Invest in yourself in 2020! That’s the main concept I feel compelled to advocate towards for highly sensitive people for this year and for the coming decade. Year after year, many of us make resolutions at the start of each year only to watch them gradually fade away like the last vestiges of a sunset. So much for good intentions and fresh starts! This year is different, though, because 2020 begins a new decade and is sufficiently far enough from the year 2000 that we really must start to think about how to best prepare ourselves for everything that comes next in our lives.
The founder of Sensitive Evolution, Maria Hill, alluded to just this topic when she stated,
“In order to become truly self-reliant and develop the resilience that comes with it, you need to engage with the world, to put up with the risks of failure and being hurt. Many sensitive people, because they have been devalued and invalidated, think that living in a limited way is the only solution that lets them manage the challenges of their sensitivity and survive.
What many sensitive people do not realize is that there are some skills they need that will help them feel more confident and empowered that shielding cannot give them. When skills are combined with energy processing and inner work, a sensitive person can become formidable.”
Too many HSPs live in a fairly limited way that focuses a significant amount of energy on shielding and limiting interactions, while simultaneously not devoting enough time to truly growing and developing their capacities in meaningful ways that can pay big dividends throughout the life course.
Maria advises us to “do our inner work because it can save us,” and I agree completely! It’s the inner work that we fail to address in our defensive posture as the world seemingly rains blows down on us from many directions, sometimes at once. Yet, the more of a defensive posture we choose to maintain, the less we are free to truly live. An insular life is just that: insular and protected from what we have found to be detrimental, scary, or uninviting, yet it is often those scary things that offer us the most growth opportunities!
Being willing to leave our comfort zones and really “hang it out there” may seem too risky for many HSPs, who prefer to take a very cautious and planned approach but I submit to you that life is a daily risk and we are always in an unplanned and chaotic reality, we simply choose to subscribe to illusions otherwise.
This may sound like lofty idealism so let’s list a few very practical and realistic ways we can invest in ourselves in 2020 and prepare for what comes next:
1) Thinking for ourselves is a skill we all must gain in order to be truly rational thinkers. The two main limitations to effective thinking are egocentrism and sociocentrism or thinking that is self-centered or group centered. Too many of us rely on the thinking of others to be valid and well-reasoned because we do not possess the skills to think critically and creatively. How to make that happen? Check out the Foundation for Critical Thinking website where they have tons of free resources and books you can purchase to start you on a lifelong journey towards rational and creative thinking. Website: http://www.criticalthinking.org/. I teach critical creative thinking to my students and I can tell you that the tool kit they graduate with is indeed powerful!
2) Examining our perceptions helps us sort out how we are interpreting events. Even though we may be quite intuitive that does not mean our intuition is always right or that we are perceiving life events accurately. Often the intensity of feeling in a moment may cloud our ability to perceive reality in a way that is balanced, patient, and fair. Resorting to ego simply leaves the bully in charge. Never be afraid to question your thoughts, that requires both intellectual courage and intellectual humility. This goes hand in hand with developing our rational and creative thinking abilities because both allow us to engage with our intuition and assess our thinking using universal standards or criteria to think with.
3) Learning how to demonstrate your value as a highly sensitive person may seem like a daunting task but until others understand the value in processing ideas and input more thoroughly, combined with high empathy, sensitivity to subtleties, filtered through a broad range of emotions, and, ultimately, better planning that is typically more creative, innovative, and less impulsive, they will only see your quiet ways as “too slow,” “too inefficient,” and “out of sync” with the fast pace of the working world. Your task is to find one project you can bring to the table that utilizes your full abilities as a highly sensitive person, assuming you already understand its potentialities, and show applications that are better than they would have been otherwise. Some of you may be exhausted with feeling like you need to prove anything to anyone, but that is self-limiting thinking that simply throws up a shield and never demonstrates your value in ways applicable to the real-world. We HSPs are not meant to exist in a vacuum, we are integral to the overall species and hold great value to all people. Our task is to find the right way/s to apply our capabilities.
4) Know thyself is an old adage but holds especially true for HSPs. Sensory processing sensitivity is a complex trait that you will not get to know overnight, nor will you appreciate its full potential until you have thoroughly lived with it at a high level of self-awareness. Read, think, relax, repeat… You should never be finished with knowing yourself. There are too many ways for you to get to know yourself to ever exhaust them in one lifetime. Explore, explore, explore and be open to new ideas, ways of being, and open to change.
5) Skills, the rarer the better! If you are stuck in your job, maybe you need some new skills. Seek out the types of skills that are in demand, or that will be, and learn them, whether by enrolling in a course, reading on your own, joining a social group dedicated to that topic, or asking someone who is already knowledgeable to teach you. If you are working in unskilled labor jobs your likelihood of moving up is slim. Train for something better, invest in yourself now and it will pay off for a lifetime. This is true for you and your family! If you do nothing but what you’ve been doing, and that doesn’t seem to work, what will be the result in 5, 10, 20 years? The same, so invest in yourself now and acquire those rare skills. Obviously be mindful of avoiding for-profit schools and fields with little demand. Do your research on what’s in demand and talk with people already doing what you propose to do! You will, of course, want to carefully consider how these new skills will allow you to manifest your strengths as an HSP.
6) Start a small business! Not only will you be free to choose what you do and how you do it but also who you do it with. Owning and operating a small business puts you in charge but be mindful of knowing what you are doing before you jump in. Take some courses on business management, marketing, accounting, and leadership, or work for another small businessperson to learn the ropes. You can start a business and grow it into many employees or one with few workers. You can even be a one-person show and succeed quite well, depending on your business focus. Start small and build it on the side while you still have another career. That mitigates the risk and allows you to avoid much of the stress of having to make that sale or borrow to expand. There are a million business opportunities in the real-world and the online world so seek them out and do your research. Obviously, not all businesses are a good idea, nor will they all work in your geographic location. Online stores equalize much of this but, again, do your homework and see what’s working for other people.
7) Connect with like-minded others, whether they are HSPs or not, humans need to connect with at least one other person whom they can confide in when things get tough. As we age, this connection becomes even more crucial to well-being and happiness. Many of you are more introverted and it’s hard to establish meaningful friendships, let alone lasting ones. Acknowledge that people will come and go and never stop meeting new people and cultivating new friendships.
8) Start and maintain a dedicated self-care practice. Learn to eat well for your body in ways that reduce inflammation, move you from the industrialized processed food system, and keeps you moving, limber, and flexible. Stay hydrated and avoid sugars of all types, they are increasingly becoming known as toxic to humans in so many ways. Several sugar substitutes are available now that work quiet well including Erythritol and Monk Fruit and will not spike your blood sugars. Make room in your life for adequate sleep and rest periods. You likely need a bit more sleep each night than do less sensitive people, simply because your body absorbs and processes all the stimulation you take in to a greater degree; that takes a toll and you cannot function well without enough sleep. Self-care for HSPs is essential! You cannot skimp on this and expect to thrive.
9) Invest for later. If you have not started investing in your personal investment portfolio there will never be a better time than now! Time is your friend and, simultaneously, not your friend. The sooner you begin investing in vehicles like dividend bearing growth oriented stocks and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) with low expenses, the sooner you can take advantage of growth in your investments and enjoy the dividends, which should be reinvested into more stocks or ETFs. Do that over your working life and the compounding effect of growth and investment will multiply your money incredibly! Start now and invest a small amount each week, or each month. The easiest way is to have that money taken out before you see it and sent directly to your account. Look into your employer’s 401K program but be mindful of expenses which can eat up your profits. I recommend M1 Finance because they allow you to invest in fractional shares. I also recommend the Roth Ira in the US as the best investment for working people. HSPs are well-known to be good planners but are you planning for your financial life? Start now…
10) Heal from trauma. If your childhood was unsupported, chaotic, or abusive, you have likely experienced a number of Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs). There is good help available that can help you move beyond the trauma you experienced and enter a new phase of life where you largely leave those experiences, and their lingering effects, behind. Life is truly YOURS to make of it what you will. Life is also too short and too fragile to allow what you could not control to exert influence over your life. Make your life YOURS and stop living in the shadows of your past. It may be a long path to healing but start now and invest in yourself!
These are a few key ideas you can use to invest in yourself in 2020 in real ways that will help prepare you for what comes next in your life. What other ways have you planned to invest in yourself in 2020?
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