Monday, June 11, 2012

"Sure I can! and so can you"—the introverted artist imagines coping in an exhibitionist's world

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Certain livelihoods require that you maintain a high level of visibility. Maybe your aversion to self-promotion is what's stalling your career advancement or depleting your social cred. The exhibitionists have elbowed you into the shadows. Is it time to pull a chameleon? See their flamboyance and raise them some swagger?

This week I learned that sometimes you might need to let go and stop being so self-contained. Enough of this plodding deliberate approach to life 24/7. But suppose being reserved is simply who you are? Does insisting on "being true to yourself" come at a price? 

"When they're loud, be louder!" a colleague advised me when I muttered about my distaste for the spotlight and the personality types who hog it. My fellow introverts will understand when I say I don't crave the spotlight for its own sake. It's a necessary evil to achieve an end—more clients, buyers, readers and such.

Be louder, moi? Sufferin' succotash, no. It's the unrelenting loudness that irks me. Why would I want to become what I despise? On the other hand, I wasn't put on this earth to be the perennial spectator to someone else's unending performance, either. I've got a song and dance in me, too.

"This stage ain't big enough for both of us."

That's what I hear whenever I'm around the noisy horn-tooters. They may not be aware they're sending that message, but maybe their sensitivity muscles have atrophied from lack of use.

They would venture to say the quiet types are overendowed with sensitivity. And they might be right about us.

The recent exchanges I've had with a member of the Confetti Contingent have gone something like this:

Me: "Could you move your generous arse just a smidge so I can see the parade?"

She: "Dahling, I AM the parade...You know, you'd look attractive if you stood a little straighter. Here, let me show you. I do everything perfectly. Blah-blah-blah-me-me-me-blah-blah-blah. You're doing it all wrong."


She: "Look at me! Look at me! The universe lights up when I show up! It's not a party without me."
Me: (under my breath) "So that would make me, what, chopped liver?"

I am at a loss as to how to co-exist with these people without sustaining lasting damage to my ego. I try to limit my exposure to them if I can help it. Sometimes it's hard to spot them in time.

It's not something to take personally, I know. Plenty of spotlight to go around. The exhibitionist's niche is different from mine. She will draw the stargazers, the ones who want to be dazzled. I hope to attract the ones who can relate to me, who want to learn how to gleam without gold plating.

And even now, writing this, I just realized how hilariously, pathetically unhinged from reality the exhibitionist's my self-image is. The problem is mine. Nobody can be that self-involved. Or can they?

Still, if I could tweak the situation, the quasi-exchange would go something like this:

Me: (not talking. Absorbed in inner world, as usual.)
She: "I am just bursting with ideas! I'll have this place shipshape in no time. I can do this! Oh...and so can you. You have something valuable to contribute. Like, um, experience. Expertise. Jump in anytime."
Me: (still not talking, having been struck dumb)

Update This came out today (July 1, 2012) on Seth Godin's blog:
"Shine is fresh and new and it sparkles. Shiny catches the eye and it appeals to the neophiliac, to the person in search of polish. Patina, on the other hand, can only be earned. Patina communicates trust (because the untrusted don't last long enough to earn a patina) and it appeals to a very different audience."