The Truth About Sensitive Strivers and Imposter Syndrome

Sensitive Strivers and Imposter Syndrome

Picture it: you’ve just been given great feedback after completing a challenging project.

What’s your reaction?

Do you:

A. Soak up the praise. After all, you’re smart, capable, and you’ve worked hard. You deserve every compliment coming your way. You can’t wait to get started on the next project.


B. Shrink from the attention. You’re convinced that it was a fluke and that you’re a one-hit-wonder. You shift the praise onto co-workers, even though you carried the team. And the next project? How on earth are you going to hit that level of success twice in a row?

Since you’re here, you’re probably a Sensitive Striver. This means you almost certainly recognized yourself in option B. It might not be your reaction 100% of the time, but you’ve certainly been there.

Option B encompasses all of the hallmarks of imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome put simply, is that sensation of being a fake or a fraud despite your accomplishments. It causes you to constantly question your capabilities. As a result, you live in fear of being exposed for not knowing enough or not being qualified enough for your role.

With imposter syndrome, you believe that you’re not worthy of the success you’ve had to date and that your results have been a product of luck, chance, or timing. You worry you won’t replicate your success going forward.

And the irony? Real imposters generally don’t suffer imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome disproportionately affects competent, capable, high-achievers. People who have had so much success, and proven themselves so often, you simply couldn’t accuse them of being a fraud or imposter. 

Imposter syndrome goes deeper than just fleeting under-confidence. At its core, imposter syndrome is about distorted self-perception. While in reality, you are actually intelligent and talented…you don’t see yourself that way. That’s not your identity, and so your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions are out of sync with the facts.

How Common is Imposter Syndrome? 

It may seem like everyone around you has their act together at work, knows what they’re doing, or has way more confidence than you. But do they really?

Studies suggest that they don’t. 

Research points to the fact that up to 70% of professionals experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career. And recent studies show that up to 50% of both men and women experience imposter syndrome every week.

So, with stats like those, why does it feel like you’re more likely to struggle with insecurity?

It’s because, as a Sensitive Striver, you’re particularly prone to imposter syndrome.

Now, I know that doesn’t sound like great news. But it can be.

Because when you understand the key reasons why you’re more likely to experience imposter syndrome, you’re in a far better position to stop blaming and shaming yourself for feeling the way you do. 

And that’s step number one to overcoming self-doubt and regaining your confidence.

3 Reasons Sensitive Strivers are More Prone to Imposter Syndrome

1. It’s not you, it’s your nervous system.

As a Sensitive Striver, you have a very finely tuned nervous system. That’s why situations that others find mildly distressing, like making decisions or getting feedback, can send you into an emotional spiral.

Having a well-calibrated nervous system isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, researchers view it as an evolutionary advantage.

You see, when our ancestors roamed the earth, it was important to have a certain number of people in every group who were more aware of situations unfolding around them. It helped keep the group safe. 

That’s why about 15-20% of the population today (or one in five people) still has the special set of genes linked to higher sensitivity.

While the trait of high sensitivity is closely linked to survival. But in today’s environment, it can translate into becoming easily overwhelmed or overstimulated by situations that others don’t find stressful.

That’s why you might have a panic response if you’re put on the spot during a meeting. And why you obsess over what people thought of you if you didn’t know the answer, triggering the cycle of imposter syndrome.

2. You’re attuned to the behavior of others.

Sensitive Strivers tend to be empathetic and extremely intuitive; you can read a room with impressive efficiency. The nuances that most people miss? Not you.

And those are amazing qualities to have. But, because you’re more attuned to external factors, you’re also more likely to be aware of – and concerned with – other people’s perceptions and opinions. That leads you to judge yourself more harshly, comparing yourself with others, and often coming to the (mistaken) conclusion that you don’t measure up.

To compensate for the perception that you’re lesser than everyone else, you might find yourself seeking external validation of your intelligence by constantly pursuing new qualifications, new degrees, or new courses. Or you hang your entire self-worth on praise from others (even though you won’t believe half of it anyway).

3. You’re an information processing machine.

The third reason that Sensitive Strivers are more prone to imposter syndrome is that you process information more deeply. Not only are you taking in much more information (about your surroundings, the nuances of people’s reactions, etc), you’re also parsing apart that information in your mind more thoroughly.

While your depth of processing can be a tremendous strength, it can also feel as if your mind doesn’t have an “off” button. This is why you might ruminate over what you could have done better on a project, or overthink a decision because you’re afraid that you have no idea what you’re doing.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

As a Sensitive Striver, you’ve probably been searching for the tools to overcome your imposter syndrome for years. And that could lead you down a path of frustration because none of the strategies you’ve tried so far seem to move the needle.

Why is this? 

It’s because the typical tools offered are targeted at the other 80% of people who don’t identify as Sensitive Strivers. So this advice may offer a brief period of relief. But soon you’ll find yourself sinking back into the imposter syndrome shame spiral.

What you need are specialized strategies that work for you as a Sensitive Striver. 

Ones that teach you how to use your sensitivity as a source of strength so you can break the self-doubt cycle and gain long-lasting inner confidence.

That’s where I come in. 

As a fellow Sensitive Striver and professional coach who for ten years has coached Sensitive Strivers at companies like Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, helping you overcome imposter syndrome is my specialty. 

The result of my years of research and experience is RESILIENT, a coaching program specifically designed for the 20% of us who identify as Sensitive Strivers.

RESILIENT will help you:

  • Build inner confidence
  • Discover how to leverage your sensitivity as an honest-to-goodness superpower
  • Channel your innate Sensitive Striver personality traits 

All this means you can break the imposter syndrome cycle and reach your full potential at work. Learn more about the RESILIENT by click here.

Check out the Ultimate Guide for Sensitive Strivers for free resources to outsmart imposter syndrome, stop second-guessing yourself, and much more.

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Hi, I'm Melody

I help smart, sensitive high-achievers break free from imposter syndrome and overthinking so they can find the confidence to lead effectively.


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