If you’re an introvert and/or highly sensitive person running a business, you will face unique challenges. Two of the biggest issues I see are overworking and absolutely loathing self-promotion.
The entrepreneurial space is full of ‘gurus’ telling us we have to hustle 24/7 to succeed. It’s easy to buy into the lie that if you’re not running around at the pace of a chihuahua on crack, super extroverted, and aggressively promoting you can’t get ahead.
(Fortunately, those so-called gurus are wrong more than they are right.)
I’m a highly sensitive introvert and have been running a highly successful business since 2013. I’ve never bought into the idea that you have to ‘dominate’ your way to success. I will admit that while the term ‘hustle’ always made me cringe, I have been guilty of overworking at times.
I know from experience that there are both challenges and advantages to being a highly sensitive introvert in the business world. (Yes, there are advantages. I promise.)
It’s a bold claim, but highly sensitive introverts (we’ll call them HSIs for short) may very well make the best coaches and consultants. I believe we are uniquely suited to helping others see their gifts and what’s holding them back.
HSIs are intuitive, empathetic, good listeners, observant and make people feel safe to open up and share. I believe we can offer something special to clients because of our ability to deeply connect with others.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably cursed your sensitivity at some point and wanted to wish it away. It can be difficult to be an HSI and manage the demands of work and life as we strive to succeed.
However, if we use what makes us different to our advantage instead of fighting against it, we can be highly successful as highly sensitive entrepreneurs.
To that end, here are 6 things you can do to make growing your business a little less stressful as a highly sensitive introvert….
1. Use social media to promote your business and skip in-person networking.
This is going to be painfully obvious to a lot of people, but I wanted to emphasize it nonetheless.
Gone are the days when the only way to promote your business was through endless networking events, meetups, and cold calling. If you want to ignore them entirely, you can.
It’s an introvert’s dream, really! You can run a highly successful business from home in your PJs and never lay eyes on another human if you want.
That being said, I know that some HSIs find online promotion draining as well. Maybe the very thought of doing a Facebook Live makes you break out in a cold sweat or you don’t even want to engage in the countless business groups you can find on social.
While you’re going to have to find some way to market your business (this isn’t The Field of Dreams, after all), here’s the good news… it’s YOUR business and YOU get to choose what you do to market your business and how much of it.
Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one way to run or market a business. Over the years I’ve seen women…
- Crushing it by blogging and sharing on social media but never once doing a webinar or FB Live. They don’t like to do video, so they skip it and write instead.
- I know women that leverage the skills of their extroverted team members and have them in the spotlight while they mostly keep themselves behind the scenes, doing what they do best.
- I’ve seen 100% passive income models driven by Facebook ads.
- Women getting all of their business from networking in the comments of Facebook groups. (Personally, I don’t find online interactions nearly as draining as in-person ones.)
- Women that do one amazing webinar that converts like magic and then they don’t have to do another recording for literally a year or more!
Long story short, I’ve seen it all and all of it can work!
What’s important is that you choose a model for running and promoting your business that feels good and works for you, because if you hate it, you’re not going to do it!
2. Set clear boundaries for yourself and your work.
One thing I know about highly sensitive people is that we have very high standards and never want to let anyone down. It’s part of our nature, but if we’re not careful, we can let other people’s priorities run our lives and forget our own dreams.
For years, I had a full-time contracting position that accounted for the majority of my business. I was still working on myself and my business all the while and juggling way too much.
I remember being at a retreat a few years ago that was focused on spirituality and personal development. I was so excited to attend, take some time for myself and connect with the other women in the program.
Being there, learning from these leaders I respect was such a gift. And yet I found myself – over and over again – running back to my room to work because I didn’t have anyone to cover for me at the contracting position.
As I was running away from what I truly wanted in order to serve someone else’s dreams, I found myself crumbling to the floor in tears because I was exhausted. I was tired of putting everyone else above my own dreams and my own health.
And my body was screaming at me to listen. To slow down. To nurture it and to feel, but I wouldn’t let myself because there was always a NEXT thing and a next thing to do and someone always needed me. I didn’t think it was possible to slow down.
Can you relate? I think many of us feel this way.
We are so giving, and that’s amazing, but there’s an important part of being an HSI that we also have to understand…
We take on more than is actually ours and we need to learn to come to a place where we know what is ours to carry and what’s not. Where we honor the fact that we need a little bit more space than others.
Space to process, to heal, to feel. Space to complete a project without feeling so rushed. Space to dream up a more ideal life for ourselves.
And what I want you to know is that we can gift ourselves that space. We can honor the natural ebbs and flows of our energy instead of acting like a robot and always being ‘on’. In fact, giving ourselves that space is the key to true success.
3. Take amazing care of yourself.
Want an amazingly successful business? Take amazing care of yourself.
Please don’t gloss over this!
It is so easy to hear this advice and go ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you, Julie, but I’m busy AF. I can sleep when I’m dead. I’ve got stuff to do if I want to be successful.”
I get it. That was me for years and years. I knew what I ‘should’ do…eat well, get plenty of sleep, meditate, get out in nature, and exercise.
“Thanks, Captain Obvious!” I’d think every time I’d see this advice.
I knew what I ‘should’ be doing, but it didn’t seem possible. There are only so many hours in the day so I’d put work and family first and myself last every time.
Here’s the thing though – women like us are burning out left and right. We are exhausted and struggling to honor our needs and what our bodies are screaming for.
While it might not seem possible, we have to prioritize our self-care like our lives depend on it – because they do.
Chronic stress can impact everything from your cardiovascular health to your digestion to your immune functioning and hormones.
We’re not built to live in a state of chronic stress. We have to learn how to complete the stress response cycle or our bodies get stuck in a state of fight or flight. Eventually, it will catch up with us in possibly tragic ways.
4. Create a plan for how to deal with stress before it happens.
So what do you do when you’re chronically stressed but short of your Fairy Godmother intervening you don’t know how that stress will ever lessen?
You need a plan to deal with both the stress and the stressors.
Stressors = the things in your life activating the stress response in your body. It might be work, money, family, self-criticism, worry over the future, discrimination, and so on.
Stress = the neurological and physiological shift that happens in your body when the stressors come up and your body perceives them as potential threats to your well-being. It’s an evolutionary response that was meant to keep us safe from wild animals and the like in the caveman days.
Here’s the thing though – your entire body and mind literally change in response to the perceived threat.
The problem is that these days we are far less likely to die from the ‘threats’ of the world and more likely to die from the stress and strain on our bodies when we get stuck in this fight/flight/freeze response cycle.
We have to learn to deal with BOTH the stress in our bodies and the stressors in our lives. We can’t just biohack our way to a stress-free life.
We have to learn how to properly resolve the stress response in our bodies and handle the stress that is part of being human.
If we attempt to optimize our bodies and don’t deal with the very real amount of overwhelming stress we’re coming up against then we’re essentially gaslighting our nervous systems and will never find real wellbeing.
5. Use your intuition as a guide for decisions.
No one knows what works for you but you. There’s not one perfect, magical cookie-cutter schedule or business plan I can give you that will perfectly align with your values, lifestyle, and unique body.
Humans (and businesses) don’t work that way. It’s part of what makes us so amazing.
What I can do is help you to trust your intuition and your body’s wisdom when it comes to making the best decision for your life and business. I want to normalize the space and support you need as a highly sensitive introvert.
To help you come to the place where you can say, “I need a little bit more.” A little more time. A little more support. A little more space. And for you to know that a little more (or a lot more!) is OK to ask for.
I want you to adopt the mantra, “Time expands for me when I slow down. The more space I make, the more money I make. The more spacious my schedule is, the more abundant I am.”
I want you to be a FULL BODY YES to sustainable success and to get your body on board for the success you know you are meant for. With a little guidance and a whole lot of trust in yourself, it is possible.
6. Don’t underestimate what you’re capable of!
Here’s what I want to leave you with – while you need to take special care of yourself, don’t limit yourself either.
I never want anyone to think that what makes HSIs different makes them ‘less than’ in any way. Or that it limits what you can do.
While our nervous systems may get overwhelmed a little more easily than the other 80% of the population, that doesn’t have to hold us back.
We can do work that feels aligned and in a way that doesn’t always have us on the verge of burnout. We can honor our boundaries, our bodies, our healing… and be highly successful as highly sensitive entrepreneurs.
That might be easier said than done, but when we learn how to create an environment that fosters health and happiness for ourselves as well as those around us; it's a powerful thing and you’re worth it.
Not sure what energy you bring to your business?
Take this FREE QUIZ to learn Your Unique Energy Profile.
Discover the unique energy profile you have as a coach/consultant, how to best leverage your gifts, and pitfalls to look out for.