As a writing coach who works almost exclusively with Highly Sensitive Writers, I hear the same phrases from a lot of different clients. “I’m an introvert, so I hate putting myself out there.” “I’m not that assertive.” “I prefer to stay in the background.” All these statements might be true in one way or another, but the reasons behind the statements tend to remain vague to most people, even if they are the introvert in question.
Even though the introvert awareness movement has made incredible gains for introverts over the past few years, most of us still struggle with limiting beliefs around what it means to actually be introverted. We might be out and loud and proud about NOT being extroverts, but at times we still assume that to be an introvert means that, basically, we are shy. And shy people don’t like the spotlight. So, when we try to put our finger on exactly what it is about marketing that makes us feel so, well, turned off by the whole process, we usually retreat back to this assumption. We are introverts, and therefore, we don’t want to call attention to ourselves. Because on some level, we are just plain shy.
This isn’t exactly the whole truth, though. Because being Highly Sensitive and introverted comes with a big ol’ package of other stuff that affects how we feel about the marketing process, and it goes way beyond the fact that most Highly Sensitive introverts don’t enjoy the spotlight.
For instance, most Highly Sensitive introverts are also intellectually and emotionally gifted. We are interested in ideas and theories that most other people find boring or weird. We are also big picture thinkers, so we see much further into the future than others, and we see the long-term consequences of decisions and choices that others neglect to examine. It’s hard enough to have these traits as an adult living in an instant-gratification, consumer-driver culture, but it’s even harder when you’re a kid.
When I was growing up, I was a huge nerd. And I don’t say “nerd” the way it’s fashionably used today. I mean I was a nerd who was very uncool and who didn’t fit in. I was always saying the wrong thing, acting the wrong way, and failing to realize that I needed to be a certain something in order to gain the approval of my peers. My feelings were easily hurt and I seemed to care about things that none of the other kids who surrounded me did—like animals and the environment and art and literature.
Because my adolescence was such a struggle for me, I learned how to get through it by going into survival mode. My fellow students did not hesitate to let me know that the things I cared about were weird, the way I dressed was weird, and the things I said were weird. So, I kept my head down and my theories to myself. When the teacher asked for anyone’s opinion, I kept my mouth shut. As an introvert, this came naturally to me anyway, and it just made a lot of things easier, overall.
I believe that most Highly Sensitive Writers had childhoods exactly like mine. I also believe that most Highly Sensitive Writers are still recovering from those years in which they felt rejected, mocked, and ignored, even into adulthood. I believe that most Highly Sensitive Writers, when putting their writing work and their books out into the world, now, still have to deal with those ghosts of the past.
And THIS is one of the biggest reasons that introvert writers struggle with marketing. Not because we’re “shy.” It goes so far beyond that. It’s because we still have wounds from being the weird kid in school all those years ago. We’re still dealing with trauma from being the black sheep in our family, and never, ever feeling understood. We’re still processing what it means to be Highly Sensitive, empathic, gifted, or intuitive, and we’re still struggling with owning a value system based around compassion and integrity that is at odds with so much of the dominant feeling in the world today.
So, yes, it is hard for us to get comfortable with marketing. It can be nearly impossible for us to ever feel truly secure in promoting our work. But it can be done. We CAN make the choice to keep learning, keep experimenting, and keep growing, even if all our shit from the past gets triggered every step of the way.
If you’re a Highly Sensitive Writer, chances are that you’ve gone through much, much worse than learning how to market a book, and you’ve still come out on the other side.
Now, you know exactly who you are, and this is your time to shine.
Lauren Sapala is the author of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers, a guide to help any HSP, INFJ, INFP, or introvert writer move past resistance to selling and marketing their work. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers.