If you’re not a highly sensitive female entrepreneur, keep scrolling. I’m talking to my super sensitive ladies right now, ‘cause we need some creative strategies to avoid burnout. Too many of us are falling prey to the hectic pace of modern life and drowning daily in overwhelm.
Women have come a long way in the past 50 years, but we’re still shouldering the brunt of the domestic duties, which means most of us are doing double duty all day every day.
And I think we all know a hassle-free nine-to-five working for the man isn’t an option. For many of us, our sensitivities won’t allow us to thrive in that kind of environment. Plus, we’re too fiercely independent and creative to take orders. We’ve got to figure out a way to thrive as sensitive entrepreneurs.
The World Needs Us
In my experience, highly sensitive women tend to be unemployable (by choice). Most of us are passionate and purposeful. We can’t stand to see others suffer and feel it in our bones. And it’s not just that we’re averse to spending time in overstimulating office environments under mind-numbing fluorescent lights absorbing everyone else’s emotions all day long.
We want to change things in the world, and often connect the dots to seeing a better way than the status quo, which drives us out into the wilds of entrepreneurship.
We want to build successful businesses that support our lifestyle, allow us to prioritize our families, and chase our purpose-driven dreams on our terms.
Society and our planet need us at the top of our game, which means we’ve got to protect our mental, physical, and emotional health. And that’s HARD when we feel frazzled and frayed on the daily from juggling all of the things for all the people in our lives.
Succumbing to overwhelm carries an especially high cost for women who identify as empaths, HSP’s, neurodivergent, ADHD, or who have existing mental health issues.
Our systems don’t operate on the same program as Betty Crocker next door, so many of the simple tasks she makes look easy can send us into a full-on tailspin. Even trying to figure out what to make for dinner can feel like a thousand-piece puzzle after a long day. Add that sense of “not-enoughness” to a lifetime of being told you’re too sensitive or too much, and you’ve got a recipe for anxiety, depression, and low-self esteem.
We’re constantly comparing ourselves to the other badass boss ladies whose sales funnels we get sucked into on Instagram. They seem so on top of it all. It looks like they’ve really got their act together.
Pretty soon paralysis sets in and we’re stuck, wondering how everyone else manages to make it look so easy.
For many of us, this unfair comparison has led from teetering self-worth to a nasty case of imposter syndrome.
Newsflash: We’re way too hard on ourselves.
And we shouldn’t be. Highly sensitive people are wired differently. It’s not a bad thing, we’re just equipped with a different operating system, so we’re not going to thrive if we’re trying to run on neurotypical programs.
Claire Twomey is a neurodiversity coach whose first piece of advice to clients is to let go of trying to be neurotypical. “It’s like, if you were a banana, you wouldn’t spend your whole life trying to be an apple. Right?”
I have to agree with her.
I’ve thought a lot about how we, as women who feel everything, think differently and don’t operate well (or at all) within neurotypical frameworks, can fit gracefully into a tiny, rigid box that wasn’t designed for us.
And the answer is we don’t.
As intelligent and creative as we are, we can’t think ourselves out of being different.
We need to embrace our individuality and build bigger, more flexible, boxes that accommodate alternative frameworks for getting the job done.
Let’s ditch the box altogether and re-design our lives and businesses so they work with us instead of against us.
We need to tear down the systems in our lives that keep us feeling small and broken, and instead find creative workarounds and alternative ways of getting the job done that amplify our strengths and render our weaknesses irrelevant.
Here’s where you can start:
Become an expert on YOU
When you get crystal clear on who you are and how you operate, it’s easy to see what’s working for you and what’s not.
Knowing yourself intimately works by process of elimination to illuminate an obvious path forward in most scenarios.
Here are the 7 Key things you need to know about yourself to avoid overwhelm and kick ass as an entrepreneur:
#1. Your Core Values
Values are often overlooked as a key component of knowing ourselves. Most of us don’t take the time to sit down and narrow the playing field to identify what really drives us.
Here’s the thing though:
Even if you don’t consciously know what your values are, they’re still a part of you.
Our values show up for us every day in lots of different ways:
- How we choose to spend our money and time
- What we love and don’t love
- The labels we willingly claim to help define our self-image
- The things that upset us
- The hopes and dreams we cling to
The problem with not consciously owning your core values is that you can’t prioritize them and risk falling out of alignment, which will inevitably cause problems.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of people-pleasing or taking care of everyone else, you could be living outside of our values in various areas of life. If we aren’t crystal clear on what we value most in this world we will end up spending our precious energy in service of everyone else’s values.
You can easily find yourself operating out of alignment with your core values. That’s when resentment, anger, guilt, and compartmentalization set in.
But when you’re clear on what you value most you can point to where you’re out of alignment and fix it. You can also prioritize those values in your life and business.
Being a highly sensitive entrepreneur means you’ve got even more reason to find your values and align with them.
The success of your business depends on it.
Your best-fit customers will be the people within your target demographic who share your values and beliefs about the world. We want to work with people we like, so making your values apparent in your marketing and communications is the easiest way to attract the kind of customers who will recognize you as someone they know they’ll align with.
When you steer your company ship with your core values as your guiding star you’ll always honor yourself and your ideal customers.
#2. Your Thoughts
It’s surprising how little we listen to what’s going on inside our own heads. Especially considering how much is going on in there at any given moment. We’re always running around like crazy and we rarely sit in silence to listen.
And that’s a problem. Our thoughts are constantly running, and they aren’t always helpful in getting us where we want to go. We need to learn to listen to our thoughts so we can decide what we want to keep, and what needs to change.
You see, we are not our thoughts. At our core, we are the higher-self who has the power to recognize the thoughts we think and agree or disagree with them.
The string of thoughts that runs constantly in our heads is just a byproduct of our reasoning brain trying to come up with solutions and scenarios to manage our lives.
A lot of our thoughts originate from our subconscious where our belief system lives. It’s largely out of our awareness, so all of the things we learned growing up about how the world works and what’s wrong and right exist there out of our reach.
And some of those beliefs limit us from being happy or having success as adults. When we can become aware of the thoughts we can begin to question where they came from and start to change the ones that don’t serve us.
Practicing mindfulness meditation is a great practice that helps bring more awareness to your thoughts so you can decide if they align with how you want to believe and how you want to live. Once you start listening and acknowledging the things you’re thinking, you might find you don’t consciously agree with a lot of it.
Uncovering subconscious thoughts and reprogramming your belief system can help you avoid pleasing people and taking on more than you should. Many of us were raised to believe we have to do all of the things because we saw our mother do that, or we believe we have to work extra hard because that’s what we’ve always done.
Examining what you think and why you think it is an important step in understanding why you do things the way you do. Only then can you consciously make the choice to do things differently, and that’s when you’ll start to see different results.
#3. Your Brain
Brain differences can point to clues that will help you customize your life so it works for you. We don’t all think the same way, and knowing how your brain plays into your sensitivity gives you a virtual roadmap for setting up systems and environments that work for you, not against you.
For example, if I know I have ADHD and don’t get a dopamine hit from the same things neurotypical people do, I might choose to structure my business to minimize repetitive tasks.
Maybe I wouldn’t take on retainer clients if it means writing about the same topic every month.
HSP’s might get really overwhelmed on video calls and prefer to only offer scheduling links that offer phone calls to avoid the dreaded Zoom-burnout.
If you know you tend toward oppositional defiance and get rebellious when people come at you with requests out of the blue, you might want to avoid putting a chat feature on your website.
And, yeah, ideally we’d meet our customers exactly where they are at the exact moment they’re trying to solve their problems so they can purchase our products, but at what cost?
I don’t care if Google and every other marketing professional on the internet say you have to have chat on your site so you can be available. If it’s going to cause you to stress in any way, it’s not worth it. Plus, let’s not forget our ideal customers will likely share our values, so if we value freedom and independence, there’s a chance they do too. They’ll get it. Email and lead forms are nearly as instantaneous as chat.
Knowing these things about yourself will help you design your life and business to serve you, rather than setting you up to be a slave to your livelihood.
#4. Your Boundaries
Speaking of chat…
When we acquiesce to putting a chat feature on our sites because it’s the hot thing to do, even though we don’t really want to be available to people at the drop of a hat, we violate our own boundaries.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are the imaginary lines between us and the people around us. Drawing clear boundaries with others lets us communicate how we want people to treat us—what our rules are for satisfactory interaction.
Going back to the chat thing, here’s how boundaries might play into the decision to use chat in your sales and marketing process:
Of course you want to capture leads and be available to help your audience. That’s what you’re here for!
But maybe you’re a solopreneur and you know you’re the only one who’s going to answer those chats when they pop up. If the thought of having to be reactive makes you feel anxious or stressed, you’ll know chat is probably not a good idea for you. If chat violates your sense of freedom or doesn’t feel right in some other way, that’s ok. Honor that.
Find another way.
You’ve set a boundary: I do not utilize chat functions in my marketing because it doesn’t feel good to me.
Now when the marketing consultant you hired pressures you to install chat on your site, you’ll be able to say, no thank you and honor your boundary.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to offer your website visitors instant conversations on your site. Someday when you’re able to outsource it won’t be an issue! Then you can adjust that boundary for your business as long as someone else is in charge of answering the messages.
I’m not sure a lot of us were taught how to have healthy boundaries growing up, and those of us who experienced a particularly dysfunctional childhood might not even realize we are allowed to have boundaries.
If your sensitivities tend toward letting too much in, it’s hard to know how to keep it out, and where the healthy line is. This is especially true for empaths whose natural tendency is to absorb energy. We want to let others in.
That’s fine until we run into energy vampires and narcissists who feed off our bright light and take advantage.
This isn’t just a problem for empaths. Anyone who’s sensitive will have been more likely to experience trauma throughout her life and will continue to experience trauma in situations where neurotypical people wouldn’t be so affected.
Neurodivergent women also have to watch out for what I like to call pharmaceutical bypassing. This is similar to spiritual bypassing (where someone hides behind spirituality as a way to avoid dealing with difficult emotional or psychological issues contributing to their problems), but instead of using manifestation and crystals to avoid dealing with the issue, we assume getting medicated for our ADHD or depression will suddenly render us highly functional.
To be clear, I’m not knocking crystals and manifestation. I have a whole office full of crystals and several in my pockets at any given point in time and I literally created a whole online course on how to use non-dominant handwriting to help you manifest more easily.
What I’m saying is, a holistic approach is where I’d put my money if I had to bet on where we’ll find the best odds of success. Medication is only one part of the solution for most of us. If you’re getting proper medical care for an issue and are still experiencing a lot of social or emotional fallout and drama in your life, there’s a good chance your psychology might be interfering with your ability to thrive.
In order to help combat that we need to develop a healthy understanding of who we are and where our boundaries lie. This is especially important if we’re running a business that involves high levels of client interaction, such as coaching or consulting.
When you understand your boundaries and are able to communicate them effectively, it helps bolster your self-confidence in business. You’ll be able to design your business and systems around protecting your boundaries. and if you or someone else violates them, you’ll recognize it for what it is and can avoid blaming your sensitivity or
#5. Your Personality
I know, I know…we are all unique and special and we’re not putting ourselves in a box. So why would I suggest you go take a personality test or two to understand yourself better?
And that’s exactly what I’m suggesting…
Because you can be unique as a snowflake and still belong to a category of personality types. Just like you can have all the individual colors of the wind, and still fit the criteria for a label such as ADHD, or empath, or whatever…it’s just a grouping with a name.
And rather than limiting you, I would argue it helps to free you so you can embrace more of what comes naturally to you.
Meyers Briggs identified me as an ENFP. That stands for:
- Extrovert (E)
- Intuition (N)
- Feeling (F)
- Perception (P)
The description of the ENFP personality type reads like a biography of things I thought were just quirks, many of which I had classified as unhelpful traits I needed to change about myself.
Suddenly I could point to the fact that I’m always initiating new projects as part of my personality type, along with the dissatisfaction I find with routine and the way I crave freedom.
I also learned that preferring close authentic relationships and intimate conversation to casual acquaintances and superficial banter can be attributed to my personality. Turns out I’m not rude and unfriendly for feeling bored and wanting to leave crowded social gatherings early, I’m just hardwired to crave smaller, more intimate settings and genuine connection.
Knowing these things about myself freed me up to stop feeling guilty for what doesn’t come naturally to me, and to embrace what I’m naturally drawn to.
The Clifton Strenghtfinder revealed similar results, but put more emphasis on what my strengths are, instead of calling out what doesn’t work for me. Again, just as was indicated in the Meyers Briggs, connection was at the top of the list, along with learning and strategy.
There’s power in knowledge, especially when it comes to knowing what makes you tick. Now I have guidelines for prioritizing how I should structure my business for maximum happiness and success. I can predict which types of scenarios I’ll thrive in, and which ones will set me up for failure.
There’s no doubt that our natural strengths will build and expand more easily than our weaknesses when we focus on nurturing them. These are the things that are as easy as breathing to us. If we know what comes naturally, we can leverage those traits to succeed. Avoiding the things we suck at wherever possible will preserve our energy and give us more time to hone our natural abilities.
So, the next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed take a step back and evaluate how well you have aligned your work and life with what you know about yourself. And if you realize you don’t know yourself very well, now you know where to start.