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Being Sensitive But Rocking The Boat

Annie Leibovitz and assistants atop the Chrysler Building

Being creative is not some kind of personality trait; you need to have more than just creative ideas or innovative possibilities, you need to actually do something in the world: record that song, write a book or article, put together a smart phone app.

As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin says, “What you do for a living is not be creative, what you do is ship.”

And at times our creative work may be fearful or otherwise emotionally challenging, and call for extra courage.

Hence my choice of this image: Photographer Annie Leibovitz and her assistants, standing on one of the gargoyles atop the Chrysler Building (1991, by John Loengard, Time Inc.).

Creative work can be controversial and disruptive, like a number of her provocative images, such as the 1991 Vanity Fair cover of a nude and pregnant Demi Moore.

Actor Cate Blanchett has expressed one idea about this:

“I think our Western society is very much about, Tuck your head in; make sure you’re safe. Don’t rock the boat.” []

Being creatively disruptive may be especially challenging for many of us who are highly sensitive.

That includes Annie Leibovitz, who has said, “I don’t think of myself as a very good technical photographer. I’m so sensitive. I’m very careful about who I let around me when I work because I feel everything that’s going on.”

From article Annie Leibovitz On Getting The Shot—And The Future Of Photography By Rae Ann Fera,

[This article has examples of her “Dream Portraits” campaign for Disney Parks that “casts Hollywood A-Listers as fabled characters.”]

Maria Hill is founder of the site Sensitive Evolution, and expresses in her post “Rocking The Boat: An Important Life Skill” some helpful perspectives on being highly sensitive and creative:

“One way to keep people from rocking the boat is to have them fixate on a lot of ever-changing novelty. It keeps people busy and creates illusions of change. The phrase, ‘The more things change, the more they say the same,’ applies to these conditions.

“Serious lasting change, then, requires a considerable amount of sustained effort. It has to be well thought out because that is the need for  long-term commitment. Chaotic conditions keep people fixated on the short-term.”

But, she notes, “Rocking the boat is not the same thing as being challenging or provocative.

“It is relatively easy to be provocative but not easy to take a new idea from conception to reality. That is hard work!

“When we deeply rock the boat we are changing ourselves and developing strength. In doing so we are changing relationships and power structures. Not everyone welcomes this.”

She thinks sensitive people (HSPs) are “natural although often inadvertent boat rockers…However,  it takes more than creating conflict to rock the boat or tip it over – in other words to create lasting change.”

She warns, “Seriously rocking the boat takes sustained work and focus, something that HSPs may not be good at because of our tendency to be overstimulated and therefore have our attention fragmented.

“Serious boat rocking also may mean a fight although I mean fight in the sense of constructive engagement. To create any lasting change the old and new engage in a struggle over the merits of their positions and contributions.

“The necessity for change,the comfort of the old and the dangers of complacency, the skills that we know and the ones we have yet to learn all are weighed as we decide how to move forward into something new.”

You can find this post and many others on her site (link below).

Here is a brief video of mine about her courses:


The quote at the top is from my post Seth Godin on Quieting the Lizard Brain – Godin suggests we must deal with our fearful “lizard brains” to avoid sabotaging projects just before we finally finish and present them to the world.

One of his several books: What to Do When its Your Turn (and its Always Your Turn) – “an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work and embracing tension when doing your art.”

Also learn more about Seth Godin’s Freelancer Course [on Udemy] – “Become Remarkable, Find Better Clients, and Do Work That Matters.”

Book: The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide for Finding Your Place in the World by Maria Hill.

Site: Sensitive Evolution (previously HSP Health) – “Wants to help each highly sensitive person (HSP) embrace their unique trait and gifts and take their place in the world.”


Being Sensitive But Rocking The Boat

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2016). Being Sensitive But Rocking The Boat. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Jan 2016
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