Look, some people just feel things more deeply than others. In fact, some people, like me (and perhaps you), can feel embarrassed, rejected and hurt from the smallest, tiniest thing that anyone else would have forgotten a milli-second later.
Perhaps, like me, you’re not like that. You can’t take things lightly. And that makes getting visible, putting yourself out there and marketing yourself online even harder. But it doesn’t have to be.
Firstly, I want you to know that it’s nothing to feel ashamed about (although I did feel ashamed about it for a very long time). For some of us, it’s just the way our brains are wired. And when we don’t honour this or recognise this, or try to squash these feelings down, it can make showing up in this online space really very hard.
“When the smallest thing leaves you feeling crippled, wounded, frozen, it can make succeeding in this online space feel like one step forwards, and two steps back.”
When tiny comments, actions and incidents most people would not even notice, or would shrug off, or just take in their stride, leave you feeling crippled, wounded and frozen, it can make succeeding in this online space feel like one step forward and two steps back. It might even make you think that content marketing is not for you.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Yes, the online space can feel like a bit of a brutal emotional battleground for people who are HSPs (highly sensitive people), empaths or who struggle from Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. So there’s a danger that you can end up playing small and never fully going for what you really want as a form of protection.
But you are not the only one. You are not weird; thin-skinned; over emotional; not cut out for this online space. You are perfect. And you can make it work.
That’s why I’m sharing my story with you and how I navigate being in this online space as someone, some might say, needs to ‘toughen up.’
You can listen to the podcast episode here. Or if you prefer to read, scroll on down for an edited transcript.
Yesterday I got an email which sent me into a spin.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a really lovely, friendly email. I’d just sent out a newsletter about my new Masterclass to my subscriber list, and this person replied directly to it. She’s a lovely lady. A networking contact more than anything, who I suspect had subscribed to my list because we’d connected and she wanted to find out more about me. Her email said that she’d really enjoyed reading my emails but her inbox was bursting, so could I please unsubscribe her? I replied that of course I would, and then I went downstairs and I made myself some lunch and I did a few other bits. When I got back to my desk half an hour later, I suddenly realised I had this horrible feeling inside. I felt tearful. I had this real knot of anxiety in my stomach. My heart was racing. I had this horrible feeling in my chest. I felt a bit sick, like I’d done something wrong or shameful.
And I thought, I know what this is. I’ve been triggered by that email. There was nothing in it that made it personal. And yet, my brain was making it personal. I felt embarrassed – had I been annoying her? Were my emails boring? Useless? Were lots of people thinking this, and rather than hitting the unsubscribe button she’d personally emailed me to make a point? These were the unconscious thoughts rolling around in the back of my mind and I’d suddenly realised I was holding all that shame and anxiety in my body. If I’m completely honest, most days, if I really tune into how I’m feeling inside my body, these feelings are very common for me; often like background noise, because it’s something that I so often live with. Because I’m a highly sensitive person. AKA as touchy, thin skinned, over-emotional (you get the gist). And if this sounds familiar to you, the chances are you are also a highly sensitive person.
And I want you to know, you’re not alone.
Forgive yourself – it’s the way you’re wired
I’ve always felt things very deeply. I get very overwhelmed and very overstimulated. But emotionally, I feel things very, very deeply, which in a way is part of my superpower, I think. Personally, I think it makes me a better writer, I think it makes me a better teacher. But at other times it has been hugely crippling for me in my life. And for years I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment around how sensitive I am, particularly as a child and as a teenager which is just one rollercoaster of rejection. So, I got into the habit of hiding how sensitive I am, because I was so tired of being accused of being thin-skinned or overemotional. And then as an adult, while I still find lots of things triggering, I’ve also learnt to adapt my environment to protect myself – sometimes in a positive way (avoiding toxic and particularly triggering people), and other times in a negative way (people pleasing, avoiding confrontation, keeping myself small)
And then a few years ago I was told that one of my children had ADHD and autism. And in doing my own research about how to navigate this challenge in our lives, I learnt about a condition called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD), which is a very common comorbidity for people who are on the Autism spectrum. It basically means that due to the way your brain is wired, you find it very hard to regulate your rejection-related emotions. So perhaps, someone doesn’t reply to your message. Or mildly disagrees with something you post on social media. Pulls you up on a tiny mistake you’ve made. And it feels like the world is ENDING.
And knowing that ADHD is genetic, and then reading about this condition RSD, it just suddenly made total sense. And I realised that it wasn’t just me being sensitive or thin skinned – it was actually the way my brain was wired! I couldn’t help feeling those feelings. And while I’d grown up and found coping mechanisms and ways of hiding that, it was such a relief to be able to forgive myself for that
My reaction to a seemingly innocent email yesterday is a perfect illustration of my RSD at play. And it made me think about how much harder it can be to get visible if you’re an entrepreneur, or content creator who is also highly sensitive. Putting yourself out there, marketing your business, is hard enough, without having to navigate the emotional drama that being highly sensitive can bring.
So what can you do to make it easier to show up in this online space as a content creator or digital marketer, when you’re highly sensitive? Well here’s what I do.
- Accept that you’re more sensitive – and that’s ok!
This was very healing for me. Understanding ourselves neurologically is not about the label, it’s about understanding why you feel like this and forgiving yourself for it. This leaves you free to actually feel all those feelings. Tune into them, acknowledge they are there and process them so you can get on with your life. Squashing them down, ignoring them, pretending they aren’t happening, is never healthy.
So yeah, someone wanted to unsubscribe from my email list, or maybe someone else has given me feedback which I’ve interpreted as a personal rejection. And I feel sick, and sad, and embarrassed and like maybe the whole world is laughing at me. I know that’s ridiculous, but that’s how it feels. Feel it and process it so you can quickly move on.
2. Automation is your friend
Automation is not only the key to scaling and finding time to work on the stuff that lights you up, but it stops it feeling personal. My business has a lot of automation in it. Someone can sign up to my newsletter and I won’t necessarily know about it unless I go into my CRM and look at my numbers; someone can unsubscribe from my newsletter as well and I won’t know. My old CRM used to email me every time somebody unsubscribed from my list. I found that so triggering having that land in my inbox every time I sent an email. So I turned that off and instantly felt better. It’s the same if you join my membership. People can join my membership and leave my membership and while obviously I would notice because I know everyone in my membership, they don’t have to run it by me to do it. So if you joined and got inside and had that awkward moment where you think, ‘oh no this isn’ me,’ there’s no need to tell me, you can just leave. Obviously some people have been in my membership for a while, and if their circumstances change and we’ve built a relationship, they might send me an email saying thank you and that it’s time for me to go. And I really appreciate that personal connection because I know it’s not about me, and I know although that journey is over, we often go on to work with each other in other ways.
3. Unsubscribes are great for your list!
So yes, there was a time when an unsubscribe triggered the heck out of me. But these days I see it totally differently, because I want my list to be as filled with dream subscribers as possible. Those randoms who can’t remember why they signed up or who I am, just skew my numbers and stats (and cost me money). Recently I moved my CRM over from one to another. I’d had a problem with my previous CRM in that quite a large proportion of my list weren’t receiving my main emails. And so suddenly I moved over onto this new CRM and I had quite a large influx of people onto my main list.
I knew therefore there would be people receiving my emails who perhaps hadn’t heard from me for months, which meant it was likely there would nobe those who no longer needed me, so there’d be unsubscribes. So I sent my first email out from that CRM, and as I expected I immediately had a handful of unsubscribes. And I felt fine about that.
Good content doesn’t please everybody, it doesn’t speak to everybody. It speaks to a specific person. A specific person with a type of problem. Not everybody’s going to like my style. Not everybody’s going to like me being this highly sensitive, touchy feely, emotional, creative person. Other people will prefer somebody else’s vibe, and that’s fine. And others won’t come with as I evolve and change my messaging. It doesn’t mean what I do isn’t good. It just isn’t right for them. So, see unsubscribes as your list naturally cleaning up itself and creating space for more dream subscribers.
4. Shift Your Focus
Stop focusing on the handful of negativity, luke warm people (or god forbid, trolls), and shift your focus to the people who do love what you do. This was a big lesson I learnt, which set me back a few years ago. I had a client who signed up to work with me 1:1, but after a few weeks it became clear that she couldn’t or didn’t want to work the way I work. And so despite me trying really hard and going above and beyond to try to rectify things, I realised she wasn’t happy and she was totally lowering my vibe. So I offered her a full refund which she accepted immediately. It was all very professional and business life. Not personal at all. And yet it felt personal to me and it was a massive blow to my confidence. I felt totally rejected and unworthy.
It took me a while to get over that, and it did set me back in my business and made me play small for a while. But I’m grateful for that, because it taught me an important lesson, to shift my focus onto the people who do love what I do. So, every time I get an email from somebody saying they enjoyed something I’d shared, or a client sends me a glowing testimonial or a peer endorses my work, I really acknowledge and embrace that, and in doing so it helps me keep things in better perspective when I am feeling triggered.
5. Don’t get hung up on numbers
Now, from a marketing point of view, obviously you kind of need to, particularly if you’re doing email marketing and you want to be better at it. You want to know what your open rate is. You want to know what your click through rate is. You want to know how your landing pages are converting. But it’s really important not let the numbers be personal. And I think social media is a place where we get very hung up on the numbers. How many followers do I have on Instagram? Or how many likes has a post had? And very often I’ll post on Facebook, and it won’t even get a single like and there are times where I feel a twinge of embarrassment about it.
But generally I know it’s just that it hasn’t been shown to people that it resonates with. Or it has, but they’ve just not engaged because they don’t do engagement. Engagement on your post does not equal the impact, it doesn’t equal success. Very often I’ll have people contact me to work with me who’ve never engaged with anything before, and very often these are the people who are ready to say yes, and go all in.
5. Create Your HSP First Aid Kit
When you do get triggered like I did yesterday, it’s important you do what you can to not let it set you back. And the best way to do that is not to ignore it and soldier on, but to take some time to register it, to feel those feelings and think, ‘okay, where am I feeling this?’ In my tummy, in my chest? I feel sick, I’m feeling embarrassed, I feel shame. Register that you’re feeling like that and then do things to help you move out the other side. Yesterday I could have stayed at my desk and prepped for a call I had later. Instead I went out into my garden, put my feet on the grass and really focused on being present and having the sun on my skin. I felt the tension start to ease. I then went on a call with some of my group from the Soul Works Atelier and by the end of that I felt myself again. Connecting with your real people, the people who appreciate you, the people that you can help, as well as the people in your real life who love you, is another great way to help process those feelings.
Finally, above all. Be really kind to yourself. And proud of yourself too, because this is a tough space to be in, and yet you’re still here.
But also remember, being highly sensitive is also a huge strength too. So embrace that. Be proud of yourself.
And of course, know you’re not alone.
Find out more about my group book coaching program for coaches, creatives and heart-led entrepreneurs who want to write and publish their own book go to www.theluminous.media/soulworks