A nagging sensation has pestered me incessantly through recent years. As I have not yet reached 30, I hope this sensation does not signify a mid-life crisis. However, I have recently felt a bit hopeless, that I will never find the American version of success through any profession or medium from which I experience a deep sense of passion or fulfillment.
Listen, Ben…you gotta toughen up. The world’s mean and doesn’t care about you. Sure, your art was cute when you were a kid and I’m glad you had so much fun making books out of paper and tagboard in elementary school – it makes for great family reunion material. But, now, let’s make sure we’re obsessing over music at a reasonable level. And good Lord you read a lot!
I can only imagine these words have reached the ears of many introverts as they come up in the world. To the listener, I have to assume that such words immediately translate into a dichotomous perspective of superiority and inferiority – valuable and wasteful. Of course, the listener instinctively categorizes themselves on one side of the split. Unfortunately, one might feel that their passions will never come to successful fruition in American consumerism because introverted tendencies and aspirations are just so darn undesirable – despite evidence to the contrary!
Take music out of the schools! Those introverts need to learn how to make themselves note-worthy despite all the commotion of people competing to generate the next economic bubble! We would let them down if we did otherwise! Then quietly, someone suggests how music increases math and science scores. But the loud guy wins because that makes more sense than reasonable ideas.
You want to be an art teacher?!?!? Good luck finding work.
So on and so forth. But I’ll quiet down now.
Cain’s book first inspired an emphatic resonance for me when she described the rise of personality over character – the evolution of American values from defining personal quality according to character and ethics to the sometimes shameless promotion of economic success as the determining factor for personal worth. I felt like a man at a rally speech violently shouting my fielty to Cain’s message. Of course, all this happened in my head.
Yet by deconstructing our current value system, showing how those values have shifted as described above, and exposing illogical idolization of extroversion as the means to American success, the introvert can confidently abandon feelings of low self-efficacy in a world that continually purges them to the outside rims. An introvert may find comfort on such fringes of parties, but I cannot concede that an introvert finds comfort in feeling unwanted, purged, worthless or diagnosable.
Cain wields a wide variety of psychological and sociological research to make her point – introverts not only have value, but suffer under unfair stereotypes illogically associated with their preferences. Many of the reasons western culture idolizes extroversion make little sense. And along the path to this cultural sentiment, we’ve lost a sense of value for things previous generations would have died for: honor, integrity, etc. These qualities have not passed into extinction, but we have redefined their value according to what they can produce. And extroverts portray such characteristics as well! Cain made every attempt to describe the ideal of social and psychological balance between the traits; though I imagine many skeptics chastising her thesis anyway. If one were to read her conclusion first, it may sound as sentimental fluff – but her research! It lends unlikely credence to feelings expressed by many who have already considered the personality imbalance.
To those who love quiet nights with a book with classical music blaring (I mean, subtly humming in the background), working in the office alone, who feel ashamed for wanting to avoid the party or “going out” in college (seriously…they talked about “out” like it was place down the street!), rediscover yourself through this book. Just because the status quo idolizes something, does not mean the disenfranchised should value themselves accordingly. After all, what group dynamic or sickness – racism, gender discrimination, etc – has not endured a similar enlightenment?