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


  • Auie says:

    <3 amazing… i'm still looking for the perfect job… though still in university i feel as though i'm not in the right course. or i dunno :/ thanks for the story!!


  • Chris says:

    Similar story here. Am glad I found this story which I can relate to. Thank you for sharing.

  • Erin says:

    Thank you for sharing this. This sounds just like me. I tend to have similar desk jobs, but I get restless and want to move on quickly. I think I may have possibly, finally, found a career I can start part-time, on my own, that can hopefully one day become full-time.

  • geri says:

    I am so afraid of starting my own business. I’ve been slightly on the poorer side all of my life. Now I am even more poor than I have ever been. I slightly hate the jobs I am working now. I want to make jewelry or pottery and sell it. I want to do it to the point where I don’t think I need a second job….but starting it all seems daunting and impossible. thanks for the inspiration. it would be nice to hear how you started your business. ah, and to have a significant other would make things easier, i think. i’m still single. le sigh…le sigh…le sigh…

  • ONG says:

    Thanks for sharing your story! It inspires me! 🙂

  • Yasmin says:

    That’s how I feel right now!! I’m currently in college studying business but I’m a creative person. I’m only doing business because that’s what my mom wants me to do. I have no idea what to study for and Ive done some jobs here and there but I don’t continue because it’s just not me and I get super uncomfortable.. people think I’m lazy but it’s just the fact that I’m not comfortable in those jobs that is holding me back

  • Hi Maria ! I’m Julie, a french girl searching inspiration for the job of her dreams on Pinterest, and i found your post ! Thank you soooo much for your words. That reminds me i’m a highly sensitive person too, that explains a lot of events in my life, especially in work business, changing jobs and positions every 2 or 3 years because learning fast and getting bored fast ! I’ve quit my job 2 months ago and i’m decided to take my time to find what i’m meant to do ! Thank you for reminding me a part of who i am.

  • Taylor Vaill says:

    Hi Maria. I have been going through contradictions and struggles to be happy my entire life. And tonight I searched on the Internet “careers for highly sensitive people”. The past few days I’ve been doubting everything and this happens quite a lot because I know what I want is to be in fashion design. I’m at regular college right now with the stress of my parents wanting me to get a degree. All I know is that since I was a child fashion has always been the light of my life. Realistically, people often think it’s a hobby and can’t be a career. I’m a highly sensitive person and I’m 20 years old. Changed my major 3 times. Still unhappy and still wishing I can go to fashion school but feel the need to get a degree. Reading this almost made me cry because of how much I can say I can relate. I’m so sorry for writing this long novel you’re probably not going to read. But if you ever come across this one day I would appreciate it so much if I got the chance to talk to you. Thank you for being you.

  • DM says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve been searching for “Jobs for HSPs” and found your story. It took me so long to find out that I’m an HSP, and that there isn’t something “wrong” or that “needs fixing” about me, as some people often seem to think. I’m growing to understand how being an HSP makes me different, but not necessarily defective – I’ve even ordered Elaine Aron’s book and hope to read it soon, so that it helps me in my journey of acceptance. Like other HSPs, I’m having trouble finding the right job for me. I feel driven to find a job that I find meaningful more than one that is high-paying, which frustrates those around me who have no trouble staying in a job they hate as long as they get paid. I think our (HSP’s) different approach to job searching can lead people to think we’re lazy; “lazy” was a label that weighed heavily on my mind and bothered me greatly, specially at my last job, where we were expected to be excited to work even when we weren’t getting paid. It took some deep introspection to realize that I am far from lazy- not only did I work the worst shifts, I had four times the work load that other coworkers did. I’ve come to learn that the standards that other people have for what they think is the “perfect job” are not necessarily going to align with what I personally see as the right fit for myself, and I have to learn to be OK with going against the current of people’s criticisms and opinions.

  • Jane Resendiz says:

    After a tough night at work I got home feeling down. I kept asking myself why am I the way I am? Why do I have to be this way? And so I began reading a few articles which led me to this blog and I’m really glad I read this. It made me feel a lot better and hopeful. I suffer from really bad anxiety and hypersensitivity to people’s energy.