Notions of Self from a Perpetual Over-Apologizer

From Peggy Olson'isms on Tumblr

From Peggy Olson’isms on Tumblr

“Thank you. Sorry! What do you need me to do?” Sometimes, my politeness feels like a curse. A nervous tic that won’t go away. Like I was born into a self-prescribed caste of utter subservience.

“Well, what’s your gut telling you?” “What is your recommendation?” My managers have always said, gently nudging me to come to a decision on my own. “Well I guess…” I’ll rattle off a decision and be on my way, pleased to know that my inclination had been right and convinced that next time around, I’ll try not to ask for validation.

Then I see Joan. And Peggy, in the later seasons of Mad Men. The more they grow, the more they are themselves. So too seem to be the career paths for Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope.

In the most recent season of Mad Men, Peggy what we’ve almost expected, that she’s sometimes felt like she’s had to act like a man. Peggy’s had a few drinks, and is babbling on about how hard things are to a poor, unsuspecting secretary.  This isn’t the eager-to-please secretary we see Peggy as in the first season. Maybe she’s been forced to play a part she wasn’t entirely comfortable with, but as she slurs her words and leans back on the couch, Peggy seems to have gotten comfortable in her new authoritative role and in the new thick skin she’s grown for herself.

Which Peggy was the true Peggy? The meek, timid one or the bold, brash one we see in later seasons? How much of “me” can we still be when we shed skins and correct our flaws? Are we new and more polished versions of ourselves, when we can confidently BS our way through presentations, or are we betraying the people we really are? What’s more, is that timid subservience a natural reaction to an unfamiliar situation, or is that an unnatural phobia we’ve picked up along the way?

Dan Harmon, the genius creator of “Community,” (and runner of the show when it was good) says of a talent I’m always petrified of trying, “Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do. [Story Structure 101]” I hope that’s true. And even if it’s not, it’s given me the courage to try something new, because what if it’s an important part of me that I’ve been missing out on?

As I get older (though sadly, not much wiser), I’m much more interested in the concept of one true and natural self. The philosophers I caught wind of at Skidmore, who have since blended together and eventually dissipated from my brain, are much more relevant and interesting to me today.

Maybe I’ve finally reached a point in my life in which I decelerate. Maybe it’s stop to reframe my focus to be more about shedding false layers than piling on more notions of myself.

How do you define yourself? And how much of that is your own prescribed identity for society’s sake, as opposed to your honest interpretation of self?

This entry was published on March 30, 2013 at 9:00 am. It’s filed under Inspiration, Married Life, winter and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Notions of Self from a Perpetual Over-Apologizer

  1. As always your words hit home. i love this. We talked about this briefly over Christmas, but I know we could go for hours because this is something I struggle with too. And I find that I need to separate my work self from my personal life self. At work I need to be oozing with fake confidence and fake decisiveness, and outside of work I just want to sit back behind the scenes,relax and just go with the flow. And of course they overlap every once in a while, but it’s like I have to flip a switch each day and work at it. I just hate the notion of “learning to play the game,” but I guess that’s life, right? We need a coffee date :) And 6 days until the return of Mad Men! Can NOT wait.

    • I’d love to get coffee the next time you’re in town! I’m so glad to hear that you identify with the “fake it till you make it” awkwardness. Maybe someday, we’ll have the courage to stand by our convictions but for now, I guess we should resolve to try and hope for the best.

      SO pumped to see the new Mad Men. We just finished the last season and are looping back around from the beginning, because we’re just that obsessed. Can’t wait to see how Peggy’s new job pans out. I started bawling when she told Don she was leaving. The characters feel so real in that show.

      Miss you! Thanks so much for posting!

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