Joyful Work for Sensitive People


By the time Elaine Aron had published her landmark book, “The Highly Sensitive Person,” I was already 26 years-old and had accepted the mainstream lie that I should be ashamed of, and resistant to, my high sensitivity.  Today, thanks to personal growth and self-acceptance, I no longer apologize for my keen nervous system.  Au contraire.  I’m grateful to have more bandwith, more receptivity, more processing power.  Well, most days, anyway :-)  And I’m teaching myself how to convert work-angst into work-joy.

Whether you’re HSP, INFP, empathic, or some other expression of heightened sensitivity and awareness, the internet offers us some of the most suitable — and profitable — outlets for our unique gifts.  Here’s why:

1.  We like to focus. Our long attention spans and insatiable curiosity help us to develop wide ranges of knowledge and expertise.  The attention-deficient world we live in marvels at our ability to keep our minds wrapped around an idea, subject or task for hours on end.  This is an asset for us to leverage.

2.  We like to create. Our robust inner life often manifests in very beautiful, enlivening expressions.  Rather than repeat and report what has already been done before, we are far more likely to present fresh, original material.  Inspiration and imagination are natural states in which we reside.  This is an asset for us to leverage.

3.  We like to heal/help. Our compassion and tenderheartedness leads us to find ways to heal ourselves and others.  Because our ‘skin’ is not tough and calloused, we feel and perceive subtleties that others overlook.  Or ignore.  We know how to skillfully respond to hurts, and this is an asset for us to leverage.

These assets lend themselves particularly well to niche websites — online businesses that fuse our passions and interests with others’ needs and desires.

In its simplest form, niche = “to nest”.  A nest, of course, is a place of refuge to hold an animal’s eggs and/or provide a place to raise their offspring.

Have you been thinking about ways to create your ideal work, or your ideal work environment?  Have you been trying to figure out the best place to store your creative, entrepreneurial eggs?  If so, SBI is an option for you to consider.

P.S. (Added 11.26.08) – When I wrote the above posting one week ago, I had no idea that it would be a gateway into what may very well turn out to be my life’s work:

It’s under construction right now, but will go live very soon — before the end of this year is my intent.  Please stay tuned! (IT’S NOW LIVE!)  I am totally committed to giving Sensitive People the vocational help I have been so desperate to find for myself.

With Much Love,

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83 Responses to “Joyful Work for Sensitive People”

  1. lifeblazing Says:

    Pearl S. Buck, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938, said this about highly sensitive people:

    “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

    We must. Create. Something of meaning.

  2. Janel Says:

    I love that response!

  3. raftingrussell Says:

    This is an incredible blog entry. A great new perspective on Highly Sensitive People!! Thank you :)

  4. Joanne Light Says:

    I am blown away by the description of HSP here. I never thought I would hear myself defined in a positive way. I have tried to be who I am–a creative person with empathy and focus (as Trailblazer defines above) in the system as an educator but, though successful with my charges–children in art, drama, creative writing and music classes; students learning English and intellectually challenged adults–I have been rebuffed and rejected over and over by the bureaucracy and by the “powers that be”, so much so that I now feel my energies are allergic to working in institutional environments. I now find myself with no niche in society, no where to ply my skills to help learners. All my life my family and the institutions have told me over and over that I was too sensitive and, even though my students won provincial art awards; choral speech festival awards; awards for being the first handicapped adult choir in the city, I have suffered terribly in the system and in a bullying and egoic minded society that cannot validate the gifts of the HSP that lifeblazing describes so well.

    I decided that I would breathe into the universe and meditate on places where I could use my gifts. Recently it brought me to a mother whose daughter, a talented 22-year old poet, was killed in a car accident. I read this young woman’s extraordinary writing and told her mother I would like to edit the manuscript into a more professional draft that we could send to publishers. She told me i was sent to her and she believes in me and that it was the universe that made our chance meeting on a ferry boat into the relationship it has become. After I did the treatment of the poems, I sent them to all my writer colleagues and one university professor and published poet wrote back that the manuscript was moving. He gave the name of a publisher to submit it to. This hasn’t brought me a “career” or a way to support myself, but I am praying that people everywhere will find me and that I can help them develop their writings. This is my dream for my gifts.

    Presently, I have no place to live, no money and no job. I stay with my mother who doesn’t understand HSP in the least. Today she said I was autistic. (I finished in the top five of my class and won piano competitions and scholarships.) I am tired of trying to defend myself in a world that doesn’t support who I am.

    I am so happy I found this group on Facebook with people like Lifeblazing who help me define my place in the universe and give me hope that I am not an inadequate failure because I can’t function in the system.

    • violetjuice26 Says:

      Absolutely moving, inspiring, and comforting. Thank you for sharing. I can relate to you on so many levels. And may I say, you’re a powerful writer. You spoke the words I longed to speak…but just couldn’t find the right way to say it. I’ve been hiding my sensitivity for so long sometimes I don’t even know who I am. I also worked in education and suffered greatly from work politics and bureaucracy. One time, while advocating in the state capital for increased educational benefits for foster children, I was so sickened by political man-handling and game playing that I hid in the bathroom, broke down and sobbed for what seemed like hours. I fought back though, and we won. But that was years ago, and my fire has burnt out. I’m also not presently working (for a year now), have no money, and moved in with my mother who also has no understanding or respect for sensitivity. So, even though I found this post 3 years after you originally wrote it, I’m still grateful to you Erika for keeping it posted and for you Joanne for letting me know I’m not alone. I hope your life is going well :)

      • citizensclimatelobbyhalifax Says:

        Dear VIolet Juice,

        I got a notice from LifeBlazing and was reminded of your post here a year and a half ago. I just wanted to say hi and wondered what you were up to. Sending you positive energy. Rereading your letter here makes me feel better and I suddenly don’t feel so depressed anymore. It’s true we are all just one big energy mass of electrical charges that are resonating positively and negatively. Finding the beneficials conduits is the key.

  5. Erika Harris Says:

    @Janel & @russell – Deepest thanks, Ladies, for your visit and your positive words!

    @Joanne Light – Bless you. For the investments you’ve made in your students. For the power it took to stand against/within systems and institutions that insist upon their precious Boxes. For the self-awareness you use as True Navigation. For the sacrifices you’ve made to simply Be You. Bless you! Things are shifting in our favor, Joanne. A world ready to self-implode cries out for our sensitive touch and influence. Thankfully, there are pioneering, edgy women who give a damn — like you — who have the fresh, new insights and guidance that will *lovingly* lead us into an unprecedented game that has no losers. It’s my humble opinion that you aren’t meant to “function in the system.” You’re meant to transcend it.

  6. Isabel Joely Black Says:

    It is wonderful to be described positively. I think this is a fantastic idea and will make a great difference in people’s lives.

  7. Erika Harris Says:

    @Isabel – YOU’RE wonderful, and fully deserving of the positive descriptions. Thanks so much for your supportive words!

  8. Joanne Light Says:

    Love to hear people write their stories here and so grateful for Erika’s beautiful site and comments. I pray other HSPs will find this site and the group on Facebook “Highly Sensitive Poeple” I like being defined.

  9. The Empathic Guide Says:

    Hi Erica

    Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog :)

    Having read some of your blog and perused your site, it seems that you and I are on similar paths. I discovered my life purpose in much the same way as you describe here (more detail on this here: and like you, hope to give people the opportunity and wherewithal to find theirs through my site

    I will add a link to my blog to this and to your ‘Joyful Work’ site as I feel the work you are doing will inspire and help my readers.

    Thank you so much for finding me – you are a shining light and I will continue to follow your blog :)

    Warmest wishes from a fellow sensitive,


  10. Joanne Light Says:

    Hi Erica,

    I am going to work in an isolated aboriginal community in Labrador so I will need my contact with HSPs more than ever. I’ve just discovered the poetry of H.D. Hilda Doolittle and am reading her biography, called H.D. She was an amazing American poet.


  11. Joanne Light Says:

    Dear Violet Juice and Erica,

    Yes, this site is a quiet spring by the side of a long road. Drink from it and, as you said, know you are not alone. I was just reading an article about going through a void period. It suggests disconnected from media, reading, just spending time listening, allowing the world to come in; decluttering; doing things that are spiritually satisfying–connecting with nature (walking on grass or sand); stretching; staring at birds or flowers (or bees if you can find any after the pesticides have wiped them out). Of course, if we have the time and space to do so , we are very lucky. Since I wrote that posting on Erica’s site, I had another couple of wipeouts in educational institutions (oxymoron?) in Abu Dhabi and Natuashish, Labrador but what going to these far and away places and cultures gave me was the opportunity to witness situations that (from learning from professional writers at writing studios and seminars) lend themselves to the short creative non-fiction form. I’ve been writing a memoir of life as an HSP in the world of great systems but more generally as a traveller in other cultures. I’m up to page 300 and have done this writing at an amazing place–the childhood home of the Pulitzer prize winning poet, Elizabeth Bishop, in Great VIllage, N.S. Bishop was most definitely an HSP. I have been in the over a hundred year old house (which was purchased by ten admirer/writers of Bishop and now used as a writing retreat) for twenty days in total. It’s the only place I can do this book as I need complete focus and intention to mine this experiential ore. I don’t know how I’ll develop an audience to read this work, whether I’ll put it on a blog and read it on a live stream. I’m going to hopefully learn about how that is done by going to a company that does websites for artists. Anyway, Violet Juice, if you have the opportunity to get in touch with your spirit and being, that is great. Those battles in the system take their toll. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you weaker.” (Christopher Hitchens). I ended up with adrenal fatigue and PTSD (because of being in a dangerous out of control school for seven months, but that’s a story you can read (hopefully) someday in the book. Keep the faith. Your work with foster children saved lives. I just read a biography that broke my heart “Who Killed Ty Conn?” about a little boy who became a victim of a system, mostly through lack of sensitivity and insight (and spiritual empathy) and, above all, stupidity. Maybe you’ll write a book to enlighten people about those sickening things you witnessed. Take care. Stay whre your hands are. Joanne Light

  12. Joanne Light Says:

    LIne three should read “just disconnecting from media and reading…”

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