More and more I’m coming to terms with the kind of person I am and the needs I have. For nearly my entire working life I have attempted to become the kind of person who succeeds in corporate and office life, even though I knew it was not a good fit. What other game was there, if I wanted to have a salary that allowed me to do and buy some of the things I wanted, gave me some sort of financial security, and provided a route to affordable health insurance?
One thing I know is that I’m not good at hiding my feelings. I’m sure my attitude toward the culture of corporate capitalism is one of the main reasons I’ve not been anointed as a “leader,” whatever that means in the land of buzzwords and mandatory team exercises.
I’ve also realized I’m more sensitive to environments to some and maybe most people. At my current job, I’m pretty happy with the work and my team. However, the fact that I’m trapped in an office building in a sterile suburb, where there is literally nowhere to walk except the mall across the street, makes me very unhappy. (It does have very nice landscaping, but it’s still a mall, another temple to capitalism.) So sometimes I literally drive 10 minutes to a forest preserve to walk in nature—which I’ve found really refreshes me and makes me feel grounded. It’s not a nice thing I do for myself—it’s absolutely essential. And I told my manager that when she questioned why she couldn’t find me at my desk some afternoons. Luckily she is an excellent manager and completely understood. (Of course I am still sitting there for the other eight hours . . .)
On the advice of someone in a Facebook group I joined for highly sensitive people and empaths, I checked out the website of The Happy Sensitive and signed up for some of her free emails and videos. I’m still going through them, but one of her suggestions really stuck with me: Because we tend to pick up on so much negative energy, it’s imperative that we seek out sensations and environments that make us feel good. She calls it ‘attuning to your intuition.” It’s not an extra or a thing we should fit in if we can—it’s literally a thing we need to do to. If I want to remain functional and balanced, it’s a must.
So walking in the forest and breathing in the mingled scents of dirt, leaves, and wildflowers isn’t just a relaxing walk in the park for me—it’s a way to tune in to positive energy, which helps me release and deal with the negative energy I tend to pick up on in other environments. Maybe this is also why I respond to scents so much. So now instead of thinking I should light that favorite candle on a special occasion, I light it on a normal weeknight. I bring a little pot of solid fragrance to work to smell or dab on. I burn palo santo in my bedroom before I go to sleep. I drink my tea on my porch in the morning and breathe in the fresh air. I take breaks for walks and refuse to feel guilty about it.
The thing is, this isn’t something that’s unique to me. A lot of people have these same needs–but they ignore them, because either they aren’t allowed to meet them or feel like they aren’t. And instead of expecting us to constantly conform to the culture, I think the culture should start trying to conform to us—or at least give us space to do what we need to do to be our best. Don’t force us into ugly cubicles in office blocks with nowhere to go to escape the stress or enjoy the full texture of the world and expect everyone to thrive in that environment. And if you are stuck there, stop feeling guilty about doing what you need to do to recharge yourself. Push back. Let corporate leaders know that not everyone is able to sit at a desk nonstop for eight hours without a chance to recharge in their own way. And just maybe we’ll keep inching away from this one-size-fits-all workplace mindset to create a place where even sensitive and creative people feel happy to be.