Melody Wilding, LMSW
Executive coach to sensitive high-achievers. Professor. Feat. NYT, NBC, CNN. Author of TRUST YOURSELF:

The Sensitive Striver

You work hard and have great ideas to contribute — you should be making an impact and getting the recognition you deserve.

Woman smiling and pointing
Woman smiling and pointing
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Another meeting is coming up at work, and you’re dreading it. But if you want to get ahead, it’s important to speak confidently in meetings.

This is a goal one of my clients, Allison, had when she first started coaching. She came to me asking, “Why do I get so nervous before speaking in a meeting?”

Allison was an experienced cybersecurity professional — so highly regarded for her specialized expertise that she was recruited out of her current role into a new one.

Her new role was exciting and presented a huge opportunity for her career. But the thought of greater visibility made her impossibly anxious. The fear of speaking in meetings paralyzed her. Whenever it came time to contribute, Allison would freeze, overthink her response, and end up rambling. …

Make your first 90 days on the job a success with these tips.

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Joanna was over the moon about accepting a new role as a senior program manager at a consumer products company. But as her start date approached, her new job anxiety set in.

The position ticked all her boxes:

  • It was a substantial level up in terms of title and salary
  • She felt sure the responsibilities and the culture were perfect fits
  • She was excited about the prospect of building an innovation team.

However, Joanna couldn’t shake a feeling of imposter syndrome. She started to doubt herself as her start date inched closer. …

The Sensitive Striver

Honing your ability to thrive within ambiguous circumstances is a vital skill you need to rise into a leadership role.

Business woman gesturing uncertainty.
Business woman gesturing uncertainty.
Image credit: shironosov.

Embracing ambiguity in the workplace, while necessary, can be a challenge. After all, it’s natural to desire direction and a sense of control in our careers. It’s comforting to have specific instructions provided to you or to have a clear vision of the future to work towards.

However, uncertainty at work is a part of life in today’s business world, especially after the COVID-19 crisis. If you don’t become skilled at tolerating ambiguity, you can quickly become overly timid and risk-averse.

This is particularly true for “Sensitive Strivers”—the high achievers who are also deep feelers and thinkers, who can all too readily spiral into fear of the unknown and fear of failure. As perfectionists, many Sensitive Strivers tend to be uncomfortable with uncertainty because there’s no clear-cut “right” or “wrong,” which breeds stress, self-doubt, and overwhelm. …

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When I asked my client Jessica how her relationship with her manager was going since we last spoke, there was a long pause.

“Jessica, what happened?” I asked.

“She ripped apart a presentation I put together. She said I needed to start over from scratch because it totally missed the mark. I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation all weekend!”

Maybe you’ve found yourself in Jessica’s shoes, feeling angry, insecure, or demoralized after getting bad feedback. When someone criticizes your work, it can feel like a confirmation of your inner critic saying you’re not good enough.

Other times, a single offhanded comment (“you look tired”) launches you into an existential crisis about how you’re too old and have accomplished nothing with your life. But if you want to do anything important in the world, you’ll inevitably get negative feedback. …

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Photo: Nick Bondarev/Pexels

For many people, work can be like a second home. You spend the majority of your waking hours dedicated to your work. Your co-workers and team may likely be the people you interact with most in your life, after family or a spouse.

Yet it’s impossible to be effective and feel fulfilled in a toxic workplace environment. Even if you work from home, a negative work environment can transcend physical walls. The intangible qualities that make work a healthy or unhealthy place can impact everything from your personal life and health to your self-esteem.

The increased stress of working in a dysfunctional office can lead directly to job burnout, particularly for Sensitive Strivers. …

The Sensitive Striver

Your ability to see nuance, uncover patterns, and synthesize data makes you especially suited for strategy. So why doesn’t your boss see it?

Two women in a meeting room having a discussion at a board.
Two women in a meeting room having a discussion at a board.
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

“You need to be more strategic.”

Many of my executive coaching clients have been told this in a performance review. They’re told that if they want to move up into senior leadership, garner more respect and influence, and manage larger teams, then they have to become more skilled at strategic thinking.

As thoughtful Sensitive Strivers, many also find themselves puzzled by this feedback, wondering how they could be a deep thinker but not necessarily a strategic one.

Sensitive Strivers and Strategic Thinking

Because of their sensitivity, Sensitive Strivers process information more intricately. They also tend to be naturally conscientious, highly self-aware, reflective, and intuitive.

On the flip side, their brains are often racing, which can lead to worry, indecision, and doubt. It’s not uncommon for them to over-analyze day-to-day experiences and be so mired in details that they fail to see the bigger picture. …

Winning the day starts before you even sit down at your desk.

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If you’re like me, you have a growing to-do list filled with big ideas to accomplish.

Yet it might often seem like the day quickly gets away from you. Meetings, emails, social media, and other distractions suck up your time, along with your precious attention.

Winning the day begins before you even sit down at your desk.

Thoughtful planning and prioritization is the best way to play defense against the many tasks vying for your focus. …

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Failure is an F word you need to embrace.

Failures aren’t as scary and life-ending as we make them out to be. In fact, there’s gold that can be mined from our slip-ups and setbacks.

That’s easier said than done, so here are a few tips to help you rebound the next time you’re feeling like a failure or down about a mistake or stumble.

How to Rebound from Setbacks

Don’t push away your emotions; embrace them.

Give yourself permission to release any feelings of anger, guilt, or self-blame so that you can move on. Remember, you’re human and bound to have moments when you don’t perform at your best. …

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Photo: Markus Winkler/Unsplash

Emotional depth is not something to be resisted in the workplace. It’s a trait that makes you powerful. Consider this:

  • People with higher sensitivity are consistently rated as the best performers by their managers.
  • Research by Google also shows that teams where the leaders and team members feel free and safe to express their emotions, fears, and concerns are more innovative and productive.
  • Being emotionally aware can put more money in your pocket. People with higher EQ earn on average $29,000 more than people with lower EQ.

Put simply, embracing all of these skills and qualities — your emotional sensitivity, depth, and intelligence — can make you richer, happier, and more effective all-around. …

Communicate concisely in a way that fits your personality and style.

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Photo: Matheus Bertelli/Pexels

A common question I get from coaching clients is “how do I become a more concise communicator?”

It’s no surprise because concise communication is more important now than ever before.

Consider these facts:

  • The average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds today.
  • Each day, the typical office worker receives 120 emails.
  • Every time a person is distracted it takes over 23 minutes for them to regain focus.

Given these realities, it’s no wonder that studies rank good communication skills as twice as important as good managerial skills. That’s because, in this age of oversaturation, there’s little margin for error. …

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