I’m not going to lie. I’m having a hard time accepting the coming of winter this year.
It’s not the first time I've felt this kind of strong resistance, of course, and I always have at least a little trepidation about the ensuing six months of dark and cold.
You can’t live in Minnesota and not feel some pressure to get the yard work taken care of, the house ready for below zero temps, the garage cleaned out so you can park your car inside—and where are those snow boots, wool hats, and down jackets?
But this year I’ve been feeling even more sensitive to the dropping temps than usual, and then with half the leaves still on the trees we got an early three inches of snow and suddenly it was down to six degrees and windy and well, HELLO, WINTER!
I just wasn’t mentally prepared.
I walk about an hour a day with my dog, sometimes more, in the woods if possible. I love to, need to, have that connection with the earth, sky, trees, fresh air, movement.
But the cold takes some of the fun and ease out of it. I still do it every day all year round, but some days it’s harder to get out the door.
Yesterday was one of those days.
I just was not on board with the weather and I was feeling a bit down that we’re only at the very beginning of it. Here in the northland the cold just lasts so darn long.
It made me remember how I was feeling when I was pregnant with my second daughter at exactly this time of year. My first was born in spring which slid into a wonderful summer of tiny onesies and naked baby play outside on a blanket in the dappled sunlight. Weather-wise it was idyllic.
This second one was due in November, one of the most brutal months of wind and endless gray days. I wondered how I would get through those first six months of having a tiny baby to keep warm and nurture, as well as an older child to love and care for during the most isolating and dark time, both externally and internally.
I wasn’t sure I could do it.
It felt like I might fall into the deep, cold hole of winter and never come out. How could I be responsible for two small human beings when I wasn’t sure I could keep myself afloat?
I decided to go on a short retreat and try to get myself together before the baby came. It was just one night, a little less than 24 hours, but it felt luxurious and expansive. And holy moly, so necessary.
I journaled, I cried, I walked the labyrinth, I meditated, I made art. I gave myself permission to feel everything I was feeling.
It was messy, nourishing, liberating.
I felt strengthened and reassured that indeed I could do this and even thrive.
Part of this change of heart came down to one image: a spiral. This symbol kept coming up in the art I made and as I dove deeper I discovered its significance for me.
That it’s okay to have these feelings of walking into the abyss. That this time of year affords you the opportunity to walk to the center of the spiral and do the inner work you need to there, so that when it’s time to walk the path back out you’ve grown into your next incarnation.
And perhaps most importantly, that you do walk back out again. It's not a one-way ticket to darkness. Eventually, there is light again.
That was the important part for me to remember: that yes, I was walking into the heart of darkness AND I would be turning around and walking out again into the light of spring, warmth, and new awareness.
The spiral became the shorthand for me to accept the feelings of turning inward to find the jewels of my inner psyche that were ready to be discovered.
It’s helped me every year since then as we approach the dark time of the year.
So it was understandable that one of my clients yesterday needed the reminder that creativity is self-care and that it’s important to create time to follow those pursuits that fill you up and not just focus on the chores of the to-do list.
The Universe is wonderful about providing the opportunities you need and I took what was offered: Take your own medicine and put aside the list of chores and make time to feed your soul.
I had intended to clean the bathrooms last night after dinner since it hadn’t gotten done in the afternoon—and mind you, it was pretty overdue. But I realized what I needed more than shiny sinks was to do something creative.
I make intuitive art. It’s not fueled by extensive knowledge or gallery-worthy—it comes out of what I'm feeling and helps me to process.
When I sat down with a cup of tea and a dining room table full of art materials I found my hands making a spiral and processing the change of seasons from the new-beginnings-excitement of fall to the quiet, reflective focus of winter.
It felt good to be making something after a bit of a hiatus and as I labored over how to fit the elements together I felt myself yielding to the inevitability of the cold, accepting the stillness of the dark.
This is the beauty of listening to what we need.
Of prioritizing our self-care knowing that when we get our needs met we are better equipped to handle the ups and downs and extra layers of sweaters of everyday life.
I may still grumble a little as I put on all the outerwear today to walk, but I’ll also be mindful of what a gift it is to slow down and take time to look within.
Where are you needing to slow down and care for yourself, look within for the jewels, and strengthen your well-being? Not sure? The following announcement is for you then!
My self-care workbook is now available for sale!!
I’ve been using the Create Your Self-Care Revolution workbook exclusively with clients over the last two years and I finally decided to make it available after many requests.
Here are some comments from clients using the workbook:
“I can’t believe it! I feel like you wrote every word just for me!”
“This is exactly what I needed to slow down and pay attention to myself!”
“I finally feel like I have permission to take care of me. And the best part is no one is suffering because I’m able to show up so much more fully in my life. Everyone’s happy.”
With the 28-page instant download I walk you through short, easy-to-do exercises to discover what you need to be your best.
I help you understand why it's so important to commit to putting your unique self-care recipe into action and how to do just that.
I also include a self-assessment to track your progress so you can consider each area of self-care and see where you’re at now, in six months, and in a year.
And I share my own self-care journey from nothing to thriving.
I invite you to get your download today and use it during this reflective time, testing and tweaking to get things just right for yourself. You’ll enter 2020 with a new outlook and a phenomenal self-care plan!
Over the last week, clients, friends, and family have all brought up the topic of boundaries. Is there something in the autumn air that brought this on? Did I miss a planetary alignment that dictated a review of how we set limits? I don’t know, but I think anytime is a good time to check in on our boundaries.
Lots of us didn’t see healthy limit-setting modeled or have the opportunity to learn it when we were small. We missed out. And it’s likely that you, like millions of others, have been experiencing the lack of that experience ever since.
There are so many ways you can apply boundaries, but for today I’ll focus on just one. It’s the one that keeps coming up in conversation and it’s one Sensitive Introverts experience a lot:
Knowing how to give to others in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling resentful or depleted.
Because your temperament naturally leads you to pick up what’s going on for others, you’re in a great position to sense what they need and probably enjoy giving that support. It often feels great to be a friend who is counted on to listen with her heart or who intuitively knows when someone could use some TLC.
The problem is when you begin to feel that you’re giving so much more than you’re receiving—in a word, over-giving—and what creeps in is a nasty little case of resentment.
This huge change in sentiment, from something that started out so good—supporting a friend or loved one—to feeling that you’re overdrawn and resentful, taints the relationship like polluted water. It’s almost impossible to take another sip even though you’re parched.
In the simplest sense, having boundaries is knowing what you’re okay with and what you’re not.
That sounds so easy, right? Why does it get so difficult in this area of giving and receiving?
There are several possible scenarios and I’ve detailed a few below. If you think you’re over-giving, see if one or more of these fits for you.
You give to feel needed.
You feel that you’ll get love, respect, and admiration if you are the one who’s always giving in the relationship. Giving to others helps you have a sense of self and a purpose. If you don’t receive the love, respect, and admiration you seek you may try giving more and more to fill the emptiness you feel.
You take over-responsibility for the relationship.
You feel that if you don’t do the right things to keep the relationship going, the other person may walk away from it, so you take care of all of their needs and ignore your own. You may even go so far as to keep quiet about anything you imagine would displease or upset them.
You give because you feel you should.
Your giving is not coming from a full and generous heart, but from a place of obligation. You’re out of steam emotionally, but you push on trying to give more because you feel like you’re supposed to, or to avoid feeling guilty and selfish.
You’ve been giving and giving, but no one is returning the favor.
You might not feel comfortable asking for what you need, but you still hope that someone will be perceptive and give it to you. Not everyone is as attuned to the needs of others as the HSP, so they maybe don’t have a clue. Meanwhile, you’re still sadly waiting.
You don’t feel comfortable receiving, only giving.
You didn’t learn how to receive easily as a child—even now you may feel guilty if someone gives to you—so you pretend you have no needs and just keep on giving to others. Unfortunately, your cup won’t refill on its own and at some point you’ll become depleted. Usually resentment follows.
I absolutely got caught in this trap. I didn’t learn healthy boundaries or self-care habits as a child and felt my worth was based only on what I did for others. I was taught that having needs was unacceptable and so I very carefully made sure I didn’t have any.
As a new mom with a sensitive baby who wanted to be on my body every minute and nursed every 60-90 minutes, I gave and gave. I wouldn’t let anyone else help when they offered, nor would I ask for help, and I quickly reached my edge. I eventually got through, but it took a toll on my mind, body, spirit, marriage, and relationship with my child.
Still, I didn’t learn.
With the birth of each baby (I have three daughters) I went into deep depletion—and looking back now, probably depression too. I wasn't able to break this cycle until my kids were a bit older and I left my marriage. I began to reparent myself and learn what I’d missed with the help of therapists, coaches, and friends, and began to establish boundaries for myself.
I hope for your sake that you’re not in this deep. If you are, then learning to create boundaries might not be a DIY project.
What can you do if you think you might be caught up in weak boundaries and over-giving?
1. Learn how to nurture yourself.
Pay attention to your likes and dislikes, what would bring you joy, or nourish you. Then give these things to yourself. This is not selfish, this is self-care. Make sure you’re getting the food, rest, exercise, and enjoyment you need to not just survive, but thrive. When your cup is full then you’ll have the ability to give generously to others without feeling overdrawn or depleted.
2. Check in before saying yes.
When you’re about to say yes to a request for help, take time to do a quick reflection. Do you have the energy to give in this way? Do you want to? Will it energize or drain you? Find out whether you have the reserves you need before you consent to help out. It's always okay to say no if you want to spend your energy in a different way.
3. Deepen the relationship.
One way to get out of resentment and back into a more balanced reciprocal exchange is to have an honest conversation about what you need with the other person in the relationship. Sound scary? It doesn’t have to be. If this is a person that you love and trust, being vulnerable in this way will strengthen and deepen the relationship so that you both can get what you need.
4. End the relationship.
If upon reflection it’s clear to you that the person you’ve been giving to is not capable or interested in having a reciprocal relationship (they want your care to be a one-way street) you may need to set a boundary and walk away. This is something you’ll want to consider carefully, as it’s not easy to deliver or receive this message. But if someone is sucking up all your energy with no intention of reciprocating, it may be your best bet. Again, probably not something to do without consulting a healthy friend or a professional.
I wish there was an easy fix, but there's not. Definitely not an overnight kind of change. But awareness is always the first step in making a change and now that you know, you can be more intentional about how you want to use your energy.
It is your right and responsibility to make this decision and no one else’s.
Mom, it’s best to declare yourself early.
This was what my friend’s child said when she came down to breakfast decked out in a very unique outfit on her very first day of attending middle school. She'd decided that showing her true colors right from the start would be the best way to honor herself.
This was years ago and I’m still applauding her courageous mindset to show up as her authentic self in middle school—one of the toughest arenas we'll ever face in our lives.
I have never been able to declare myself early.
I think and muddle and hem and haw and consider things from every angle and wonder what people will think… and then I take an action that is so much smaller than what I want to because it allows me to stay under the radar a little longer.
At least that’s what I used to do.
The last year and a half of newsletters have been me declaring my authentic self every week—pressing SEND when it feels like the most foolish and vulnerable thing I could do—and living to tell the tale.
Sometimes it seems to me like the riskiest way of running a business, but showing up as my real self is exactly what I ask my clients to do, and so I hold myself to nothing less.
Since you’re here I’m guessing you resonate with being a Sensitive Introvert. See if you identify with this conundrum I’m about to unpack. Many of us experience this without really getting why we're stuck. Maybe having words for it will help illuminate what’s going on in your own life.
If you’re here because someone you’re close to is an HSP, I welcome you. Sensitives often feel alone and misunderstood. Increasing your knowledge of how our minds and hearts work will likely deepen your relationship.
Back to sharing yourself authentically.
Sensitive Introverts tend to be deeply empathic: you feel things hard and notice all the small injustices and hurts of the world. You feel it in your heart, sometimes in your body, and at times it just makes you weep. (As a child I cried oceans about slavery and the Holocaust. It pained me physically and emotionally that humans had done such things to other humans.)
In other words, you’d like to fix it all.
Adopt every lonely shelter animal, eradicate poverty, hunger, and every other kind of suffering, save the planet, and make everything beautiful. Am I right?
In your heart you have an enormous desire to make an impact.
(When I was a child and thought about career paths, interior design and photography were two things that I considered. I rejected them because in my mind they didn’t “help people enough”. This was my 13-year-old thinking on how I was meant to make an impact and for me that meant direct person to person support. You may have had similar thoughts about how you're meant to serve.)
There are three places here where you can run into roadblocks.
First, one of the traits of being an HSP is that you hold yourself to intensely high standards. Your expectations leave no room for being uncertain of how to proceed or results that are anything less than perfect. That’s a hard road to follow, right? But there’s more.
You also likely have low self-worth. If this isn’t you, I’m so happy for you. But the reality, both from the research published on HSPs and what I’ve seen in my clients, is that most of us put ourselves last, don’t speak our desires, and feel we shouldn’t ask for more than what’s handed out.
The quandary this sets up is that you expect yourself to make a big difference in the world, to ease some of the suffering in whatever way you feel called and to do it well and without mistakes AND you don’t want to make a big show of things, stand out, be vulnerable, make people listen to your dreams, or help you go after them.
This duality, unfortunately, often leads to a kind of guilty paralysis.
Second in the roadblocks I’ve seen and experienced, is not wanting to declare yourself. There’s huge internal pressure to be the person you came here to be, but the fear of showing your real deep true authentic heart to the world by stating your path is too terrifying to allow you to make a move.
You might even be hiding behind “I just don’t really know what I want to do.” To me this is code for:
"Deep down in my soul there’s a little voice that has an idea, but I can’t fathom ever telling anybody this, so I’m going to ignore it, deny it, quiet it and hope it goes away or turns into something easier.”
How do I know? I’ve been there more than once. And every time I decide to declare myself it gets a little easier, but I hid behind “I don’t really know who I want to be when I grow up” for many decades.
Fortunately, now I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing and my mission to help women and girls to love themselves and declare their deepest dreams is my ever-evolving daily work.
The third roadblock is that when we ignore our needs we can’t function as our best selves and I’ll talk about that in the next newsletter.
I hope this information is resonating with you and helping you to understand your innate temperament. Here's to you!
I wonder what people will think?
I’ve been sharing some of the characteristic traits of Highly Sensitive Introverts in my last couple emails and fear of judgement is most definitely one of them.
I feel like I’ve been personally working on this one since I was a rebellious teen, wearing wild punk rocker clothes, and snarling at my mom with bravada:
I don’t care what anyone thinks! This is how I like to dress and if they think it’s weird, SO WHAT!
But underneath I cared greatly what people thought. And I still have moments when I hesitate to follow through on an idea or think twice about the clothes I’m putting on because of some vague worry about “what everyone will think”.
Wanting to please others is a common trait of HSPs. And while it can feel good to help someone out, support a friend, etc., if you are always putting others’ needs ahead of your own, eventually it leads to both burnout and resentment. Neither of which are a positive thing for your relationship.
Some other related traits that can be challenging for Sensitives—and used to plague me—are saying no, setting boundaries, and being overly conscientious. It was so hard for me to choose what I really wanted and needed if I felt like it put someone else out.
For example, the elementary school my kids’ went to used to send an email every week—sometimes every day—asking for volunteers to come in to serve lunch to the kids and clean up afterwards.
Every week I felt so guilty and almost ashamed when I deleted that email because I knew they needed help. But working the lunch line just wasn’t a match for me and how I wanted to help out. I did it once and found that out.
Here’s what I finally realized: I am more valuable when I'm offering my time in a way that fits for me. That and someone always steps up. In other words, the kids never went hungry because I didn't go in to serve lunch.
But oh my, how I wrestled with the guilt!
My over-conscientious conscience was not calm and content about that! Early on in the six years my kids were there the guilt was strong. I felt like I was the only parent not doing lunch duty and that people were talking about my lack of helpfulness.
Silly, I know, but this sense of over-responsibility is strong in Sensitive Introverts.
Along the way in the later years I found some excellent tools for loosening the grip of the "What Will People Think? Syndrome". I can assure you that even if it strikes there are ways to get free from the pressure.
I’m really excited be offering more on this in my new program: Sensitivity Source Code.
This 8-week online program is a way to dip your toes into understanding and celebrating your temperament.
Maybe you weren't ready for something big when registration for my 9-month program rolled out in September. That's okay and I applaud you for knowing yourself. Really!
But if you feel ready to start supporting your neurological system and put an end to the habits that sabotage it, this is for you.
Sensitivity Source Code is an 8-week program that gives you tools and information in little bite-size chunks.
It’s that simple!
If you’d like to add private coaching sessions to receive more individualized support for integrating the techniques you can add that too.
I look forward to supporting you!
My list of things to do sits in front of me. It’s long, but only one item is crossed off: shower.
I have four hours to cook and clean and get ready to host the people I’ve invited over and all I can do is look at the list and judge myself.
The ridiculing voice in my head sounds like this.
There wouldn’t be so much cleaning to do if you weren’t such a lame ass about getting things taken care of each week.
Why are you such a loser sometimes?
You wouldn’t be so stuck if you’d decided on what to make a week ago and bought food yesterday.
Maybe you should just cancel. Maybe no one really wants to come anyway. You could say you’re sick.
There’s no way you’re going to get this all done.
What if I shop and cook but don’t clean? Will they judge me? See that I’m a loser? Never come over again?
Meanwhile, the time I could have spent knocking things off my list is ticking away and I’m still paralyzed.
The particular instance I’m recalling happened 17 years ago when I had a couple young kids and we lived in a house that was full of all the stuff children bring into your life: toys, art projects, books, clothes that get changed five times a day and left on the floor. As soon as things would get picked up in one room, the kids would have taken over another room to play in. It was never “a place for everything and everything in its place”.
I felt so much pressure to show up, be a good person, not be judged as a do-nothing, have a clean house no matter what—things that had been so ingrained in me.
And most days I felt I was failing at it all.
This is common for Highly Sensitive people when we’re faced with nerve-wracking deadlines, too much on our plates, or for some other reason we hit a patch of pressure and overwhelm.
When this happens you likely go into fight, flight, or freeze. Your thinking brain turns off—which is why you can’t make a good decision on what to do next.
And you feel like you want to get out of it somehow. Could I run away and disappear? Could I hunker down and pretend I’m not home? Maybe the fight response kicks in and you feel angry that you have to do these things, or mad at yourself for creating the situation.
Now that I'm aware what shuts me down I can usually orchestrate things to work well. I no longer put every last thing on my list for the day because I know that I get overwhelmed just looking at it. And if I look at it and blanch I can find a way to whittle away the day and not go back to the list again.
Until the next day. And then I guilt myself that I accomplished nothing the day before. It becomes a vicious cycle.
The best days are when I remember to put only three things on my list.
The three things I choose are whatever are the hardest next steps in moving forward. Not a whole project that has 47 steps embedded in it. Just the next step that needs to be done. If you put a whole project like “Make quilt” on the list you set yourself up for failure.
Instead put “Choose pattern” or “Buy 1.5 yards of blue fabric” or whatever is the next actual baby step you need to accomplish.
These days that seems like a no-brainer to me, but eight years ago I was scratching my head because no matter how good my intentions, or how many times I wrote “Design website” on my to-do list, it never got done.
Not until I got wise—and stopped overwhelming and paralyzing myself—did it finally happen.
Using prompts like “Write first paragraph of About page” or “Look through emails of recent clients and collect testimonials” allowed me to take the steps to finally get there.
These hard won life lessons, along with study of the latest research on Sensitive Introverts, are at the core of my new 8-week course: Sensitivity Source Code.
The program is designed to give sensitive women just the right amount of information—not so much that you’re overwhelmed.
It details the essentials you need to go from being what HSP Psychologist Julie Bjelland calls an “untrained Highly Sensitive Person” to someone with the tools to, among other things:
If these are things that would change your life in a positive way, stay tuned. What would the winter holiday season feel like for you if you had solid tools to keep you out of overwhelm, the courage to say no to gatherings that would overextend you, and the self-worth to communicate your needs without guilt?
Intriguing to think about, isn't it? A different kind of life awaits you.
Registration will open next week. I know that contemplating change can be scary. I want you to think about whether you’d like to enter 2020 with the new skills and mindset to have your best year yet—or if you’re okay getting through at the level you’re at right now. Either way is ok, it’s just what choice is right for you.
I look forward to sharing more with you soon!
I’ve always had intense reactions to things.
Like dropping the phone and throwing myself on the bed sobbing at age 5 when my dad called to tell me my new sibling was a brother instead of the sister I thought I’d been promised.
Like having such paralyzing embarrassment after farting in my third grade classroom that I couldn’t pay attention to anything for the rest of the day. And then being further mortified when I got called on and didn't know what we were working on.
Like being so stimulated by parties as a teen and young adult that I couldn’t totally fall asleep when I got home. I just kept dreaming the party and having bizarre conversations in my half-awake half-asleep brain. The next morning I'd come to exhausted. I had literally been partying all night in a liminal state.
Big emotional reactions are so draining. And embarrassing. Rumination and overanalyzing take any scrap of energy that’s left.
You can also get so bound up in worrying what others think that you have a hard time taking action on what's important to you, even if it's simple.
When I was older I realized not everyone mulled over each conversation a hundred times before uneasily letting it slide off their emotional plate.
I was stunned.
How can you say this is no big deal? You don’t remember what you said? She’s mad at you and you’re this calm??
It was hard for me to believe that others could just shake things off with such ease and not spend hours thinking about what had taken place, worrying what the other person was thinking, or beating themselves up for saying something that was foolish in retrospect.
I felt like somehow I was doing things wrong.
Like my brain was weird and defective because it thought about this stuff so much. From then on I just tried to keep my oddness under wraps. No need to incur criticism—another thing that made me extremely uncomfortable.
Only much later did I start to realize that my strong reactions were connected to my highly sensitive neurological system which takes in more information (including other people's emotions), feels more strongly about it, and processes it more deeply.
This reprieve gave me permission to look into the why and how of these reactions and what I could do about them. I found that, on the one hand, nothing’s wrong with my nervous system, so it doesn’t need to be fixed. On the other hand, I wanted to use less energy overthinking so I had more to put toward the positive work I knew I was here to do.
The answer was learning to respond rather than react to my emotions.
Sounds so simple, right? Well, in a way it is.
Responding rather than reacting is something you can train your brain to do by learning to bypass the limbic or emotional/irrational brain. That sounds complicated but the remedies are common things like breath work, mindfulness, solid sleep, journalling, and keeping your daily stress low.
Please don’t smack me.
I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, right. If I could keep my daily stress low I could sleep soundly, be mindful, and do deep breathing. But that’s not what’s happening, so what now?
Well, as you might have guessed, there’s no magic pill, but by doing these things one step at a time, you can reach a place of where it’s possible to breathe and decide how you’re going to respond to a situation that used to trigger you into a big reaction.
With more calm in your everyday life, stress lowers. Understanding what you need as an HSP and how to take the small steps to get your cup filled on the regular makes all the difference in the world.
I’m so confident that you too can do this that I’ve created an 8-week program so you can integrate these practices and experience that calm for yourself in the shortest, simplest way.
When you put the small steps into place you’ll be able to serenely respond to situations, reduce overthinking, and instead use your brain for things that are really important to you. You’ll be able to relax knowing that no matter what’s going on in your life you can handle it.
What a way to stride into the holidays!
I invite you to think about who you could be if you were able to stop worrying about your reactions, let go of constantly processing your interactions, and end the feeling that stress and exhaustion are running your life. What would that look like? What would it feel like?
I’ll be back Friday with another thought-provoking, information-packed email, and I’ll tell you more about this fantastic fall program.
If you’re anything like me your temperament as a Highly Sensitive Introvert makes it easy to care deeply about your beloveds. It’s pretty likely that you love animals, too. And you might be so sensitive to other beings feeling pain—emotional or physical—that you stay away from news stories or movies that center on abuse, torture, or violence.
Is this ringing any bells?
I’ve been scolded many times for not keeping up with what’s happening in the news, but every time I take a chance and look at the front page of a newspaper there’s a story my system can’t handle—something that makes my heart hurt or brings images into my mind that are disturbing and not easily erased.
Sensitive Introverts are empathic (they have deep empathy) and this often means that they physically or emotionally feel the pain that others are experiencing.
They desperately want to change the systems that are creating pain for others and when this is impossible, they feel helpless, restless, or even guilty. If the helpless feeling is deepened with ongoing news of hurtful situations an SI may begin to feel hopeless, resigned, even depressed.
This is me to a T.
Every time there’s a story about a child being sexually abused, or babies taken from their parents and held in detention centers, climate change, or puppy mills my heart breaks. But after a while of hearing these stories I can’t take it—I feel like I’m paralyzed.
Your extreme empathy about things that are meaningful to you is one of the traits of the Sensitive Introvert.
But now I want to take you in a different direction. I’m betting that while you’ll bend over backwards to help someone you care about you’re still pretty hard on yourself.
You hold yourself to high (maybe impossible) standards, don’t cut yourself slack, feel guilty or weak when you’re not doing a super human job, and chastise yourself if you can’t keep up with everyone else.
You have empathy and understanding for others, but not for yourself.
It’s true that having high standards can be motivating, but it can also crush you—especially if you’re not aware of how to meet your needs and set yourself up for success.
For me, being effective requires me to screen out a lot of the news and plenty of movies. If I’m shut down due to the media I’ve let in, I can’t take care of my family or do my work to the best of my ability. Being the best version of myself means not paying attention to every shred of the hard stuff going on in the world. That was a difficult decision for me to get to, but I’ve found it’s better for me to focus on what I can change, not be in despair over what I can’t. It’s one of the ways I set my environment up for success.
Of course each person is unique, but Sensitive Introverts on the whole have a lot of similarities in what helps us to be productive and engaged without experiencing overwhelm or shut down. Here are a few things to start you thinking.
Often we have this idea that we have to work hard all the time, or deny ourselves pleasure, to be a good person. This was something ingrained in me as a child, but as an adult I’ve found the opposite to be true.
When I would try to grind through tasks without taking a break so that I could get more done, my attention would falter and I’d find myself distracted and surfing the web on a whim. In the end, because I didn’t take time to meet my needs, I wasted more time and got less done.
Now I’ll take an hour in the middle of the day to go for a walk with my dog and come back to my work energized, smiling, and with renewed brain power and resolve.
If I’m nodding off during a tedious task I listen to my body and take a short nap instead of trying to soldier through and end up doing a poor job.
Granted, I run my own business and have a lot of freedom in determining my work day which not everyone does. But I invite you to look at where you can be kinder to yourself during your day.
Where are you pushing too hard and not getting the result you want?
When do you need a short break to rest your mind or take a few minutes of solitude?
What makes you feel full of energy or helps to refocus your mind?
What small adjustment would allow you more comfort? (Having someone use headphones instead of playing music out loud, changing to a desk that’s not under the air conditioning vent, asking co-workers to take lengthy conversations to a conference room are some possibilities.)
Sometimes just stepping outside for five minutes and taking a few deep breaths can bring the clarity of mind and nourishment you need.
As a Sensitive Introvert you notice more subtle details and get overwhelmed more easily.
This is simply how the neurological system you were born with functions. Making adjustments in your environment or taking time to recharge are small things that can alleviate being miserable and allow you to function more authentically as your best self.
When you take care of yourself you're more available to help those you care about and to work on causes that are important to you.
Just as you have huge empathy for others, you can have empathy and understanding for yourself. It’s not unreasonable to create an environment for yourself, wherever you work, in which you can do your best by meeting your needs.
I read a story today in Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance that had me seeing with new eyes.
Paraphrasing, the story is that a family went out for dinner and everyone ordered for themselves. When it was the 5-year-old’s turn, she said, “I’ll have a hot dog, french fries, and a Coke!”. Her dad said, “No, you won’t. You’ll have meatloaf, green beans, and milk.” The server smiled at the little girl and said, “What would you like on that hot dog, hon?” When the server walked away the little girl beamed and said, “She thinks I’m real!”
While I don’t remember this particular scenario in my childhood, I still identify deeply with this story, having spent much of my life feeling invisible and not certain it was okay to do what I wanted.
Is this you too?
Does it just seem easier to go along with what others want than to make a fuss?
Do you ever think you should just be happy with what you’ve got?
Would you like to change the tapes in your head that shame you for needing more time alone, always wanting to turn down the volume, or wishing you could throw most invitations in the garbage without opening them so you could stay home?
I can guide you on a journey to turn those feelings around and help you replace the limiting beliefs with ones that serve who you are and want to be.
If you’ve been on the fence about changing how you approach the world, it’s time to make a decision.
Registration closes tomorrow morning at 10am Central.
Welcome Home to Your Self, my comprehensive program specifically for Highly Sensitive Introverts will not be open again until September 2020.
I’d love to welcome you into the small circle of women, much like you, who are ready to change the limiting beliefs that have driven their lives for decades.
You are worthy and deserving of a life of ease, joy, and contentment—and I can show you ways that work for Highly Sensitive Introverts to make this shift so that you can love your family life, your work, your place in the community, and yourself!
We start this week! Join us and get ready to take the baby steps toward the woman you want to be.
Here’s a note from Meghan who was in an earlier version of this program.
With Mary's coaching, I was able to uncover and fully embrace my authentic self. Not only did she help me find great clarity around who I am (and want to be) as a wife and a mother, but through listening and reflection, she also helped me rediscover who I am as a woman. The space to process, to be seen, to be held accountable, and receive the reflections that Mary gave was truly transformational.
— Meghan Coleman, St Paul, MN
How many more years will you wait to reclaim yourself?
How about none?
Come join us!
I used to think I was incapable and defective.
I realize that sounds extreme, but let me tell you a story to illustrate why.
A number of years ago I was visiting a friend in Vancouver who was undeniably cool.
One morning we went to this totally hipster restaurant for breakfast. I felt frumpy just walking in the door, but it was one of my friend’s favorite spots.
The atmosphere was crazy—all assaultive bright colors and pulsing music. My food was tasty, but conversation was difficult because I couldn’t hear beyond the booming bass.
Finally we were done, but as we walked up to the front to pay, I was feeling overwhelmed. I just wanted to get out of there.
It was my turn to pick up the tab, so I reached into my purse to get my wallet and along with it came a grocery store veggie bag that I’d stashed for picking up dog poop when I was at home. Embarrassing. I quickly shoved it into my coat pocket hoping my friend and the cashier hadn't noticed.
Then I inserted my credit card and the directions were all in French. I don’t speak French, but even Canadians who don’t speak French have enough skills to do a transaction.
I was thrown for a loop though, plus the French was all blurry because I didn’t have my glasses on and didn’t want to dig in my bag to find them lest I pull out other crazy stuff.
I kind of checked out at that point. I think I just froze and stared blankly at the screen for a while.
I was jolted out of my stupor by my friend saying, Are you OKAY? in a tone that clearly indicated I was not acting okay. I mean, come on. I was simply paying for breakfast, not discovering a cure for cancer or something. It shouldn’t be this hard, I remember thinking.
How that ended, I don’t know. I’ve blocked the memory because I was mortified. I think my friend may have clicked the right things and pointed out where to sign like I was an idiot.
Maybe you can see how I felt incapable and defective.
What I know now is that everyone has an “optimal level of arousal”. This is the sweet spot where we’re mentally stimulated by external stuff in just the right amount to be to be engaged and at our best.
If there’s less stuff going on we’re bored and disconnected, and if there’s more then we feel overwhelmed, confused, out of control.
Each person has a unique arousal level that’s right for them. People who are highly sensitive, who take in more stimuli and process it more deeply, need much less stimulation than those who have a higher level of arousal and need more to be in their sweet spot.
Relishing a high level of arousal would describe my cool Canadian friend.
Going back to my story, you can see that as a Highly Sensitive Person my optimal level of arousal was doomed in the Vancouver breakfast joint.
Just walking in the place I channeled my dorky inner middle schooler and then the high level of noise and visual stimulation of the colors zapped me. I couldn’t even carry on a normal conversation because I couldn’t hear over the din.
I felt like a fool because everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves just fine in there and then was further embarrassed by pulling out the poop bag and not being able to decipher the credit card screen. Highly Sensitives also are very tuned into what others think of them, so being judged as ‘not okay’ was another strike.
And so I did what every good HSP does when overwhelmed: I shut down and stopped functioning.
What I know now is that this doesn’t make me incapable and defective like I once thought. It means that in an environment that’s a good match for me I thrive. Now I know that choosing my surroundings to be a good fit is as essential as eating food or picking exercise that’s right for my body. (A three-cheese pasta-eating marathoner I am not!)
So, I’m not defective, but I am different than 80-85% of the population, since HSPs make up just 20% of all people. Add introversion to that and it’s more like 15% of us in that camp. What this means is that most of the world doesn't understand what you experience every day and that many public places are not designed for your optimal level of arousal.
What I help women in my Welcome Home to Your Self program do is understand that different doesn’t mean defective. That knowing how to make choices that are right for you is a strength, not a weakness.
Once you understand the ins and outs of the highly sensitive nervous system that you were born with you can begin setting your life up for success.
Without guilt. Without apologies. Without feeling like there’s something wrong with you.
Because there is NOTHING wrong with you.
You’ve just being trying to fit your nervous system into a world that caters to a different kind of nervous system. And it doesn’t work.
You’re always going to feel like you don’t fit in if you’re trying to live in that Vancouver breakfast hot spot. It’s just not your kind of place.
Come and find out how to create the kind of place that's just right for you. Start feeling like you fit in your life and your life fits you.
This doesn’t mean you have to move to an island and live by yourself. I’ll teach you how to make it work in your home with your family, in your workplace with your co-workers, in your social life with your friends. It’s all doable, you just need to have the skills, tools, and mindset to choose and set it up for success.
But listen, registration closes this weekend so we can begin together next week. I only offer this program once a year, September to May, so this is your opportunity to create a life over the next 9 months that works so well for you that you never feel like a nerd in a hipster joint.
I’m so excited to show you how to take the baby steps to do this! I love liberating Sensitive Introverts from feeling defective! Truly.
One of the participants from last year had this to say:
Before this program I rather thought something was wrong with me. I was constantly questioning myself, the overthinking, the need for solitude, the challenges in social contexts, etc. I gained a lot of knowledge and understanding about myself. Although I wouldn’t say I made complete and utter peace with myself, I am more aware of WHY I am who I am and HOW I can accept and support myself better. Also, I am more capable of seeing challenges and problems not so much as roadblocks anymore, but as a chance to grow. — Christine in Wilmette, IL
I invite you to click below to check out the program. Remember, registration closes this weekend and spaces are filling. You’ll need to quiet that voice that’s saying “I don’t know it this is a good idea!” and make a decision to support your well-being.
And I promise we’ll unpack and deal with that voice of caution and worry that’s always keeping you from doing things right away in the program!
I want to share something that’s a little fresh, maybe even a little raw for me.
It’s not some great thing I discovered 10 years ago, or 5, or even 1—that I can share from an oh-so-wise place.
This is happening right now.
One of the things that I thought I’d tamed were the tapes in my head that would tell me I was ridiculous, weird, incompetent, wrong, lame… You know the ones.
I really thought I’d licked them and fully embraced loving and accepting myself.
I’d upgraded the messages about following my own path and speaking my truth and all that stuff, but very recently I realized how often I judge what I feel in my body and try to shut it down.
You feel lots of sensations when you’re highly sensitive + observant + an empath.
Feeling is kind of all you do.
But I’ve been dissing my neurological system for ages it turns out. Telling myself, those sensations are wrong, stop feeling that way, no one else finds this hard, you’re weird for feeling all this stuff, just deal.
The thing is, truly loving yourself doesn't just mean loving the parts you like—it means loving all the parts, even the ones you're working on.
I realized I needed to find some times/spaces to observe all the sensations and not suppress or judge them.
Yesterday morning at yoga I drew a card before class from one of the decks of oracle cards. It was linked with sensuality—relating to the perception of things through the body—and I paid attention. Those signs and reminders happen for a reason, after all.
I decided to use my yoga practice to observe through my senses without shutting anything down.
This whole thing may sound weird, but stay with me.
There was so much sensory stuff going on: tingling in my fingertips, muscles that tightened and cramped, energy flowing across my face like a piece of soft fabric—I could even feel the blood pumping through my arms as I lifted them above my head and brought my sweaty palms together.
And gratitude. So much gratitude I felt like my heart might burst.
I was in awe that these kinds of sensations are going on all the time for me, not just when I take the time to keenly observe.
My big aha was that I want to be in a state of amazement, love, and gratitude for my highly attuned senses, to love even the parts of myself that sometimes annoy me, and to end the messages of STOP THAT, YOU’RE WEIRD, ENOUGH WITH THE SENSITIVITY ALREADY.
I'm focusing on embracing all the ways I experience sensory stimulation and appreciating how incredible my neurological system is.
And I'm replacing those negative messages with this simple mantra: ALL SENSATIONS ARE ACCEPTABLE.
It's definitely a work in progress.
This topic is a little messy and unpolished because I want to convey that even when you’ve done lots of personal work, there’s always another level of growth. And there's always more you can learn about yourself and love more deeply.
My question to you is this: Are you willing to get a little messy and shake things up? Growth and insight don’t happen when you stay in your comfort zone and keep things that same.
It happens when you take a step into the unknown, toward your truth. When you suspend those negative messages for a minute—the ones that tell you (wrongly) that you’re not worthy or deserving of better—and take a small leap of faith.
If you're ready to explore this further, use the contact page and let me know.
To see what it's like to coach with me, schedule your complimentaryconsult. Just click the button below and choose a time!