The Fish, the Bicycle and the Introvert……or ‘why we need extroverts’

Goodguy bad guy

When I first started this blog, I got some interesting reactions, ranging from bemused curiosity ‘Why are you doing this?’ to guarded suspicion…’Are you going to start lynching extroverts then?’ … I have to say that most of those comments came from extrovert friends.  And I totally get those reactions.

Sadly, the reason for the suspicion and guardedness isn’t far to look.

Amongst the recent groundswell of introvert voices, I’ve occasionally noted some that have seemed to cast extroverts as ‘public enemy no 1’.

This is neither fair, nor true…nor does it serve anyone’s cause or best interests. An ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality never brings real or meaningful change.

Recently, I saw the movie ‘Suffragette’, and much as I enjoyed some of it, I felt irritated by the black and white portrayal of men and women’s roles. I was particularly frustrated by the ‘token supportive male’. This is not to underestimate the immense and sacrificial effort of the women campaigners, but great changes are brought about by collaborative working, often with the support of those who (should change come about) will not be the chief beneficiaries.

I believe this to have been the case with the fight for women’s suffrage, and also within the Civil Rights Movement.

I grew up with the familiar feminist mantra ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ ….which (even though I had it scrawled on my school pencil case) struck me as faintly ludicrous even then.  The relationship between a fish and a bicycle in no way equates to the relationship between a man and a woman. It was simply a memorable way of saying ‘we don’t need you’.

But we do need each other, and not simply those who are like us, but more importantly, those who are not like us too. We’re all in the boat called life, and we’d better start pulling oar together.

I used to love watching old films as a child. We always had to ask who the ‘goody’ or the ‘baddy’ was, though in westerns it was pretty obvious… The good guy rode a white horse, the bad guy rode the black horse!   Knowing who was ‘good’ and who was ‘bad’ absolved you of knowing anything else about the characters. You could just cheer or boo accordingly. Usually, the bad guy (or woman!) got their just deserts by the time the credits rolled.

Simple days, simple pleasures!

That early need to know who was on the ‘good’ side (and hence who was on the ‘bad’ side!) doesn’t end with childhood though. It gets more complicated, more subtle  (and much more problematic) as we enter adulthood.

Choosing a side gives us a feeling of belonging, a sense of ‘tribe’, of supporting and being supported by a larger body. That’s good surely? Well, yes and no. It also means that anyone who isn’t seen as part of our tribe, might become the ‘enemy’ if our identity, values or even survival is seen to be threatened. We don’t need to look too far to see the implications of this, both currently and throughout history. All too easily and too often, those who aren’t ‘on our team’ can become stereotyped, demonised.
Worse.

When I was very young, my family moved from our home in Scotland, to live in England.
It truly was ‘another country’.
We carried with us all our Scottish heritage, incomprehensible accents, love of the bagpipes, kilts, haggis, whiskey and Hogmanay….and with all this, the bitter legacy of Culloden and Butcher Cumberland (nothing to do with the sausage, Dear Reader).

I lived and went to school in England, but my heart was to remain in Scotland. I was not encouraged to see England as my home.
And I was NEVER, EVER to marry an Englishman!

But, of course, you can’t legislate life. Inevitably, I got to know English people and discovered that they weren’t all armed to the teeth with muskets and bayonets, intent on eliminating every Scottish person on the planet!

And yes, Dear Reader, I married an Englishman.

But what has any of this to do with finding your voice as a quiet person?

Well, if we have a right to our voice, and to finding that voice, it never comes at the expense of another’s voice.

Voice 1

Jung’s original comments on psychological type outline very clearly that none of us are wholly introverted or extroverted ( or we’d run mad). We are all on a spectrum (and that spectrum can vary depending on the exigencies of the moment, although our preference remains constant). We alienate those we wish to influence, risk weakening our cause and becoming marginalised if we go down the ‘goodies and baddies’ route.

Some of my best friends are extroverts.
Dang! Some of my CHILDREN are extroverts!

I suspect this is true for many of you too.

Like it or not, we need each other. John Donne spoke truth when he wrote ‘No man is an island, entire of himself’.

I love it when I see collaborative working happening across disparate groups.

The leadership team of Quiet Rev and Emma Watson’s ‘He for She’ campaign are two such notable examples.

It’s no good judging extroverts for not being quiet and reflective!  Isn’t that just the same as extroverts expecting introverts to be more gregarious and social?

Trench attitudes!

Let’s value, honour and respect our different strengths and work together to the benefit of all.

voice 2

Vive la difference!

Til next time…

Blessings,

Lynne x

The Cloak of Invisibility

Do I existDon’t you love it when weird things happen to you, and you look back and realise that hidden amongst the weirdness, life was telling you a bigger story?   A MUCH bigger story.
And you keep reading, because you don’t know exactly where the story is going or how it will end. Does that sound familiar?

Have you ever been so suddenly freaked by something that your heart started kicking inside you like a bucking horse and you literally felt your blood run cold?
It’s an awful feeling. As if your body has a will and mind of its own, and it wants out of there!   Fast.

It’s only happened to me twice.

The first time was when I was a child, and I thought I’d seen a ghost.

The second time (the one I’m going to tell you about here) was a few years ago, when I thought I’d become one!

This is what happened:

It was a very ordinary day and I was out shopping in my local department store.
I went to visit the Ladies Powder Room to use the facilities (as you do). There was a sign on the door informing us that the facilities were closed due to redecoration, but that we could use the ladies staff toilet on the ground floor instead. I duly made my way there.

The horror began to unfold once I exited the cubicle.

I washed my hands at the wash hand basin then glanced up as always at the mirror in front of me in order to tidy my hair and make-up.
That’s when my heart went ballistic and my mind turned to candy floss.

I had no reflection.

You could see RIGHT through me!

There was the reflection of the cubicle behind me, and the reflection of the wash hand basin in front of me, but of me? Nothing.

I felt sick. My legs turned to jelly. My stomach lurched downwards like a broken elevator. I can’t for the life of me tell you how long I stood there staring paralysed with horror and disbelief, desperately willing my reflection to appear. It can’t have been that long, but it felt like a lifetime.

Had the whole of my life been a dream, some sort of alternative universe, and I didn’t really exist?   How long had I been invisible? Could anyone see me?  How had this happened?  And even worse than this ‘existential horror’ was the creeping realisation:

WASN’T IT VAMPIRES THAT HAD NO REFLECTION?

Right then, just on cue, a staff member casually strolled in and seeing my obviously stricken face remarked,

‘Oh, it’s alright! They all do that, lovey. There’s no mirror there!’

Feeling excruciatingly sheepish, I looked again with a hard, practical stare. Reality was slowly seeping back and with it, a sharp sense of focus.

Sure enough, the room was a mirror image of itself. Cubicles pressed up against facing walls, and back to back wash-hand basins in a row across the middle of the room. No mirrors. No ghosts.

Phew!!

Overwhelming relief and deep embarrassment ensued in equal measure.  I abandoned the rest of my shopping list for the day and went home to hide under the duvet!

But then I started thinking….
or more truthfully, that inner narrative started unspooling in my head. Connections began to form and the bigger story began to write itself…

And this, dear reader, is ‘The Bigger Story.’..

Isn’t that’s just what it feels like sometimes as an introvert in an extrovert world..
..that we’re invisible? That we don’t exist? That no one can truly see us as we really are?

…..or perhaps more specifically, that WE don’t really know who we are, or what we look like…..there’s a problem not only with feeling invisible, but with knowing our own identity, and recognising, embracing it?

Bear with me if this all seems a bit fluffy and philosophical….

In the world of psychology, we now know that in order for children to develop healthy self-esteem and  a sense of their own identity and uniqueness, their parents or care-givers need to ‘mirror’ back to them as infants, that ‘they are lovely, and loved, just as they are’,  so that this knowledge and acceptance of themselves as ‘ok’, (albeit not perfect), becomes part of the child’s psychological DNA and helps them to be resilient and confident in the world, knowing who they are.

Mirrors are important.

What reflects back to us from others….and from the world out there, in some ways creates who we then become.

But it isn’t just parents and care-givers who act as mirrors.  it’s our culture and its unspoken biases and expectations as well.

Which brings us back to introverts…..

What if, instead of that ideal affirming mirror, you have a critical cultural mirror, that reflects back to you that you don’t meet the standard…
Or a silent mirror, that leaves you feeling ignored or sidelined … Invisible.
Or a distorted mirror, like the ones at fairgrounds, that makes you look ‘weird’, an object of ridicule?

What happens then?

You might feel you have to try and change. Not be yourself, but be like someone else, someone more extroverted, in order to be accepted…. To do that though, you first have to get rid of who you really are. The result of doing that could be that you’re not too sure of yourself, or the decisions you make. You might have a sense that you don’t really know who you are now.  You might feel that there’s something wrong with you. That you’re not ‘ok’.  It would be very hard to walk confidently in the world if you were always having to look at yourself through those kind of mirrors!

This may not be as far fetched as it seems…. This feels like an issue not just at the level of family dynamics, but of the wider social dynamic too. The mirrors that society has held up to introverts over the last few generations have not been helpful, either to introverts or to society as a whole, and that has to change.

These cultural mirrors might have less of an impact if you were accepted and nurtured as an introvert within your family. That would make you more resilient to the societal bias. However, cultural values affect and steer family values too, and families have to rub along in society….so it’s unlikely, if you’re one of life’s quiet people, that you’ve been totally unaffected.

So now for a little experiment… I’m going to be doing this, and I’m going to post up the results in the next blog post (Yay!).  I’d really like it though if you’d join me. It’s not hard, or time consuming (much). In fact, I think it’s quite a fun thing to do. Maybe that just makes me a little bit nutty!

But if you want to have a go, select four people. They can be work colleagues, neighbours, friends….but try and make sure they don’t know you really well, or are all card-carrying introverts, or they’ll guess what you’re up to and skew the results. This isn’t world class research, but it’ll tell you something interesting nonetheless.

Ask them to write down the first four adjectives that come to mind when they hear the word ‘introvert’. Don’t let them ponder it for too long…it’s first impressions! Collect them all, and see what you’ve got.

See you back here next time…  Can’t wait!

Blessings,

Lynne. X