I’m a highly sensitive person, and working for myself became my dream job.

As long as I can remember, I felt different from everybody else. When my teacher asked me in middle school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered, “Happy, I want to be happy when I grow up.” It raised many eyebrows and once again I was labeled as that odd kid.

It wasn’t until many years later, when a stranger sent me a gift, that I realized what was “wrong” with me. The gift was a book called The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron.

According to Aron’s book, I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP), which means I process sensory data more thoroughly and deeply due to a biological difference in my nervous system. I’m  more aware of subtleties in my environment, and I can be easily overwhelmed because my brain is processing so much information. This is a normal trait, found in 15-20 percent of the population.

There was nothing wrong with me. This new knowledge completely changed my life.

As an HSP, I need to thoroughly understand something before I can take action. So before I could understand silly ol’ me, I could not really advance in life. At least, that is what I tell myself when I look back and wonder why it took me so long to get the life I wanted. It was the life I needed to be happy.

I used to be a chronic job-hopper. Every few years, I would not only change employers but also change positions. I have been in retail, I was a receptionist, I have been a bartender, I’ve assisted corporate sales, and I was even a technical support engineer at a help desk for a few years. I learn quickly but I also get bored quickly.

And no matter how many times I changed jobs, I was still miserable.

I realized I was never going to find the perfect job working for somebody else. I was never going to be happy working in an office with a set schedule and set work.

Aron’s book made me aware of my flaws, but more importantly, it made me aware of my strengths. Instead of focusing on my weak spots, I started choosing to focus on my capabilities. I realized I needed freedom in what I was doing day-to-day if I was ever going to be happy.

I started thinking about what job I really wanted. I would walk my dog for hours and talk out loud to myself, contemplating what to do to make this perfect life I was imagining. A life that I felt was possible, a life that had to be within my reach.

One day, walking and talking to myself like a crazy person, I remembered how I had always wanted my own company. But the overwhelming world around me at the time made me feel that never would be possible, and I never gave it another thought. I had buried that dream deep down and far away.

When I realized that having my own company was what I truly wanted (really, what I needed), I started making decisions to honor that knowledge. It did not happen overnight, but every day I took a step closer to my destiny.

Fast forward twenty or so years and I’ve done it. I’m running my own fashion design studio called Aimmea. I’m living and working in Africa with my wonderful husband, my two lovely dogs, and my cranky cat.

I have the freedom to do what I want when I want to do it, and I no longer feel trapped in a job I don’t like. I have a wonderful team of creative people who work with me, and every day feels like a blessing. The world does not overwhelm me like it once did, because I get to do what I love.

This new-found freedom is like a cure to everything that used to get me down.

My husband and I are starting a new chapter in our lives. We’re moving to yet another country next month, to start another design studio in Johannesburg. I’m so very much looking forward to the adventures this change will bring!

I could not be more happy!

Are you a highly sensitive person? Take Elaine N. Aron’s free self-test to find out.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.  Confucius
Image credit: Deviant Art