An Orchid By Any Other Name

I can think of many ways to describe myself--some flattering, some not so much. Anyone looking through my diary would find that I've compared myself to an owl, an ostrich, a rhino, a whale, an elephant, and a koala at various times in my life. Never in a million years would I ever think to describe myself as a delicate flower. It seems, though, that's exactly what I am.

I'm reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As an introvert, I found the premise of the book intriguing, and even though I'm not finished with it yet, I highly recommend it. In the book, Cain cites a variety of studies that provide insight into why some people are introverted and some people are extroverted.

One of these studies compared children to flowers, specifically to dandelions and orchids. Dandelion children thrive under any conditions. Orchid children are more sensitive to and affected by their environments.

Cain goes on to describe orchid children. They are more likely to be affected by bright lights, loud noises, emotional experiences, and/or new situations. They are more likely to react to life's challenges with depression, anxiety, or shyness. They display great empathy and caring. They are exceedingly cooperative. They are bothered by irresponsibility, cruelty, and injustice. They're successful at things they care about, but unlikely to be (or want to be) the center of attention.

The more I read about orchid children and "high reactive" types, the more I see myself. I remember being told that I was "too sensitive for my own good" and that I needed to develop thicker skin and not take things so personally. (As it turns out, introverts are more likely to have skin that is literally thinner than the skin of extroverts. Another gem I picked up from the book.) Yet that sensitivity is exactly what makes me an orchid. According to Cain, it's also part of what gives me my "quiet power."

The instant I read those pages, I felt a light bulb snap on. Me? A beautiful, delicate flower? A powerful, beautiful, delicate flower? Really? Amazing what that does for a person's self-image and self-worth. Truly amazing.