Why are more and more people now are defining themselves as wallflowers?

An excerpt from From Wallflower to Sunflower: the quiet person’s path to natural self-confidence  – Claire Schrader’s new book.

The original wallflowers

Very sadly a wallflower has become a derogatory term so that no one wants to be named or seen as a wallflower by other people. The term was used in the 19th century to describe a woman who attended dances, and who stood on the sidelines and either was not invited or declined any invitations to dance.

She was perceived as a lonely and sometimes unpopular figure, who appeared to prefer blending in with the background to taking part, and who chose to remain silent rather than engaging with others. Such women often lacked the skill to attract potential husbands and therefore spent the rest of their lives as spinsters, dependent on their families and stigmatised for their failure to function in normal life

wallflower - building quiet confidence
The Beautiful Wallflower, a painting by Emma Sandys 1970

True or false? More and more people are defining themselves as wallflowers

Fortunately we are no longer living in times when wallflowers were stigmatised in this way, yet more and more people are feeling like wallflowers or feel other people are seeing them like this. There are a number of factors that contribute to the creation of the wallflower as a modern phenomenon.

We are becoming an increasingly head-based society, with the emphasis on left-brain functioning as we progressively move through the digital age. We have been educated from an early age to operate principally from our analytical mind, to the detriment of the vastly superior emotional intelligence that lies in our natural intuition.

Those working on computers day-in and day-out, and in sterile working environments, can also find themselves numbed by the negative ions that are constantly being pumped into their system. They become more and more head orientated as the computer requires them to put their thoughts into writing instead of verbally communicating them; as a result emotions and energy become depressed and then they wonder why they feel so depleted.

wallflower - quiet - building quiet confidence at work
Those working on computers in sterile working environments, are becoming increasingly head-based to the detriment of their mental health and well-being.

On top of this, there is the growing popularity of electronic communication that is having a significant impact on socialisation skills for many people, who are finding it harder and harder to communicate verbally. If feeling awkward, it’s only too easy to dive into your phone and to appear busily preoccupied, rather than meet another person’s gaze or strike up a conversation.

Wallflowers are far more comfortable with texting, writing emails, surfing the Internet, listening to music, watching the world go round whilst they safely sit on the sidelines, protected from the attention of others. It’s the wallflower’s first love to be observing what other people are doing without any pressure to participate.

perks of being a wallflower
It’s the wallflower’s first love to watch the world go

Approximately a third of the UK population are introverts (in some countries this proportion is much higher), who are generally quieter people, and as our culture becomes increasingly influenced by American values, more and more introverts are being pressured, even expected to behave more like extroverts.

Currently, there is tremendous pressure to participate in the workplace, where there is an expectation to be to be visible; to be “out there”; to be a skilled networker; to contribute in meetings and break-out sessions; to deliver presentations; to be a great team-player and to be socially active with your colleagues. Most introverts struggle with this, or with some aspects of being in the spotlight, and many find a way to avoid these situations.

wallflower - quiet - building quiet confidence at work
There is tremendous pressure to participate in the workplace

A few lucky ones find a way to thrive in these conditions. However, many just feel inept and disadvantaged because they are unable to operate in the way they feel they ought to, and as a result they feel increasingly sidelined. No wonder many of them are now calling themselves wallflowers.

On top of all the challenges that social situations pose for quieter people, in the digital age there are increased pressures to be on social media, to demonstrate that you are popular by having thousands of friends on Facebook, to reveal yourself and personal facts about your life – yet without any real human contact. There is less and less real relating or real communication. Therefore, without practice, relating to others becomes increasingly difficult.

Elaine Aron reframed the experience for quiet, shy and reserved people in her book The Highly Sensitive Person, in which she normalised the experience of sensitivity. Sensitive children are more prone to bullying and being stigmatised for their sensitivity to the world around them, which leads to them developing avoidant behaviour and being labelled as wallflowers, shy, anti-social, or just plain weird. Sensitive people are highly sensitive to this kind of labelling, which increases the impact of it upon them.

All these factors contribute to the wallflower as a modern phenomenon and a product of the way our Western society works, creating exclusion, self-consciousness, isolation and difference.

From Wallflower to Sunflower: the quiet person’s path to natural self-confidence  – an excerpt.


From Wallflower to Sunflower breaks new ground in the field of confidence-building. A former wallflower, she stumbled by chance on a very simple and effective way to build a natural and lasting confidence.

Claire Schrader has developed the Sunflower Effect,  a proven confidence-building system using an adapted form of drama, that has assisted many hundreds of people to move from “Wallflower to Sunflower” (to becoming naturally self-confident).

The book is highly practical, grounded in psychology and scientific research and offers a step-by-step guide with proven strategies, practical tips, exercises and free online resources.

From Wallflower to Sunflower – the quiet person’s path to natural self-confidence  by Claire Schrader

Available on Amazon

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