Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

If You Haven’t Achieved Greatness, Can You Be Gifted?

34 Comments

photo courtesy of Cam Adams, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Cam Adams, Unsplash, CC

Here it is. That pesky old question. You’ve heard it. You grapple with it.

If you aren’t a high achiever, can you be gifted? If your achievements aren’t “great,” can you be gifted? If your work isn’t “insanely great,” might you not be gifted but just insane? (You may not have heard of that last question. I made it up. Just now.)

Then you wonder: What constitutes high achieving? What is greatness? Who decides? What does it mean to be gifted? Does it matter if you know that you’re gifted? What if you think you’re gifted, but you really aren’t?

Oh boy. More questions. If you ask the most questions, does that make you gifted?

Here are some things to think about. (You like to think, right? Does that make you gifted?)

High achievement, in itself, might not be a sign of giftedness. It could just be an indication of hard work, deliberate practice, a point of view, nepotism, or your family’s trust fund. It could also be a sign of giftedness.

Greatness. Even harder to explain than high achievement. You don’t have to be gifted to do great things. You could be but you don’t have to be. See what the researcher David Shenk says about it:

“People are not doomed to mediocrity, as conventional wisdom suggests. No one can really know his or her true limits before applying enormous resources and investing vast amounts of time. Greatness is something to which any kid—of any age—can aspire.”

So what are we left with? How do we decide who’s gifted? Do we need to? And, assuming that achievement and greatness are desirable, how do you get there?

First: If you have many of these rainforest traits, odds are pretty darned good that you’re gifted. Then: There are many reasons why you may not be accomplishing what you or others expect. Some of the reasons are described here and here. It’s complicated. Finally: Knowing that you are gifted will help you stop pathologizing these traits so that you can get on with being who you are meant to be. Doing what you’re here to do. Achieving greatness.

Your version.

______________________________

To my blogEEs: How do you deal with the pressures to achieve and to be “great?” Were you called an underachiever when you were a kid? Do you still feel that way? Have you been successful as an adult? How? What’s that been like? What would you like to achieve? Looking at events in the world, do you feel an urgency to contribute? Thank you for reading and commenting. You all have so much wisdom to share.

 

 

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Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rain forest to describe this population. Like the rain forest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore.

34 thoughts on “If You Haven’t Achieved Greatness, Can You Be Gifted?

  1. In my seventh decade and still seeking My Version. Thanks for reminding me I’m not the only one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s never too late. Thanks for writing, Anen.

      Like

      • here is new reply:
        In general I feel that predicament of the Gifted Adults can be well summarized in the sentences given below. “Gifted adults, perhaps more than any other group, have the potential to achieve a high degree of self-actualization. Despite the problems that being gifted can bring, the positive social and emotional aspects of giftedness can more than compensate for the problems. To continue to hear the flowers singing and to turn visions and dreams to reality throughout an entire lifetime is a goal to be desired by every gifted adult.”

        This is from the well-known article in the gifted community…”Can you hear the flower sings”….
        http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/can-you-hear-the-flowers-sing-issues-for-gifted-adults

        Now let me introduce my book as well…..

        Running The Long Race In Gifted Education
        Narratives and Interviews from Culturally Diverse Gifted Adults

        http://www.diversegiftedadults.com/

        I am pleased to inform that a book that I was a part of is getting published soon.It will be available for purchase on Amzon.com from 1st April. I with other 15 gifted adults from ethnically diverse background are the contributors to this book. The editors of the book are Dr.Joy Scott-Carrol and Dr. Anthony Sparks.
        The book has forewords by an Ivy League professor Dr. Diana Kotzin.

        http://www.diversegiftedadults.com/

        For the details of the book please visit the website.

        We know a lot about Intellectual disability, the population subgroup that is on the one end of the intellectual ability spectrum, and our society is well aware of the problems they face, and a lot of efforts are made to help this population subgroup.
        Similarly, there are kids and grown-ups on the other end of the intellectual ability spectrum. They too sometimes face the problems. It is hard for the society to understand it, ( you are smart!…and still you have so many issues!!!!…you are so intense!…your thoughts overwhelm us…etc.etc.) but this is the reality experienced by that population subgroup. Intelligence does affect the personality.
        Also, it is hard to do the statistical study of this subset, as already they are the outliers. Thus, one need to do research in different ways. Knowing the autobiographies is one way to do such research. Also, knowing each others’ stories helps make sense of the experiences. Thus, this book serves such multitude of purposes.
        My story focuses on my experience in doing research that is unorthodox in nature and the difficulties I faced due to the same. It was and is a tightrope walk, and I had to show a lot of grit and perseverance. I talk about this in my chapter.

        We are now entering a phase where we want to do promotion of this book.
        http://www.diversegiftedadults.com/

        Best
        Neeraj

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article. I struggle with worrying about “greatness” a lot. Or more precisely feeling like I’ve failed to live up to my potential. I am most likely to ask myself, “if you are so gifted or smart, why haven’t you accomplished more? Why can’t you be motivated to do more?” The funny thing is I’ve had others tell me they think I’ve achieved a quite a bit but it doesn’t feel like it to me because the things I’ve accomplished came too easy so I am more likely to down play those accomplishments and focus on things I haven’t achieved. So the world has never labelled me a underachiever but I have done it too myself. And thought I’d like to do more my “rainforest mind” tends to have me flitting here and there and never quite completing what I intended, As I now have to teach my children how to deal with these same issues in their lives, I try to cut myself some slack like I would them, but it is hard. Sometimes I win the battles. Sometimes I don’t.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The blog reminds me of nature versus nurture debate. And I feel there is truth on the both sides.
    I am here to defend the nature side….specific aspect of the nature side…Intellectual giftedness.
    I feel intellectual giftedness ….tilts one’s destiny in a certain way. It is evident from the school days itself.
    I am not talking about worldly success, necessarily and about good / acceptable resume….but certain proclivities are there, and those are evident from school days.
    And they remain evident afterwards.

    http://www.bertiekingore.com/high-gt-create.htm

    I totally can correlate with the gifted characteristic mentioned here…

    the traits of gifted mentioned here would certainly have the analogous equivalent in the adult environment in the workplace…

    that sets such persons on the certain path to destiny….now that may lead to the success as measured by others/ society or not.

    But it leads these individuals on a unique path for sure. And what I am saying is truer about the exceptionally gifted individuals.

    And sometimes they can cross the barriers of the social class, economic class…etc to reach their destiny.

    So this is my contention from the inherent Nature side. ( vis a vis nurture.).

    Being gifted gives one the passion, entelechy and also the capacity.

    Giftedness gives means and desire for the big dreams. And off course not all dreams can be achieved…but at least, it makes one to strive and aspire for them..and I feel many of the great achievers were indeed intellectually gifted…and I admit that not all of them necessarily need to be intellectually gifted.
    At the same time for certain kind of achievements, it does help to be intellectually gifted. I cannot think of any good lawyer/ any good physicist would not be intellectually gifted. ANd amongst these lawyers and physicist…the one who are doing something unique/ one who are breaking traditions ( ex. In India many lawyers from yesteryears generation turned freedom fighters…Gandhiji, Nehru are some of the good examples.) This is almost similar to the gifted characteristics of school children.

    The kids and people who are not learning things for simple livelihood or grades…but going far beyond that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know I’m gifted, though I’ve got nothing to show for it aside from numbers printed on pieces of paper and a Mensa membership card.
    What my intellect seems to be helping with, is changing myself. I’m contending with complex PTSD, serious medical issues and isolation – without any kind of professional psychological support. Nor extended family, nor friendships. Very little medical assistance, as there is nothing further that can be done to help. Yet I am experiencing change. I do a lot of research and put in the work. I can work like a dog my entire life and maybe end up where some of the more fortunate people start off. That will be my success.

    I have allowed myself to let go of needing to make a noticeable change in the world. There’s not much use of me doing that when I can’t even be the wife and mother my husband and daughter need. Success starts within me, then within the home. That’s all I’ve got my eye on right now. I’m happy with that; and pleased to finally be getting my priorities straight.

    I was considered an overachiever at school up until I broke down and was subsequently institutionalised and heavily medicated as a 15 year old. Being deemed an overachiever was also isolating in my experience – so I have empathy for people who may struggle with that ‘label’.

    Best wishes Paula 🙂 Best wishes all 🙂
    I enjoy reading each of the comments here.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was actually more of an overachiever in school, in my gifted and traditional classes -usually teacher’s pet. There was also a home dynamic at play where I needed to please authority figures in place of actual acceptance/unconditional love. That realization later in life has made me suspicious of any interests or drive to achieve even though I am constantly curious and drawn in different directions. Even with my system improvements, team building efforts and exceptional customer service devotion I essentially failed to thrive in offices. All my ideas to revitalize the workplace were beyond my job description and seen as overstepping. Honestly I didn’t want to enforce management policies I disagreed with or take responsibility for anyone but myself, and was only in those low level positions because rent needed to be paid. I squirreled away enough paychecks to take time off traditional work and attempt an internship long past college as well as some volunteer work in the arts. I don’t take much pride in graduating summa cum laude or hoardes of A’s because I can’t remember 90% of what I learned after being so pressured by exams to recall minutiae. A series of head traumas may play into my inability to retain information but it doesn’t stop me from learning everything I can and accumulating piles of disorganized notebooks as I flit from topic to topic. For all my curiosity and drive I have no direction, I can’t tell passion from pressure to prove my ability or worth, I can’t even get a handle on my own MBTI or enneagram type despite tons of research into the theory and many other interest/strength inventories. Everything seems ambiguous and I can’t seem to take credit for possible strengths but logically shoulder obvious weaknesses. My low self esteem is compounded by my previous academic achievement and the general expectation that I would excel at work. I should be encouraged by the possibility of being a Scanner or Multipotentialite in this startup social media freelance world of ours, but I feel terribly unimaginative and unsuccessful compared to my supposed peers. I grasp most concepts quickly and alternate between digging deep for an answer or connection or just getting bored and moving on. This is complicated by feeling I should do something to better the world, not indulge my creative potential especially when its possible I have no original artistic ability. I could possibly deal with feeling unsuccessful if I at least felt I knew who I was or where I belonged or even what genuinely made me happy so my life felt meaningful. I feel disconnected and overwhelmed by most people and have even started to doubt my basic social skills and altruism. Other than buckets of tears I sometimes doubt how human I am, instead of just a cog in a machine that doesn’t work anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You sound very much like a rainforest-minded human to me, honey34567. I wonder if it would help to look for a counselor who understands giftedness to help you sort it all out? Here’s a list of therapists in the US and around the world. (link to Lisa Conrad’s blog post) It’s a place to start:
      https://rainforestmind.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/how-to-find-a-psychotherapist-who-loves-your-rainforest-mind/

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Paula, I read all the posts on your blog today and resonated strongly with most of them. I have already scanned all the therapy blogs that you/your posted resources recommended and sadly none of the others provide a gifted adult targeted blog like yours. I have yet to find a counselor in the tri-state area (PA) who handles gifted adults (not just school chidlren) and accepts insurance.

        I had a psychodynamic therapist last year who validated me, but he didn’t specialize in gifted per se. I never had such a genuinely empathetic counselor, but I transferred my parent-pleasing dynamic to our sessions and needed him to challenge (not praise) my intellectualizations and facilitate more insights. He was a vast improvement over the counselor who suggested I may need hospitalization (and mixed up what was discussed in my sessions) or the psychiatrist that only pushed unnecessary meds that were making me sick. I don’t need CBT or textbook answers but someone who senses patterns and threads in my unique experience to know what questions to ask to make sense of the past and present. I also need genuine help in figuring out what my actual strengths/talents are and how I can leverage them to support myself and maybe make the world a little better.

        (I’ve already tried Clifton StrengthsFinder, Pathfinder, What Color is Your Umbrella, MAPP, Strong Interest Inventory, MBTI, cognitive functions – as well as 100’s of self help books & sites including Barbara Sher)

        Liked by 2 people

        • Have you come across Gail Post, psychologist? Are you near Jenkintown, PA? Her blog is http://www.giftedchallenges.blogspot.com. She sees adults and teens. Another idea would be to continue to see the man you liked and give him feedback about what you need from him. (challenge versus praise) Maybe he’d be willing to read about giftedness?? Thanks for being here and for sharing your experiences.

          Like

          • I live very close to Jenkintown but I am unable to afford any treatment outside of my insurance plan. I’ve read the blog but found more on gifted children of school age than for adult issues, though I appreciate there is some overlap in experience.

            Your blog is the only one I’ve found that posts new content exclusively for gifted adults though there have been a few with helpful info – usually geared toward “sensitive” or creative adults, scanners, multipotentials, etc. Not all gifted adults identify as creative or introverted, etc but I tried below to provide a variety of sources. While not all gifted adults struggle with depression and anxiety, those who do may find some solace in the following after or during regular counseling for ongoing support.

            *Lynne Azpeitia MFT actually can counsel/coach over Skype if your readers can afford it: gifted-adults.com/

            *For Scanners/multipotential types, Barbara Sher has started a new FB group & twitter account to support her book Refuse to Choose.. Margaret Lobenstine wrote a similar book The Renaissance Soul and Emilie Wapnick runs puttylike.com

            *Jessica Thayer’s site hasn’t been updated since 2012 but has some thoughtful information, much of which overlaps with HSP & Introversion: architectureofmeaning.com/reading-resources/gifted-adult-resources/

            *Douglas Eby maintains talentdevelop.com/tag/giftedness/ … highability.org/ & highlysensitive.org/

            *Eric Maisel has written MANY books on creatives and some that touch on the gifted issue of existential depression (struggling with anxiety/meaninglessness) such as Van Gogh Blues (which focuses on defining personal meaning and making that a priority)

            *For depression/anxiety mindfulness techniques promoted by DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy – originally developed to help borderline personality but issues of invalidation & emotional reasoning may resonate with gifted adults) and ACT (acceptance & commitment) can bring a new perspective & peace – for self help and a kind voice the New Harbinger publishing house has a great variety of books

            *Can look into ayurvedic healing of emotional distress (The Chemistry of Joy – Henry Emmons) which can overlap with nutritional therapy (food’s effect on mood, energy, physical & mental functioning) – Supplementing with a simple 5000 IU Vitamin D on the advice of my doc & nutritionist actually reduced my seasonal depression & curbed my suicidal ideation.

            *If your gifted readers are 2e/twice exceptional with ADHD, Daniel Amen has identified multiple types of ADD and possible symptoms/ nutritional support that overlap with other common psychiatric diagnoses like OCD, anxiety & bipolar. Not all ADD women and gifted and not all gifted women have ADD but ADD in women in less often diagnosed because it often lacks obvious hyperactivity. Dr. Amen also specializes in traumatic brain injury (post-concussion syndrome)

            *Gifted adults that are currently struggling with anxiety/depression may find the scientific basis of neurochemicals (such as serotonin & dopamine) eye opening: http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/59029/happy-chemicals.pdf

            *Not all gifted adults are introverts but many are “Intuitive” (N) types in Jungian psychology while the general population tends toward “Sensors” (S) and can cause communication breakdown & further feelings of being misunderstood / unappreciated. Many sites online have gross misinformation but possible place to start (if you don’t want to read the books on theory which is constantly being revised) are personalityhacker.com and personalityjunkie.com (ignore the trite names, they’re actually fairly well researched). Books that are light on theory & have solid profiles are Donna Dunning’s What’s Your Type of Career, and Paul Tieger’s Do What You Are. If your readers are in high school or college they may be able to get the official test administered for free, and non-students can often get it at a reduced rate at a local community college. Type isn’t destiny but helps appreciate yourself and differences in style between people.

            *It isn’t gifted specific but I have found inspiration and comfort from reading SARK’s books (free-spirited abuse survivor) and Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star (was instrumental in my ability to stop antidepressants) & Steering By Starlight.

            This just scratches the surface of the 100’s of print & online sources I’ve consulted on self-help, creativity, career, sensitivity, health etc in the last 5 years but I think the above may help the gifted population seeking therapy for emotional distress or vocational guidance.

            Unfortunately the therapist I saw retired last year since he was in his 70’s and needed a break.

            I had also found http://www.centerforthegifted.org/ in Philly a few years back but was informed that they no longer offer regular psychotherapy / career counseling and private sessions would run $125 or more an hour. The founder was kind enough to speak with me briefly on the phone and recommend CPP’s Strong Interest Inventory that I followed up on with my college’s career services office.

            Thank you for your suggestions and ongoing replies.

            Liked by 3 people

  6. I only recently have really started to feel like I’m getting on track with some of my talents in my career. Still, I know I am underachieving compared to what I theoretically “could” have done. I was the overachiever. A seriously bad case. And I rebelled. To be honest, I still rebel, in the form of self employment. But it’s the first time I feel like I am running to something great instead of away from it…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. So, I sadly have always struggled with Imposter’s, so I feel like I can’t achieve greatness. Then there’s the second issue of having so many things I want to do and love to do, and not having the resources to do the Example: I designed a homeschool curriculum for high school so that I can finish in 1 1/12 years instead of 4. Then, I want to go to college for Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies, Theatre, and Clinical Psychology. Then I want to get Master’s in Theatre and Psych, then a PhD in Psych. I’m trying to figure out a way to afford it, because I know I can easily handle it, but I still don’t know how to get the stupid money.

    It would be so much easier to go somewhere cheaper, but I don’t know where else I want to go. I’d hate going to Harvard, even though it’s so close to home, and the environment isn’t what I want.

    I want to go to Gordon College up in Wenham, MA. It’s great, and I’m desperate to go, but it’ll cost me so much money. Then grad school…

    *insert Lucy face here

    Sorry, had to make an I love Lucy reference.

    But the problem is, I’m even more stressed about failing than I am about money.
    URG.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stress about failure. Hm. I think I need to write about that. You can actually do something about that whereas college costs are hard to do anything about. Post about failure: coming soon.

      Like

  8. I had no idea I was “gifted” until it was suggested by a therapist when I was nearly 60. I was an achiever in school, but home was terrible and school was affirming, so duh. Of course I liked it when people liked me as a kid.

    As an adult I have never fit in. I can edge myself in, do tons of service so people like that, but as for me, personally, I didn’t get that sense. We *know* how it feels when we are accepted unconditionally. My husband lets me know that. 🙂

    All this would not be enough to be a rain forest mind. There has to actually be the facet of being gifted too. I thought I was all the above without the gift. As you might guess, self-loathing came easily.

    After a period of severe pain this winter, a lot has changed for me. A lot that does not work for me has simply fallen away. I still do things in a random order and yet they all get done. There’s a little bit of Creative Thinker there. 🙂

    The ability to listen and to respond rapidly with something that makes sense is part of the giftedness, I find for me.

    A new piece that I am loving is that I seem to be extending this to more than humanity. I am finding moments of bliss in the awareness of new spring life emerging, in Little Brother hummingbird when he comes to feed of the nectar I make for him and his partner, in the rainbow one day and the hill covered in daffodils the next.

    Where did this come from?

    I think it’s a previously uncovered (by me) aspect of the gift. The attention that I am no longer choosing to pay to the human race is channeled into the mineral and vegetable and animal kingdoms. And perhaps into the angelic and mystery, if you will, as perceived in the animal, vegetable and mineral worlds.

    Okay so by now you think I’m nuts. That’s okay. I’m over here looking out the window at this amazing little hummingbird, finding such joy in him. . . LOL

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reminding me to refocus on the natural world for balance and peace. You’re not crazy at all. I draw comfort from these things too. They reassure us that no matter what happens, the universe will find a way to make it right.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Not nuts, telperion1214. Gifted. So important to find joy and to connect deeply to nature.

      Like

    • Not nuts at all. I love what you wrote here – it felt like, in a sense, we are able to share in the beauty with you. What you wrote about not fitting in tugged at my heart. Very relatable. I notice other women together (oh how I’ve always longed for female friendships!) and they seem to genuinely like each other, on a fundamental level. As far as I’m aware, no woman has ever liked me that way. They can like the effort I put in for a cause, a talent, or they can have intent to ‘save my soul’ (grrrr)… but no woman has understood me as a person, and liked that person. Perhaps I’m too aloof. Perhaps the other women like me are aloof as well; so we’re all sitting around dreaming of what we want but are unable to break through the barrier and reach it.
      More recently, as I’ve started figuring out who I am, loosening up my prejudices, and showing more of my true nature to people, I’m experiencing a positive response; which I feel compelled to run and hide from.

      Enjoy your animal and plant friends, Telperion. You might like some of the cartoons of Michael Leunig 🙂 He ‘gets it’.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I appreciate reading all you’ve said. This is my first time writing. I grew up as a high achiever and have a have two advanced dehrees. (jd, mba)I too have had trouble keeping up w female relationships bec I have always pursued education towards the perfect job that will be intersting, rewarding, meaningful and then I’d concentrate on the rest of my life. I’m nearing 50 and finally want to “be” w my family, but need a job too. I’m working in a dead end job writing but not much appreciated. Am now pursuing teaching. Took one course and trying to get a teaching asst job to be sure I really want it – slower more deliberate approach. I feel genuinely interested in class, and have exp wy own kids that made me more patient and validating. I fear I won’t be good at it, it will be boring, and then the feeling of failure will be even worse. I’m in DBT which seems more effective than dynamic therapy in past, and working w good psych on new effective Med regime. However worry about finding fulfillment and job still anxiety provoking. I’m adapting to myself slowly being forced to – it’s been a tough two years and a lifetime of trial and error. Just want to settle in roll w good and bad and feel comfortable w myself. When/how else to get there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds like your road has been complex, like all good rainforest minds! So hard to balance job, family, and self-awareness-acceptance. Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth. I’m sure others will relate.

      Like

  10. Pingback: To Achieve Or Not To Achieve — That Is The Question | Your Rainforest Mind

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