How Do You Manage A Growing Business As A Highly Sensitive Person?

I’m indecisive because I see eight sides to everything.
— April Kepner (Grey’s Anatomy)

“When I give you an opposing view it is not meant to be against you or to negate your experience of a situation, it is simply that I look at everything from all angles and that includes the opposing position. I can’t help but do this, this has always been my instinctive response to any given event.”

I love it when we have these conversations that go deeper and bring me closer to the roots of my own experiences in this world. They often help me gain more clarity and direction when I am unsure where to go from here. This particular chat happened over breakfast at our favorite diner yesterday morning. I had shared with my husband that two people recently told me that I was a Highly Sensitive Person. I have of course heard of HSP’s - it’s a popular subject in my online circles - but until now I never identified with the term myself. Maybe because of the word ‘sensitive’ which makes me think of someone who overreacts easily or gets rashes or cannot tolerate loud sounds or strong scents. Plus, there is just so much labelling going on these days, I recoil a bit when I think someone wants to put me into a certain box. However, when two qualified professionals told me within the course of two days that I was an HSP I listened up. And asked them to define what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person?

Boy, did I recognize myself in those definitions. I have always been very receptive not just to what is going on in my immediate environment but also the far-reaching impact of events beyond timelines and geographical boundaries. I ‘see’ things on their molecular level while understanding their reach and expansion into the vastness of the universe. From tiny to huge to never-ending and all the facets in between. It’s a little hard for me to explain. As part of my corporate career I have undergone my fair share of psychological evaluations and they always revealed the same thing: my empathy levels are very high. Hence what I said to my husband, I always look at all sides of an argument and understand every position for or against something. 

But being an HSP goes deeper than empathy, it’s an absorbing of all the external energies around me that, if I am not careful, can displace my own sense of self in no time at all.

The way I often describe it is that I am like a sponge, I soak up everything until I am overloaded and bursting with too many stimuli and everyone else’s agendas or problems. It’s why I rarely watch the news these days, it affects me on a cellular level that also feeds into my anxieties and I am learning that for my own sanity I need to draw more boundaries. 

As my husband and I were chatting about all of this the subject of my business came up. As it does frequently! And I had a bit of an epiphany. 

I am at a point with my business where I can potentially expand beyond what I have been doing. I think I’ve mentioned before that for the last couple of months I’ve been working with a young designer who had approached me and asked for a job. Our collaboration has been going very well and I loved being able to support a young person. However, as of this month I don’t have enough work for both of us and I am feeling pressure to go out and hustle, something I have not had to do so far. And while we had talked about growing my business to a point where he would do the majority of the web design projects while I focus on my e-courses I am not so sure anymore that this is in fact the direction I want to go in. 

Growth is seen as a natural evolution when you are successful. And for a while there I felt excited at the thought of doing this but now that I’ve had some time to catch my breath and return to a more normal pace I am also realizing this: I was bloody exhausted when I was juggling multiple projects and a contractor and my fledgling e-course. And this exhaustion went beyond the physical toll from lack of sleep and crappy diet: my emotional energy was spent.

Because of my high degree of sensitivity and empathy I am very good at tuning into my clients and understanding their needs completely and then translating that into a beautiful website that perfectly reflects them or their business. At the same time every project costs me a huge amount of energy, often leaving me emotionally drained and exhausted. I have never spoken about this so openly because I don’t want my clients to feel bad and also because I have learned to manage this and to make sure that I take adequate steps after a project to replenish the well.

I am good at what I do because I am an empath. I also have to take extraordinary care of myself because I am an HSP. 

This balance was thrown off-kilter when, between my clients and my contractor, I ended up absorbing multiple energies while also dipping deep into my own reserve for my course. None of this, by the way, is because of anything others do or don’t do. I couldn’t ask for nicer or easier to work with clients and I feel truly blessed with the wonderful people I have met through my business. The same goes for my contractor, he is a lovely and very smart young man and working with him has been fun and interesting. Nonetheless, after everything was said and done I was energetically depleted. 

Talking about expanding my business comes easy to me, I know I could do it. The question is, do I want to? Or is this more about what I think I should do? 

This is a very familiar and always self-imposed glass ceiling I am hitting. I could have climbed up a lot higher on the corporate career ladder if I had wanted to but something always held me back. I never wanted the responsibility or stress and a part of me always felt a bit like a failure because I had the ability to do it so why wouldn’t I? It is only now that I am beginning to understand that there was always another, bigger, question here:

How much can and am I willing to handle energetically?

I am sure there are HSP’s who are very successful business owners, managers and leaders. But there are probably also many who wish they could tone things down a notch and navigate into calmer and gentler waters. 

What does all of this mean for me and my business?

I am not sure yet. I might be a Highly Sensitive Person but I am not an introvert, I love working with people, both in real life and online, and I don’t see that ever changing. But do I want to manage a team of people? Probably not. I think it is becoming clearer to me that I prefer autonomy. If you asked me what I really wanted for myself and my business, if anything was possible - the answer might look something like this: 

I want to keep designing beautiful websites but only a few per year, and spend the rest of my time developing and teaching a spectacular curriculum of nurturing and effective online courses. I have no desire to get rich but I would like to earn enough to save for our retirement and to live well and be generous. And I am quite serious with my tagline: 

I do want to make this world more beautiful, one website at a time :)

For now I will just continue doing what I do. There are new website projects on my schedule and there is still a lot to do for my e-course. And as and when needed I will still work with my contractor, if he wants to and has the time. At this point I don’t need to make any big decisions and I am more inclined anyway to keep things moving and growing in the organic and heart-centered way that seems to work best for me. 

Have a lovely Sunday! xo