Reframe Your Sensitivities as Superpowers. When I was a litigation attorney, my sensitivity was something that made it impossible for me to do my job. I remember one project in particular, where I was tasked with tabulating and explaining all the bills that had accumulated during a years-long case (the bills my firm had charged added up to millions), I felt so bad for the client that I could barely speak. Now that I’m an entrepreneur who is committed to empowering others to choose themselves, my sensitivity is what makes women feel comfortable enough to share their stories with me — and the world. What once silenced me, now gives me a voice.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melody Godfred.
Self Love Philosopher Melody Godfred (founder of www.fredandfar.com), is an entrepreneur and author who is passionate about empowering women to choose themselves through daily acts of self-love and self-care. The hallmark of Melody’s entrepreneurial journey has been embracing her most authentic self by building companies and a career that aligns with it. After starting her career as a litigation attorney, Melody soon realized a disconnect between her work and her deeply creative and compassionate essence, so Melody left a prestigious position at a renowned law firm to launch Write In Color, her personal branding and career development company. Through her work exploring the narratives of hundreds of women, and after undergoing several life transitions herself — including motherhood — Melody discovered a common trend: in their quest to fuel their careers and relationships, women (including herself) were increasingly sacrificing their authentic selves, happiness and well-being. Melody needed a reminder to choose herself each and every day — and believed that other women did too. So Melody created the Self Love Pinky Ring, a self-commitment ring for women, and launched Fred and Far, her self-love movement and community. The ring and community instantly went viral, achieving hundreds of organic press placements around the world, and started a global conversation around self-love. Then, to give women actionable tools for practicing self-love, Melody wrote The ABCs of Self Love, a primer and workbook that shares the foundational concepts of self-love including authenticity, forgiveness, gratitude, and vulnerability.
Melody was born in Tehran, Iran, and emigrated to the United States as an infant after her parents escaped the country due to the Iranian Revolution. She is a first-generation college and graduate school student, having completed her undergraduate studies at USC and a law degree at Loyola Law School. Melody currently lives in Los Angeles with her twin daughters, Stella and Violet, her son Theodore, and her husband, Aaron Godfred.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Melody! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
I’m an entrepreneur, speaker, and author who is committed to empowering women to be, to love, and to choose themselves. I simultaneously run two businesses: Write In Color, a resume writing, personal branding, and career development company, and Fred and Far: a women’s empowerment jewelry brand and self-love community powered by the Self Love Pinky Ring. Each day in my role as Fred and Far’s resident Self Love Philosopher, I write and share content that teaches women how to be true to and care for themselves. I also get to share the stories of the inspiring women who are part of this movement.
Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I understand how hard this is. Can you help define for our readers what is meant by a Highly Sensitive Person? Does it simply mean that feelings are easily hurt or offended?
A highly sensitive person is someone who is deeply affected by his or her environment. In my case, that includes sounds, crowds, and especially the actions and emotions of the people around me. While being an HSP can mean one gets more easily hurt or offended, it can also mean the opposite: that the HSP is more in tune and receptive to positive subtleties as well.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have a higher degree of empathy towards others? Is a Highly Sensitive Person offended by hurtful remarks made about other people?
In my experience, I do correlate being a highly sensitive person with having a higher degree of empathy, compassion and intuitive connection with others. I can feel people’s feelings — even if they are a continent away. I am sensitive to other people’s experiences in a heightened way — including feeling for them when I witness negative talk towards them.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, that depict emotional or physical pain? Can you explain or give a story?
When you feel as deeply as an HSP does, it’s hard not to internalize things. A good example of this is gory or horror content. My husband used to watch The Walking Dead with me before we went to bed. Even though I knew it was just a show, the desolate and graphic nature of the human suffering was so intense I would have nightmares each and every time. I’ve since learned that I need to curate the content I consume — especially before I go to sleep — for my mental health and overall well-being.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is growing and managing a team in a small office setting. Even when my employees wouldn’t vocalize their feelings, I felt them. Whatever they were going through at home, or whatever their feelings were about me or the job, I instantly absorbed through my HSP superpowers. This made it incredibly difficult for me to make strategic judgment calls and business decisions because I always felt clouded by the feelings of my staff members.
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?
On some level, I’ve always known that my sensitivity was unique. I never perceived it as “too sensitive” or negative — I simply knew that I was different than most of my peers. When I was a child, I channeled it through music; I was writing music at seven and constantly turned to the piano as my refuge from the world. In my interactions with friends, I was very easily hurt and oftentimes overcompensated for what I feared were other people’s frustrations, pain, or sadness. I offered my deep well of emotion as a place where others could seek solace — often at my own detriment. On a more surface level, there have always been things that are simply “too much” for me: big crowds, loud busy spaces, pervasive smells (scented candles are my nemesis). I’ve learned to cultivate environments for myself that do not trigger these sensitivities, and when I have no choice, I’ve cultivated strategies for coping.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
The two greatest advantages of being a highly sensitive person for me relate to 1) creativity and 2) community building. From a very young age, I’ve been able to channel my sensitivities into making art — whether that means a piano composition, a speech, a sketch, a poem or a book. I’ve also been gifted with the ability to connect with others at a very deep level and empower them to embrace their own stories and gifts.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
My sensitivity was the catalyst for my current business, Fred and Far, which is a self-love movement powered by the Self Love Pinky Ring (a self-commitment ring for women designed to promote self-love and self-care). In 2015, I was a new mother to twins, a busy entrepreneur, and a wife. In my desire to anticipate and take care of the diverse needs of everyone around me — something HSP’s oftentimes do — I lost myself. I had everything I had ever wanted, yet I was unhappy, fragile, restless, disappointed, broken. I leaned directly into my feelings and made a commitment to rediscover and reclaim myself, with the Self Love Pinky Ring as my daily reminder. When having a physical reminder of my wholeness and worth made a difference in my life, I knew it would help other women as well. This is what led not only to my current company but to my creating a community and space where women can claim their stories and make themselves a priority in their own lives.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
There’s no harm in being a highly sensitive person or an empathetic person. The harm comes from judging oneself (or others) for being one, the other, or in many cases, both.
Social Media can often be casually callous. How does Social Media affect a Highly Sensitive Person? How can a Highly Sensitive Person utilize the benefits of social media without being pulled down by it?
Curating one’s social media is essential for an HSP. It’s important to unfollow or mute triggering accounts. It’s also important to connect with communities and individuals that embrace the qualities that make you an HSP. For me, my self-love community is a safe space for empaths, HSPs, introverts and other more sensitive individuals to come, share themselves, gain insights and inspiration, and feel less alone. Having this community has made a transformative impact on my personal well-being, and it almost exclusively exists on social media (Instagram specifically).
How would you respond if something you hear or see bothers or affects you, but others comment that you are being petty or that it is minor?
I will share the advice that I give my twin daughters: you are entitled to feel your feelings. No one gets to tell anyone else that the way they are experiencing the world is wrong. Giving myself permission to feel whatever I feel has allowed me to work through my feelings and release them. This is important because the alternative was letting them hibernate in my body and become internalized due to judgment either from others or myself.
What strategies do you use to overcome the perception that others may have of you as overly sensitive without changing your caring and empathetic nature?
By incorporating my caring and empathetic nature into my work, who I am and how I live are in alignment. As a result, I no longer worry that people may consider me to be overly caring or empathetic because my livelihood literally depends on me embracing these parts of myself.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
I think the word sensitive in itself can come across as limiting or derogatory. It’s not about being too sensitive, too much, too anything. It’s about being in tune. If we called it a highly in-tune person, the millions of people defined by this personality trait would feel empowered instead of limited.
As you know, one of the challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just stop being so sensitive?” What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that it just doesn’t work that way?
Asking an HSP to stop being so sensitive is like asking them to change the color of their eyes in a blink. How an HSP experiences the world is ingrained. In order to make us all more appreciative of the many ways in which others experience the world, we need to continue sharing stories (like this interview series). Not only will it make non-HSPs more tolerant, but it will also make HSPs feel less alone.
Ok, here is the main question for our discussion. Can you share with us your “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person? Please give a story or an example for each.
- Create the Right Physical Environment. As an HSP in my thirties, I’ve lived enough life to know that having the right environment can make or break me. When it comes to working, I make sure that I do the majority of my work in spaces where I am alone and it isn’t too loud or busy. Previously, I’ve worked in tight offices where I was side-by-side with my staff. I was so triggered by their energy and emotions and conversations, I couldn’t get anything done. Now, most of my team works remotely — which is great for them and me. In my home life, I also make sure to get plenty of alone time in rooms with stimulation that I can directly control. While everyone might not have the same flexibility as I do in their work environment, having a high-quality pair of noise-canceling headphones can make all the difference. I received a pair of Bose headphones as a gift a few years ago and now I won’t leave the house without them — just in case.
- Commit to Your Creative Outlets. The greatest antidote for my more challenging HSP tendencies has been creativity. Whether I’m playing the piano, writing, or expressing my creativity through another outlet like dance or art, creativity allows me to transcend my current environment and connect with my truest, most authentic and expressive self. When I don’t make time for creativity, I find that my sensitivities compound. Much like a runner feels more centered after a run, I feel more centered after I do some creative writing (though I will say — I’ve recently found that exercise is a wonderful outlet for HSPs as well).
- Make Choices — Without Self-Judgment. If I could go back in time and make one change, it would be to eliminate the self-judgment that has tainted so many of the decisions I’ve made. As an HSP, making any decision is extremely taxing emotionally, but what’s worse, whatever decision is finally made usually comes with a shroud of self-judgment. This comes up when making decisions as low-stakes as picking a nail polish color, or as high-stakes as picking a business vendor. If we could all simply own our choices without instantly regretting or doubting them, HSPs’ minds would instantly become 50% freer.
- Reframe Your Sensitivities as Superpowers. When I was a litigation attorney, my sensitivity was something that made it impossible for me to do my job. I remember one project in particular, where I was tasked with tabulating and explaining all the bills that had accumulated during a years-long case (the bills my firm had charged added up to millions), I felt so bad for the client that I could barely speak. Now that I’m an entrepreneur who is committed to empowering others to choose themselves, my sensitivity is what makes women feel comfortable enough to share their stories with me — and the world. What once silenced me, now gives me a voice.
- Choose Communities and Individuals Who Embrace You. Growing up, there were many people who made me feel like I was too much. Too sensitive. Too specific. Too difficult. But I built strong relationships with friends, family members, colleagues and, eventually, my wonderful husband and kids who see me and love me for exactly who I am. This manifests in many ways. My girlfriends never make me sit in the backseat of a car and always let me weigh in on restaurant choices to make sure wherever we choose isn’t too loud. My husband makes sure the closet door is closed in our bedroom each night (even if it means an extra trip out of bed) and never makes me feel like I’m being too emotional. My kids know I can only listen to one conversation at a time and make an effort not to speak to me all at once. The community I spend the most time with, my self-love community Fred and Far, allows me to be vulnerable and share myself on a daily basis. The women in this community not only embrace me, they applaud, support, uplift me for it and they follow suit. Surrounding yourself with people who embrace you — rather than make you feel too sensitive — is the single best thing you can do as an HSP to not only survive, but thrive.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’m lucky and proud to say that I’ve already started this movement with the Self Love Pinky Ring and Fred and Far. I truly believe that if every woman went into her childhood, adolescence, and beyond knowing that she was whole, worthy, chosen and loved — regardless of her relationship status — we would alleviate a lot of trauma and pain in this world. To create a generation of self-loving women: this is my mission and life’s work. I know that in the past few years, I’ve gotten us closer. This is the privilege and pleasure of my lifetime.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best place to connect with me is on Instagram: www.instagram.com/fredandfar
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.