Can you be a “Highly Sensitive Person” + create a thriving business (or own-boss career)?


Ever feel like you’re ‘too’ sensitive, or get overwhelmed too easily? And sometimes worry that might get in the way of really growing (or even starting) your own-boss career?

Then this video is for you.

How do people run businesses when they are a Highly Sensitive Person (or HSP?). And what might come up day to day? This is a topic which usually doesn’t get much air time, but has been brought up a few times by free range tribe members, so I’m speaking directly to it in the video below.

(NOTE: if you haven’t heard of the concept of a Highly Sensitive Person it is a term coined by Elaine Aron and describes someone with a heightened sensory system who “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment”. More info, including a free quiz, can be found here:


Watch this video for an open chat sharing my experience with this topic and what you can do if you identify as being that type of person:

Marianne x


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  • Grace

    Loved this Marianne! Delighted to see you talking about HSP’s after seeing the Facebook posts this morning. There’s plenty to think about here. I’m very prone to overwhelm and also slow to look after myself sometimes, especially if I’m stuck deep in a project I think I need to commit myself to. Like many others out there, I’m beginning my free range journey and am designing a career which will suit me, instead of a me that suits a career! I love the idea that your business is designed so that you can take plenty of time off when you need it. It’s something I’m hoping to incorporate into my own business too! Also, on an unrelated note, love your stunning earrings!! 😀 – Grace

  • thumper7

    Always been an HSP but because I come across as an extrovert, it’s often difficult to ‘bow out’ of situations that create sensory overload. Thr price for giving in is huge … no energy, no creativity, just a desire to sleep until it finally wears off. I’ve realized that sleep isn’t an escape mechanism or depression but a very necessary solution to recovery. I often used to ‘push through’ … but NO MORE!!! Thanks once again, Marianne, for giving me permission to say “Thanks but no thanks.”

  • sensitivetype

    Thanks for this post. I always wondered whether you are HSP, since I first came across a link to Free Range Humans in a forum about HSPs and work. Now I know! I particularly appreciate the point that even positive activities and experiences can still be stressful, and require recovery time.

    Like thumper7, others perceived me as an extrovert because I’m highly verbal, so I assumed I was one, yet I daily alone time and lots of it. Like many other HSPs, I was drawn towards helping professions, but hesitated, wondering whether I could detach enough. When I realized I was an HSP (and found dozens of posts from other HSPs who have a love/hate relationship with their people-facing helper jobs), I was relieved that I followed my instincts.

    I’ve had a hard time working certain parts of the Free Range program, perhaps because I only recently discovered myself as an HSP and introvert, and there is a lot of reframing going on. For example, it took me months to realize that my highest priority in a Free Range lifestyle, more important than what I did or with whom, was to have uncommitted time to follow my inclinations, and lots of it. In fact, ideally, ALL of my time would be that way. Still working on how to accomplish that (I have some ideas).

    It’s interesting to hear from an HSP extrovert, since they are less common than HSP introverts. Sometimes the Free Range approach, or at least strategies suggested to accomplish it, don’t seem entirely workable for an introvert. For example, seeking feedback from other people to figure out your best natural talent, when you aren’t very social.

    On the whole, however, the Free Range approach has validated and extended something that was taking me decades of experience to work out, about the relationship between my work and life (as if they were separate!), and which I was not finding at all in conventional career training contexts.

    So, thanks, Marianne!

    PS – next time, could we have a bit more light in the video please, so we can see your facial expressions?

  • Wow – thanks for that. Wish I’d known about this before i burned out 5 years ago.
    I reckon I’m a bit HSP or perhaps something else but I certainly found it difficult to concentrate without complete quiet.
    Luckily I’ve escaped now and I’m following your model towards “free range”.

    With my first book published – and a rave review from a leading journalist – and a second book planned AND some GROUP workshops too there seem to be some parallels here too.

    Best wishes-and keep up the good, if slightly quirky, work.

  • Alison Goodwin

    Hi Marianne. Great audio! It really spoke to me. Ive always been told that I am too sensitive and to just get on with it. No wonder I eventually burned out! I was forced to escape the cage, but it is absolutely fantastic where I am now. I am crafting a career to suit me and currently following your mini mba. Looking forward to seeing the results of this! Also liked your point about working out what affects you – also outside of work. I need to check this one out more, but I know that right now Im doing great! Thanks for your offering Marianne and keep up the good work xxx

  • Carol

    Thanks for a great video, Marianne. I’m an HSP introvert writer and am struggling to create an income stream to support my writing. I find I get overwhelmed after 3-4 hours on the computer. Yet I don’t know of any other ways to earn a living that don’t require using a computer. I also have a challenging time marketing my services as I’m easily overwhelmed by people I’m feeling a bit stuck…

  • Sarah

    Great post. I wish there were more focus on accommodating introverted leaders in the workplace in general. As a very verbal, sociable but introverted HSP, I’m glad I know about this now and, after 10 years + of extreme pressured IT project management now I am moving out of IT, as it does not reflect my values, and secondly am learning to watch for warning burnout signs and actively change my responses to the crises on my project.

    I would say some particular challenges for HSPs are that we are so aware of others and others’ needs that we immediately jump in to help. However, this help often ended in taking on others’ work and responsibilities and stretching myself far too thin, working through the night and weekends. I would feel isolated, depressed and angry at the non-stop work.

    Now, with awareness and practice at setting boundaries, I would say that HSPs need to start considering the impact to themselves first, then others second. I think HSPs can never tune out others’ needs completely but your own wellbeing is as important as others, is my advice. It’s not easy to change behaviour, I know that. However, I think as many HSPs go into carer-helper work (Project management for me has all been about turning around failed projects), we need to also be more attuned to being manipulated. I hope to have more success in taking care of my own wellbeing, acknowledging the down time I need, and slowly moving into a free range career.

  • Lauren

    Thanks so much for sharing Marianne! Actually I just had a moment yesterday where I realised I am an HSP – I went to the cinema with friends after a birthday dinner, then I suddenly decided to leave the movie because I realised it was going to be quite violent and I wouldn’t enjoy it. I’m also an ENFP but even as an extrovert, I usually prefer to meet up with friends one-to-one or in small groups. I’m still working in a part-time job, but this video was really informative about how to work with my personality and sensitivity to create a fruitful free range career.

  • Maxine Schiffmann

    Great video Marianne! Even though I don’t class as a highly sensitive person (according to
    the test), I see many “sensitive traits” inside of me.

    This is why I love your ideas of “creating a business that takes care of you”

    People get easily carried away following other people’s blueprints and creating business models
    that don’t really work for them and their special needs!

    Thanks for sharing!


  • Thanks! Yes we extroverts can also be ‘highly sensitive people’ and as you know we have the added challenge that going off alone may defuse the overwhelm but (unlike HSP introverts) it doesn’t recharge us full of energy — we need down time but actually get energy through interaction (and think best through speaking rather than through staring quietly at things) so there’s no hiding away forever option here hence knowing ways to dive in as yourself are so important! Glad these ideas helped, expect more on this topic over the coming months as it is a biggie :))

  • Exactly! See my reply to ‘Thumper’ above 🙂

  • That’s such an important point Sarah — and I think that applies to everyone. If we constantly burn out then there’s no way we can make an impact on others in the way we could have, so considering impact on ourselves is kind of good ‘basic maintenance’ practice for humans 🙂

  • Thanks Grace!

  • Yes! Great point about getting carried away too

  • Great post Marianne – and so interesting to hear you’re an HSP! I’m an introvert HSP (INFJ) and I have a huge noise sensitivity like you, and I find it over-stimulating to be with groups of people for too long. I’m a coach, and I work over Skype without the visuals to distract me – just audio is perfect for me, as I can tune in much more closely and really connect with my client and my intuition when I don’t have distractions!
    I moved from a busy town to a farm in the country – where it’s perfect for me to have the quiet that I need.
    I love the idea that we can build our business from the ground up, with our sensitivities in mind all the way – so we can create our own ideal working environment! Thankyou for these ideas!
    So excited to be meeting you in person Marianne – I’m going to the MPWC2014 in Nottingham on Friday! 🙂

  • Yes! HSP here (not good in crowds, feel sometimes sick in them)

    I’ve realised that getting too excited, having too much success does me in. I know, I know it sounds totally out of whack but if things go well, I get myself too excited and have to go lie on the sofa and watch back to back Poirot.

    When things go wrong? Well, as long as it’s not a total mother of a disaster, I’m fine! I can fix it all. It’s when it goes WELL that it’s a problem.

    Hmprh! Now I know this, I need to understand that having a successful day = need to go have a bubble bath, or a long bike ride, or a paddle in the sea. Not so good day = probably be OK. All about balance, I suppose.

    Great vid, MC – may there be many more!

  • I love this video, thanks Marianne! Really great to hear you talking about your high sensitivity. It’s cool to hear and read the extrovert HSP perspective. Can see there are lots of you guys here. ‘Crafting your own environment’ is such an important point – love thinking about the concept of environment as both physical space and mental space/time management – and having the flexibility for trial and error. I think there are so many ways that HSPs can overwhelm/over-stimulate ourselves without realising that’s what we’re doing. Your example about your client who flatlined you for the week is a great example of that.

    Thanks so much for sharing this! 🙂

  • I get that too Jenny (the crowds thing!) Do you ever suffer from self-sabotage when things start going well too? i.e. you almost fear the response you have to success, and so pull back so that you don’t have to deal with it? Really interesting that you cope better with things going wrong! 🙂

  • I too am a HSP introvert (INTJ) – my biggest over-stimulator is lighting, crowds (the sound of too many people talking). It was certainly a liberating thing to come across the HSP trait. It’s been enlightening to approach my business knowing that if I am going to be at my most effective then I need to shape my environment and time management. I like working over Skype too – I don’t mind the video – I quite like being able to see the other person’s face/reactions. Though I do need a bit of a lie down afterwards! 🙂

  • Very good point – I am guilty as charged! There is something attractive about reading/hearing about other peoples’ routines – it brings me a sense of hope that I can add positive change. Don’t know if you can relate to that at all. But I’ve come round to “creating a business that takes care of me” over the past 12 months or so, and I tell you what, it has made a huge difference! 🙂

  • Hi Carol, can completely relate to this. I stumbled into creating an income stream to support my creative pursuits. Ended up building a small business odd jobbing for people (doing a lot of stuff while people were out at work). I don’t know if it’s helpful but I’m launching a member’s area of my website at the weekend, which is dedicated to helping introverted and highly sensitive people build their life around their passions with variety and meaning. The topic for the first month is ‘building a living and a life around multiple interests’.

  • YES!!! I do self sabotage. It’s not too bad as I’m aware of it, and getting rest in when I have a success is very important.

  • Yeah, same here! It was quite an eye-opener when I realised that I do it. And yes, allowing success to breathe and rest was something i needed to start doing. The good thing about self-awareness is that it gives you the opportunity to do something about it!

  • I have an additional complication in that I can’t see and hear at the same time ! So video is best off for me, so I can hear properly! AND I love to lie in my hammock to chill in between sessions – I find the weightlessness really calming (but it has to be still, not moving, or I feel queasy!)
    Yes, being aware of our various sensitivities and making adjustments is the way to go – and being self employed is such a blessing. Good to ‘meet’ you Andy! 🙂

  • Awesome. I love the weightlessness observation with the hammock. Haha, yeah I have felt a little ill on hammocks before – not as bad as airbeds though. They used to give me motion sickness when I was a kid. Haha. Great to ‘meet’ you too, Ann! I love connecting with people who get it. 🙂

  • Paul

    Thanks for this video message Marianne. I’d always felt that I was a little sensitive in certain situations and just thought it was a learnt response. I’ve taken the HSP test and ticked 21 boxes putting me firmly in the HSP bracket. Its a relief to know that there are lots of others who have similar responses to mine to certain external stimuli. I really enjoyed learning about the strategies you employ to ensure you work at your peak as much as possible without being burnt out by senses overload. This has inspired me to pay more attention to the situations and stimuli that affect me and my performance. I can now start to take notice of these situations and create some strategies to ensure I avoid them where possible and/or reduce the impact. I’m particularly excited by the prospect of being able to take time out to recharge and see this as an investment in me as the key asset in my business rather than feeling guilty by seeing this as being a bit lazy or labelling myself as a slacker.

  • Miranda

    Omg I had no idea there was even a name for what I experience! My friend and I refer to it as feeling “out of body”. Since I’ve really gotten into Dahn Yoga & learnt how to ground my energy it’s massively helped me in such situations. Thanks for such an interesting post

  • Maria Watson

    I’m a bit late to the party but WOW, I so needed to hear this!! This was something I sought help with during the Ideas Adventure and had no idea it affected so many people. Its something I really need to factor in now during the early stages of building my business. I’m really susceptible to peoples mood and emotions, so much so I don’t even watch TV!! I still force myself to do things that go against the grain and drain me which I’m going to take a closer look at. I thought that I was procrastinating and making excuses for not wanting to offer services in certain ways but I realise its ‘real me’ saying nooooooo. I just need to find different ways to offer my help. Thanks Marianne

  • karen

    OMG Marianne, I have learned more about how I work through you than I have in my career. I also know more about my personality from you than I ever did before. This explains so much. Best of all, I hit on a business idea! If you are ever in Houston, let know!

  • jo

    its got a name? and i thought i was the only one….!

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