Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Don’t Show How Smart You Are. Other Kids Will Feel Bad.

47 Comments

photo courtesy of Austin Schmid, Unsplash

Who do you think you are? Don’t ask so many questions. Stop showing off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Don’t steal my thunder. You think you’re so smart. Don’t show how much you know; the other kids will feel bad. 

Sound familiar?

If you have a rainforest mind, you’ve probably heard this a lot. I mean A LOT. And it’s so discouraging. Because you’re just being you. At least you were. When you were younger. Curious. Enthusiastic. Wanting to know-it-all. Assuming that everyone knew what you knew. Could do what you could do.

That’s what was so confusing. Didn’t the other kindergartners love reading Harry Potter or wondering about negative numbers? Couldn’t everyone feel it when the teacher was so sad? Didn’t all kids cry when a spider was crushed?

We don’t often explain these differences to kids. We don’t know what to say. So, we say, “Slow down so the others can catch up.” or “If you keep talking about Richard Feynman, you won’t have any friends.” Or even, “Why can’t you just be normal?”

Not helpful.

So you shrink. Dumb down. Slow down. Take up less space. Hide your love of words. Ask fewer questions. Over-apologize. Become anxious and depressed. Smoke pot.

Maybe you’re like 40-year-old Joan. Fascinated by so many things. Good at anything she tried: photography, writing, graphic design, event planning, floral design, painting, teaching yoga, running meetings, water skiing, fund raising, parenting, winning whipped cream eating contests and 3-legged races. (although she hasn’t run any 3-legged races recently) Tending to stay behind the scenes and hide her successes. Thrust into leadership positions on the one hand and resented for her creative ideas on the other. Careful not to outshine anyone. (She’ll make exceptions when it comes to whipped cream.)

Of course, you’re grateful for your skills and abilities. You appreciate your rainforest mind. But you don’t think you’re so smart. There are all those other people smarter than you. You’re not arrogant or full of yourself.

You’re not full of yourself.

You just want to be fully yourself.

And that’s not easy.

I have good news and bad-ish news.

The bad-ish news: You’ll need to be strategic. There will be people who can’t handle your intense emotions or your desire to discuss Dickens for hours. Some of them will be critical, rejecting, or worse. You will need to find healthy ways to cope or to limit your time with these folks. You might want to share some parts of yourself and protect other parts. You might need to monitor your communication to be better understood. There will be people who want to take advantage of your big heart and your problem solving abilities. You’ll need to learn how to set limits and say “no” when needed. To recognize that just because you’re able to do something, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. You may have to redefine what it means to be authentic.

The good news: Your sensitivity, intelligence, and empathy is an extremely valuable resource. Geeks are becoming more popular, respected, and indispensable. Geeking out is now a thing. It’s possible to find other humans with rainforest minds who will appreciate you. (I wouldn’t have a thriving practice without them!) You can be fully yourself with other humans who have rainforest minds. And surely, the planet needs you to be fully yourself. Now, more than ever.

So don’t waste any more time. Show us how smart you are. In your very own strategically authentic Richard Feynman-obsessed, whipped cream eating, geeking out, rainforest-minded way.

The other kids will be OK.

________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: What messages have you received that told you that you were too much, or that you should hide your giftedness? What keeps you from being fully yourself now? How are you strategic in protecting yourself when needed? What would being fully yourself look like?

Thank you to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you so much to all of you!

 

 

 

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 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.

47 thoughts on “Don’t Show How Smart You Are. Other Kids Will Feel Bad.

  1. How I wish I had learned all of this at a younger age! It’s not our problem to fix, it’s their problem not being able to handle us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I really needed to read this today. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wildly more complicated when you’re 2E. It was curious as a child and occasionally as an adult to suffer simultaneously for being smart and incompetent. At least decades later some previous problems have a some explanations. Although, the compounded difficulty of being able to excel while not being able to do other things remains puzzling at times.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, yes, M.J. I don’t have as much experience with 2e issues so I don’t write about them much. But the confusion when you have giftedness plus a disability can be quite challenging. Thanks for mentioning it. Tell us more, if you’d like.

      Like

      • Ok, in addition to the difficulties and complaints and complexities discussed here in this blog I also have many of the difficulties found in discussions on the the sites about learning problems. I discovered all of this only 2 years ago. So, that’s 56 years of hearing I’m too smart while simultaneously receiving complaints about my inability to do the most simple of things.

        Here’s an example of my 2E wiring. In high school, 1976-ish, I realized I was incapable of adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing the way my classmates did. My solution was to buy an HP programmable calculator teach myself RPN and programming. The teachers let me use it because they wanted one themselves, but ‘70’s teacher salaries didn’t allow them to buy such a high priced piece of tech at the time.

        With 2E wiring the brain compensates for deficits with lateral creative solutions. They each mask the other. One day you hear you think too much about something, while the next you’re hearing you are thinking too little. Because the resources I’d trusted, all those people with degrees, pointed me in the wrong directions I was decades looking for solutions where none existed. That message of being too smart not only shut me down in the way it does for so many, but it kept me from getting help I needed. Because everyone thought I was way too smart to have any learning problems.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you, M.J. Other twice exceptional RFMs reading this will gain greater understanding of their complexities.!

          Liked by 1 person

        • I am 2E. As a child I always sensed that I was different, but I distinctly remember the day we learned long division in math class as being the day I knew it for sure.

          While the math teacher was explaining the steps, I raised my hand to suggest an alternative method that I had discovered on my own that was much easier and faster (to me, anyway). But the teacher admonished me, saying “just do it the way I’m teaching it Mark, just like everyone else is.”

          Instead of feeling proud for learning a new skill in a new way, I felt shame.

          Not surprisingly, my grades began to slide from then on and it became a regular thing for teachers to discipline me for not completing homework assignments. That’s because when I got home from school, I’d absentmindedly dump my books on the stoop in my rush to run outside to play or ride my bike to rid myself of all the excess energy that had been pent up at school.

          And when I saw the books on my way out the door the next morning, I would be suddenly stricken with intense fear and anxiety by the likelihood that I was going to be reprimanded and embarrassed by the teachers in front of my fellow students for failing to complete my assignments, yet again. Since I still cared deeply about learning and doing my best, it hurt me deeply to be scolded and labeled as someone who did NOT care.

          In a few short years I had gone from being extremely excited to go to school and learn, to feeling like it was a prison that was punishing me for my differences. I had chronic, severe stomach aches that were no doubt caused by the anxiety and stress of attending schools that were more interested in teaching students to follow instructions and obey rules than they were in encouraging them to love to learn on their own and to be creative and innovative, both in and outside the classroom.

          That feeling that you are “wrong” for actually being right is a hard one to shake, no matter how right you are.

          Liked by 2 people

          • It can be so hard to be a creative 2e kid in school. So sorry for your pain, Mark.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Magnified by 2E’s extra sensitivity to wrong-ness of any flavor that seems especially wounding. That weight of adults drawing a conclusion which insists you were wrong while it was always they who were wrong is massively heavy. They are like the anti-Sherlock, each deduction precisely opposite of what is and you know to be true, but kid brain does not have the experience or knowledge base to dispute their findings.

            Where are you in understanding and transforming your experience?

            As for me, I don’t yet seem to fully grasp a balanced way of describing my 2E brain wiring to others. Mostly it seems to be pissing people off or landing in silence except for crickets chirping. And that’s just the people I know that are professional educators. I’ve not been courageous enough to describe it to other people.

            Liked by 2 people

            • “Where are you in understanding and transforming your experience?”

              For the past couple of days I have struggled to find words to answer this. My understanding of myself grows everyday. Part of that is realizing that being creative isn’t merely like having an extra tool or two in the toolbox, it’s having a completely different toolbox with totally different tools.

              That’s the good news. The bad news is there are so many cultural biases against creativity and other mechanisms in place to police people who cannot or will not fit in. I’ve written about some of my unfortunate past here before, so suffice to say I have ended up poor and alone, and I believe this is not despite my creativity and talents but in large part because of them.

              I feel hunted in a way, or cast away like Tom Hanks in the movie of the same name. (The title of the film is especially noteworthy to me because it is two words denoting an action rather than the singular noun describing a person). I am so sensitive. I get so overwhelmed so easily, not just by bad things but by most things, good included. I can feel myself constantly cracking, like I could break at any moment. And yet I marvel at how I have not and that I keep fighting, not just to survive but to try and make a difference to the world, even as a cast-away out here in the middle of the ocean on this deserted island… 😉

              Thanks. I’d like to hear more about your experiences.

              Like

              • Tools and toolboxes are a great metaphor. Also, one of my weaknesses. I have far too many tools and not nearly enough.

                In hearing what you wrote regarding fitting in and feelings of isolation I’d like to offer you a reframe. Two years ago when I discovered 2E existed and I am 2E the information suggested 2Es are .5% of the population. Which means your observations about fitting in and feeling isolated are very accurate. We are at such far small margins of the bell curve or barely visible lines on a spectrum virtually no one knows we are here.

                The reframe to that is we are also truly rare and unique. We will never be in the vast middle of the bell curve. Nor can we drag huge numbers of others to our tiny area at the margin of the curve. I see real power and potential in the uniqueness. Being 2E is so new to me I have no clue as to a path or the full scope of possibilities. What I do know is that I used to want a normally wired brain and now that I can see the potential for difference in a uniquely wired 2E brain, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I don’t want to be in the middle of the bell curve and I’m delighted there are so few of us out here in the margins.

                My question of the moment, and perhaps yours as well, how to make the uniqueness work for us?

                I’ll share, as requested, some of my experiences here in the future as time permits.

                Liked by 2 people

                • There are actually Facebook groups for parents of 2e kids now. Thanks to the internet, this topic is getting more attention and parents are finding support. But, for 2e adults….there is a woman in Maryland, USA, who runs an organization called With Understanding Comes Calm. Julie Skolnick. Her work is about kids and families but she might know of resources for adults.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • A good resource. She is how I found you and this. After I struck out at the top place in my state when the director said they only worked with 18 and younger and neither she nor her staff knew of any adult resources at the time I asked.

                    Liked by 2 people

                • “My question of the moment, and perhaps yours as well, how to make the uniqueness work for us?”

                  I constantly wonder the same thing. But I do believe that nature is intelligent and adaptive, so maybe one of its strategies is to create people who have a hard time fitting in to a culture that is bent on self-destruction, perhaps because they are somehow more immune to mass psychosis. Then again maybe that’s all just wishful thinking.

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. I work in an office full of people who wallow in how the world tells them to be. I do not. I have ALWAYS been one to live life my own way. In this office (I am trying to find another job), I have learned to share SOME of my happy news and experiences and successes, but do not share all. I also have to protect my energy from theirs every single day. I have also outgrown some of my old friends, now that I refuse to be less than who, and what, I am. I am coming out of a loooong period of hiding myself, and the world had just better watch out now! ; )

    Liked by 3 people

  5. “To recognize that just because you’re able to do something, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. ” has become a key part of my self care approach. It’s not easy to change habits of a lifetime, but learning mindfulness is helping create an air gap between recognising a need in the world and jumping in to do what needs to be done, fix what needs fixing and try and save the world single handed. So thanks for shining light on this challenge as one not just limited to me. It’s nice to have a virtual space where I’m not just regarded as a giant pain in the Behind.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Nice job!

    Funny… yesterday I remembered a situation a several years when my brothers (now ex-)wife said to him, “Can you please tell your sister not to be so charming around our mutual friends. I really want them to like me without your sister outshining me all of the time.” Yeesh. I still can’t believe my brother had the guts to tell me that. I’m sure he was mortified but did it to keep himself safe from his insecure wife.

    🙂 Amy

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 2 people

  7. That was me without even knowing what I was doing – until a friend shared this quote with me:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
    – Marianne Williamson

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Paula, Beautiful and clear description of how gifted people think, feel and struggle to be themselves. And with great advice for how to manage all of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much, Paula, for spelling out the inner thoughts that are part of my life and that of so many others. Elementary school was not an easy time except for the year one teacher gave me “extra work”, self-paced learning about the solar system, freedom to draw and create when I was finished with the classroom tasks each day.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. here I am still hoping at some age it all stops.
    But nope.
    couple of years ago, I was already well in my 40s I did a advanced course work. all medical doctors.

    one of the instructors had lapel pins and the first three to see the mistakes in his overhead sheets ( I know, very old school) got a pin.
    I see the first one pretty fast, look around if anybody else knows. nope crickits. So I give the answer and earn a pin.
    next one same story, but no pin, instructor is pretty adement I already have on. last one I also see. and again no pin and nobody of the other dr’s says a thing.
    and that lunch I was sitting alone again.
    What the??? all grown up, smart people who must have had the same problems as kids growing up. still the other kids got hurt.
    And people wonder why I dont speak up more.

    thanks for the talk, I keep hoping.
    But culture in this country isnt working along.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so sorry that it’s still happening, EwaB. Sadly, I think others would say the same. At least you now realize what is going on and it’s not something that you’re doing wrong. Sending you hugs. ❤

      Like

  11. Just returned from a family Thanksgiving trip. My mother used to drive me insane after a few hours. Now, with the loving support of my husband and my two sons, I can make it a few days. Your posts have been so helpful over the years, and I had counseling for a while that clarified many things, but I still struggle with how much of myself to share, how much of “me” my mom and sister can handle, and I’m obsessed with discovering the “cause” of their resentment, need to control, need to manipulate, anger and frustration when I offer up a different solution (usually easier and more efficient), and etc. I’m starting to think it’s much simpler than I’ve always thought and they’re just not that intelligent…and are resentful of me.

    It’s better than it used to be, but I still find these visits so incredibly draining. I wouldn’t do them at all if it weren’t for my kids, who need to see and spend time with their relatives, and husband, who actually enjoys family tme with my family-he’s not a target for Mom and Sis, so it doesn’t affect him. He does see and understand their behavior, which is helpful to me.

    Thank you for posting this. As usual, your timing is epic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah, I’m glad that my writing has made it easier to spend time with your family and to interpret their behaviors differently so that you’re not blaming yourself. Even so, it can be draining for RFMs to be with family. Good self-care is important, too. Thank you for sharing your experience here.

      Like

  12. And so hard to have friends… in youth and as an adult when you overwhelm people… with everything..

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A great post and one I needed to read, not only for myself but also for my own child. Thank you for your insight and practical tips.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. My son started a new school this fall, and among many other very important reasons the new school is a better fit for him is that nobody treats him poorly for being eclectic and fascinated with learning. A school can do a lot to create a culture of collaboration rather than competition; in such a culture, difference can be cherished rather than punished. That’s where my son is now (instead of High Pressure High, where every precocious utterance is resented), so I finally got something right as a parent.

    As for your questions, yeah, I’ve been told, face to face, in those words: “You’re too intense.” More than once, by multiple people. It’s a weird kind of put-down. It’s best to avoid people who say things like that; they are usually figuring out an unflattering way to pigeonhole one.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I sustained two TBIs during my earlier years (no therapy) between the age of 3 and 6, which I believe prevented me from performing optimally in school.
    Therefore, I wasn’t able to show the other kids just how smart I am . However, giftedness is not merely being able to do things exceptionally well, but it is also an instinct that affects how one acts, feel and see things. This manifested itself in the characteristics and behavior that I’ve retained which are considered common amongst the gifted (i.e. perfectionism, sensitivity, high level of curiosity, might not require a lot of sleep if one is in good health,etc.). Also, I recently discovered that I have what seems to be an eidetic or photographic memory, but also the ability to hear certain sounds that appears to be invisible to the normal ear. Do you think this is possible?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure, Robert. I don’t know anything about how that sort of hearing works but I can imagine that it’s possible for some humans to have greater capacities in that arena. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  16. I’m not completely certain if what I’ve experienced could be placed in the same category as photographic memory (other readers could share their thoughts pertaining to these experiences). However, is it possible that there are different forms of this kind of memory (hyperthymesia being one of them)? Also, is it plausible that my ability to hear these sounds is, somehow, related or works similarly to photographic memory? Or even to high sensitivity as it relates to giftedness?

    Paula, do you think TBI could prevent a gifted individual from naturally expressing certain unique abilities, but also render the person incapable of functioning optimally in other aspects of his or her life?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. It is not easy to describe the things that I’ve experienced. I still remember that there were times when I look at certain words or passages (not necessarily from books) and they jumped out of whatever I am looking at. I was able to memorize or remember certain things almost instantly, things were very clear. I wasn’t able to easily shake off certain things I’ve almost instantly committed to memory… like a magnet or sticker—very retentive. There were instances when I woke up already thinking about them which I thought I forgot or didn’t remember. Also, there were times when I watched these videos, and I already have a lot of the information in my head, like an audio recorder. However, they were not necessarily in order, I had to organize them….

    I often doubt myself because I am not almost able to function well. However, I do believe that these things reinforced my past experiences which matches many, if not most, of the characteristics and behavior that you’ve ascribed to gifted individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. When in high school, I started hiding my grades from friends after being outted by a guy in general conversation with others. I became careful to not hit the A honor roll because I didn’t want to be named on the morning announcements. I was in gifted classes. Ironically, my parents barely noticed my accomplishments and it hurt.

    While married, an extended family member made mention that I was a know-it-all type to my husband. He didn’t stand up for me but agreed. These days, I don’t speak up any more in a convo. I’m less of who I used to be. It really isn’t appreciated and that’s so sad. I’m not sure how to find my way out of this position but it makes me terribly unhappy. I’m tired of shrinking around others just so they don’t feel envious. It gets so old.

    Liked by 1 person

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