Susan Cain and the Quiet Power of Introverts

This year's introvert-affirmative smash hit is a message we've long been craving

Posted Oct 03, 2012

Author Susan Cain is quietly becoming a modern day hero. She may not be out there saving lives (or maybe she is?) but she is undoubtedly out there saving people’s spirits. By all indications, she probably never thought of herself as a heroic leader- yet she most certainly has a legion of followers. This year her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts launched her onto the NYT’s best-seller list, garnered a TIME cover story, and placed her front-and-center, literally, on the hugely influential TED stage. As an introvert herself, Cain probably never imagined she’d have a TED talk under her belt- one that has received nearly 3 million views to date. Take a look: 

How do we introverts — I include myself in the ranks — respond to “one of us” being on the public speaking circuit, watched by millions on the internet and major t.v. networks? I’m guessing seeing her up there engenders a mix of empathy, excitement, pride, nervousness, fear, and jealousy. Perhaps it’s even a bit threatening: “Uh oh, Susan’s an introvert but she’s on a national book tour. If she can get up on stage now I’ll be expected to do it next!” Fellow author and public speaker Brene Brown would say that Cain is “daring greatly“. Pushing beyond the boundaries of fear. Knowing her vulnerabilities, revealing them instead of making excuses for them, and perhaps even leveraging them to her advantage. 

What I love about both Susan Cain and Brene Brown’s writing is their sense of full-on warm honesty. Their stories are touching — tapping into our kindred human experience — and not skirting around discomfort. Instead, they transcend our discomfort into power. They help us feel again what tends to only visit fleetingly– that youthful sense of appreciative wonder about ourselves. The intoxicating hypothesis that those personality traits which have set us apart may actually be the traits that bind us together. Turns out, people want to connect with our vulnerabilities. Perhaps the job is ours to present them with a grace and quiet confidence that suits us. To let our inner peacock ruffle its feathers when the time is ours.

They don’t say this stuff is easy! They don’t tell us to follow some glossy proprietary solution or we’ll never succeed and be happy. They advocate for a high level of self-acceptance combined with developing a healthy mindset. In other words: Give yourself a big hug, tell the naysayers where they can shove their criticism, and then be mindful of your own business. In other words: Do your work. Don’t rest on the complacency of knowing it’s okay to just be you. Be you AND strive to always be a better you.

What is your mindset about your vulnerabilities? Do vulnerabilities prevent you from “daring greatly” or do you find ways to sculpt them into the rich clay of your life? And for all you fellow introverts out there– what can you do with that gift?