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April 18, 2012 at 1:50 PMComments: 9 Faves: 0

Fitting the Mold: A Less Than Ideal Praxis

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This Author

"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.

The Workforce

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.

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  • Ah, you spoke to it. This is something that I have been fighting my entire life. I am supposed to be outgoing, be the leader, be the outspoken one that rocks the norm. I, however, want to be alone, at home, by myself, enjoying life fully. I know that without the pushing I have received earlier in life that I would be more agoraphobic, more happily separated from the world. But my brain sends endorphins when I think about just being alone. Oh well, I will try to continue being outgoing for now.

    Great Blog, E.M.!

  • Thanks Rex, you are certainly not alone in that want for solitude.

  • Awesome blog, E.M. Definitely with you here. There is something about silence that actually makes a person more sane than they would be if they were constantly bombarded with noise (whether it be others talking, music, etc.)

    I will admit I am definitely someone who loves being around people and dislikes being alone. BUT you can lose yourself in other people if you are constantly around them 24/7. It's not healthy in my opinion. Everyone, whether they believe so or not, needs to take time in sit in silence. Even if it's just in the morning, with a cup of coffee or tea before work. Any silence is good silence.

  • Thanks Bri. I agree, silence is precious in the world we occupy.

  • I feel the pressure too. It seems like every job listing wants communications skills. I can communicate well, but I just don't like to chatter on and on. I can work in a team; everybody needs to be able to do that. I prefer, however, to work on my own. I was told that I had not been selected for a position because I was too hard to get information from because I was so nervous. Part of it was due to nerves, of course, but I wanted to be sure that I was answering the question to the interviewer's satisfaction. This was for a lab position, where I would likely just be doing my own thing. I think the hiring process discriminates against introverts.

  • There is no doubt that discrimination occurs, but being an introvert doesn't mean a lack of communication skills. Introverts can communicate just as effectively as their extrovert counterparts, we just derive more peace from quiet contemplation.

    It is unfortunate that a research job would discriminate based on personality traits, but each of us need to make sure we can communicate our thoughts efficiently. Being an introvert allows us the ability to observe circumstances and adapt to survive, a trait that has served us well for a very long time. I encourage you to develop this trait and apply it when necessary.

  • I always thought school was an equal mix of introvert and extrovert activities. I'm more extrovert so I love the group activities and projects. I really excel at those and it's really the only way I learn. Of course homework unless turned into group work is designed for the introvert. That's the main reason (among others) why I never completed mine thus my grades suffer for it.

    I hate doing things alone, and I have no motivation to do anything if I'm alone. My procrastination stems from being alone. I agree with the idea that society favors the extrovert and the "team" aspect, but saying school isn't balanced is wrong from my experience. Introvert work is the main reason why I never succeeded in academics.

  • I don't think there was anyone telling you that you had to do your homework along, Kage. I do believe that is why study groups were created.

  • Alone

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