How Much Are You Worth?

Girl Has a Vision…

When I decided to start my own coaching practice, I had a vision. I wanted to help my fellow HSP’s to build lives for themselves that helped them to really come alive (not just… function). I wanted to help highly sensitive people and introverts see themselves as assets to their communities (because we are).

Why Was This So Important to Me?

For many people, the work they do is informed by their personal experiences. I am no exception.

I had spent most of my life feeling like a weirdo (and not in a good way). I felt like something was legitimately wrong with me. Sleep didn’t come easy. Social events didn’t interest me in the same way it seemed to interest others. Loud, flashy, glittery experiences didn’t tug at my sleeve encouraging me to partake. What DID interest me were things like philosophy, politics, meditations on the meaning of life, long afternoons spent with a good book… Does any of this sound familiar to you? (If you’re an HSP…I imagine the answer might just be “yes”)

I was (am) an odd bird…and a paradoxical one. I love the thrill of deep conversation with another human being. I’ll happily hold the space while you bare your soul to me. I just don’t want to, like…go shopping with you. I love my alone time and the delight that comes with walking in my front door knowing the only person’s emotions I need to regulate are my own. But it’s not like I don’t love people. I ALSO squeal with delight at the prospect of lavishing affection on others and being in physical proximity to a loved one (I might be an introvert, but touch is still one of my main love languages). I love to be silly and laugh and giggle. I also love to sit in quiet reflection. I am a perpetual motion machine, so I love the thrill of completing a long hike or even a marathon race. I also love to sit still, lazily watching the clouds in the sky. I’m even up for a good Netflix binge.

What a strange and vast hodgepodge of traits to embody in the skin of someone biologically quite small. I’m a universe of complicated housed in a space suit that is only 5’3.

But, weird though I may be, I have developed a liking of myself. I’m admittedly an acquired taste. Like scotch. Or caviar. Or…maybe durian. Nevertheless, I like me.

I’d love to tell you that self-love came easily, but the truth is – It took A LOT OF WORK.

For years, I struggled with insomnia, anxiety and bouts of depression (because being sleep deprived would make anyone depressed, I can promise you). My inner critic was a tyrant. Though a good student, nothing I did ever seemed good enough (not for my inner tyrant, at least). I was forever bending over backwards and sideways to please people…because pleasing others felt safe. I figured if I pleased people, maybe they’d be so busy  being happy they wouldn’t notice my weirdness.

My methods worked…if by “worked” we mean that I graduated with two bachelors degrees, a master’s degree and a handful of other certifications. They worked if by “worked” we mean that I remained financially solvent, employed and in good standing in my community.

But if we want to broaden that definition to include a sense of health, wellness, and vitality…maybe not so much. If by “worked” you want to include self-compassion? Again…not so much.

So the question is…what had to change?

The answer?

Everything.

The shift started when I stumbled upon research on introversion and sensory processing sensitivity. It turns out, my experiences could be explained, in part, by virtue of having a slightly more vigilant nervous system. Some people have brains that process things deeply, get over-aroused easily, feel their emotions more vividly, and experience sensory data with more gusto. Being the owner of such a nervous system also appears to come with some perks. These folks tend to be easily amused, conscientious, thoughtful, and so long as they take care of themselves…pretty long-lived. And while it is true that having such a nervous system does make me a part of a minority of people…it’s a pretty LARGE minority. Roughly 20 percent of people (and of a number of other species on the planet) have this trait.

Upon making this discovery, I remember thinking “okay…so if this is just a part of how I’m wired…I just need to figure out how to hack the system and how to get it to work better.”

So I got to work…

I went to grad school and got a master’s degree in Health Education (because true nerds always try and academic the crap out of a problem).

I read books about introverts and highly sensitive people (I told you…NERD).

I got certified as a life coach and a wellness coach (where I learned how to take big-picture dreams and break them into small bite-sized tangible actions).

I became  militant about some of my self-care practices (exercise, meditation, nutrition, etc.)

I paid off all my student loan debt so I would have more financial flexibility (and thus more flexibility with the work I could do).

I re-examined my relationships and my role in them (it turns out…it’s not actually my job to please everyone. In fact, it’s entirely within my right to be disliked. Hated, even. Whoah! What a game changer!)

It took me well over a decade of deep-dive pain-in-the-ass work. But it was worth it.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m living la vida loca with a million dollars in my checking account. I’m also not living a life of pure unbridled tranquility…sitting meditation style underneath a waterfall somewhere.

Here’s what I CAN say about my life, though. When I go to bed at night, I sleep. Wait wait wait wait wait….let me say that, again. When I go to bed…I…SLEEEEEP. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, then you clearly have never dealt with insomnia.

I can also tell you that while I don’t make a ton of money, I spend less money than I make. As far as I’m concerned..that is by definition, the meaning of “wealthy.”

I work hard, but it’s hard to call it work…because I love my job.

My friends are my family.

Those who actively dislike me, legitimately make me feel better about myself as a person. I measure the caliber of my worth as much by those who admire me as I do by those who despise me. It tells me I have the courage to be disliked.

Now, instead of spending all of my time trying to simply regulate my system and make it function, I’m on to new challenges. I’m not just waking up with enough energy to get through my work day, but I’m learning how to step into my role as an entrepreneur. I’ve moved from asking “how can I make due with what I have?” to asking questions like “what do I really want my life to look like?”

SO…What DO I Want My Life to Look Like? 

That’s been the question I’ve been untangling for a few years, now. One of the first answers that bubbled up was: I have finally figured out how to regulate my system so that I’m not just a highly sensitive person…but a healthy sensitive person. A balanced person. NOW I want to help other HSP’s to do the same. It took me YEARS of fumbling through the dark trying to figure out how to make a life for myself that looked like me (and which would allow me to feel like my best self). I wanted to save other people a little time and effort (and some bruising from all the stumbling I know I, personally, had to go through).

In my vision, I would have a website. The website would have a blog, a podcast, courses, a membership site…the whole kit and caboodle. There would be a way for clients to log into their own personal coaching site. I would host meetups and provide support for people who might be struggling to figure out why their experience of life was so different from most people they knew. Basically…I would help others not just settle for labeling themselves as “highly sensitive people” …and instead, transform into their own versions of healthy sensitives.

That was four years ago.

At the time, it seemed like a complete pipe dream. I mean…how the hell was I going to put all that in place? I didn’t know how to code. I didn’t know how to make a podcast. I knew how to coach and to facilitate groups…but I only knew how to do that in the context of someone else’s business model. I didn’t know how to do all of that on my own.

Flash forward to today, and I am proud to report…a good chunk of that is now in place! It’s all there. Exactly as I had hoped. It took a while. A long while. It’s been a tedious process of building, taking things apart, and then rebuilding again. I’ve tried more coaching platforms and online course hosts to make most people dizzy with fatigue. The amount of time it took me to figure out how to simply build a website and an app would probably make most tech savvy people chuckle and roll their eyes. But I don’t care. I DID IT.

But…Funny story…

As it turns out…building the thing wasn’t actually the greatest challenge. It might have been time-consuming, but it wasn’t THAT difficult to build a website, figure out podcasting hosts, buy a microphone, learn how to blog…and it definitely wasn’t hard to coach people. I had already been doing that for a decade.

It turns out, the hard part was internal.

The hard part was not offering coaching services. The hard part was deciding what was appropriate to CHARGE for those services. The hard part wasn’t opening up the store, it was being willing to put out the “OPEN!” sign so people knew they could come in. The hard part wasn’t doing the thing, it was self-promotion.

So in sum, the hard part was being able to answer this question:

What Are You Worth?

Trevor Noah, in his memoir “Born a Crime” tells his coming-of-age story. He describes his childhood, teen years, and early adult experiences. It’s an extraordinary rags-to-riches tale. As his story begins, you can’t help but think “how the hell did he accomplish SO much having started with so little?”

One of the biggest pieces of that puzzle, from his own perspective, was his mother. His fire-cracker meets wonder-woman of a mom was stubborn, ambitious, and wicked-smart. They might have been broke as a family, but she did not cary herself that way. There was no “victim” narrative she ever professed or permitted in the home. She would take Trevor all over and into various different communities (many of those communities were wealthy.” Evidently, she was criticized for it. After all, what’s the point of taking your son to communities he will never live in? Why taunt the boy that way? He is never going to leave the ghetto. But his mother would just shrug and simply say “But at least he will have seen what is outside of the ghetto. I want him to see what is out there. If he doesn’t leave, so be it. But it won’t be because he didn’t know there were other options.”

Basically…Trevor Noah’s mother understood something vitally important. You cannot become any more than what you can imagine. Also…once you have seen what is attainable, so long as you know your worth…no one can keep you from moving toward a life you want to build.

Trevor took those lessons to heart. He learned that once you have the confidence to move in the world as a person of worth…there is nothing – not laws, not a lack of financial resources, not even a lack of confidence in the culture you grow up in – that can ever FULLY bar you from entry into the life you want for yourself. That isn’t to say it will be easy. Nor is it to say that we can all simply “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” We all need help along the way. But the most important ingredient is that first part. The sense that “yes…I’m capable of and worth more than what I currently see in the mirror.”

THAT was…awe, hell….still IS….what was missing from MY work. It isn’t that I have doubts about my coaching skills or my ability to write or podcast or draft course content. It’s that, at the end of the day, I don’t know what to charge for it. I don’t know how to promote it.

So What Is the Solution? 

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I would love to tell you that I’ve fixed this glitch in my system. But that would be a lie. What I can tell you is that I’m learning. I’m reading books that smart entrepreneurs have written about this topic. I’m listening to high-functioning speakers talk about their journey and what it took for them to cultivate their inner sense of self-worth. Here is what I have gathered so far.

  1. Be process oriented, not results oriented. Fall in love with the process of building whatever it is that you are building. If you love the process, the outcome doesn’t matter.
  2. Meditate. Meditation allows us a momentary reprieve from our narratives and old patterns. It allows us a teensy distance from our assumptions so that we can start to question them. We can challenge our assumptions.
  3. Figure out what you need to live on, and how many hours you want to work in your  business…and reverse engineer it. How many clients do you want to have? How often do you want to be talking to them? How many hours each week do you want to work? How much money do you want to bring in each month. Do the math. And be willing to charge what matches that math.
  4. Surround yourself with people who embody traits you want to cultivate. The old adage is that we are the average of the top 5 people we spend the bulk of our time with. So go out there and surround yourself with people who have honed a skillset you want to improve upon.
  5. Set specific goals and benchmarks up ….goals that are attainable.
  6. Track your progress on your goals. Don’t judge yourself for whatever information comes in. Just track it and treat it as information.
  7. Organize your environment for success.
  8. Reward yourself for your efforts (not just for outcomes that you like)
  9. Nourish yourself by eating well and allowing time for experiences that feed you. That will help you stay productive and keep you from getting sick.
  10. Get support from others. It’s great to have people in your life that you can aspire to (see #4) but it’s ALSO important to have change partners who are on the journey WITH you.

I’m not done developing. I have a ways to go. I would LOVE to tell you otherwise. I would prefer to tell you that I not only know what needs to be done, but that I’m doing it and am already rolling in the dough….ready to quit all the rest of my jobs because I’m able to make a full-timing living on my private practice.

I can tell you that I’m miles ahead of where I was five years ago. For example, I’m juuuuuust starting to make more money with my private practice than I’m spending on tools to sustain it. That’s a big win, for me. I’m also starting to recognize the value in making myself visible.

So why write an article about a ship I’m only partially done building?

Because what I ultimately want to do is help others be the architects of their own lives. And I really believe the best way to do that is to show people not only what the before and after looks like…but to be willing to unveil the curtain and show people the process as it is unfolding. I want people to see the rough drafts. I want you all to be able to walk with me while I bumble and stumble around.

My hope is that you’ll stand back and say “well hell….if she can do it…I definitely can!”

 

I would love to hear from YOU. Is there something you would LOVE to build, and that you haven’t quite yet given yourself permission to do? 

Or perhaps you’re closer to my part of the process…is there something you KNOW you can do well, but that you’re struggling to charge appropriately for? 

(If you don’t want to comment, here, you’re welcome to email me at leah@thehealthysensitive.com )

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