Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Time To Embrace Your Geekly Bookwormish Not-Normal Self

68 Comments

photo courtesy Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash

You just want to be normal.

But do you really?

Sure, you have trouble in relationships. Your intensity is misinterpreted as arrogance or criticism or drama. Your emotions overwhelm you and the people you love. Your only friend is really tired of hearing your perturbations about string theory. You’re frustrated by what you experience as mediocrity or superficiality. Your empathy gives you migraines.

Sure, you wonder why happiness, contentment and simplicity seem out of reach.  Your multidimensional worries keep you up nights. Your highest standards and speedy thought processes create anxiety at your job. Your fears that you’ll screw up your children forever turn you into a shrieking maniac, not unlike your mother. On your good days.

Sure, you feel like a failure because you haven’t achieved “greatness,” just like everyone expected since you were six, when your favorite book was the dictionary which you slept with every night without fail.

But what is normal and why is it so appealing?

Here’s what I tell my clients (with apologies to normal people):

You will never be normal. Let go of normal. Normal is watching The Bachelorette on TV. Normal is thinking one thought at a time. Normal is reading one book at a time. Normal is reading one book a month. Normal is asking one question a day. Normal is going along with the crowd. Normal is having one career your whole life. Normal is accepting the status quo. Normal is certainty that you know all of the answers. Normal is becoming prom king/queen.

See?

Time to rethink your desire for normal.

And, well, OK.

Maybe someday you can still be prom king/queen.

___________________________

To my dearest bloggEEs: Have you ever wished that you could be normal? Tell us about it.

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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.

68 thoughts on “Time To Embrace Your Geekly Bookwormish Not-Normal Self

  1. Oh, this makes my heart SING, Paula! Like you’re saying the words I need to hear? ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep. Ditch “normal.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great description of normal! Somehow it seems so odd the way you describe it! Very affirming for those who are gifted.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Paula.
    Thanks for sharing another wonderful and affirmative post. This is music to my years as it is so so true and it is so all about what I am trying to do lately. It is not easy and the kick backs are rough but I am determined. Talking to my imaginary friend, a stuffed rabbit and getting geeky with my favourite children’s book are helping me get there.
    https://wordpress.com/post/thewrongart.wordpress.com/159

    Thanks and big love from Dublin, Ireland.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sending love back to Dublin, Suzie. Thank you for being here!!

      Like

    • Ah, my children love this side of me, I enjoy reading their books and creating stories on the go, [they wanted me to turn them into books – but, somehow, the formality of writing changes them!] I get to semi play with them sometimes too, but take lots of pleasure from watching them. My youngest [3yrs] often surprises me with her insights and the way her mind works. Another gifted? Sometimes she may be wrong, but her reasoning to get the wrong answer makes sense [a scratch on a cd forcing it to stop part way through – mummy it must be having a powercut!] =) Kickbacks can be rough, but since coming here and realising I’m not wrong just because I’m not the same, has been empowering – i even made my husband read rainforest mind, and remind him, when needed, that there is no need to cut the rainforest down.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you ummyaqub! I know what you mean by” the formality of writing changes them..” Your youngest sounds delightful and so smart. Yes this site is very encouraging and it is so nice to have an exchange about such things with another rainforest mind. X

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I had an interesting prom queen experience in 1986. The irony is that I think I was prom queen because I chose a dress that was a length and color that were not so typical for the time….but they were what made going to prom feel like a more authentic experience for me. When it was announced that I was prom queen I actually was mortified. It was very silly and surreal. So I consider myself to have been a Reluctant Prom Queen. Those situations are just not healthy for anyone present.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I am often disappointed in myself for not doing something “great” with my life because I’m gifted and so much was expected of me as a child. I’m still waiting to find that special something I want to do that’ll end with me being great at it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The pressure to be “great” is very real. It might be helpful to redefine what greatness actually is! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tracy.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ditto! But, what is worse, is when others also feel the same away about my lack of turning gifted into successful [generally in terms of earning money, career etc… ] I think this is the place to learn you aren’t automatically a ‘disappointment’ based upon what you didn’t do, there are many people who aren’t seen that way, and they do less. I do not thrive under stress, I can do extremely well without pressure or expectation, but kinda shut down, if an expectation is placed upon me. I don’t even really know why… =/

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think many of us get anxious under pressure and shut down, Lisa. It may depend on someone’s personality if they work well under stress, say, in a hospital emergency room. (high stress!!) It could be that highly sensitive people are less capable when things are chaotic or there’s pressure to perform. Maybe they’re less competitive??

        Liked by 1 person

        • It is strange, but yes, I think pressure to perform equates with the possibility of letting others down, which i hate to do. I have spent time working in high stress positions, and carried on at ‘peak’ until I got ill. [Thyroid], because to survive at that intense level means serious neglect [for me] of self.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, the only thing you missed was friends thinking everything you say is a competition. I think that was a huge stumble for me for years (probably still, but I really do try to avoid any semblance of it). I’d try to relate and they’d take it as competition or trying to one-up them, when all I wanted was to connect and commiserate.

    I miss having someone to discuss unlikely engineering projects and string theory. Did you see the cool news about non-photon quantum communication out of China?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I missed that one, KtCallista. Thanks for sharing it. Can’t say that I’ve seen the cool news but maybe another reader will chime in about it…

      Like

    • I run a mile when I find myself in that situation. I struggle with any group gathering, but pushed myself to join a ladies group [muslim sisters, looking for ideas – that often they didn’t really want to change into actions – so, coffee mornings [not my thing really] ] but anyway, I’d been going for a few weeks and we had [what I thought] was a discussion and pooling of ideas.

      I love ideas and I guess that makes me a bit passionate and excited. The lady who had created the group though said at one point, “Lisa, perhaps you would like to lead?’ I just looked at her and said no, I like that you do. I sensed immediately a sense of jealousy and anger and didn’t say anything else, just smiled politely and felt really embarrassed.

      A friend sitting next to me told me not to be silly, my ideas were good and everyone was listening, but I couldn’t. Anyway, to cut a short story short. I went through to the kitchen to help make drinks, and found the ‘leader in a huddle with 3 other women and they were talking about “big headed… and what a know it all…, thinks its her group…” comments… until they saw me and stopped and scattered to cupboards and the kitchen sink. I really do not know how I didn’t burst into tears. I don’t know what was more painful. Feeling like I’d returned to school, or feeling so misunderstood, or having been silly enough to think I might actually just be accepted and understood for being me. It is awful when people project what they think as your reality.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m so sorry, Lisa, that you and KtCallista and so many other rainforest minds go through this. It’s one of the reasons I provide the forum here, so that you can all feel accepted, understood and loved!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you! *hug. Coming here is like sakinah [a kind of calm and reassurance] in the heart ❤

          Liked by 2 people

          • What you faced in that ladies’ group has been an experience I’ve had far too often. You offer your contribution and ideas selflessly and for the edification of others, but perhaps you exceed the “talk quota” (do people really have an app for counting the percentage of time people talk?) and people think you want to monopolize the conversation, and you’re labeled a know-it-all.
            I had a very similar experience, and it was specially painful because it was in a Bible class environment. I’d never have expected to come up against such hostility in that kind of place. Well, I was so thrilled with the new people I’d met, and sometimes enthusiasm makes me exceed the talk quota. 😉 There was a certain female who started looking at me hatefully, and when I asked her what I’d done wrong, she told me everything you overheard these ladies saying. I tried to show her in successive encounters she was wrong, but she never changed her initial first impression. So be it. 😦
            It’s painful to be misunderstood, but in the end, it’s these people who choose to be envious and bitter. We don’t have to accept their “gift” of negativity. We can just accept ourselves as who we are, and hang out with people who may not understand us fully, but at least respect us and show basic human caring. I’ve stopped begging acceptance and love. The people who just won’t like me? Well, I can just let them go.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Makes sense, Carina, that you “just let them go.” Thank you for sharing this example.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I really like your safeguard, mine sadly is to pretty much stay at home. =) More so now as well with current affairs etc… I struggle to not speak if it is something I’m passionate about so, it just seems safer to not risk it. Even teh friends I have found in this area have a certain expectation and limitation of me really, and I found that my role is generally to give, but seem to not have the worth to receive. =)

              Don’t get me wrong, I do love to give, that comes naturally, but, I have found that it is not easy for me to ask for anything, and on the rare occasions I have, the door has been so politely, closed…I find that strange, but perhaps that is more ‘normal’?

              Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t really wish I could be “normal.” I do often wish I could fit in better. I wish I could stop seeing that look that makes me inwardly cringe and think: dang it, they’ve seen too much too soon. But I certainly don’t ever want to be what I’m not. I love being me (usually).

    Liked by 5 people

    • Many of us have seen that look, Stephanie. You’re in good company!! Thanks for letting us know your experience.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Oh! I really relate to that feeling. Sometimes I feel exhilarated that I’ve been able to share something of myself, but also uncomfortable for having done so. I find there’s a fine line between these two feelings. Sometimes they even overlap. But it can also skew pretty far into the discomfort, if that look is too pronounced, or around someone I can’t just never see again.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Paula I’ve just started my PhD (looking at Gifted Adults!! -Psychology) and am spending all of my hours being bookish for the first time in 25 years. Heaven. This was a very timely and validating post, thank you.
    Maggie

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Normal is a setting on the clothes drier, that’s what my parents always told me growing up. I’m a very white, tall, American person in a Latin American culture. Normal? No. But I’m fine with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. How eerie — just this morning, in an online group I’m in, we were talking about watching movies or shows while exercising, and I asked for a recommendation — and was told The Bachelorette. No offense to her, but I’m not at all interested! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just yesterday I was having a conversation with some colleagues, and one was asking for recommendations of any good shows on TV. I blurted out that I don’t have a TV.* She laughed and said, well, right, but streaming. I said, uh, I don’t have any streaming services either. And (as I tried to convey with friendliness to her as well) I really mean no judgment of anyone who DOES enjoy TV! I swear I don’t! I just prefer reading or writing.

      So the two women I was talking to just said, “Really? You don’t have a streaming service? What do you do with your time?”

      And this after I took a week off work just to get to do all the things I wanted to do with my time, and it still wasn’t nearly enough.

      This is when I really get that I’m not this thing they call “normal.” But I had a delightful week on my creativity staycation!

      *I do technically own a television set and it has the modern digital rabbit ears, but I only ever turn it on to check weather reports or watch the connected DVD player, once in a long while.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I like listening to lectures =)

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My teenage daughter wears a T-shirt that reads “Normal people scare me”. How many of you readers are now smiling?

    Liked by 5 people

  13. I can totally relate with this post and the comments. This has been one of my struggles. Trying so hard to be part of a group, and at the same time maintaining and expressing my unique self. I remember when I was 11, we had as a school assignment the short novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull. This story so captured what I felt at that time as a misunderstood, bullied and troubled girl, and it encouraged me to be true to myself even if my interests were not popular at all. Most seagulls only cared about getting their food and chit-chatting. I wanted to soar high. I wanted greatness. I wanted a sense of destiny and purpose, though of course my definition of success at that time was more about ultimately proving the bullies wrong by becoming rich and famous. 😉

    Fast forward almost 30 years. Still want to soar, but I’m a bit afraid of heights. I’ve changed my priorities. My definition of greatness now is, “I want to do whatever I came to this world for. And I want to enjoy the process while I get there. I want to grow every day towards that greatness in courage, love, compassion and fulfilment.” May we all get to be our best, more authentic selves.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. There.is.no.normal.

    Seriously. No such thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I loved this post! I didn’t even go to my high school prom because high school felt so alienating…but I did get to be the queen of my fifth grade gifted program Renaissance Festival!

    Last weekend, I was at a wedding of a friend of my partner’s from his high school days. He was in a high school magnet program. The wedding was loads of fun because pretty much everyone there was quirky and nerdy. Normal is, by definition, relative…so it was really amazing to find some place where we were the norm, or at least are not quite as far from it. I originally thought that my relationship with my shnoo couldn’t possibly work out because he liked high school, so how similar could we be? Little did I know that his school experience was something quite different. He’s missed it ever since, whereas I just never knew what it was like to have that kind of group, so I don’t miss it.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Normal is linear thinking. So is narrative. That’s why we can talk about a story line where everything is laid out sequentially. I’m not normal.

    When I first heard about hyperlinks (now just “links”) I thought, “Well, yeah. Isn’t that how everyone thinks?” My multiple thought threads are like the lines on a soccer ball. It’s like the choose your own adventure books with all the choices active or Schrodinger’s cat with kittens.

    My superpower is to make heads explode. (I use it wisely.)

    Liked by 2 people

  17. thank you, thank you thank you! Paula, my heart has felt broken all week, my thoughts cascading and connecting all the tragedies the world over, thank you for reminding me, it is really okay to be ‘me’ and not conform to what others expect me to be. I feel okay to grieve for those who suffer soo much injustice. I would not feel okay, sitting with the unjust though. I wouldn’t feel content to sit and accept that is the way it has to/is meant to be. *hug

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Its posts like these that make me remember why I do the work that I do and why it is so important for us to have safe spaces such as these to feel heard and understood for the gifted community. Thank you Paula – this was one my favorite of all of your posts and it touched me deeply.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. My partner bought me a t-shirt that says “I tried to be normal once – worst two minutes of my life!” I wear it proudly 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  20. This is what I needed, just when I was feeling frustrated by my constant need to “chameleon” in to different hobbies as they become appealing to me. Yes, I can be a cosplayer and a beauty queen, a bookworm and a mega volunteer. I can be what other see as “too much” and it is okay because it isnt too much for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. The pursuit of normal is the deep need to feel connected and belong to the world that you feel so deeply for, the world that never quite embraces your intensity, wonder, bookishness, or gets your million miles a minute thought process. My “friends” are often telling me how weird I am. It would be easier to be normal- but life would be less vibrant. I dream in technicolor and so do my children. Thanks for giving encouragement and permission to the nonconformist rainforest minds of the world.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Yeah! I have desperately wished to be normal and to fit in. At 36 years old I’ve only just figured out that growing up in a family where I was not wanted, fostered the behavioural pattern that I go wherever I do not fit (and hurt about it the entire time). It never occured to me before now that if I were to quit trying to fit in where I don’t belong I might honestly, truly, be able to look elsewhere and find someplace I *do* belong. And that place might not at all look like what I’d have anticipated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Ro!! So true. Our childhood experiences set us up to repeat those early patterns. It’s a big aha when we realize that we can make different choices. It’s not easy to make the changes, though. If there’s a lot of past trauma/abuse, it can take some good therapy over time to really shift things. So be gentle with yourself. But absolutely! Look for those places where you do belong. Like right here!!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Thanks for this post. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not, never have been, and never will be normal. I feel so much more at peace and able to help my kids navigate social situations. I bought a wooden plaque for our mud room that says: Remember, as far as anyone knows we are a nice normal family. People think it’s a joke, and that’s good and as it should be! But for me it’s a reminder that it’s ok not to be normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. It’s hard to deal with over-thinking everything, but learning to control your emotions definitely helps with the anxiety.

    Liked by 1 person

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