Today I am honoured to feature my friend, Gentle Business Mastermind member, feminist consultant, and future collaboration partner (in our pograms Developing Coach Collective and the Feminist Coach Academy) Cameron Airen as part of the Expert Spotlight segment where I interview experts and mentors on business + entrepreneurship, self care and personal development, and social change and social justice.
Cameron is a mindset coach who helps feminist introverts, empaths and highly sensitive folks reclaim their superpowers and thrive and shine in the world. In addition, she works as a gender consultant with CEOs, companies, solo entrepreneurs and creatives to help them integrate a gender and social consciousness into their business and work so they can be a part of a growing movement of positive social change.
Cameron has a Masters degree in Anthropology & Social Change from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and a B.A. in Women & Gender Studies from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL.
They have over eight years of experience helping individuals connect to and take care of their bodies, emotions and mental health, and supporting folks to grow more into themselves and create more powerful change in the world. Cameron also has over a decade of experience studying gender, feminism, sexuality and social change and getting free from internalized oppression, which she uses as some of the tools to help her clients experience more freedom in their minds, hearts, bodies, and life.
Cameron was the creator and host of blog and podcast, Real Feminist Stories, where she interviewed over 70 diverse feminists doing amazing things in the world and having important social justice conversations. She was also the creator and host of the weekly Twitter chat #feministstory, and has facilitated feminist spaces and conversations online, and co-facilitated workshops and programs to help folk get free from patriarchy, gender norms, internalized oppression, integrate feminist and social justice values and beliefs into their business, and connect more to their joy. They have also co-facilitated in-person spaces for women to connect more with their sexuality and pleasure.
Her current podcast, Live A Conscious Life mirrors her coaching practice helping folks experience greater freedom in their mind, heart, body and spirit and expanding their awareness of justice.
Cam is a digital nomad and works with clients from all over the globe.
As you can read, Cam has a wealth of knowledge and experience on some of the most interesting of topics – and I know from first hand experience of hiring them as a coach and consultant, that they have so much brilliance to share with the world. But today, I’m going to interview Cam on just one specific topic that is close to both of our hearts – being an introvert, empath and Highly Sensitive Person. Okay, let’s jump into the questions…
For those who don’t know, would you please explain what introverts, empaths and HSPs are? How can they learn whether they are one or a combination of these?
Absolutely! Introverts are folks who gain their energy from being alone, and need a lot of alone time to recharge. They also tend to be more on the quiet side, but not necessarily shy (being shy is a different thing), very observant, and deep thinkers.
Empaths feel others’ emotions very easily, and are very intuitive. It is different from being empathic. Most people have the capacity for empathy, but not everyone is an actual empath.
Highly sensitive peeps (HSPs) are very sensitive to, well, everything. They tend to have sensitive senses (sensitive to light, sounds, touch, taste, smells), are very intuitive, feel things very deeply, and are very affected by their environment. There is a lot of overlap between these three identities, which is why I talk about all three of them together.
Folks can find out more about what these identities are and learn whether they are one or a combination of them with my FREE assessment here.
Would you mind sharing your personal story in terms of how you came to learn that you identified with all three?
Would love to! I believe I realized I was an empath first. I don’t remember when I realized this exactly, but I remember talking about the experience of being an empath with and being called an empath by other folks much earlier than I realized I was an introvert and HSP.
When the book, Quiet, came out, a good friend told me to read it because she thought I would be able to relate, and, indeed, I did! This was the first time I realized how much of an introvert I was and owned it! Prior to this moment, I had taken the Myers Briggs test in college and scored in the middle of introvert /extrovert, and I didn’t fully understand what either one really was. But, when I read Quiet, I realized that I am most definitely an introvert though I can “pass” as an extrovert sometimes in certain situations.
I began to own that I am HSP somewhere in my mid-late 20s when I saw a few different healers who told me that I was sensitive and that this was a good thing! I had definitely always been told that I was “too sensitive” and thought that being sensitive was NOT a good thing, so it was eye opening and healing to have some prominent healers in my life help me to reclaim this. I didn’t know this was an actual identity, and that 20% of all humans are highly sensitive because it has very real benefits to humanity and survival.
I’m not big on having a million identities, but they can certainly be useful in helping us reclaim more of who we are
When it comes to relationships, what are some of the challenges that introverts, empaths and HSPs experience – and what top tips would you give for how they could begin managing these?
This is a big one! Some of the challenges can be drawing in people who “dump” their problems onto us and take advantage of our energy, including strangers and friends. People are very drawn to us because we are amazing listeners, feelers, non-judgmental people, intuitives, and we tend to have great energy. So, of course, people want to be around that. That’s why it’s very important that we learn how to say no, and put firm (yet loving) boundaries in place for ourselves. It’s important that we learn how to protect and take care of our energy first and foremost so that we can be at our very best.
My tips are to get clear on who are the people that feel “toxic” to be around, people who take advantage of you, and the people who you feel depleted around, and let them go. Remove them from your life as much as possible, and if you can’t completely remove them from your life, then set really firm (clear) boundaries with them. Also, think about the people in your life who are in the “gray area”, meaning people who you love and still want in your life, but they do suck your energy and you can’t be around them very much. Then, get clear on what boundaries you need to set with them so that it can feel better when you are with them. How can you amplify the good experiences you have with them and minimize the ones that suck your energy? Finally, think about the people in your life who feel AMAZING to be around most of the time, and visualize being surrounded by more of these folks.
When it comes to work (and/or business), what are some of the challenges that introverts, empaths and HSPs experience – and what top tips would you give for how they could begin managing these?
This is a great one! I firmly believe that introverts, empaths and/or HSPs need to live their passions. They need to get paid doing something that they LOVE because if they don’t, then they will not feel fulfilled and they will feel depleted and depressed. Deep feelers and sensitives are very passionate and creative people, and need to live a passionate and creative life, which absolutely includes your work. If you don’t love your work then it’s time to make a radical shift, and it’s okay if it takes time to find what you REALLY LOVE, but be honest with yourself and make the decision to follow your bliss. This is very very important. Our work is NOT separate from the rest of our life or from our self-care. Our work is part of our self-care, and it absolutely needs to be for deep feelers and sensitives.
Also, for introverts, in particular, we tend to work better alone. We tend to shine more when we are working by and for ourselves, and not having a boss, working in teams, or having someone looking over our shoulders. Make sure you have a lot of freedom, time and space because this is how you will shine most in your work!
I also think that, ultimately, deep feelers and sensitive souls will want to be self-employed to really protect their energy and thrive. But, for those who don’t have any desire to be entrepreneurs, then finding a job that you’re passionate about and works well for you is paramount.
When it comes to their desire to dream for others and make a difference in the world, what challenges do they often experience, and what top tips would you give them?
Probably one of the biggest challenges is seeing your work and everyday life as separate from the social change you want to create in the world. Deep feelers and sensitives have the superpowers to be an example of change in their everyday life because they are very thoughtful, conscious and intuitive beings.
Social change is a political movement, but it’s also an everyday lifestyle from the thoughts you believe about yourself and others to the language you use to the relationships and communities you are part of.
Also, learning how to integrate your social change values and beliefs into your creative projects. Does your art send a powerful message that’s in alignment with your beliefs and values? How does your writing convey a different way of doing things that’s, ultimately, more freeing? Are your business practices reflecting your social and political beliefs and values? Do you listen to and engage with diverse voices? These are all everyday tips of integrating the ways you want to make a difference in the world.
What are some of the personal warning signs or signals that introverts, HSPs and empaths experience when they’re becoming overwhelmed, stressed or are on the edge of burnout? What do you advise they do when they become aware of these signs? What do you personally do when you become aware of them?
Depression and anxiety can be common for deep feelers and sensitive folks. Some common signs to look out for are exhaustion or fatigue, feeling depressed or unmotivated, feeling angry a lot, feeling ill often, or feeling “moody” a lot. If you begin to notice feeling these things more, acknowledge that you are experiencing this first, then give yourself time and space to sit back and breathe, and spend time getting replenished. That might mean cutting back on work, social media, and spending less time with people to focus on yourself.
Do what you need to do to replenish and feel good. Slow down, take a breather, and do something that brings you closer to who you are like sitting by a beautiful stream, taking sunrise walks by the ocean, and spending time in nature to fill your cup. What brings you joy and fills your cup? Prioritize this because it is essential for you feeling good. Also, get your everyday practical needs met like drinking lots of water and eating regular, nourishing meals.
When I start to feel burnt out, stressed, or depressed, I slow down, cancel all the things I don’t really want to do or need to do, and just focus on caring for myself. I go on one of my favorite hikes out in nature where I know I will feel better. I move my body whether it’s yoga or doing a strength/cardio workout. And, I spend more time in water if I can like taking more baths, going in hot tubs or walking by the ocean if I’m close to one. Being in or near water always fills me up, helps me relax, and immediately lifts my mood!
I host a podcast called Dream For Others® where I often talk to people from different backgrounds about how they use their platforms, passions, personal story, strengths and sphere of influence to contribute to creating social, political or environmental change. I’m curious, what is your dream for others, and what are some ways that you try to give back or be of use to others?
I love your concept of dreaming for others! It is beautiful. My dream for others is to stay true to who they are, honor their own ways of being. Once we accept ourselves the way we are, we can live in ways that support us and serve the world, without turning away from the reality.
I try to give back in a variety of ways. Being a spoonie, sometimes my energy varies, but I make it a priority to check in on those close to me via community support. I also try to make my work accessible and consistently giving to causes or direct giving to those I support. My favorite project in the works is a dream project, of finding new ways of capturing the stories I need to tell via dance, movement, and film.
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