Saturday, September 29, 2012

God Made Me An Introvert

Photo courtesy of jkt_de.
Have you ever been made to feel defective because God made you an introvert in an extroverted world? I sure have. I've been told I need to "get out more", be more "sociable", stop being so quiet in a public setting. You say it, I've probably heard it.

And just for the record, being introverted doesn't have anything to do with being AFRAID of people or social situations. Yeah, I've heard that one, too. Fear/phobia is a whole different ball of wax from being an introvert. Fear is SO totally fixable. I'm not talking about that.

For a while, I actually listened to such ignorant advice, thought they were right about there being something wrong with me. In the process, I didn't honor the way God made ME. It cost me dearly in terms of health, though I really didn't understand why at the time. Recently, the answer to that "why" has come to light.

Science is showing that the brains of introverts and extroverts are actually hard-wired differently. There are differences in the way our brains handle acetylcholine and dopamine (two important neurotransmitters) as well as the workings of the blood supply. Don't fret or fear. I won't go into a full-blown science lesson about it, though I am tempted since science was my first love and probably will remain so for the rest of my life.

Introversion isn't about temperament, personality, or fear as some like to accuse. God actually made introverts PHYSICALLY different from extroverts. He made us unique. Imagine that!

Being an introvert affects every area of my life, including writing.

Normally, social settings with large numbers of people make me a nervous wreck. The longer I have to be in them, the worse my nervous system reacts. Needless to say, being a true introvert on top of having neurological issues, I don't like crowds. I end up jittery for hours. NOW I understand it's because of the dopamine overload crowds cause in the brain. (Something extroverts thrive on, but introverts suffer under.) Worst I ever had, I couldn't sleep for three days because my nervous system got so overcharged. Sounds like fun, right? Not! Because of the accompanying jitters, I couldn't even use the time constructively. Talk about annoying. If I can't sleep, I at least want to get something accomplished.

In small groups, and one-on-one, I'm perfectly fine. In fact, I thrive in those environments, particularly with people I actually have things in common with. I don't have many close friends, but the real friendships I establish run very deep. I'm definitely a quality over quantity type of mentality when it comes to relationships.

A couple of interesting sources of information are:

So I've learned to work with the way God designed me. Instead of going against the flow, I work WITH my body and the hard-wiring of my brain. I no longer try to force myself to fit a social mold made by others who simply don't "get it" that God doesn't intend for all of us to be social butterflies and people-people (couldn't help myself). Society most definitely needs its share of those, but I'm not one of them. And that's okay.

As an introvert, I spend a lot of time in my own head. I think a LOT. About myself, the world around me, my faith, "what if" scenarios, you name it. I'm also an absolute research nut (not something common to all introverts). I'm a deep thinker and couldn't stop myself from doing it even if my life depended on it. I also have a very active imagination. All of that translates into an avid love of reading and writing.

Interestingly, writing in some social settings can actually be good for me (I know other introverts who can't do what I do). I have learned to channel the energy it creates in my brain in a constructive way. Being creative and in my own head, so to speak, buffers the dopamine-producing effect of being in a crowd if I write. I can control the effect crowds have on me to some degree plus use it constructively. If I have the opportunity, that is. It's not feasible in every situation.

So, is there anything wrong with me being an introvert? Not on your life. And I no longer let people make me feel defective or broken because I'm not an extrovert like them. Society needs us introverts as much as it needs extroverts. The church does as well. We are merely different, neither better nor worse than the other.

God made me this way for a reason, and a purpose. I consider introversion to be one of the gifts, just like the talents and spiritual gifts God has given me, that make me a unique creation.

Are you an introvert? Do others make comments or ignorant judgments that make you feel damaged? Don't listen. Find peace in who you are in Christ, in the incredible creation God has made you to be. Let go of your fears, insecurities and brokenness, including the ones that come from people judging you for being born an introvert. And remember. They don't know any better.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, embrace the freedom He promises, including the freedom to appreciate your God-given talents and gifts, including those inborn ones like introversion/extroversion. Be who God has created and gifted you to be, serve the purpose He had in mind for your life before you were ever born. Don't let the ignorance of the world keep you in bondage.

Are YOU honoring God by being the person He created you to be?

17 comments:

  1. YES! From another introvert, thank you!! And thank you for those links with more info, they'll help with an upcoming miniseries I have, as will your post. =]

    Even the small writer's conference I attend (not the ACFW one) will send me deep into my cave for a week after it, and the conference lasts only a day and a half!

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  2. You're welcome. :-)

    I like that. Your "cave". I tell people I want to crawl under my desk and not come out until I'm good and ready. *VBG*

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  3. Dawn,
    Wonderful post! Very informative and also right-on with the stigma of being tagged an introvert. Somewhere that label picked up a negative meaning. But your post puts it all into perspective. There is a wonderful feeling in learning to be what God created us to be - unique.
    I am an introvert in some aspects but I do enjoy people. Totally relate to being more comfortable in a smaller crowd. Another label is "childless" which also carries a negative meaning and makes me a little crazy. I prefer kidless which is a bit more fun :)

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    1. Oh, yeah, I've had that "childless" thing, too. My husband and I opted not to have children. The assumption people make is that we don't like children. Nothing could be further from the truth, but people jump to stupid conclusions out of ignorance. And it's amazing how few actually ASK why we made that choice rather than simply assume the worst.

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  4. I am so totally with you on this. Thank you so much for this post. I can tell you that God has worked *miracles* for me on this. Early in my life, I was so inside myself that I would choke on my food if I was eating in public. Then years later, God had me singing solos in church. Not that I wasn't nervous, but I think He did that to show me that He IS in control. I'll always be in introvert (as you mentioned) but "I can do ALL things through Christ which stregtheneth me." God bless.

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    1. That sounds like a fear-based issue to me, Pat. That's not the same as being an introvert. Introversion doesn't have a fear component. It's pure brain chemistry and blood flow, inborn hard-wiring. Fear is a totally different issue, and God can most certainly empower us to overcome fear. No fear, girl! :-)

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  5. Sort of a long reply. First, when I read the "myth" that says Introverts always want to be alone, I was thinking "Wait a minute! That's no myth. I DO always want to be alone! (You can take my word for it--the one phrase I repeat the most throughout any given day is "I wish I could be alone!" because I don't even get to live alone so there is rarely a people-free time in my life and that is very draining).

    But then I read the explanation about how we need people to share important concepts with and I said, "Okay. I agree there."

    I'm curious for feedback from yourself or other introverted respondents--do you have a high sensitivity to noise? I am more sensitive to noise then anybody I know and no one seems to be able to fathom why I'm like that. And it drives me insane how noise obsessed our modern culture is. Do you think that's a fairly common trait of introversion or totally separate from it?

    A couple of other random thoughts:

    The church is actually the place where I have the most conflict about introversion. By that I mean, I teach junior highers in Sunday School, but I don't participate in large outings or group activities. For anybody else in the church, they think it's no big deal. But I shudder at the thought of large gatherings (for example, going to a fall festival, a water park event, etc.). It's a real conflict for me.

    The biggest "freak-this-introvert-out" moment for me occured at the 2008 ACFW conference (the last one I attended). I forget where it was that year--I want to say Minneapolis but not sure. Anyway, that was the largest conference I'd been to to date and I was absolutely horrified at the banquet hall crammed table to table with people. I would literally wolf down my meal and zip out of the banquet room and go seek out a quiet corner somewhere to prevent freak-out mode.

    That said, I did great with one on one editor/agent appointment times--I was pretty relaxed.

    I notice I spend a LOT of time inside my own head and I am also very meticulous about doing in minute detail whatever I'm doing (and BTW, I LOVE research too).

    And last but not least, even introverts don't understand what is and isn't introversion. God has blessed me recently with opportunities to regain my physical health and today I went to my first boxing class. My roommate, who claims to be an introvert (but has no problem walking up to perfect strangers in restaurants and yakking away)says to me (about going to a boxing class) "And you claim to be an introvert."

    HUH? What does that have to do with introversion? Now perhaps it would if I was joining a million people on a stadium field, but such wasn't the case. I simply said it has nothing to do with introversion and everything to do with feeling good.

    ACK! Long comment. But this is what introvert discussions do to me. 8-)

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    1. It sounds like your roommate has bought a lot of the myths about "introverts", Brenda. It's amazing how many people I talk to actually believe all that hogwash about how introverts hate people or are even afraid of people. Fear and hate have nothing to do with it.

      Your experience with large group/crowd situations is typical of true introverts. It's not a fear-based reaction. It's dopamine overload. Being in a high activity setting raises dopamine levels. Extroverts thrive on it, kind of like adrenaline junkies (only without the hazards *G*). Their brain is wired to need the higher dopamine levels for them to function properly. Introverts have a low tolerance for dopamine, so getting huge bursts of dopamine like that literally overdoses us. Of course, as with anything else brain chemistry related, some are going to more sensitive to dopamine than others. So you're reaction makes perfect sense. Being in large groups gets me really wired and jittery as I mentioned in my post. I hate feeling like that. Can't think straight and my nerves start feeling raw. The sensation for me is that I can almost feel every nerve impulse in my body humming. Horrid feeling. Of course, you have that happen often enough because you try to force yourself to fit the extrovert mold, and it'll certainly leave a lasting psychological and emotional aversion to being around people. ;-)

      With regards to the noise sensitivity - I wasn't at all noise sensitive until I started sustaining nerve damage in spring of 1993, which was exacerbated in 2000 and again a few years after that. Since then, certain types of noises make me want to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry. Nails on chalkboards STILL don't bother me, funny enough. *G* But children screeching, ceramic plates rubbing against each other, glasses clinking together at just the right pitch, and a host of other such sounds cause me pain due to the nerve damage I have. My brain registers those sounds as pain instead of sound. I KNOW they are sounds, but my brain doesn't perceive them that way. Try explaining that to people when you cringe over things most people think nothing about like shoving plates together in a cupboard.

      BTW, I teach, too. Adult women's Sunday school. I've also taught women's Bible studies, and public dog obedience classes (generally no more than 10-15 students with their dogs). No problem. When I'm teaching, nobody even knows I'm an introvert (because they assume an introvert can't possibly be a teacher - another myth I blow on a regular basis *G*).

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  6. Thanks for the article. I'm so tired of beating myself up for being a introvert. People make me feel worse with their negative comments. I don't want their opions to affect me, but they do.

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    1. I really do understand. I used to hate myself for being so defective and tried to force myself to be more "extroverted". It's hard to shut out the ignorant comments some people insist on making. Their intentions may be good (sometimes they are, sometimes they're not), but such attacks are still hurtful and difficult to dismiss. It's taken me many years to reach the point where I can dismiss what others think in their ignorance. I just remind myself that they're among the ones who don't "get it". It's not an easy thing to learn, and to this day, I still have it come up from time to time (generally Satan uses this fiery dart when I'm in a weakened state) and have to remind myself they don't know what they're talking about. Took practice to catch on before their comments leave me hurting and berating myself. Take heart and keep reminding yourself that God made you an introvert, and the world NEEDS us just as much as it needs extroverts. God has a purpose for you, a reason He made you the way you are. Turn this over to Him, ask Him to show you why He hardwired your brain this way, then dismiss the ignorance (no matter how well-meaning) of those around you. After all, our lives are supposed to be about glorifying God. Don't let Satan's attacks take away your joy. :-)

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  7. Thank u for this post, I have just been truly set free from myself.

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  8. this entire post is basically my life explained on one page. it helped me a lot truthfully! I never really looked at it a good thing until I read this! or at least I never knew how to explain it to others like you just did! thanks for this post!

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    1. I'm really glad it helped. It really is wonderful to find out your not as dysfunctional as our extrovert-geared society wants you to believe. I know that first-hand!

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  9. Yes, I too am introverted. I am a teacher and I can't wait to find out why God uses me, someone who feels so inadequate for being an introvert, to help high school kids. It's taken a lot of Bible reading and prayer to know that God loves me deeply. Thank you.

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  10. I almost want to cry reading this. I feel like some really truly gets me. You described me perfectly here:
    "As an introvert, I spend a lot of time in my own head. I think a LOT. About myself, the world around me, my faith, "what if" scenarios, you name it. I'm also an absolute research nut (not something common to all introverts). I'm a deep thinker and couldn't stop myself from doing it even if my life depended on it. I also have a very active imagination. All of that translates into an avid love of reading and writing."

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    1. Jane, I'm really glad you found this point and that it offered you reassurance you're not alone. You truly aren't. There are a LOT of introverts in the world, and we're vital for the function of society. Introverts and extroverts both fit necessary niches and tasks. God has a purpose and a plan for your life. I pray you can find both in your case. :-)

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