Social Club for Hermits is a space where I, an anxious person who still kinda likes people, reflect on social skills, boundary setting, anxiety management and self improvement strategies that have been helpful to me. Hopefully I’ll say some things that are helpful for other anxious people who still kinda like people. New posts the first and third Sunday of every month.
When I was an ultra-conservative homeschooled Christian child, the youth leaders around me were very concerned with role models, as in “(insert literally any Disney actress here) was such a good role model before she took her top off.” It was a double edged tool of control. It pressured adults to follow narrow standards of behavior, because won’t somebody please think of the children, when those adults inevitably failed, the children got to see the social censure that would come. As a result, when I started drifting away from that world, one of the first things to go was the idea that I needed a role model. Role models were all about the idea that there was one right way to be, and everyone had to be that one right sort of person all the time Or Else.
Around that time I also ventured into the world of, gasp, secular TV, and got hooked on Scrubs. One episode of it taught me more about role models than any number of sermons.
Scrubs is a hospital sitcom that happens to be objectively the absolute best medical TV show in the universe. (House and MASH are tied for second place. No disagreements in the comments; Lane hath spoken.) One of the four protagonists, Elliot Reid, has great character arc. In her first episode she is insecure, neurotic and extremely bad with people. However, she recognizes this about herself and keeps trying to do better. Where many shows would constantly teach her a lesson and then hit the reset button, Scrubs let her grow, but at a gradual pace that was detailed and realistic.
In season three she meets psychologist Molly Clock, who she immediately latches onto as a role model, and then learns Molly has terrible taste in men. Her current boyfriend is a convicted felon, all of her exes are similarly dysfunctional. The lesson of the episode, for Elliot, is that if she holds out for a role model who is perfect in every way, she will never have a role model. Molly truly does have many of the qualities that Elliot lacks, and needs to learn. She also has her own issues that she’s aware of and trying to handle. Elliot was trying to become a better person by becoming Molly. What she should do is try to be an Elliot who is, in some ways, more Mollyish.
This was my first good lesson in role models. Don’t try to find a perfect person. There is no such beast. Instead, find a flawed person who is still closer to the kind of person who you would like to be, and let them be a rough guide. When I was in college, I found such a person. I was trying to succeed in college but felt I was drowning in anxiety, and she lived her life fearlessly and filterlessly. She also was a bit judgmental and not the best critical thinker, but that was all right. I didn’t need a role model in those areas; I needed someone to show me how to calm down and act without panicking over every decision.
If you have anybody who helped show you how to grow, please leave a comment.