Val Nelson is a career and business coach helping introverts with big hearts to hear and activate their true calling.
It is possible to do work you love with ease and tap into your values and strengths as an introvert or highly sensitive person (HSP).
Join me on this episode to learn more how you can do so.
In this episode, we discuss:
You don’t want to miss this episode - you’ll learn more about yourself if you’re an introvert or how to live with one if you’re an extrovert!
Hi and welcome to The Financially Free Woman Podcast! I’m Sharon and I’m the creator of this non-financial, financial podcast about money and how money affects the work we do, the relationships we have and our ideas about freedom. Most people don’t realize that the path to financial freedom doesn’t begin with gaining more knowledge or making more money. In this podcast, you’ll learn how to embrace and accept yourself as a fully whole, albeit imperfect person so that you can become the highest and best version of yourself. And this, my friend, is the key ingredient missing from typical lessons about money and personal finance. In this podcast, you’ll learn about your own psychology and relationship with money, how money is more than just the dollars and cents, and practical actions that are grounded so you can transform your dreams into reality. Thank you for joining me on this exciting journey. Let’s get started!
Val Nelson is a career and business coach for introverts and highly sensitive people who want meaningful work without the overwhelm. As an introvert and highly sensitive person herself, she used to think self-employment was not for her. Yet, now she enjoys having a thriving business and has learned. There are a lot of myths about what is possible or not. She believes strongly that living your true purpose is a practical possibility and enjoys helping people find what works for them. She does this through individual coaching, small groups or online courses and her blog. You can learn more about Val's work at valnelson.com. Now let's get to the interview.
Hi Val. Thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. I'm really excited to be talking to you. And just a quick brief intro. I know I've talked about you in the intro before we started the interview here on the podcast, but I wanted to give our listeners a little bit more of a context of how I personally came to know Val.
So Val was of the first people I got in touch with on my journey here, in terms of journey to financial freedom journey, to exploring, stepping away from a corporate job and eventually running my own thing, which is answering this inner call I've had for a long time, just to know how about going it. Tried a few things, trying to be an entrepreneur and never worked out. And then I kind of let that dream, I pushed it aside for a while because I was had a young family to raise and a job to go to bills to pay the stuff that a lot of people I think deal with. So, um, they call it the practical. I've got air quotes here, the practical side of things, right? So anyway, I first met Val, probably. I want to say something like 2017, 2018 was when I first discovered you on the internet and how I came to find you was that you're a coach and you're not just a coach, but you're coach that specifically caters to introverts, highly sensitive people at that time.
I know I've always been an introvert despite being a stand up trainer, a corporate trainer at work, which I love, but is this whole idea of energy and I'd love for you to go get into that a little bit. Yeah. So that's how I reached out to you. And you were one of the first kind people who actually responded to someone right across the world that you probably didn't even know. So I, I always remembered you. And so when I started this podcast, of course you were one of the first people I really wanted to have on the show. So welcome. Thank you for taking the time. And maybe now that I've given a little bit of an introduction, maybe you can give your version of how you came to end up doing what you're doing today and specifically this very niche area of being a coach for introverts.
No, that's great. Yeah. And I remember hearing from you those years ago too, so that's, that's a sweet reminder. Yeah. So I am a career and business coach, especially for introverts and highly sensitive people. And by the way, I don't respond to every email because I get a lot, but there was something sweet about your note and I felt like you were a kindred spirit. So it made sense to connect in that way. It's not that I don't want to respond to everything. I just can't. I get a lot. But anyway, so I came to this work because I know that I learned that I'm an introvert many, many years ago. And I also learned maybe 15 years ago about my own high sensitivity. And both of those were important puzzle pieces for me and making good decisions about my work, both in career job things as well as self-employment decisions.
And what I, one of the things I've learned is that we will get very drained in our work if we're not careful. And if we're not aware of how, what things drain us and what things that energize us. Introversion and high sensitivity are not problems. They are just, just like being left-handed or right-handed. And like being right handed, extroversion is just a little more dominant in many cultures - not all cultures. And introverted people have to go "Wait a minute, I have to do things my way." So we have to like, kind of bring a little extra consciousness to things because the dominant culture in many countries does not really cater to us. So, so that's why I kind of combine the two, like helping people around their work who are introverted or highly sensitive because that's where there tends to be a clash, but it doesn't mean we are the problem.
It means we just need to come up, do things our way. So it's been a wonderful labor of love for me to help other people have more ease because it's been so helpful for me. And I couldn't when I first started my business, by the way, I didn't have any role models for introverted solopreneurs. This was 11 years ago. People just looked at me like, or I felt like at least the thought in my head was that self-employment was extrovert territory. I just didn't even see myself in that picture. And even though I had this independent streak and wanted to be self-employed, I kept thinking that's for other people, I just have to suffer over here. So I was sort of stuck in this in-between I want the independence, but I just don't see how that's going to work. It just felt so far away.
And of course it's not just introverts that feel that way. It's lots of people feel like that's that mystery thing that some people do that self-employment thing. And how does that even work? So I felt like it, it made me once I started to learn and got into it myself, I, I got, I had a coach and consultants for various pieces trainings and what not. I got the help that I needed to do it. And I started to see this. Isn't such a scary thing. I mean, yes, hard. Yes. You have to put a lot of energy into learning, but it's not impossible. Not nearly the scary thing that it was in my head. And I remember telling myself, I'm going to make sure that I help other people get through this mystery tunnel. It doesn't have to be so hard. So I felt very motivated to, to help others through that tunnel.
So just hearing you talk, I actually have two questions that popped in, I wanted to ask and one would be about how you eventually meet the transition into self-employment, which is kind of where I'm finding myself at right now. But before that, I'm just curious because lately my daughter has been saying, Oh, mommy, you're so sensitive. I never really made the connection between introversion and sensitivity. Although sometimes I've sometimes make comments, right. When I'm talking with colleagues or friends and I'll say something, Oh, maybe I'm just sensitive. But that came across. Like, I just felt like this person or this situation made me feel a certain way. And I would always question myself or dismiss it and disregard it. Oh, you're just being so sensitive or you're just taking it so personally, Oh, you're just feeling it or just let it go. Or, you know, I hear things like that.
And then I would just have to dismiss that part of me. I'm just wondering, and also there's this highly anxious part of me, right? Which is why I do what I do now, which is to help myself and other people who tend to get so anxious and chronic worrying was for me specifically, it used to be a lot about money, which we'll talk about later on as well. But just so you know, just many things. So I'm just wondering if this, how do you know, number one that you're highly sensitive and has it got a link to any anxiety?
I'm so glad you're asking about this because I realized that we did sort of rush over what are the, what do those things mean? And so it's really important to understand what they mean and they're used in ways that are wrong and not useful. So let's talk about highly sensitive for a moment. There's an actual trait that's been studied and researched, and they've see that there's a brain difference. And it's sort of used as highly sensitive person or HSP is the acronym. And the, the number one authority on this as a woman named Elaine Aron, she's a researcher. Her website is hsperson.com. And I recommend that you, that people, if they're wondering about sensitivity, that they take the quiz on her website, which is free and only takes a couple minutes. And it's a great way to learn what it is and to find out if that's you and there's even a quiz for the parents can use about the kids.
Does it come up? It starts at birth. So it's, uh, it's like in the body. I think that there's times when it can be also caused by trauma, but, but mostly it's just a temperament. Just again, it's like a trait just like left-handed or right-handed about 15% of the population has this trait. It's not the same as being emotionally sensitive or taking things personally. That's a misunderstanding of it. It's however they can. There's a reason they get confused. It's actually more to do with, we pick up on sensory information more easily. For instance, sights sounds light, tastes touch, and you're even more sensitive to medicine. For instance, like people who were like, wait, I can't do that much of, I have to take the smaller dose
I have exactly that. Yeah. I always have to take the child dose.
Yeah. And doctors don't often know, and luckily more and more medical providers are starting to understand this and, but we have to educate ourselves and then educate our providers that look, my constitution was just different. So it's really a very physical sensory thing when we're talking about highly sensitive person. But there's other things that are just used, like in an adjective way, like emotionally sensitive. Oh, you just take things too personally. That's a very different thing. And that's more to do with experience and maybe trauma and a different personality factors. It's possible that people who are either introverted, which is another type of sensitivity, actually, which gosh we could, we could spend all day on all these things. I'll keep it short is definitely different. That introversion has more to do with how the brain, the way it thinks. Like it's, it's a, it's a propensity for deep thinking before speaking.
So people think we're quieter because we actually take our time before speaking. They think we don't have as much to say, but actually we're waiting for the pause so that we can think better than just blurting things out. And because we think deeply, we can also get more overwhelmed by lots of information input and people input that's highly stimulating. And so we can get more tired from a lot of people. It doesn't mean we're antisocial. It doesn't, we don't want to be around other people. It just means we have to take care in how we do that.
Is that why sometimes we get more anxious because we thinking so much. And how does that link to the HSP?
Right. That's where I was going with the anxious piece. So yes, it's not the same as social anxiety, but we do tend to, we tend to be a little more prone to anxiety because we're taking in a lot of stimulation, whether it's introversion or high sensitivity, there's a lot coming at us. So we're just like that much more prone to some overwhelm and some, you know, being overstimulated or getting tired. And the other reason we might, I think this is even a bigger factor. This is just my guess. I don't know what the research would show, but I think we're we're. So we, we tend to be down on ourselves because we don't fit. And I think that's a big, bigger cause of anxiety is the negative self-talk because of the societal lack of approval of our, of who we are and that the lack of fit in workplace is a big one. I mean, think of it. If you work full time at something that's a bit draining, it's very hard on the system.
Yeah. Now that you talk about that, that was going to be my next question, which is the part about the energy bit and the work that we do and making a transition. So you talked about it at the very beginning during your introduction. Like, so if I'm an introvert, highly sensitive person, and I want, obviously I work in a typical corporate environment and here in Singapore, we're very, very westernized. So it's the culture, obviously not as the same, not exactly the same as the West, but we definitely comparatively to all the other Asian countries, we are a little bit more aligned to the Western culture and like open office concept. So I get very annoyed when people play music and they're talking and I cannot focus on what I need to do. And the work I do have sometimes is really draining because it's got alone numbers, which I hear, I mean like data entry spreadsheets, which I hate and drains me. So can you talk a little bit more about like, because your recent blog posts, which we'll get to in the recent couple of them and I'll put it in the show notes, which is about bridging jobs and then bridging jobs in terms of, and maybe you can talk a little bit more about that. If for someone like me, who's trying to transition from full-time working for someone else to eventually full time working for myself.
Yeah. That whole transition thing is really the beginning of this jury. Tunneling.
We do that in a way that doesn't drain us, I guess is.
That is like the crux that, that needs to be my next blog post right there. We do that in a way that does not drain us. So here's a couple of things. One is we have to do what we can to reduce anything that's draining for us. Like if it's really loud at work, then wear headphones or something to, to have a break, anything you can do to reduce the things that are over stimulating, the body is going to help. And anything you can do to increase the things that are energizing. Like if there's some part of your job that you really enjoy, like maybe, maybe you hate presentations, but you like the part where you make the slides. Like maybe there's a way where you can just tweak that a little bit, spend a little more time on the slides and a little less time on the presentation or trade with somebody.
I'll make your slides. If you do my presentation, whatever, there there's sometimes ways to just turn up the dial on the fun stuff and turn down the dial on the hard stuff. In little ways, both at work and at home, you know, there might be ways to just reduce and take care of our energy and in all areas of our lives. So that's really critical. Actually. It's almost impossible if your work is draining and it's full time, I sure couldn't get in. Most people couldn't start something on the side. It's just hard because it's hard and beginning to start something on the side and we need energy for it. So we have to do something to gain some energy and one way to do that. And this is the way I had to do it. I had to leave a very draining job and get another job that was a little less hours, a little less drain, a little more energizing for me, or at least neutral. It was a little more neutral on my energy than the one before. So it's like less people quieter,
But this is the thing that's strange because I love the presentation bit. I love to stand up training bit, although it drains me, although it drains me is I really feel very tired after I do a two-day training thing when I'm in front of, and now virtually I feel that it's even more draining because you almost have to artificially get your energy up because you're coming across a zoom call with 25, 30 people. And it's just, you lose one dimension of connecting and interacting and engaging with them that you do have when you're in an in-person workshop. Right. So I do feel quite exhausted, but I really liked the part where I am helping people shift perspectives and they get that, Oh, I didn't see it that way before. And your training really helped me see things differently. That part about helping, knowing that I'm helping someone.
I love that so much. That is something that I which is why I started my own thing, which is all about online training. Although I don't do it like, uh, like a class of 30, because it's an online course. I do the group coaching, which is limited because it's like twice a week, one hour, I'm in control of that little bit. So I don't know if that will be a right fit. And maybe you can talk about it because you talked about it also in your recent posts about the breeze analogy, love that so much, so much. How do I know if that will be the right thing? That's one, and then I'll come to the next one, which is about the people around you, who may not be supportive about you wanting to do some of these things to help you to reduce the things that drain you and increase the things like that energize you. Yeah.
So yes, those, the whole, like both of those things are critical to that transition. There's so many components to getting through this transition, right. And all of that, leading to that financial freedom, which is what you know, which we'll get into hopefully. So, but what you were talking about, there was there's many different pieces of your work. And a lot of times we think, okay, I'm good at presentations, but blah, blah, blah. But often we need to break it down a little further. And that's what that blog posts is about. Like this really follow the way the wind is blowing and really consciously tune into the bright spots. But I mean, in almost a nitty gritty way, like really look at every little thing. Is it this part of when you make the slides? Is it that part? Is it this part of the presentation?
Is it online when this happens, but not when that happens when it's this number of people, but not that number of people, there are so many factors for where it might feel good and where it doesn't. And we're in an ongoing refining. This is still, I mean, I'm 11 years in on my business. I'm still refining, I'm noticing, wow. I just did that workshop. And that was great. Except this one piece was draining. How can I do it differently so that I don't have that draining part anymore? So I could say, Oh yeah, I'd like to run workshops, but it's like, actually it could be even better.
And so maybe, maybe that I could leave that right there. Part about what about, okay, so if you aren't going to follow what feels right to you, you know, and if your heart and your body are saying, go in this direction and you're following the signs like we're talking about, and then other people in your life, like a spouse whose income also depends on your income. That's a big deal. They need to have a say in things too. But I think I, I said a couple of things to say about that. Like my spouse and I, we would talk it through, it would be a co-created plan. Now we would say, I would say, and here's what I'm thinking. You can't tell me how I feel in my body, but that, and that's important to me, but you can tell me what your worries are and we can talk those through.
So it has to be a give and take conversation and a plan like, okay, what's our two year plan. If this risk that I'm doing, you know, do we need a, you know, do we need to be willing to get a tenant, rent out a room? You know what, what's our backup plan together that we can do. And are you behind me? If there's other people involved? I think we need to talk, but before we talk to them, I think we need to spend our time getting more clear on our own needs. And when we get clear, then we get more confident. Like this is really, this is what I need. This is in the long run. I'm going to be able to earn, or I'm going to be able to show up better for the family. There's all these benefits.
When you really get to know who you are, what works for you, you're going to know what the benefits are. You're going to be able to make your case better. And someone can work with that better. But to say to somebody, Oh, I just want to like quit my job without really clear reasons, without a really clear plan. Most family members are not going to go over that.
I think, I think that's what happened with me. Cause you know, for, for a long time, for most of our married life now I've always been the one I'm except for the initial part of it. When my husband was in kind of like a government job that was relatively stable, how a lot of good benefits and we would, I was just starting out as well. So we've pretty much like equal contributors right. To the family. But then over time I kind of became the one that had the regular income because he started going into more self-employment right.
And so his income was always a little bit, a good months, bad months as it in their minds with not much comes in. And so mind was always the one that maintains all of the mortgage payments and school fees because groceries really the essential stuff. Right. And so I think if I, and I said, you know, I want to do this thing. And I think I cut all my hours and, and that was it. So of course I'm sure that made him feel a little bit like, what are you kidding? Have you thought this through? And by the way, he knows that I've been trying dabbling and trying to be in an entrepreneur experimented with a few different things. And I haven't really settled on one and he probably thinks, Oh, this might just be a passing thing again. And you're not even making real proper money and you're making so much more in your corporate job.
And what are you talking about? So that's where you feel like you don't have the support.
Yeah. I wouldn't say one more thing about this. I think it's a really powerful topic and here's how it comes up a lot actually with my clients. It's often the woman that comes to me and she wants to go for a dream, but then she starts to stop herself because then she starts feeling bad that her and her male partner is not going for a dream and is working so hard and burning out. And so then she starts to feel guilty that he's the one that he needs help with his burnout. Like, it's not fair that I get to spend this time on this and he's not, you know, that he's going to float me during this. So there is something to that, like, yeah. I think the conversation needs to be, let's both find a way to live our dreams and let's take turns like I'm going to take this year to work on mine and you take next year to work on yours. When I get things going or just work out, things like that. I've heard of couples, like if one needs to move for their work, well, they get to do that. And the next person gets, gets to call the shots for the next rep. So I liked that. I liked balance.
Yeah. Yeah. I think that's, that's good. And I think it's just also the communication bit of it. The talking about it and being open about it. I don't think we actually really, really talked about it. Like you said, there's two ways, Right?
Yeah. So yeah, I think that's helpful. I think that's something worth exploring. I don't want to take up too much of the time because others, those who could be sitting here talking for hours it'd because, but, but definitely I'm going to be sending you some of those questions and then you can see it. Maybe your next blog post. It could be some of these things because I think it's quite a big one because even under things like resentment came up for us, I mean came up for me because I always felt resentful that how come you get to choose what you want to do? And I have to be the one to take care of the family. Right. And put my dreams aside for everyone else. So what you just talked about there. Yeah. I would love to really learn a little bit more about this, but before we end off just the final question, which is about financial freedom. So making this transition into self-employment, what does financial freedom mean to you? And do you have any advice for someone who's maybe transitioning whether they're transitioning or not, maybe not even interested in being a self-employed, but what's financial freedom to you and any advice for people who want to do that.
I love that question. And, um, when I saw it earlier, I taught me, I mean, it's kind of a deep question, isn't it? And I realized it's not about money. It's about, for me, it ended up being time. Freedom was, was the real freedom. I have a sense of abundance because of time. And I was surprised by that. Like when I left my job and I was probably less than half at first that I started to have to learn to live on for a little bit. And that was hard and I didn't have a spouse at the time. I didn't have much to fall back on. It was, it was kind of scary and, but I'm super resourceful. And most people are. I mean, if you're alive, you've been, you've been rebounding of all kinds of things. I did things like gotta housemate, I sold something.
And I just cut back on my expenses. It's amazing what you can do and what was so interesting for me. And it's not like I was making a lot before, so it was like it was low. And so what I found was that I felt freer and richer in this way that really surprised me. And it was something about being in choice about how I spent my time and what I did for my work. I could make it what I wanted. I could keep tweaking it until it felt right. That freedom was so powerful. I mean, really there's nothing like it. And when I feel, when I hear people say, well, in order for me to be able to leave my job, I have to figure out how to replace this exact income, because that's just our lifestyle. We have to have all these things, college education for the kids and they have all these have to. And I just, I questioned that. And it's amazing what opens up when you let go, when you just say, you know what, it could be fun to get creative and live on less and
Live in a smaller place or live just outside of town. Instead of in this place, you think you have to live, there's all these things that actually could make your life better when you go for something that's more important than money. There's a lot of things that are more important than money.
Yeah. I mean, I think that's the, and it's what a nice way to end off as well. And again, linking back to sometimes having to talk to people in your life as well, because they don't want to give up that lifestyle. Right. And therefore there is a sense of threat for them that their way of living it's going to be different. So that that's for me anyway. So, um, but that's something that we can, we know we'll pocket for now. Cause that's, I think that's really going to be another topic, but you know, this thing about time is something that I think that I've been thinking a lot about now.
And I think the unfortunate thing is everyone gets it backwards. Time is your finite resource. We're all gonna die one day, but money isn't yet people have it. The other way around people think money is written limited. And my time is infinite and we end up spending time, wasting time doing things we don't like trying to please people we don't care about in a job that drains us and all of these. I mean, all of this is like the time, a lot of our lives that is just being spent right. Being spent and in terms of energy is being spent and it's never coming back. I mean that time's not coming back money. You can still, yes, you lose it. You spend it. Like you say, you can be resourceful and you can make it back. But unfortunately that's a thing. That's why I'm so passionate about doing what I do is that it's all an illusion, right?
And even for me, I kind of have to challenge myself every day. It's an illusion. This idea that that dollar in your bank is going to give you that security. It is not, I mean, it does, but you could lose it. You know, look at so many people, who've lost their jobs. Talk about the 2008 prices. People lost their entire life savings overnight and it's not, but it seems so real that we cling on so much to it and we're willing to give up our lives for it. So that's the sad part to me that the thing that I feel like there's a sense of urgency that I need to get this message out to as many people as possible, because I envisioned that if all of us could be doing like what you're doing, stuff that really energize you and make you come alive and you're helping people imagine what kind of a world we'd be living in. We have so much money.
Yeah. Because I'm this person who's tasked to work on engagement matters at work. And how do we increase our engagement level of our people? And I'm like, it's obvious people are not in jobs that they love or care about because if they are, it would be natural for them to want to do so much more because they be energized by it. It would feel good to do what they're doing. And yeah, I'm really mindful of time. We've gone a little bit over what we've we've set aside for. So I want to be respectful of that, but, um, it was such a great conversation about, but as we wrap up, is there anything that you think we missed out and you think that it's important for our listeners too, to hear from you?
I think we touched on so many juicy things and we might've given people more than their brains are ready for us. Maybe we should leave it at that. But I think you'll put in the notes, like how people can find me online. Yes, I will. valnelson.com. I have a, I have a course called Career Clarity Course. So for people who are unsure like, well, what would be the best use of me? What's the best path for me. So it helps walk people through some steps to find what's going to be the best use of you. And it's both for self-employment paths and employment related path. So that might be a simple tool that people could check out.
But yeah, I'll definitely put the links on there. And also for people who are interested to receive your newsletters, I think we talked about it, but the links as well in there. And I really think that people should sign up for Val's newsletter. I always read your newsletters because they're always so insightful and they make things easy to understand. So I'm very practical. So I love it.
And I seem to be obsessed with wanting to make life easier for people.
So yeah. Please keep doing that. You know, you're helping us. So thank you so much for that and really appreciate your time again. It's a pleasure. You do a good job of this and it's lovely to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you, Val. And I'll catch up with you again online, I guess.
Yes. Thank you.
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The Financially Free Woman Podcast Host
The Financially Free Woman Podcast was launched in November 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to share the stories of everyday people making a living doing what they love. While training her students in leadership and mental resilience, Sharon noticed the rising level of financial stress and anxiety experienced by many of her students. It dawn on Sharon that this was an opportunity for her to share how she overcame her own financial anxieties triggered by her personal experience with a 6-figure business debt and being let go from her job as the family's primary breadwinner. She began sharing everything she learned about mastering not just the practical side of money but also her mindset around money. Through this work, Sharon began meeting and building a community of women creating and living their dream lives. The Financially Free Woman Podcast is a collection of stories, practical tips and strategies to help you discover your passions, and use them to make a lucrative living. Imagine a life where you spend your time doing what you love and getting paid well for it! That's exactly what these women featured on the podcast are doing and they tell you how! Get inspired and start creating your own your dream life!