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.
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.
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.
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.
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