I have a strong suspicion that most of us have felt like an outsider at some point in our lives. I certainly do, and as an introvert, that is how Susan Cain has felt throughout much of her life.
Susan talks about how Western Society today values extroverts to the extent that both schools and work places tend to promote group work over individual thought and ideas.
If you consider that over a third of the population are introverts she suggests that there should surely be a re-balancing of values and working practises; that we should encourage people to go off alone to develop their own ideas and thoughts before coming together to collaborate; that we should recognise that those who talk the loudest are not always the ones with the best ideas; that we should “unplug and get inside our own heads a little more often”.
Susan points out that being an introvert means that you are probably deeply creative. The first Apple computer was created by Steve Wozniak – a self-confessed introvert. Some of the World’s most transformative leaders have been introverts – Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi. Just because you are an introvert does not mean that you have nothing to offer. Quite the opposite in fact.
If you are an introvert, you can still be the life and soul of the party, it just means that you will need to spend time alone to re-energise. If ever I’m at a party, I’ll spend at least 15 minutes in the loo halfway through to power-pose (see Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are) and re-energise before coming out and having the best time ever with a group of fabulous people.
The importance of knowing who you are is implicit in Susan Cain’s talk. Only once you know who you are and how you work well, can you then start accepting yourself and accepting the fact that it doesn’t matter if you feel like an outsider. It is then you can really start to go places.