“When an introvert looks at society and sees no reflection, she risks becoming alienated, either by staying true to herself and becoming alienated from society—called social alienation—or by adapting to society and becoming alienated from herself—self-alienation.” – Laurie Helgoe
In her book, Quiet Power, Laurie Helgoe talks about two types of discontented introvert.
Shadow Dwellers “are the introverts that appear (if they can be seen) as reclusive and inaccessible – alien.” They can be seen as rebellious because they might opt out fitting into the activities and values of the mainstream.
‘Accessible Introverts’, on the other hand, “do not come off as remote or intimidating because they have almost adapted to the extrovert culture”.
These behaviours become a problem if the alienation deepens. For the shadow dwelling introvert this shows up through resentment. For the accessible introvert, it looks like a loss of self-awareness and identity.
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Sometimes resentment looks like rebellion. The outward appearance might appear similar. If someone chooses to opt out of a group activity or value. They might be written off as ‘a bit of a rebel’.
But when we are driven by resentment, it is no longer a positive choice. It’s done through the gritted teeth of bitterness.
Resentment is directed inwards. Aimed at oneself. About what we don’t have, but wish we did. But projected outwardly.
In this situation we might unleash cynicism on an external object (person, group, idea, place, personality type). But not out of genuine concern that it is causing harm. Rather, we ridicule it because we actually want it. And because we lack it.
Self-Awareness and Self-Acceptance
Gentle Rebellion starts on the inside. It’s not about gaining power. It doesn’t seek to strip other people of the things we don’t want them to have. But the true rebel begins a quest for self-awareness. The rebel identifies the inner shackles of all that binds her, and isolates her from herself. Those inner drives, jealousies, and beliefs that happiness or wholeness lies somewhere else.
In this sense, it’s all about removing the desire for power. And extinguishing the belief that happiness, wholeness, or completeness is a destination we are trying to reach in life. Those beliefs that adds fuel to the fire of resentment because they focus on the lack.
They say, ‘if only you had this thing, then you would be acceptable’. And this is a message perpetuated by our culture. Voices everywhere tell us what we lack. They show us images of what we could be if only we had what we don’t have. A different partner, the latest technology, the right career, or the most expensive anti-aging cream.
Advertising is both fuelled by, and also fuels, our discontent. It tells us what we’re not, and what we could be if we actually took ourselves seriously. It runs on the oil of comparison and envy, which encourages us to find our self-identity, only in the context of other people (what we’re not).
To be gentle rebels we must learn to pick apart these messages. And free ourselves from messages of lacking. Embracing instead the powerful truth that at a human level we are enough. Because we are equal. We are acceptable. And we belong BECAUSE of the very fact that we can reject the power of fitting in, which almost always comes at the price of our integrity (belonging to ourselves – aligning our values, actions, and goals).