James was the type of employee every manager dreamed of. Hardworking and dedicated, James was poised to become a VP of Product at a technology company. And, like a lot of people, he was a go-getter.
James loved his job and took pride in being the go-to person on the team. He was always taught he should go above and beyond and that’s exactly what he did. Recently, though, James had taken on a big, new project. This meant more responsibility and he was excited about the prospect of leveling up in his career.
But this new project also meant massively more stress for James. He was dedicated to doing every task perfectly, made sure everyone felt heard, that everyone’s needs were met–often to his own detriment. James struggled to say no and even made decisions on behalf of his boss who was a bit of an absentee manager.
As James said yes to each new request, inside he saw it not as a request but as a demand. In his head, James told himself things like…
- I must please my boss
- I must execute this project perfectly
- I must do everything…or I’m admitting I’m a fraud
- No one can know how insecure I am
Do you know anyone like James? Are you someone like James?
Because James is what I call a Sensitive Striver.
What is a Sensitive Striver?
Sensitive Strivers are high-achievers who think and feel everything more deeply than most people. Biologically speaking, I am talking about the 15-20% of people who pick up on more stimuli within and around them. They are highly attuned to emotions – their own and those of others.
Sensitive Strivers are deeply caring and give 100% to their work – all with an inner world on overdrive. And because they process information more deeply than other people, they’re more susceptible to stress, emotional overwhelm, and overthinking.
This combination of sensitivity and ambition can be tricky for people like James. And it makes common workplace situations – like getting feedback and trusting your judgment– even more challenging.
The good news is that sensitivity, combined with a strong drive to achieve, can also make you a powerhouse performer. The research proves it: managers consistently rate people with higher sensitivity as their top contributors.
Signs of a Sensitive Striver
As former gold-star students, Sensitive Strivers love a fun quiz. To find out if you fit the profile, check off the signs that you can relate to:
- You experience emotions to an unusual level of depth and complexity.
- You have a strong desire to “exceed expectations” in every aspect of your life.
- You consider yourself to be driven and ambitious.
- You crave meaning and fulfillment.
- You need time to think through decisions before you act.
- You have an inner critic that never takes a day off.
- You are kind, compassionate, and genuinely empathetic to others.
- You have a keen ability to sense other people’s feelings.
- You often put other people’s needs ahead of my own.
- You find it difficult to set boundaries and often say “yes” too much.
- You have struggled with burnout in the past.
- You are easily impacted by stress.
- You struggle to “turn off” my mind because it’s constantly filled with thoughts.
- You feel anxious when you’re caught off guard or know you’re being watched.
- You hold yourself to high standards.
- You try to get things “right” and judge yourself harshly if you make mistakes.
- You often get stuck in indecision and analysis paralysis.
- You fear feedback and take criticism to heart.
If you relate to nine or more of the statements above, you can confidently call yourself a Sensitive Striver.
Once you better understand how your built-in temperament shapes the way you see yourself and approach your career, you can channel your qualities as strengths and not self-sabotage. Instead of feeling ordered around by your insecurities, worries, or your own unrealistically high expectations of yourself, you can feel in control of your own life and reclaim what success means to you.