Do you ever feel like a chameleon?
Like you spend your life trying to blend in, hiding your needs, your feelings, and your true personality?
By the time I finished college and grad school, I was the Queen Chameleon.
Growing up it became clear that I didn’t approach the world in the same way as everyone else. I was more deeply affected by everything happening both within and around me.
As a result, I thought there was something wrong with me, that my sensitive nature made me defective somehow. Negative comments from others (“stop taking everything so personally,” “grow a thicker skin,” etc.) only amplified my insecurities.
I always felt out of place and so I learned to let people see only the parts of me that I thought were acceptable. The rest I camouflaged the best I could.
That’s my story. But it isn’t unique to me.
I’ve coached countless high-achievers over the years that have felt compelled to take the chameleon approach because they felt they were “too much”. They, too, have hid parts of themselves in a desperate attempt to fit in and be liked.
But here’s the thing:
The parts you’re hiding are often the very best of you.
Because you’re not defective. You’re not wrong for feeling the way you do — you’re simply a Sensitive Striver.
What it Means to Be a Sensitive Striver
Sensitive Striver is a term I defined after a decade of researching and coaching high performers at companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix, and other Fortune 500 companies.
In short, it describes someone who is driven and also thinks and feels everything more deeply.
If you can relate to most of the statements below, then you’re a Sensitive Striver.
- I experience emotions to a high level of depth and complexity.
- I have a strong desire to exceed expectations in every aspect of my life and hold myself to high standards.
- I consider myself to be driven and enjoy pushing myself to achieve goals.
- I need to think through decisions before acting.
- I’m kind, compassionate, and empathetic to others.
- I have a keen ability to sense other people’s feelings.
- I can be easily impacted by stress.
Research shows that only about 15 – 20% of the population is sensitive. Which explains why you feel different and why what seems to work for everyone else (a whopping 80% of people, after all) might not be as effective for you.
Since Sensitive Strivers are in the minority, it’s not surprising that we’re a misunderstood bunch. And there’s one myth in particular that we absolutely have to clear up:
Being a Sensitive Striver is NOT a personality flaw.
Nor is it a weakness, a personal failing, a sign of insecurity, or something to be eradicated.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite: it’s an evolutionary advantage!
High sensitivity is a well-studied genetic difference that refers to having a more highly-attuned nervous system. It means you have a specialized brain and different neurological wiring that leads you to:
- Process information more deeply
- Think before you act
- Spot opportunities that other people miss
Most notably, as a Sensitive Striver, you have an innate ability to understand what other people are feeling and to make connections in a way that other people can’t.
As it turns out, studies have shown that people with this trait actually have more active mental circuitry; they have stronger neural wiring in areas related to attention, planning, decision-making, and strong internal experiences.
Sensitive Strivers: It’s Time to Stop Hiding
If you’re a Sensitive Striver who’s been in full chameleon mode, it’s time to stop hiding. And time to stop trying to “fix” yourself.
Sensitivity isn’t a disorder, it’s a personality trait. Just as an introvert will always be an introvert, you will always identify as highly-sensitive. It’s inherent.
And accepting that is the first step in both leveraging your trait’s advantages and mitigating its drawbacks.
Because there are drawbacks.
You already know this. As much as being highly sensitive is linked to your genetics, your biology is only one piece of the puzzle.
The second piece is your upbringing and your environment. In particular, the messages you received growing up contribute to how confident and secure you feel as a Sensitive Striver.
Because so few people are highly sensitive in nature, others don’t necessarily recognize or appreciate the trait when they see it in others.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been told by parents, teachers, and friends to:
- “stop taking things so seriously”
- “quit stressing so much”
- “get over yourself”
- “stop being so high maintenance”
Even as an adult, you might have bosses and colleagues telling you that you need to grow a thicker skin.
So the fact that you’ve been trying to suppress your sensitive side? Not exactly surprising, is it?
Leveraging Your Sensitivity as a Superpower
In my chameleon days, I frequently pushed myself to the point of burnout while trying to live up to the expectations I thought other people had of me. I internalized the negative stories that I was “too sensitive”, that I was broken in some way, that I had to change.
I created a war within myself.
The only way to reach a ceasefire was to embrace my sensitivity. To use it to my advantage. To take its many benefits and amplify them. And to transform my inner critic into inner champion so I could overcome overthinking and finally get out of my own way.
And as we all learn to embrace our highly-sensitive nature and turn it into a superpower, we won’t just learn to ignore the “you need to stop being so emotional” narrative — we’ll change it altogether.
The bottom line?
When you recognize that your sensitivity isn’t just an innate part of you, it’s actually a potential superpower, you can learn how to work with it and leverage the many gifts it offers you as well as minimize the stress or the frustrations it can cause.
And luckily this is becoming easier for all of us.
One unexpected upside of the coronavirus pandemic is that we’re seeing a shift in how we show up emotionally in the workplace. We’re emphasizing kindness far more, and we’re realizing that learning to work with people’s innate strengths and characteristics is key to establishing healthy boundaries and avoiding burnout.
People aren’t just beginning to recognize the traits of highly sensitive people and taking them more seriously; they’re actually starting to embrace the strengths we have to offer.
They’re realizing that the world needs highly sensitive people more than ever before; they need you to finally step into your power as a Sensitive Striver.
And I’m here to help you take that step.
If you want to stop seeing your sensitivity as a burden and to start leveraging it as your greatest strength, I’d love to help you through my 3-month coaching program: Resilient. I’ll show you how to embrace your natural traits so you can master your emotions, channel your sensitivities, and step into your natural brilliance.
Check out the Ultimate Guide for Sensitive Strivers for free resources to outsmart imposter syndrome, stop second-guessing yourself, and much more.