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Ber-Henda Williams: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person

Some advantages include being able to greater depths with their perceptions, they tend to be reflective and imaginative. They have a great deal of empathy and are highly intuitive. Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Ber-Henda Williams. Ber-Henda was a featured presenter at SXSW in 2016. She has also been a facilitator for numerous organizations and […]

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Some advantages include being able to greater depths with their perceptions, they tend to be reflective and imaginative. They have a great deal of empathy and are highly intuitive.


Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Ber-Henda Williams.

Ber-Henda was a featured presenter at SXSW in 2016. She has also been a facilitator for numerous organizations and community groups such as Alternatives for Girls, Job Core, Women Organize Michigan and served as a translator for companies such as IBM and M1. Williams has also hosted several cultural events and performed on stages such as: The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, The Music Hall, Hart Plaza, and Festival of the Arts. She has a passion for poetry and speaking to inspire women and girls to live their most authentic lives.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?

Sure I am a Visionary+Empath Coach. I work specifically with Empathic women, who identify themselves as HSP or Highly Sensitive People. While there are subtle differences between Empaths and HSP. Both Empaths and HSP can have an aversion to crowds, loud noises, and prefer 1:1 or small group interactions, are extremely thoughtful and compassionate, love nature and need alone time to recharge. The Empath may express as introverted like many HSP’s express as an extrovert. My clients typically come to me to help them manage their energy and overwhelm while building or transforming their mission based businesses.

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?

My pleasure, I am so happy you asked this question because I believe that HSP’s have been given a very limited amount of understanding of their nature and it causes many to feel that there is something wrong with them. When in fact being sensitive is a super power and the world we live in values more extroverted personalities. The HSP is someone who experiences acute physical, mental, or emotional responses to stimuli.

This can include external stimuli, like your surroundings and the people you’re with, or internal stimuli, like your own thoughts, emotions and realizations. So in short, this does not mean that they are simply easily offended or hurt but rather they have a response system that is more sensitive than the average person.

Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, that depict emotional or physical pain?

Actually yes, sustained exposure to events that elicit a sensitivity response can be overwhelming. We may even feel the stress physically — upset stomach, insomnia, depressed immune system. Or it may manifest mentally, through anxiety and/or depression. Can you explain or give a story? Before I became a full time coach. I was a teacher and there was a violent incident at my school involving several students and after everything was over, I was deeply overcome with grief and sadness. It was on a Friday and I slept the entire weekend. I had to process what happened and I wept, I felt a need numbing all over my body and it was so tough for me to get out of bed. I am an empath and so I later realized I had absorbed the toxic energy from the environment.

Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?

There is no crying in corporate. I remember crying in front of my boss. I worked for a company that provided underserved communities dental care and cried because I felt that we were not doing enough to support the communities that had lower participation. She was shocked and I was shocked too. I have always been able to keep it together but that day, I couldn’t and that was when I began to embrace my empathic nature and wanted to be more of service to others. I felt that corporations had an obligation to support their communities, especially communities that were underserved.

When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?

I have been vocal about injustice and always felt the need to speak up and often I would be the only one in the room. That was an indicator that no one else heard what I was hearing or feeling it to the magnitude of which I felt it. I have been labeled too sensitive my whole life.

I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?

Some advantages include being able to greater depths with their perceptions, they tend to be reflective and imaginative. They have a great deal of empathy and are highly intuitive.

Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?

I would say that in my experience as a coach. My clients feel extremely comfortable telling me their truths. I have had complete strangers tell me their whole life story in line at the convenience store or have been able to desolate tentious situations and find resolve. Being sensitive is these situations allowed for people to feel seen, heard and understood.

There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?

I am not sure I fully understand the question but being Emphatic means you can not distinguish between your feelings and someone else’s you absorb the energy of another person and receive insights about them that have not been disclosed. HSP can internalize the opinions of others and however the empathy is where you share the experience of another person and understands what the other person is feeling as if the experience was their own.

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?

The best thing for the HSP is to periodically take the app of their phone and use the platforms from a desktop. They also must limit the time they spend there and if they need it for example for their business or work, they can create a social media calendar so that their posts are scheduled out.

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 don’t try to defend my nature anymore. Depending on the relationship or situation, I may offer a deeper exploration of invite the person into exploring their judgments or reflecting on a time where they may have not have been as evolved, knowledgeable or prepared,

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?

I am so resolved that our world needs more empathy and I rather be too sensitive than for us to continue on this pathway of being apathetic and driven by our egos. I like to call people into conversations and I also point to the science of how the empathic or HSP brain is wired. I have created a group for empaths on FB and I find community helps with feeling more “normal.”

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?

Since the world is not prone to a highly stimulated nervous system this can be difficult to understand the HSP nature. Let’s start with HSP’s are not all women. Men are also sensitive but our society does not give men permission to express themselves with the same liberties that women are. The notion that HSP’s are weak, this is far from true. It takes a great deal of courage to express yourself and to be vulnerable especially in a society where vulnerability is not fully valued. HSP are introverts, not necessarily true. They can be overstimulated in crowds and loud noises. There is a fallacy that being an HSP is a choice. It is not…our biology is completely different. Our nervous system is completely different.

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?

HSP and Empathic people must stand up for themselves and ask people to refrain from using this type of language. “They need to grow thicker skin,” this is harmful language because they can not change who they are and there is nothing wrong with being an HSP. We are born this way. We can invite people into doing research on the topic or share the science behind it but is important not allow others to demean who we area,

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.

Embrace being an HSP — We don’t have to hide who we are and the nature of an HSP is a super power and we offer so much. Flexible thinking , creativity, sincere and deep listeners, and love deeply. Once we accept who we are we can then stand proud of who we have to offer the world.

Understand your triggers — HSP’s don’t like conflict and can become triggered by aggression and hostility. HSP’s can also find themselves being people pleasers. It is important that HSP get clear and create healthy boundaries and respect their need for alone time and rest.

Have self-care practices — We hear this word a lot and it is critical for HSP’s for example having time alone, creating activities that are creative and fulfilling such as painting, poetry, dance or any other hobby. Being clear on how they tend to the need of others such as Energy Vampires. These are people who are in constant need of attention and can not reciprocate in friendships or relationships. Making sure that you have set times that you take breaks throughout the day. I recommend using a time management app such as Be Focused or Pomadoro. Also setting alarms every three hours for water and breathing.

Seek careers that allow your HSP qualities flourish:

Caring Professionals:

Medical professionals as well as social workers, psychotherapists, and personal coaches are great pathways for HSP’s. These fields play to HSP strengths, including empathy, compassion, and intuitive awareness of others’ needs. These are Emotional Responders these are the people that support humanity when they need them most.

Creative Professionals:

This would include graphic designer, copywriter, poets, set designers, public relations… anyone who puts their artistic talents to use full time. The great part about these jobs is they tend to be very easy to do on a freelance basis or as full time entrepreneur, which gives HSPs the flexibility and autonomy they crave in their schedules.

Clergy:

Many HSPs are deeply drawn to faith and spirituality. They take their beliefs more seriously than those around them. HSPs are also likely to be encouraging, heart-centered and open-minded. These qualities combined with the HSP’s ability to be good listeners can make HSP’s great clergy people. Of course, HSPs tend to be more intuitive than dogmatic about their spirituality, and may have to put up with a certain amount of structure to work but in this capacity, sensitivity and intuition are strongly valued.

Non-Profit Professional:

Let me be clear, non-profit work can be just as stressful as working for a for-profit. Many non-profits don’t have the infuatructe that corporations have but many have such a strong mission that justify long hours or lower wages. I have spoken with many emaths who need to have more work that satisfied their souls and there are many non-profits where the culture is healthy, cooperative, and focused on truly creating good in the world. This essential for many HSP’s feel like they are living a life of service. Here are some roles for HSPs in non-profit: administrative roles, executive director, marketing, membership manager, grant researcher/writer.

Education:

This can vary from district to district and higher education is another route to consider. Many of my clients work in higher education and in particular philanthropy. Education allows HSP to focus on the content areas they love and also invest in students and become real change agents of the future.

Space to have a good cry:

HSP’s can feel overwhelmed and feel very deeply and there is nothing with this so a good cry can be very cleansing to the soul of an HSP.

A Community of other HSP’s

While HSP’s can have friendships and they are trusted few, it is important to have a community where they can be themselves. Dr. Judith Orlloff has a community for Empaths and many other exist too or an HSP can create one.

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 would say a movement of empathy. We are at a brink in our human history where we are watching America address systemic racism in the most profound way. They are many people who are learning how to confront injustice and we are leaning more into embracing Emotional Intelligence and favoring more communal ways of learning and leading. I would love to see us build a deeper and stronger foundation of empathy and compassion for the lived experience of others and build a community where we can express ourselves more authentically.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website www.ber-hendawilliams.com IG: Ber-Henda Williams and FB: B Intentional with Ber-Henda Williams

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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