This is just a quick blog update to ask you to go check out my new site page (My Published Authors)! These self-published rock stars deserve a huge shout out for doing the hard work to achieve their dreams. Beautiful souls with wisdom to share and human moments to let us all know we are not alone. All of them have inspired me and become great friends.
Listening to people in their dark and lonely times. It’s what I do…what I’ve always done. I am the friend you call when you are feeling sad or broken or scared, but probably not for the party or movie or babyshower. Small talk eludes me, and my deep conversation may scare your guests away. Being that kind of friend was something I prided myself on as a child, but quickly learned that most people don’t want to go that far down the rabbit hole. I spent a lot of years giving other people what they wanted from me, slowly emptying my cup but never filling it back up. I became what others needed of me, rather than being myself.
It came to a head a few years ago when my cup, empty and cracked, finally broke. I ended up having a mental break and all the things I was trying to be came crashing down to crush me. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. After some serious counseling and self-reflection, I realized there was no room left to be anything other than me. All the titles I had collected over the years had to be thrown off in order for me to re-evaluate their usefullness. It was time to choose who I wanted to be, not just take what was put on me. Who was I when all those layers had been washed away?
In the last year or two, I’ve been forced to reconnect to my core self. In that core, there is the familiar darkness that I embraced as a child. More than that, I’ve found that there is value in being a light in the darkness for others. What other children shunned, people are now actively seeking. We, as humans, are surrounded on all sides by mounting stress and expectations. It’s overwhelming and sometimes we need a helping hand to find ourselves again. That is who I am and who I always wanted to be.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed some familiar threads tying people together. One particularly tangled thread (found in everyone but especially common in INFJs, INFPs, and HSPs) is low self-worth. That’s an incredibly broad subject, so today I wanted to separate them into sections to take a closer look. These are roots of a giant, ugly disesteem monster (disesteem being the opposite of ego). This monster trudges behind us, casting a heavy shadow over anyone with low self-worth.
The disesteem monster makes friends with us when we are very young, disguising itself as good advice from well-meaning adults. “Be humble. Be kind. Be helpful.” These are all good things to be, but for some of us–for whatever internal and external factors as we grow up–it turns into: “Be self-depreciating. Be indulgent. Be subservient.” The disesteem monster licks it’s lips and laughs maniacly as it twists our ideas of virtuous things until we push ourselves to a level below the dirt other people walk on. This, and all it entails, leads to burnout.
Here are 4 common factors I’ve found in most of the burnt out people/creatives I’ve met along life’s journey and in my coaching.
- Stretching yourself too thin.
- These days, everyone seems to be cramming in just a few more responsibilities into an already busy life. Every single person I’ve talked to (client and otherwise) is trying to juggle work, personal businesses, kids, school, spouse, etc., and the results are worrying. People feel the world is speeding up because we keep adding more to our plates while the amount of time we have to finish remains the same. This kind of behavior is especially hard on INFJs and other HSPs because of their perfectionism (see number 3). The effects of all this life cramming include constant exhaustion, anxiety, and even illness.
- Flawed perception: ego vs. self-worth.
- This one is slippery. In Greek mythology, there is a word called “hubris” which referrs to extreme pride and arrogance that may be hurtful to others. Hubris leads to the downfall of many a hero and is considered to be a serious character flaw. This warning against super-egos is echoed in what many of us teach our children at home and in school, which is good. However, it’s important that we note, only the extreme end of pride is a bad thing. What I don’t really remember much of in my formative years were the teachings of healthy pride and how to enjoy a hard-earned success. It seems like we are encouraged to keep moving forward to gather as many successes as possible, without stopping to revel in a job well-done. Perhaps it was there and I just latched onto the negative. Either way, there sure do seem to be a lot of INFJs and other HSPs that missed those lessons. Where is the line between pride and hubris? We don’t know, so we keep to the side of constant self-depreciation and debasement, just to be sure we aren’t being arrogant or hurtful to those around us. The idea of hurting someone’s feelings is almost physically painful, and we avoid it at all cost, using self-sacrifice as a tool in our safetybelt. In this way, we slice off pieces of ourselves, emptying our cups, until there’s nothing left, and then wonder why we have no energy for others (let alone ourselves).
- Perfectionism in the INFJ and other HSPs is one of our biggest potential pitfalls. In number 1, we talked about stretching yourself too thin. This problem is greatly exacerbated by our high standards, because not only do we expect to all of those things (work, family, etc.) at once, but we also demand each of them be done 100% flawlessly. You’re an employee? You’d better toss all thoughts of the problems you’re having outside of work out the window because you’re expected to be 15 minutes early, and dressed better than your current position, and constantly going above and beyone in case of that promotion you’ve been waiting 7 years for, and you’d better never call in sick, and, and, and… How about if you’re a parent? You’d better be cooking super healthy meals, keeping the house spotless (is that a stray toy you see on the carpet?), performing well at your 9-5 (if you have one), and keeping up on that side hustle (MaryKay, Scentsy, BeachBody?) to make enough extra money to afford a top tier day care, and, and, and… The list goes on, and if we don’t measure up to what we think society expects of us, we can’t help feeling like a horrible parent, spouse, employee, and generally crappy human being. No matter which part you’re currently playing in your life, you cannot give 100% to them all when you’re over-loaded. Plus, if you’re giving all that energy to too many things, you’ll have approximately -500% for yourself, which ties in with the next section.
- Putting others before self. Always.
- I feel this is the most important section in this article. Why? Because I talk to more and more people all the time who seem to have lost their identity. All of us humans are made up of a myriad of titles. I’ve mentioned in the other sections how we are parents, employees, siblings, spouses, and so many more. When those titles cease to fulfill us, we can’t help feeling empty and sad. But…when do we get to be ourselves? When you’re constantly doing for other people what you are unwilling to do for yourself, does the real you even still exist? Who are you outside of those titles you’ve been piling on since childhood? Somehow, in your effort to be giving and to love everyone the way you wish to be loved, you have lost something essential. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly when it happened, but for so many reasons, you just can’t seem to find time to do those things you love anymore. As far as priorities go, you are at the bottom, six feet under, less than human, animal, and even occupation. Your cup is empty, depression and anxiety have made a nest inside, and you are too busy being useful to everyone else to figure out how to fill your cup to wash that nest out.
So, if you’re reading this and nodding, please do something for yourself today. It doesn’t have to be big. Could be as simple as some home-made drink or treat of choice or as extravagant as a vacation. Doesn’t matter, as long as it’s for YOU. I don’t have the magic answers (yet…working on it), but my advice is to try to take an hour once a day or once a week just for you. Many of the people in your life are adults and capable of tending to theselves for at least a little while. I realize it’s harder if you’re a parent, especially for single parents, but if you can, during their nap or when they’ve fallen asleep or gone off to daycare…take some time to just sit with yourself. Decompress and fill your cup a little.
It’s not easy, so don’t sit there and berate yourself for not doing it, either. That’s counter productive. Forgive yourself for the things you can’t do, and those around you will follow suit. You are harder on yourself than anyone expects you to be, so ease up a little. You deserve just as much effort as those you care for.
You are a whole person and you are enough.
Before I started coaching, I sort of expected it to be helping writers out of writer’s block or helping them set doable goals in order to finish a project. Now, even though I’ve only been doing this for a little over a month and a half, I realize it is so much more.
As writers, we don’t usually fall into these issues out of nowhere. I’ve come to understand that even the most common writer problems generally stem from our outer life. Whether we are stalled on a project because of stressful daily life, or can’t get started because of unpacked emotional boxes, we all have outside factors affecting our writing.
Something else I’ve learned? Not all writers–and I’d venture to say none–are the same.
Not that I really thought all of my clients would be the same, but I did imagine they’d take a similar approach to one another. Boy, was I wrong! I’m so glad my mentor told me to keep an open-handed approach, because each of my new writer friends needs something different from me. It makes this “job” so interesting and fun, and I love it.
For example, one of my very first clients was actually looking for help writing academic papers. This person is intelligent and knows the advanced class material well, but struggles to get it down on paper without feeling overwhelmed. I completely understand. The knowledge was there, and having a sounding board to help organize the intense amount of information was all this person needed. This client changed the way I think about coaching, and made me a better listener, for sure.
The rest of my clients fall into the writer category. I’ve got a few novel writers, ranging from sci-fi to memoir, and a very talented poet. While each of these share the INFJ/INFP/HSP traits and some of the same issues, each of them has needed a slightly different approach.
Maybe it’s fate, or perhaps it’s the fact that I’m also INFJ/HSP, but I’ve found that I share some unique threads of experience with each of these people. I see it in my mind when we have that first consultation phone call–a few glistening strands of their life’s woven pattern, intertwining with mine and giving me insight into what they’ve been through and what they will become. Now, my life’s pattern is connected to these others, and I can’t help being invested in their path to happiness.
The most important thing I’ve learned over the last month is that none of these writers have a simple problem. It’s not one thing preventing them from getting the words down, it’s many things. The actual writing itself has faded into the background, while the emotional issues take precedence. Those emotional difficulties are wrapped around the pen, clogging up the ink, and there’s no way around them except to go through them.
So, I listen. Through listening, I understand. Through understanding, we both learn, and by learning, we grow–them as writers and me as a coach, both of us as people.
If you’re one of my clients and reading this, I want to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart. You have truly changed my world and I can’t wait to see where life’s journey takes you!
I’m finally getting my review up of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers, by Lauren Sapala! Let me save you some time…if you’re wondering whether or not to buy this book, just stop reading this post and go do it. The advice in it is definitely worth more than the awesome 3$ Kindle price tag, and when I have a house someday, I’ll be re-buying it (and The INFJ Writer) in paperback. I haven’t read her memoir yet, but I bought it and I’m sure it’s amazing as well.
Ok, so now it’s time for the breakdown and my favorite parts! Well…some of my favorite parts. There are too many to include here. The book is set up in chapters with a common theme mixed with her awesome personal stories, and then questions at the end to help you think through your thoughts and feelings.
**If you’re not an INFJ or INFP, you may not relate as much. But, if you’re even mildly sensitive, I believe you will enjoy her books.**
As I’ve said in a previous post or two, Firefly could not have come at a more perfect time in my life. I can’t help but believe the universe crossed my path with Lauren’s for a reason, and I’m so glad it did! Reading her words, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief at how many of the same sentiments I’ve had, but that nobody has ever understood. She even talks about how she learned to blend into her environment “like a chameleon” and about how she was never interested in the things everyone else was, nor was anyone interested in the things she was. This meshed with my previous post so perfectly, but she words it much better.
One of the things she talks about is “achievement oriented” vs “relationship oriented” mindsets.
“If you’re wondering what an achievement oriented culture looks like after it’s been allowed to run rampant for years on end, look no further than Hollywood or the political scene in Washington, D.C. People who engage in gossip and slander, point fingers, denounce, boast, and threaten and intimidate others are all very much a part of any achievement oriented scene. In this kind of culture, aging and illness are unacceptable, emotions are suppressed, and compassion is seen as a weakness.” – Lauren Sapala, Firefly Magic
I love this description! There are so many marketing ploys that are in-your-face, “if you don’t have this (thing, service, etc.), you’re trash!” This mindset is why we, as artists and writers especially, dislike the idea of marketing. You find yourself asking “Do I have to market this way to get my stuff noticed?”
Lauren seems to have hope for our world, though, saying that things are changing. She believes people are “waking up” and realizing it’s a broken system, and that “relationship oriented” (where we are all connected and supportive of each other, rather than in competition) people will prevail. I hope she is right. In Firefly, she details how you can use the “relationship oriented” frame of mind in all kinds of marketing, and how HSPs can stay true to themselves and still be successful at it. This eliminates jealousy and comparison with other authors, and is beneficial to both your platform, as well as your peace of mind.
Firefly has great guidelines on how to create a healthy (for you) environment on social media. There are general rules you should consider adopting, such as “Only accept Friend requests from people you like and feel comfortable with.” and you can unfriend or unfollow ANYONE who ceases to make you comfortable. That’s so important! She also reminds us that we choose what we post about and share. We have the power to control what we do or say, and to add or remove people from our environment as needed. And, as she says, “You don’t need a reason.” That’s both powerful and comforting.
Of course, Firefly details how to attract followers and readers (with an adorable animal story), how to use the right key words/tags, and how to follow your intuition and curiosity to be a better writer and marketer. Near the end, she talks about how nothing in this line of work is permanent, and that sometimes you need to step back, take a deep breath, forgive yourself for any mistakes, and take the time to figure out how to do it right. That is a sentiment that really struck home for me. As a perfectionist, I’m usually very hard on myself, and it can send me into an anxiety attack and serious self-debasement if I make a mistake. So, being able to remind myself that I can fix things is important.
I have so many other things I want to say about this book, but that would run into thousands of words, and honestly you should just go buy it. If you want to know more about your inner Prostitute and your Unique Spiritual Purpose, go buy Firefly Magic here.
Are you an INFJ, INFP, or other HSP, and want to have your mind read by a book? If so, this is for you! She even pegged the fact that I don’t have a profile picture… I’ll have to ask her opinion on how to stay anonymous.
I’ll leave you with this quote:
“Every time you immerse yourself in marketing work with integrity, an open heart, and the desire to be of service to yourself and others, you are growing and evolving as a human being.” – Lauren Sapala, Firefly Magic