The writer reflects on working in a health store, customer social interaction and managing the desire for external approval. It was first published on her site.
Hi. Its been a few days (or weeks) I always want to write about what I feel is relevant in my life, I feel like that will give me the best insights, and at the moment its meeting new people.
I recently started a new job, around two weeks ago. I work in a health store over the summer. My task is to greet the customers, give them a good experience and then either give them guidance or show them to whatever they are on a hunt for. Its really rewarding because its a lot of problemsolving and i get to practise what i know and have learned the past years.
Most people that come in know what they want but some people are just lost. Its interesting though, how interactions with other people go. There is the small talk. The very brief exchange of phrases for the shallow relationships. Its almost like a dance. It’s understood, what the situation is. I say something, they say whats expected. The barrier. The authority. It feels unnatural. I feel fake. Because I feel like a phony. Im just little me, standing here and playing grown up. I cant say whatever I want. There is a script and rules to the situation. It’s a game of power. Even though its not that serious..
I don’t like that working too much in customer service makes you probably evolve to someone you´re not around other people. That’s why my goal is to work one to one. Be self-employed. Ive gone from call center jobs where EVERYTHING is scripted and forced, to sitting at a grocery store as a cashier to now, less interactions quantitatively speaking, but still face to face encounters with people. It feels better, but still not quite right.
Ive thought a lot about that, why I feel unnatural and fake. its all just a feeling I have. Or a belief. Working in sales and customer service doesn’t really go with the idea that I think of myself as shy. I limit myself there. It doesn’t go together with the idea of how ive been an majority of my life so this sales version of myself feels foreign. And I can fake it, but its not me, its like playing pretend. But since ive done it now for a few years its starting to feel a bit easier. Does that make it natural? Is it just something that becomes a part of myself as time goes on? Fake it until you make it sort of thing?
It’s a strange thing, because having social anxiety for a majority of my life has made me think that I am a person who is fearful of other people and am there for reserved socially until I have trust with the person and then I open up. That feels like me. That’s how I have evolved to be socially. But its not a trait, I have to remind myself. Its just a habit. Difference between trait and habit? I think one comes before the other. Maybe habits become a trait. A habit that repeats itself day after day. Year after year. Then you catch it, notice it and realize; it doesn’t serve me. Its not benefiting me. The opposite actually. Its limiting myself and my goals I now have. And, as youre unhappy with a trait then you have the power to break that habit. I can change whatever Im not happy with. I need to realize that. Im not a prisoner in my mind. I can actually change whatever the heck I want.
Anyway, the concept of conversation is so intriguing to me. To share your view of the world with anothers version of the world. Intersect those worlds. Expanding. I find people and connections so interesting. I want to understand people and learn about others and therefor myself. How we are all connected..
There was this one woman who was very reserved as she walked in to the store the other day. She was talking a bit to herself and getting things from shelves, knowing very well what she needed. Me, standing behind the counter, pushing down my ego at her dismissing my attempts at reaching out if she needed help. I take it personal, I always do, their response to me. I pick up immediately if they are friendly or not and it sets my mood even though i try to hide it. If they are talkative or if they dismiss my attempts. Im soooo desperate for outward approval, I know this, yet it is hard in a profession like customer service not to be. You need to give the customer a good impression, fish for their likes. Youre hired for literally getting their approval..
Yet, this woman, not wanting help kept walking around by herself.. she then asked me one small thing. I didn’t know the response and then she dismissed me again. Didn’t deem my presence to be of worth (sidenote;THIS is what my ego thought at the moment! Important!
Hahah obviously its impossible for me to know what she actually thought) After she´d paid for her things and we´d engaged in some small talk I asked her one question to hopefully leave her with a good impression. She surprisingly took the bait and opened up and started talking about hundreds of things. She was a very interesting lady. She spoke about spirituality, meditation, how she worked with healing crystals and how she saw angels etc.
We talked maybe for fifteen minutes (or more like, she talked haha) and as the conversation went by I chimed in to say something, wanting to give my input or share something from my life, she didn’t give it much energy. She said something very small, like a word or a hum, then continued on with something else. And, I noticed afterwards as I retold this story to my boyfriend that my desperate feelings of getting approval, especially from someone that doesn’t “care” steams from my daddy issues. It felt veeeeery similar to how I feel when im talking to him. I tell him something and he doesn’t even let me finish before asking a new question. He just asks something because he is supposed to as a dad – now he has done his part in acting interested. It makes me feel unimportant and even more desperate to get him to care, say something good or funny enough.
I always thought of my dad as narcissistic, in a search for an explanation because my ego couldn’t possibly accept that my own dad doesn’t care for real about me, but it doesn’t really matter. I always felt that way concerning him. And this woman left me with that very same feeling. I also realized afterwards that maybe this woman wasn’t interested in my life, she was so fulfilled in hers that she doesn’t have interest in little me and my story. She only wanted to share her experience. And that’s not from some hateful place, its just, some people are like that. Either, they have difficulty connecting with other people or they don’t feel the need.
The thing was, from that experience with the scattered lady I noticed so much. That lady doesn’t owe me anything. Yes, its nice to be polite to strangers sure but im just a store clerk. She has her life and I have mine. She doesn’t owe me shit. Some people get more out of wordly exchanges and maybe that’s when someone is on someone elses level but this woman felt so “above” me, if I can phrase myself like that, on a spiritual level, that maybe she didn’t feel like my words gave her much. And that sort of stung at the moment but reflecting afterwards im like, huh. Im self-entilted. And lol that feels obvious but it’s a good reality check.
People have their life and problems and no one is obliged to reciprocate to whatever you’re feeling. My feeling towards this lady was “wow, tell me your secrets” but her intention could have been “okay I need to stop by this store for a quick moment and get the things I want” This feels ridiculous now, writing about it. Hahhahaha of course its like that. A stranger. But you get caught up in emotions and being entitled, feeling that things surround about you. It was just a good reminder that, hey, no one owes you anything. Because when you have a habit of needing to get everyone elses approval, its not something you always reflect on. That youre unimportant to other people. Naturally. You cant be of importance to everyone. And don’t get me wrong, the conversation we had (or she) was lovely in the end. She told me a lot of things that left me thinking but it just was onesided and the whole thing made me think about conversating.
I value conversation and connection with people so much. Also why I feel so fake when having small talk with customers. I don’t want to have conversations about the weather or the news. I want them to tell me their secrets. Their struggles. Stuff they don’t want to tell anyone. Like, why? Hahaha. Why on earth do I want that? I think, maybe if I get peoples trust I can trust them. I can be myself. If I can manipulate this random person to like me so they expose their real self maybe I can be myself. No games. And this, controlling and manipulating my surroundings to be myself is just.. sigh..
I need trust in myself. If I have that, nothing else matters I wont feel desperate and look for it outwards. I have it inside myself. Easier said then done though.. (ofcourse, connecting with other people will still always be really important to me, I crave to evolve and connect with others, but maybe it wont be in the same – chasing everyone elses approval type of way) It’s a working process. My relationship to myself is definitely improving this year and that’s more than I can say for past years. Past years been a different focus, so I think im on my way to really getting to know myself and learning to have my back. Its always good for me to reflect on my meeting with people and learn from it.
by Luna, Luna Mil, July 25, 2021