Are you a sensitive high-achiever?

Are you a sensitive high-achiever?

Understanding yourself better is essential.

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James was the type of employee every manager dreamed of. Hardworking and dedicated, James was on the cusp of becoming VP of Product at a technology company. And, like many people, he was a go-getter.


James loved his job and was proud to be the person on the team. He’s always been taught to go beyond that, and that’s exactly what he did. But recently James had taken on a big new project. This meant more responsibility and he was excited about the prospect of a higher level in his career.

But this new project also meant a lot more stress for James. He was committed to doing every task perfectly and making sure everyone felt heard and 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.

While James said yes to every new request, inside he saw it not as a request, but as a requirement. In his head, James told himself things like…

I have to please my boss.

I have to execute this project perfectly.

I have to do everything… or I admit I’m an impostor.

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 pusher.”

What is a sensitive pusher?

Sensitive strivers are high achievers who think and feel everything more deeply than most people. Biologically speaking, I’m talking about the 15-20 percent of people who pick up more stimuli in and around them. They are very well attuned to emotions – their own and those of others.

Sensitive strivers are very caring and give 100 percent to their work – all with an inner world on overdrive. And because they process information more deeply than other people, they are more prone to stress, emotional overwhelm and contemplation.

This combination of sensitivity and ambition can be tricky for people like James. And it makes common workplace situations like getting feedback and relying on your judgment even more challenging.

The good news is that sensitivity, combined with a strong drive to perform, can also make you a powerhouse. The research proves it: managers consistently rate people with higher sensitivity as their best contributors.

18 signs of a sensitive pusher

As former gold star students, sensitive striders love a fun quiz. To find out if you fit the profile, check the characters you can recognize:

  1. You experience emotions to an unusual level of depth and complexity.
  2. You have a strong desire to “exceed expectations” in every aspect of your life.
  3. You consider yourself driven and ambitious.
  4. You crave meaning and fulfillment.
  5. You need time to think about decisions before you act.
  6. You have an inner critic who never takes a day off.
  7. You are kind, compassionate and genuinely empathetic to others.
  8. You have a keen ability to sense other people’s feelings.
  9. You often put the needs of others before your own.
  10. You find it difficult to set boundaries and often say ‘yes’ too much.
  11. You have struggled with burnout in the past.
  12. You are easily affected by stress.
  13. You struggle to “turn off” your mind because it is constantly full of thoughts.
  14. You feel anxious when you are caught off guard or know that you are being watched.
  15. You set high standards for yourself.
  16. You try to get things “right” and judge yourself harshly when you make mistakes.
  17. You often get stuck in indecision and analysis paralysis.
  18. You are afraid of feedback and take criticism to heart.

If you recognize yourself in nine or more of the above statements, you can safely call yourself a sensitive pusher.

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 as self-sabotage. Instead of feeling ordered by your insecurities, worries, or your own unrealistically high expectations of yourself, you can feel in control of your own life and regain what success means to you.


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