The weird part is, I am so not about the self-help genre. But this new book I’m reading is kind of answering all my questions about life, even “what’s the real value in this silly genre?” (basically, self-help books collectively show society's ideals in any given time period). No disrespect to the authors of self-help books—you go out an have experiences you learned a lot from, and you want to share them to help others. I understand. I just don’t understand why the general population will eat up book after book with similar sounding generic titles like “Life is What You Make It” (bleh), because each one promises to solve all their problems. Sorry, but when I hear titles like that, I can’t help rolling my eyes. How can I trust you to give my life advice if you can’t even come up with a creative title? Anyway…
The book I’m reading right now doesn’t so much feel like a “self-help book,” although I suppose that’s what it is: Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, by Susan Cain.
I’m barely 15% in and already I’m having revelations. I already know I’m a hardcore introvert, and the general differences between these two personality types. I’m going to try not to go on about the book so much, just share some of the thoughts it inspired.
The book discusses the idea of the “extrovert ideal,” meaning that in our society, we think an extroverted personality is best. Yet in many cases, introverts can do what extroverts can not, because of their ability to stay calm and think things through, listen closely and ask questions. There’s a great example of this early in the book, where an introverted woman successfully navigates a business deal with extroverts, one of whom becomes so frustrated he storms out of the room.
It got me thinking, if this tactic can be so useful, and introverts can be so successful, why are we discouraging introversion so much? What else are we discouraging, because we think we know what “the best way” is?
For an entirely different example, I’ve sang in choirs almost all my life, and always thought I should have a high voice, because in the school choirs I was in, sopranos sing the melody. Also, it’s just generally thought of as a more feminine sound, and I was always the girliest of girly girls. I never even considered singing in a low voice could be equally—or even more beautiful.
Everybody wants to be that ideal thing. That ideal might change from time to time, for whatever reason, but despite how much trends may change, once we know what “that thing” is, we strive blindly to possess it. Extroversion. A high, “feminine” voice. The “perfect” body. Whatever else.
If we can get that ideal right away, great. For those people, they are “successful” and need never try other ways. For those who aren’t as quick, and struggle to reach the ideal, we’re told to work on it, and shown “inspirational” stories of other people who struggled and eventually got there. But no one explored any other options. How do we know the world didn’t need one of those “imperfect” people who just couldn’t get there right away to actually be doing something different? I mean, there really is no “ideal” voice, but can you imagine if there was? No one in a quartet would want to sing any other part. We wouldn’t get music as beautiful.
In one of Jenna’s videos (30 Life Lessons I Learned In 30 Years) she says that if you don’t like part of your body, just wait a while, and eventually, it will come in to fashion. For example, she though her butt was too big. A few years later, everyone was all about big butts. When I was growing up I hated my eyebrows—they were too bushy, but I didn’t want to pluck them because I didn’t think I could shape them correctly, and to be honest, plucking just sucks. It wasn’t worth it to me, so I just kept my dumb bushy eyebrows even though I hated them. And to my surprise, Jenna was right—big eyebrows were soon the next big thing.
So, while this post is a little all over the place, I hope you can take something away from it. Just because we’re presented with an ideal thing to strive for, doesn’t mean everyone should become it or they’ll fail. We need all kinds of people, and we need them all to be their ideal version of themselves.