Updated: Jun 27
I love entrepreneurship, innovation and ideas – I always have and as a coach I have spent 15 years talking to people about their life’s work, how they spend their time, how they express themselves and their gifts, talents and skills and how they identify their purpose in life.
As a highly sensitive person and empath myself I understand the power behind sensitivity as well as the more challenging side of it – both of which lend themselves perfectly to purposeful entrepreneurship.
So what is a highly sensitive person?
A highly sensitive person (HSP) is someone who feels and experiences the world more deeply than most – it is estimated that approx. 20% of the general population are HSPs.
It is a natural biological trait also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity or Environmental Sensitivity which is associated with increased awareness and responsiveness to environmental and social cues.
So if you think you are a HSP, I am delighted to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you, you are not flawed or ‘too sensitive’ or ‘overly-emotional’ as you might have been told all your life. Your brain functions differently to most people – there is nothing to fix or overcome, it is time to honour and leverage this powerful trait !
This trait is most likely genetically inherited and like any trait or characteristic it is experienced by some at a more heightened level.
Everyone is sensitive to some extent – most humans have a level of sensitivity, empathy, understanding, compassion, depth of emotion and experience but for highly sensitives it is like the volume has been turned to 11.
It is estimated that 15-20% of the general population are highly sensitive and 40-50% experience average sensitivity and 30% low sensitivity.
Here are some useful insights on the research available to us.
After 30+ years of research on HSPs – we have a lot of answers that we did not have before – which comes as a huge relief and validation to highly sensitive people. This is thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Elaine Aron – clinical research psychologist and author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. The book was first published in 1996 and has sold over 1 million copies in 32 languages.
The message is clearly resonating with Highly Sensitives everywhere!
In her book, Dr. Elaine Aron uses the acronym DOES to describe the main facets of the trait:
‘D is for depth of processing. Our fundamental characteristic is that we observe and reflect before we act. We process everything more than others do, whether we are conscious of it or not’.
This means as HSPs we are deep thinkers – perhaps we ‘overthink’ a lot of the time, this is because we are processing every detail to the nth degree.
‘O is for being easily overstimulated; if you are going to pay more attention to everything, you are bound to tire sooner’.
The feeling of overstimulation and overwhelm is what chaos might feel like, it’s like a short circuit or malfunction and the only thing to do is press the reset button and seek downtime.
All that processing, deep feeling and strong emotional reaction is exhausting on all levels – mental, physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual.
‘E is for giving emphasis to our emotional reactions and having strong empathy, which among other things motivates us to notice and learn’.
HSPs often have empathy for the underdog, for children and those who are struggling, - due to the deep understanding of the needs and experience of others.
‘S is for being sensitive to all the subtleties around us’.
We notice every little thing – subtle stimuli in our environment – light, sounds, smells, textures, the atmosphere in a room – subtle changes that bring comfort or discomfort to any setting.
Other common experiences of a HSP include the aversion to violence TV Shows and Movies, sensitivity to caffeine, a rich inner life, feeling deeply moved and emotional by music and the arts. HSPs tend to startle easily, they get rattled when under pressure or multi-tasking and they need to retreat to silence and calm – alone time is very important to HSPs.
70% of HSPs are introverted and 30% are extroverted so for some the dichotomy of craving stimulation and social outlet with managing overwhelm can be a delicate juggle.
Remember all these labels and traits and percentages are to provide insight and self-understanding, not to box us in or define one group as totally separate from another – everyone is unique regardless of all these traits but in my experience, knowing and appreciating the high sensitivity brings empowerment and for many a massive paradigm shift where full expression is no longer feared.
Your Best Self
Everyone has ‘an optimal level of arousal’ – that’s when you’re at your best - not too tired, not overly stimulated, when you’re grounded and in flow.
This level is different for every individual – highly sensitive people hit their peak a lot quicker than non-HSPs. This sense of over-arousal or over-stimulation is the only ‘negative’ aspect of being an HSP – the only one to be mindful of and manage to remain at your best.
And all HSPs are unique individuals too – there are as many different ways to be sensitive as there are highly sensitive people.
What is an Empath?
Being an empath is when your level of empathy is at the extreme end of The Empathic Spectrum. As with HSPs, empaths have an entremely reactive neurological system
Empaths absorb both the positive and not so positive energies around them - we experience the emotions and/or physical symptoms of others which can be really challenging especially for someone who is not aware they are highly sensitive or highly empathic.
Is being an Empath the same as being an HSP?
There is a massive crossover, yes. Empaths are HSPs with very strong empathic abilities. All Empaths are HSPs but not all HSPs are empaths - but in my experience the majority of the HSPs do identify with being an empath.
Empaths can feel and read the energy of others, we can make others feel better and often find ourselves in advisory, teaching or healing roles in both our personal and professional lives. The same can be said for HSPs.
There are lots of different types of empaths including emotional empaths, intuitive empaths, physical empaths and even earth, animal and geomantic empaths. It is an intriguing world of energy that we live in !
The most important thing for empaths is learning how to ground ourselves and set healthy boundaries to protect our own energy.
Several years ago, when I was beginning to learn about my own experiences as a HSP & emotional empath, an energy healer and friend taught me that oftentimes, other people's 'stuff' can weigh a lot heavier on us than our own challenges. That was a real lightbulb moment for me - I began to understand how much I didn't know and how much power I had to manage my energies.
In learning how to stop abosrbing the energy and stress of others, we can ward off exhaustion & overwhelm and experience vitality instead.
Why are HSPs & empaths perfect for purpose-driven entrepreneurship?
HSPs are intuitive, highly empathic, perceptive and creative problem-solvers – the perfect ingredients for entrepreneurship.
HSPs are more often than not the impactful shakers and change makers the world needs – we are naturally drawn to heart-felt, meaningful work.
Our deep thinking, creativity and empathy are all highly valuable in the world of business and entrepreneurship.
We can connect with others, build relationships, we are considerate and mindful team players. HSPs and empaths tend to value connection, collaboration and contribution above competition – we have a high level of emotional intelligence too which lends itself to effective leadership.
And – most HSPs crave more freedom so they can honour their own rhythm and carve out their own working day – entrepreneurship is perfect for this. We need to work within energetic boundaries that empower and support our creative output.
As a HSP and empath myself, I found huge relief and productivity in being my own boss and leaning into an approach to my work that suits me and my energy flow as well as my ambitions, purpose and vision for the future. We are the change makers. Would you agree?
Changemaking, healing, creating, enhancing humanity is our calling and purpose, we want to add meaning to the world and make an impact. This does not mean we cannot make money while doing so! Our energies and superpowers are of HUGE value to the world so it is time you starting valuing them too.
Freedom of expression, financial freedom and meaningful impact is all entirely possible and within your reach.
My mission is to empower the incredible ideas, vision, skills and superpowers of HSP & empath entrepreneurs to bring forth their unique talents by enhancing and celebrating their sensitivities.
My aim is to unblock their creative flow, empower their identity & cleanse their energy so they can fully understand themselves and their purpose/mission, step into their power and do wonderful things in the world as creative entrepreneurs.
If you are ready to not only understand your own experience but also to fully leverage this wonderful trait in your business join me for a complimentary Coaching Over Coffee Session.
*If you're still wondering whether you are an HSP or an Empath or both - explore these questionnaires:
Bravely Be You