Annabelle Breuer-Udo: Founder of Evocative HealthPath LLC Certified Coach (ACC) I Author I Ayurveda I Mindfulness

Leadership and High Sensitivity – A Gift & Vulnerability in One

13 personal characteristics of Highly Sensitive People (HSP)
5 critical environments for an HSP
7 opportunities to balance your body-mind-soul system

What is High Sensitivity?

The term high sensitivity (HS) or highly sensitive person (HSP) was characterized in the mid-90s by American psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Elaine N. Aron.
It is a personal characteristic expressed by increased sensitivity and perception. Furthermore, perceived information is experienced as significantly more intense.
It can be assumed that 15% – 20% of the population is highly sensitive. Every fifth person for example in Germany has an increased sensitivity, that is seen as a personal characteristic and not as a disease or disorder.
Also, 20% of children are highly sensitive. Dr. Elaine Aron considers this as being an evolutionary development.
It is considered as the neuronal ability of stimulus processing. It is not considered as the emotional ability. This is significant to distinguish and to draw a clear line between neuronal ability and emotional ability. That means there is a difference between HSP and Non-HSP but not a superior or inferior classification.
There is also a difference between an introvert and HSP. What both have in common is they appear calm. High sensitive people like to be in communities of friends and family, they like to interconnect and communicate with other people as much as they need to be partly lonely and alone. Whereas introverts prefer solitude more than society and community.

13 personal characteristics of HSP

1. Vivid imagination
2. Tendency to perfectionism at increased sensitivity for injustice and mistakes
3. Explicitly strong intuition
4. Thinking in larger contexts
5. Strong tendency to question things
6. Search for meaning
7. Intensive experiencing and perception
8. Increased diligence in acting
9. Increased empathy
10. Increased suggestibility by feelings of others
11. Self-worth problems due to experiences of rejection
12. Feeling of being different
13. Increased risk for anxiety disorders, depressions, burnout, traumatic stress disorders, psychosomatic symptoms due to inner burnout.

High sensitive people have a finer perception and more an accurate perception because of their more sensitive nervous system and less filter in their system of perception. This causes to overstimulation of their body-mind- and soul system faster than usual due to fewer filters of perception. On their side, there is a higher perception of noises, a higher sensitivity of the quality of the air or weather in general, a subtle perception of optical irritations and impressions, a more intense perception of their inner emotional world. They experience their inner world very deep, more complex and in more details. Their intuition is significantly high and clearly their strength as well as their capacity of being great observers and field readers. Very often they are moved to emotions and deeply touched by music, art, and nature. They tend to be overstimulated faster than others. For this reason, it is important to get to know oneself well as an HSP and to become aware of one’s gift what may turn to a higher vulnerability at the same time. As soon as one is more conscious of this gift and vulnerability in one, it is easy to step fully into one’s authentical potential and leadership without feeling exhausted due to their high sensation and perception. The vulnerable, insensitive, open and permeable side of an HSP may show up in certain situations such as in conversations with colleagues at work, your manager/ boss at work, your spouse or your partner at home. You as an HSP might remember responses you’ve received in your life when you reacted to something empathetic, and people were saying” don’t be so sensitive or you’re too sensitive.” Or you may remember another situation where your high sensitivity has been very present. For example, the immediate feeling and sensation of tension in a room when you enter. Another example could be a meeting room with colleagues. That kind of perception is very usual and also many times a struggle or obstacle in their inner life. Therefore it is important for an HSP to explore, accept and unfold the characteristic of an HSP. Once there is more self-knowledge and consciousness it is easier to take care of oneself and assume responsibility for oneself to make clear and healthy choices in life.

5 Critical Environments for an HSP

1. HSP at work
2. HSP and health
3. HSP and intimate relationships, love, and romance
4. HSP and work-life-balance / fulfillment in life
5. HSP and their leadership

Those environments are significant to explore as an HSP and great opportunities to wonder who am I as an HSP with my gift and vulnerability at work and in my relationships? What is the impact of overstimulation on my work-life-balance and fulfillment in life? Who am I as a leader?
In my work experience with HSP, I observed many HSPs tend to be in a victim role and suffer from their characteristics instead of taking advantage of the power and privilege of being an HSP. Very often, one is not conscious of their ability. If one is aware of it, the second step needs to follow. This step is called learn to be with it, learn to make healthy choices, learn to take charge of it and learn to set clear boundaries. Learn to step 100% into one’s leadership as an HSP.

7 opportunities to balance your body-mind-soul system

1. Nature: visit nature regularly to reconnect with yourself, to let go of many particles, to clean your system, to recover and to refresh.
2. Nutrition: pay attention to nutrition/healthy juices and smoothies. Your body system needs healthy food to support your subtle body and stay balanced because it also may react susceptible to food.
3. Meditation: take a short daily break to pay attention to your inner peace, to listen to yourself and to calm your mind.
4. Grounding: center yourself every day to stabilize your energy household.
5. Sport and Movement: both bring your energy inflow, reduces the stress hormones and activate one’s body circulation and digestive system. It activates your cells, makes your body alive and balances your body-mind-souls system.
6. Creativity: connect or reconnect with your creative part in your body. It balances, relaxes and slows down your body-mind-soul system.
7. Coaching: take advantage of a coach to do inner work, to develop oneself, to grow personally, to clarify and achieve goals for the sake of a balanced body-mind-soul system.

When you have a group of HSP together, they are not all the same. Each one is different and owns their special part of showing high sensitive reactions. For example, one reacts more to noises, the other one more to smells, the next one feels with others more deeply.
HSP need to find their balance of being in society and maintaining social network but also keeping their space of being alone to avoid overstimulation.
In our today’s world HSP and their voices, powerful intuition, great capacity of observation and field reading are strongly needed. An HSP who is conscious of one’s gift and vulnerability in one can develop a great style of leadership by using one’s gift and vulnerability. The impact of this kind of leadership is healthy for individuals, teams, and groups. This kind of leadership is significant in making change happen. Coming from their place of high sensation and vulnerability shows highly humanity and can turn in the direction of less elbow mentality in leadership and with more compassion, vulnerability and authenticity from the inside out, in our society. We all need to welcome more humanity, collaboration, and unity rather than egoism, competition, and separation, to improve today’s world and heal the struggles in society. We all can learn a lot from each other and we can learn a lot from highly sensitive people.

Living with high sensitivity (HS) by Annabelle Breuer