Are You a Sensitive Striver? How to Channel Emotions into an Advantage at Work

Melody Wilding, LMSW
6 min readDec 13, 2022

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” - Charles Bukowski

It hit me like a ton of bricks one Saturday night. Sitting at a half-empty Starbucks on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I realized I had made a terrible mistake.

For months, I had looked forward to a close friend’s wedding weekend. My hotel was paid for. Travel arrangements had been made. I couldn’t wait to celebrate the bride and to see all of my college friends in one place.

But, in the week leading up to the wedding, new projects piled up at work, and I felt enormous pressure — both internal and external — to be available and responsive 24/7. I couldn’t stop obsessing about my never-ending to-do list, I found myself feeling guilty about taking time off, and I agonized about whether or not I should actually go. One part of me craved time away filled with fun, laughter, and relaxation while another reminded me how behind I felt and how much I could get done if I stayed home.

At the last minute, I bailed. Sure, I was making the right decision for my career, but that Saturday, while my friends celebrated together, I was alone with my laptop, swimming in regret.

All my life, I had been a classic A-plus, gold-star, good girl who lived to exceed expectations. Diligent and disciplined, I worked hard to earn high grades in school, graduated at the top of my college class while balancing multiple jobs, and went on to get a master’s in social work from Columbia University, so I could work in mental health.

I dreamed of becoming a therapist until well-meaning loved ones and advisors cautioned against it. You can’t make money as a therapist. You should go into healthcare or technology — something more stable and lucrative. I followed their advice and took a job as a researcher at a fast-paced healthcare center in Manhattan.

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Melody Wilding, LMSW

Author of TRUST YOURSELF. Executive coach to Sensitive Strivers. Human behavior professor. Featured in NYT, NBC, CNN. https://melodywilding.com/book