My Struggles in the Workplace
Early in my career as a young professional woman, I struggled a lot at work. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good at my job; it was that I was so sensitive.
If I didn’t do something 100% perfectly, I’d feel badly about myself. If my well-meaning boss had constructive feedback for me, I’d feel deeply hurt. When someone asked me for something, my answer was always “yes” (even when I wanted to say “no”).
Beyond that, working in a traditional office environment didn’t suit my personality. Sitting at a desk for eight to ten hours straight just didn’t feel natural to me. And I felt constantly overstimulated.
A few years ago, I learned about a book called The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron. It offers a test to determine how sensitive you are, asking questions such as: “Do you need to withdraw during busy days to have privacy and relief from stimulation?” and “Are you easily affected by other people’s moods?”
If you answer “yes” to eight or more of the twenty-seven questions, the book says “you might just be a highly sensitive person.”
I wasn’t surprised when I answered yes to all twenty-seven.
I remember saying to myself, “Maybe I’m just not cut out for the business world.” While on the outside I seemed successful and highly accomplished, on the inside, I was falling apart. I wanted to escape. I just didn’t know where.
Off to Business School
Like so many other young professionals, when in doubt, apply to business school! Getting an MBA is a socially acceptable way to spend two years figuring out your life. And it worked.
Prior to business school, I worked at an organization with about ten full-time employees. We were all overachievers. We went above and beyond, each taking on the jobs of three people. I thought this was normal.
In business school, I learned how I was different from others. My classmates were all brilliant, but each of us stood out in our own unique way. I found certain classes, such as Statistics, to be incredibly challenging. For some of my classmates, it was a piece of cake.
On the other hand, I loved my marketing and leadership classes, which were all about understanding people and influencing their behavior. My natural ability to connect with people’s feelings and needs became a valuable asset.
When working with my classmates, I also started to learn new things about myself. I began to see that many of my personal qualities I took for granted, such as my entrepreneurial hustle, big picture thinking skills, and careful attention to detail, made me distinctively me.
Overall, the most valuable thing I learned from business school was not textbook knowledge; it was self-knowledge.
During business school, I also had the opportunity to work with an entrepreneur, whose mission and vision resonated deeply with me. Working side by side with such an extraordinary woman who had built a multimillion dollar company made me realize that I could eventually do the same. She believed in me, and that helped me believe in myself.
Taking the Plunge and Becoming an Entrepreneur
I once heard someone say, “Your dream job doesn’t exist. You have to create it.” Those words ring so true for me.
Because of my sensitivity, I have a very low threshold for doing things I don’t enjoy. It’s truly painful for me. On the other hand, when I feel passionate about my work and am using what I consider to be my unique gifts, everything feels effortless. My desire to avoid negative feelings led me to creating my dream job.
Today, I get to do the thing I love the most in the world: working with visionary people to help them grow their businesses. I serve as a strategic thinking partner to entrepreneurs and changemakers. I’m a publicist with a purpose. I’m a marketer with a mission. I created my dream job by taking all the things that I love to do and turning that into my company’s offerings.
Before I viewed my sensitivity as my biggest weakness. Today, I see it as my greatest strength. My sensitivity allows me to notice all of the subtleties around me. My sensitivity allows me to see things from many different perspectives. Most important of all, my sensitivity allows me to connect with people on a deeper level.
Business is all about serving people. It’s about understanding their needs so that you can help them improve their lives. My life has been changed by the people around me. The authors who have penned my favorite books, the experts who have taught me how to live my best life, and the entrepreneurs who have shown me that anything is possible.
I love this quote by Mahatma Gandhi, which has become my personal mantra, “My life is my message.”
I want you to know that it is possible to create your dream life, where you can be 100% yourself while helping others. When you make the decision to be your authentic self, you give others the permission to do the same. While there are many ways to make a difference, it is your courage and conviction that will truly change the world.
Selena Soo (founder of S2 Groupe) is a business strategist for personal brands, focusing on marketing and publicity. Through her signature course Elevate Your Brand, Selena loves helping visionary entrepreneurs, experts, and coaches reach more people and change the world. Join Selena’s newsletter for weekly inspiration and tips to improve your business and life.