowing people’s secrets made me feel important and being able to pass those secrets along (á la Michael Scott) made me seem like I was in the know.
It didn’t matter that this behaviour cost me more friends than it made me, I was beyond rational thought.
It was not a good time.
The truth is it took a long time before I started to become less Michael-ish and, if I am being completely honest, in the beginning it was due in large part to me moving back to Victoria and having less social relationships rather than a sudden burst of maturity and genuine self-reflection.
I still struggle with a desperate need to be liked and find it gut-wrenching when people don’t like me. I still battle with people pleasing tendencies and fight to be myself even when that’s not who I need to be in the moment to fit in. And it is hard.
But at least I am no longer a Michael Scott.
PS. This *hopefully* marks my return to blogging! I have missed you all!