Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

How Can I Be Authentic When I Overwhelm Everyone?


photo courtesy Brian Mann, Unsplash


You want it. You need it. You gotta have it.

But what does authenticity mean when you have a rainforest mind? When you have so many monkeys swinging from your branches? When your terrain is so lively, emotional and intense?

How do you live authentically in all of your jungle glory and not overwhelm the humans more used to the meadow life? How do you live authentically when you’re made up of layers upon layers that you haven’t even uncovered yourself?

It’s complicated.

Authenticity for the rainforest-minded does NOT mean that you have to show all of who you are all of the time. Instead, it means being real and true to yourself.

I get that you want to be totally direct, sincere and clear. All of the time. Everywhere.

Am I right?

And yet. If you’re around chainsaw humans, particularly if they’re family members, it’s authentic to protect yourself. This may mean that you limit your time with them or that you only share small bits of yourself. If you’re around humans who get overwhelmed by your intensity and intellect, you may need to slow your pace and select activities that allow for less talk and more action. You may need to switch from fire hose to garden hose.

And if you’re being strategic in your relationships as a way to improve your experiences with others or as a way to cope with difficult people, you’re being authentic. (By strategic I mean thinking carefully about how you interact. This is not being manipulative, in case you’re wondering. It’s being analytical and sensitive.) You can be both sincere and strategic at the same time. You are consciously making the most compassionate choice in the moment.

Make sense?

If this news is discouraging, I understand. Find other gifted humans with whom you can be your deep, sensitive, complicated self. I’ve written about where to find them on other posts. Remember the silent reading party? There are ways to find others who live in the rain forest. You can also express your authenticity, for example, through an art form, in your garden, raising children, in your house remodel, or on your blog. Or on my blog.

But, honey, as long as you’re being real and true to yourself, your authenticity is intact.

Trust me on this. Your monkeys will thank you.


To my bloggEEs: What does authenticity mean to you? How are you authentic in relationships and with yourself? Do you agree with the idea that you need to be strategic some of the time? Your comments deepen everyone’s experience of my blog. Thank you for reading and contributing.

You may not hear from me as often over the next few weeks. I’m preparing my talk for the SENG conference in Chicago, USA, in August. If you get there, please find me and introduce yourself.







Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist and consultant 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 rainforest to describe this population. Like the rainforest, 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 first 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. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists, was released in June 2019.

56 thoughts on “How Can I Be Authentic When I Overwhelm Everyone?

  1. Reblogged this on helenjnoble and commented:
    Love this post!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wonderful post. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Another timely, super relevant and validating post . Thanks Paula.
    I am coping with recovery from complex ptsd and dissociate all too readily and have had to learn to be strategic in nearly all of my interactions with folk esp family members. I have found it helps a lot in terms of keeping me safe because I have very little chance of being authentic if I am not feeling safe. The trick and the tricky partner me is remembering that order. Authenticity is my primary aim but it gets me into scrapes when I do not apply due caution. As with all great learning practice patience and self compassion are mandatory. Terrific advice and I feel less alone for reading it!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Whew! Your insight is transcendent.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Paula,Loved the latest blog, GREAT WORK!I have been sitting on the following idea for you for at least a few months now… since you are currently trending on RFM’s to get out and meet other RFM’s… I wonder if you have realized how counter-RFM this is? Even though it is EXACTLY what is needed the most …So, here’s the idea… extend your site as an “Online Meetup” for RFM’s.Now obviously it could be said that other Social sites are available and why re-invent the wheel… I think the KEY factor here is that as your following increases, you are drawing the RFM’s to you… and as a result, I think the RFM’s could benefit by interacting with one another…I could probably write 10 pages at this point on how such a site should work … but the KEY element is the ability to allow RFM’s TO SEARCH FOR “like-minded” RFM’s… (there is no service currently like this). Of course it  would require each RFM to answer KEY questions that would otherwise identify what they are/are looking for when they create their “Profile”. So, the “Singles Site” model works for this…I think you could then extend this functionality to be able to MONETIZE it (you are in Practice, right?) to create PRIVATE CLINICS (for pay…) where groups of RFM’s could congregate for specific help under a unified topic (the extended therapy behind your blogging) and then maybe further into a one-on-one counseling (thru this interface).The power to use the SEARCH mechanism is prompted by my own difficulty with finding “like-minded” RFM’s (without sounding negative or judgemental here…) I find that I have the most interesting conversations with individuals I otherwise don’t wish to associate with… (let me explain) typically, the RFM’s in my area are tattoo’d, anarchists, who are either Buddhist, Agnostic, or Atheist… nothing against these RFM’s, great conversations, nice people … but, when they find out I am a Christian… it’s like the whole RFM goes out the window and they begin acting like “Chainsaws” with me…So, being an INTJ (2% of the population) with Christian beliefs… I assume I occur less than 0.01%.Even though, “… love does not seek it’s own” … there is certainly a delight in finding like-mindedness… of which you are well aware.So, of any RFM, I assume this model applies to the same degree in their specific area… having an ability to search particulars, correspond/communicate with “found” individuals… I envision this as a “next step” in the evolution of your site that may bring-together MUCH of what you are trying to accomplish.And as mentioned, I see the avenue for you to create “on-line help groups/clinics” where you moderate (for a fee…) Technologically, there are many WEBINAR Services that will easily integrate with WordPress – and there are business conference BRIDGES with toll-free capability so that everyone hears everyone…) So, just as the internet is redefining the typical “brick and mortar” store for purchasing household items… your webinars extend your Practice … which would feed your “in-person” appearances (I assume).Anyway… just an idea. I will offer my I.T. knowledge to you at no cost to you if you would like to further discuss. This is easier to setup than you think.Chuck

    Liked by 4 people

    • Maybe Christ himself is the ultimate RFM, beyond all imagination, ideas and thoughts of all the world’s RFM’s put together?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Eek. Chuck. This sounds a bit beyond what I’m here for… have you looked at They have a very active Facebook group where people are interacting quite a lot and possibly learning about each other. Occasionally someone will say where they live and ask if there is anyone living in their area to meet up. Jen is organizing meet-ups for folks in Switzerland. I love the idea of having a way for RFMs to connect but don’t think I’m the one to do it. I’d be happy to talk more about it, though, if you want to email me. paula at rainforestmind dot com. And I still think starting a silent reading party could attract RFMs and it wouldn’t take too much work…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Chuck!
      If you need fellowship with another RFM who is also a Christian, here I am. You can write to me at I used to be a bit of a chainsaw but by the grace of God I’m quite improved. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 3 people

  6. You’re using creative words and I really like them! ‘Chainsaws’ … yep, those would be my siblings. It certainly requires a LOT of finesse and practice to reach a fully-developed strategy when dealing with these kinds of people. That’s where the challenge has been for me for so many years… my automatic response was to become very angry with my siblings, and spiral downward into an awful negative place…feeling invisible, totally frustrated, empty, alone alone alone.

    But during this past year as I’ve delved into reading Gifted literature and connecting to professionals like yourself, I am developing new ‘interpersonal muscles’ which is giving me the ability to detach from my old response and remain more in a neutral emotional space. It’s actually been amazing because this is giving me such a different perspective while I’m interacting with the Chainsaw siblings.

    Thanks Paula!

    Liked by 3 people

    • That sounds great, Beth. It’s so hard to stay neutral with family members where there’s difficult history. It can take good therapy to process the past if there’s trauma. Sounds like you’ve found good practitioners and that you’re understanding your giftedness. I appreciate hearing from you.


  7. My parents are usually my “chainsaws”. Do you know what they say to me when I’m being authentic or simply being myself? “Don’t do that! It makes you look crazy”, “Why do you act like that?”, “Don’t think too much. It’ll drive you crazy!”. My own parents thinks I’m weird! I have told then that I may be gifted due to the fact that the things that catch most people’s attention don’t really interests me that much. Do you know how they reacted to that? Well, they didn’t show a lot of enthusiam towards the possibility that their son is gifted.

    I became bitter as a result of not meeting my needs as a creative/gifted individual. They provided me clothings, shelter, food, etc., but they’ve failed to provide some things that would have allowed me to thrive as a person (I believe this is more important for people with unique physiological and psychological make-ups that distinguishes them from more average folks).

    Liked by 4 people

    • So sorry to hear about your “chainsaw parents,” Robert. If you’re new to my blog, you might want to read the posts about psychotherapy. You should be able to find them if you type in the search engine “psychotherapist” or counseling. Thank you for sharing with us.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Honestly I’m not capable of dealing with the chainsaws. I go quiet and passive around them IRL, and online they tend to unfollow/unfriend me after a while, or we just never talk.

    I didn’t have social problems much growing up in school, though. I just focused on other people and followed their lead. I also made up silly stories, and my friends loved my stories. πŸ™‚ But I don’t know, from what I’ve learned about humans after getting online, I think I grew up in a very bubbled and safe place, where people called me a genius and signed my yearbook “To the only person I know who’s smarter than me”, and it wasn’t a big deal and it didn’t threaten them. It was just who I was.

    Well, I think it threatened people on occasion, but never to the point where they attacked me like the online chainsaws have.

    The first time I noticed someone feeling threatened was third grade, and I immediately realized “If I act silly she won’t be threatened and she’ll be happy and friendly again”, and I don’t know, maybe that’s where the silly story strategy got started.

    I didn’t feel like I was wearing a mask really, though. I liked my silly stories too, and they were creative and funny. πŸ™‚ I knew I shouldn’t try to talk about the Holocaust to the other nine year olds (when I was nine I read every book the local library had on the Holocaust and as a result I had a bit of an existential crisis, which is part of why my mother signed me up for Big Brother/Big Sister that year, I think), but that was okay because I could still connect with my stories.

    But well…maybe I wasn’t really wearing a mask, but I was suppressing large parts of who I was. Which I think is why now, with the internet, I want to be who I am on here. Silly and serious, creative and analytic, etc. Which has resulted in a lot of rejection, but I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I am okay with the rejection. But I will admit that it’s been a lot easier to deal with the rejection since I found enough other rainforests in the Sims community to be totally myself with. And if I’d kept up with the suppression of parts of myself online, I would have never found them.

    Also it probably helps a lot that when I was 18 I met a very cute fellow rainforest person, snagged him, and will have been married to him for 15 years in a couple of months. πŸ™‚ I can be totally and completely myself with him, to the point where he’s combed my hair for me while I was using the bed pan in the hospital. I wish everyone could have that.

    You know what, though? Looking back…the silly stories definitely helped with snagging him. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Thanks, Ms. Prober! Yes—I’m currently seeing a therapist at the moment. I think it definitely helps me deal with my emotional issues as a result of not of not being properly nurtured by my parent and some other factors that may have contributed to them. However, it is also possible that I have what Dabrowski would call “emotional overexcitability”, and this may have amplified the negative effects of particular circumstances.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Rsinforest, meadow, tundra, steppe, savanna, coral reef, etc.

    When you consider the variety of biomes, it’s quite touching that people reach out and open up to others at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ahhhhh strategic relationships! Thanks for clarifying the difference between being strategic and manipulative; needed that distinction as I strategically plan my wedding with my double chainsaw wielding mother hovering with her need for control and adoration (cuz, you know, narcissism sucks. Eloping still sounds amazing.) I often find myself terrified that I am turning into manipulative her, with my strategies. My therapist assures me not, but thanks so much for the reaffirmation! Super helpful pointers on re-framing authenticity in my own head, too. Love practical things I can do!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’ve had clients bring up this question and wanted to find a way to explain how to be both authentic and keep yourself safe. I’m glad it was helpful. All the best with your wedding!


  12. It’s Amazon Prime day. Among other deals is a 23AndMe test kit at half price.

    Maybe I’ll find out I was swapped for another baby at the hospital. That’s my current working hypothesis given my family dynamics.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. My family expected a high degree of silent submission because chainsaws don’t like having their own stupidity and hypocrisy rubbed in their faces.

    For instance, after my third stint of homelessness without receiving so much as a text message to say “we’re thinking about you”, I stopped pretending like I didn’t notice that my family had stopped pretending to care. I stopped showing up to family functions, and nobody bothered to ask why.

    Several years later my brother sent me an email: “We should bury the hatchet.” it began. “But first, you need to change your attitude…”.

    Ah, and there it is. He didn’t want me back in his life, he merely wanted me to unburden him of his cognitive dissonance.
    My reply said as much.
    “Go f** yourself!” was his loving reply.

    “Thanks for reminding me of what I am not missing” I wrote back.
    (Go play with your chainsaw somewhere else.)

    Sometimes the only sane choice is the solitary one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe it’s tacky to write about my family like that. But in addition to my personal feelings, I do it because I am trying to understand this in context of the bigger picture.

      Should people who act like chainsaws be held accountable? Or do they act the way they do simply because their inability to understand someone unlike themselves makes them incapable of acting any other way in their own authentic fashion?

      Perhaps that distinction matters, especially now when people are so divided. Maybe not. I want to do the right thing but I’m so confused. Argh!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can relate, Mark. In my book you’re well within your rights to express your experience.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Ro!

        Here’s the thing about my family that is so hard to understand: they are relatively”normal” and have had few problems fitting into a fairly conservative local culture. Apparently their fears of not conforming are greater than any concerns thay have of not doing the right thing when it comes to helping other people…

        Since they were all so reluctant to come to my aid in my time of need, perhaps they can finally be of assistance by being some of the antagonists in my memoirs. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 2 people

  14. Just stopped by to say I loved this post. You seem to be able to articulate my thoughts and feelings so very precisely. Love, love, love your blog and the comments from your readers as well. This place is a place where I can feel safe to express more of me than around many people who’ve known me for years. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I have a question for you for, Paula. Do you believe that a stronger drive or motivation to learn is more common within the gifted population than those with average intelligence? There are times when I ask myself, “Why do I want to learn these things?”, “Am I truly being myself by wanting to learn these things, or am I merely deceiving myself?”. I can’t seem to stop having the desire to learn so many things—it torments me!

    Liked by 2 people

    • There’s an expression in the gifted literature about the “rage to master” that they say applies to many. I have to say that I see the LOVE of learning in pretty much all of the gifted folks I’ve known over the years. Not particularly a love of schooling in many cases but a HUGE appetite for learning. So, yep. It seems to be in the wiring…


      • I wholeheartedly agree with your response, Paula. It’s an unquenchable thirst. When you get to master one thing, you just have to seek another objective. One of my passions is learning languages and I’m working on my fourth one. And it’s not that I’m content having a decent level to scrape by if I ever need to use the new language. I don’t stop until listening to movies, reading unabridged books, etc. is so easy that it’s no longer a challenge. And though there’s always the chance that I might get to use the new knowledge at work (I’m a translator, so adding language pairs is definitely an advantage), if I have to be honest the reason I study languages is simply because I love to.
        Robert, I’d say you’re definitely being true to yourself if you feel an urge to learn things and you follow your gut instinct on this one. Just go for it! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Yes. I’m slowly, slowly learning how to interact strategically with everyone aside from my husband (we share the same weird). Being strategic makes me feel even more pointedly isolated, different; but I know it’s a more intelligent, self-respectful way to navigate the world. It sure would be nice to have a platonic friend though. I’ve yearned for one all my life. I notice how people hold me at arm’s length; and though shielding my true self from others does not get me any closer to them, at least I can feel some kind of control over what is a deeply painful experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Well-said, as always.

    There is a lot of confusion about authenticity/integrity and openness. I can be authentic around a bunch of fellow rain-forest minds who genuinely like and appreciate me, and I can be equally authentic around a bunch of dim-witted, armed, theocratic racists who pose a potential (and personal) existential threat. I will certainly have very different BEHAVIORS around these two groups, and in the latter, my authentic behavior will be to get out of Dodge City as quickly as I can while smiling and nodding agreeably just as much as I must to remain authentically (and effectively) invisible during my swift exit.

    Families and small groups of acquaintances (e.g. in school) tend to mix up these terms. If you aren’t “open” with them, they’ll call you “fake” or “inauthentic.” It’s important to know that they are seeking to “level” the power in the group. In a negative sense, they are trying to get dirt on each other, for leverage. In a positive sense, they are each looking for their own (authentic) place in the group. Either way, they need a degree of mutual openness to make it happen. So if you aren’t open, it disrupts the group dynamic, and they’ll try to shame you either into opening up, or leaving. If that doesn’t work — for instance, if the bond is familial — they’ll first try to shame you into conformity, and then they’ll eventually “black-sheep” you.

    What’s especially painful, I think, is when you make a mistake: you find a group where you think you’ll fit and want to open up, and discover as you do so that a) you really don’t fit with the group, and your presence disrupts the power balance, or b) you trigger someone in the group into a violent verbal (or even physical) attack. I had the latter occur only a month or so ago over on Intergifted, and it was traumatic enough that I haven’t been back. In fact, it contributed to my decision to take a long break from social media entirely, which I’ve found to be a little like giving up a mild addiction. I feel the pull, I reach for the Facebook “fix,” and then remember/rediscover that I’ve removed the links from my browser. I laugh a little ruefully, and go do something else.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love the way you describe this. Distinguishing between the behaviors. I’m so sorry that you had a recent bad experience. So glad you’re still with us!

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s likely to remain safer here, because you’re mediating the comments, Paula. If I started a vile name-calling rant against one of your other readers, I’m sure it would never appear on the site, and my victim would be spared the unpleasantness. I am likewise protected from such things. That’s what makes for a safe online space.

        Thank you. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

    • I used to be far more open and authentic with people until I discovered many people I originally trusted would use my openness and vulnerability against me behind my back, whether it be to use me as a source of gossip and social currency within the group, or as a way to get back at me for daring to not conform. The mob likes free spirits, but LOVES the thrill of tearing them down.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I do exactly the same thing (breaking from social media) Themon the Bard – and struggle with the addiction aspect. I’m very sorry to hear what happened in the online group. That kind of thing can be very disconcerting and upsetting. I left Mensa recently (no further comment about the situation). Sad, when you feel you ‘should’ fit somewhere, but don’t. How many places can a person not fit? Hopefully you will feel safe to return to the online group you left, if that is what you desire in future.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. The authentic self has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion (think challenging the Sunday School teacher on theology at 10). LOL There is definitely a strategy employed when salvaging the self without alienating friends. I have a whole novel (in my mind) which is the converse of the How to Make Friends and Influence People, it’s called How to Alienate Friends and Disaffect People (obviously, a dark comedy). I add a new chapter every time I run into the “too muchness,” “know-it-all,” “over-thinking,” “arrogant,” etc, of my authentic self in relationships. In all seriousness, I find that I sometimes overthink these strategies in favor of the other person’s ego to my own detriment; and so, I look forward to your upcoming blog post on “doing the right thing” so that it isn’t paralyzing or counterproductive. For me, I find that kindness is only achievable with some individuals through very limited interaction- or, even, ending those relationships altogether. Since most RFM’s have a strong urgency and desire to achieve social justice and a high aim for morality/ethical conduct these are often difficult waters to navigate. As always, thanks for the reassurance that our authentic selves are a valuable wonder.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Hi Im new here. I was roped in by the title and Im happy I slowed down enough to read the post. My background is a bit different from most of the comments, although I have experienced similiar problems with family, emotions and actions it was in a much different way. I will try not to make this post too long. I’ve kept my mouth shut for a long time. I decided to stop editing myself so much this past year when it comes to sharing my gifts to help myself and others. I am a 44yr old, fast paced, quick witted, self educated woman who was born and “raised” dirt poor on the wrong side of the tracks. The last grade I actually completed was 6th. By the age of 13 I was selling drugs, scamming department stores and was a felon. I spent most of my life feeling stupid and waiting to die. I lied about my age and got my first legal job at 14 met my of ex-husband of 9 years at 15(He was 24). At 24 became a single mother of 2 when I left him. I didn’t talk to people unless they talked to me first. Therapist didn’t want to believe the truth so I learned to tell pretty lies. For so long i just wanted to fit in somwhere. I did finally find my soulfooting have had much nontradional healing and learning along with formal. I just finished the first year and getting ready to begin the second of homeschooling my 12yr old 2e daughter. All of my children are Rain Forest and I am happy they got some of that from me. It’s a gift to be unique, different, and free. Enjoy who you are meant to be. As a child ut was a way of life as an adult we have a choice. My road is still bumby at times Im a life long learner. Integrity, authenticity and are with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Authentic is slightly different from being a “truthteller.” That is what drives me crazy…when there are social consequences for being a truthteller. I didn’t get why truth/honesty isn’t always welcome. Lots of pain around this one. Great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: Don’t Show How Smart You Are. Other Kids Will Feel Bad. | Your Rainforest Mind

  22. Pingback: Advice for Gifted Adults Living in a Not-So-Gifted World | Your Rainforest Mind

  23. Pingback: Living Your Authentic Life May Mean You Look Or Sound Or Feel A Little Weird | Your Rainforest Mind

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