Fitting the Mold: A Less Than Ideal Praxis
"It is easy, in the world, to live after the world's opinions; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness, the independence of solitude."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Perspective is a funny thing. With youth comes a charged perspective, ideals based on passions, dreams, and legends. As we progress down the road of life, viewing our very own bildungsroman, that perspective slowly begins to change. The more we attach ourselves, the more we fear losing that which we care about the most, causing those passions of our youth to temper into gems of wisdom, guiding us further into eternity.
As we contemplate where we come from and where we may be going, certain, previously misunderstood motivations suddenly become clear to us. Of course, this blazing clarity is usually fueled by external forces, and with the spark of understanding lit by our own minds we begin to find comfort in truly comprehending our lives.
A Light Bulb Moment
My recent clarity was sparked by a TED presentation. Susan Cain, author of "Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking," spoke about what it means to be an introvert in today's society, and how the introvert is at a disadvantage in certain foundational institutions like education and the common workforce.
In her talk she addressed the "madness for the constant group-work we have in our offices." As is so often, I stopped listening after that, falling upon that idea and the feeling it registered within me, with childlike curiosity and vigor.
The Education System
I began to think back to my grade school days, where very little, if any, work was done as an individual. We continue to push our children into working in groups because of our societies love affair with the extrovert based, "brain storm session" method. Teachers praise the child who speaks out, all while murmuring to fellow teachers in the break room about how "sad it is to see little Jimmy in his shell, he's such a smart boy." As we move forward through the education system, participation becomes intricately connected to the grading system, further integrating the expectation that truly successful individuals fit an extroverted mold.
As the education system is the training grounds for the modern workforce, seeing these flawed systems in place during work hours is no surprise. Employers hire employees based on spunk and charisma, true "leadership" material. They say, "This one has a bright future here!" based purely on that person drawing strength and energy from being in a group. They pool their employees in teams, counting on camaraderie to spur grand ideas and move the company forward, forgetting that not every person fits the mold. But, since the solution to catering to all types would mean a complete restructuring of a generations old model, the mold stays.
Patients Of Virtue
Here's the thing introverts, when you begin to boil down the differences between us and them, there is only one glaring difference, where we draw our energy. While the extrovert draws energy, power, and confidence from groups, the introvert finds that same strength from solitude and quiet contemplation. Bottom line, we may never understand our counterparts, nor is it likely they will ever truly understand us. But, respect is just on the horizon. Fleeting are the days when you will be required to speak loudly just to be heard...when you have to equip your extrovert mask just to fit in with the rest of the disciples...when you are constantly exhausted because you have been made to interact with your co-workers like they were family...when you have to hide.
For now, take in what you can from your experiences in this world and be the brilliant introvert you know you are, for the other half needs you more than you know.