Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

How Do I Know You Are Gifted?

48 Comments

How do I convince you that you are, in fact, gifted? (Yes, today we are using the G word.)

Well. I hear giftedness in your voice, as you talk quickly, intensely, and passionately. I see it in your drive for understanding and creativity and in your explorations of the intricacies of, oh, everything. I feel it in your aching for depth and connection in all of your relationships, in your extreme empathy, and in your unyielding desire to create a better world. I know it because, well, after 35+ years hanging out with gifted types, I just know it.

(photo by Thought Catalog, Unsplash)

But you may not see it in yourself. And you wonder why. I mean, if you were so smart wouldn’t you recognize it in yourself? Wouldn’t you know who you are and where you are going? Surely, gifted folks are not full of self-doubt and swimming in self-criticism. Surely, the smartest people are all arrogant know-it-alls who graduated from Stanford with a PhD and are now doing their post-docs at MIT in artificial intelligence, astrophysics, and nanotechnologies. On full scholarship. And they don’t have to study. At all.

And you? You were the kid who purposely got lower grades on tests so the others would not bully you. You were the kid who could not show your work because your answers were intuitive. You were the kid who was kind to the children who were left out. You were the kid who was stumped by multiple choice questions because you over-analyzed them. You were the kid who lost track of what the teacher was saying because your imagination was more fascinating. You were the kid who was anxious in school when the tests were timed so you never finished them. You were the kid who took time to answer a question so the teacher thought you did not know the answer or you blurted out the answers so often you were told to wait and wait and wait. You were the kid who protected your siblings from your alcoholic parent. You were the kid who read the dictionary for fun. You were the kid who was curious and enthusiastic about life, the universe, and everything. You were the kid who did the homework and then lost it. You were the kid who ruminated about infinity, fractals, and why humans are cruel to each other. You were the kid who created unusual inventions, wrote long convoluted stories and poetry, and rescued neighborhood animals.

You were the kid who was gifted.

You still are.

I just know it.

__________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Tell us why you still do not believe you are gifted or why you are uncomfortable with the ‘g’ word. Have you come to understand that it may be true? What are the benefits of knowing? What are your challenges? Do you know there is a film being made with that title? The G Word? Check it out and contribute if you can.

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.

48 thoughts on “How Do I Know You Are Gifted?

  1. Goodness! Were you there watching me during my entire childhood? I agree with pretty much all. Don’t get me started on the inanity of multiple choice questions.

    Liked by 6 people

    • I usually did not care about the subject in class and did not study. I could easily eliminate two of the multiple choce answers, then guess on the remaining. That and some common sense, I always did well on those tests.
      Tests that are great are ones that also have blank lines for you to add info. I ususally blasted them and told them they needed to re-word the question because of all the loop-holes. Teachs agreed when they gave me the chance to show them, of course I got labeled “Obstinate”. 😉

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Yes, I was that kid. No I wasn’t that kid. My name is Dunning, my name is Kruger. The effect is the more gifted I think I am, the dumber I must be? Maybe I have that backward.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’m 55 and am just now allowing myself to believe in my giftedness. I was the kid who was terrified to stand out because people can be so cruel, or perhaps I thought I was taking the limelight from someone else. I am now practicing self-talk – telling myself that Earth needs my gifts. That I deserve to achieve and win. That I am protected, so I can stand out safely. That success is free, and I deserve it FINALLY! It’s time for us to be ourselves. Our true selves. Earth needs our incredible imaginations, our empathy, our passion, our scary deep love, our brilliant minds and colorful, super bright souls.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Wow, yes. Being gifted was a dirty word, especially if you considered yourself gifted. I was always the one who marched to a different drummer.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Tears in my eyes.. I was thát kid..
    I was that kid that made mistakes on purpose so I wouldn’t get bullied. I was that kid that talked to everyone, including the kids that were not popular. I was that kid that made the multiple choice tests on intuition, and got them right. As Keith mentioned, two answers were wrong from the start, and then just feel it. And there is your answer. Common sense? Intuition? Maybe that’s not so far apart from each other.

    I was that kid that took the time to write answers thinking “out of the box” on tests with open questions, so much so that the teachers really had to think hard and had to acknowledge that there are more answers to a question than the usual answers that were in the textbooks (which I didn’t agree with in the first place, because I could always find a fault in their thinking process).

    I was that kid who was brave enough to answer a test with just one question: “what is bravery?” by answering just “this is bravery”, and turn the test in. At first they thought I was mocking them, but the principal put them right. It WAS bravery! Thank heavens for him, he really made my life easier in high school!
    Background info: this was at an American school in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro.
    I can tell you that being a RFM and 2/3E is not easy as an expat child. Looking back I can see that, at that time I was clueless. Why didn’t everyone get along? Why were some kids so mean to others? And why not to me? Because I could see them for who (and what) they were? And I never judged them? Or anyone else for that matter? Little did I know that thát was special, I thought everyone could see that, hear that and even feel that..

    I have come to understand that I am different. Gifted is still a big word for me, but I’m slowly getting there. It’s challenging because I’ve never seen myself like that. Different, yes, but gifted? Ok, my IQ is higher than standard (just by a bit 😉), but that doesn’t mean I’m gifted? Or does it? My EQ is through the roof, but does that make me gifted? I am an empath, that I know. But is that gifted? I have no PhD, no official papers that I’ve had major accomplishments, basically I taught myself everything thing I know (which includes a whole lot of things that no one cares about 🙄🤷‍♀️). Based on intuition and dictionaries and encyclopedias. By asking my father, who always understood my insatiable desire for knowledge. By asking people who come around to fix things in my house, the “how’s, why’s and what-if’s”. Which, coming back to me as a kid, wasn’t appreciated by most of the teachers..

    I can talk to animals, trees, plants, anything nature has created really (except spiders and snakes, I’m terrified! Better even, petrified! Word pun 😅), and I can hear them answering either in my heart, my head or aloud. I can see then, really see then. Gifted? I don’t know, really.
    I remember the names of most dogs (and some cats, although Indie doesn’t like cats – he’s afraid – so some cats get the same name as a cat whom he accepts when I don’t know their real name ), but not the names of the people. I apologize when I accidentally step on a snail with rainy weather. “Bless your soul!, I’m so sorry!”
    And at last, I can shine a light where people only see darkness, but again, is that gifted?

    And reading your blog again, I realize that I still was (and maybe still am) thát kid.. so maybe, just maybe, I might be gifted?

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yup. Gifted, clignett. All of that questioning, too, is your gifted self, always thinking, wondering, seeking.

      Liked by 1 person

    • oh the getting things wrong on purpose to not stick out. I so recognize that. it is also I think a very dutch thing. ( doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg) just act normal, you are crazy enough that way.
      the names thing. yep, animals I remember, so conversations go. “you know the person who goes with Rambo,” ( Rambo being a chicapoo or something small like that).

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I think I need a primer on this phenomenon and how it happens. And I am the one who doesn’t get it, that someone can be gifted and not know it, at least when it comes to what we call smarts? How dose someone miss that they got the answer before the question was even finished being asked? How does someone miss that they could read and discuss issues and ideas with grown ups when other five-year olds were talking about stuffed toys?
    I do get that one can miss the fact that they are creative when the idea of creative seems associated with realistic painting or virtuoso musical skills. But not recognize intelligence? Please help me here. I am serious. I would like to understand this.

    Liked by 4 people

    • As I read your comment, I thought of the teacher who refuses to call on the child who tends to have the answers all the time. I think of the child who is excited and calls out without raising a hand and then gets disciplined. I think of the child who may be a bit ‘bossy’ and gets in trouble for that. This child may not have many friends because no one likes a ‘know it all.’

      In reality, the term ‘gifted’ rarely gets used in school these days. Those who are on the other side of the spectrum of abilities get all types of assistance and time. Not the G/T kids. They may be the kid that is bored since the work is so easy. When kids are bored, they act out. Then they are in trouble.

      No attempt as to the reason why they are acting out. In fact, they may be medicated so they will be quiet and stop talking so much.

      Liked by 5 people

      • There could be so much to say about how gifted children experience school, countrywriter7. Were these your experiences? Or your kids? So painful.

        Like

        • I’ve experienced some of these myself. I know my granddaughter has been there, too. I’ve seen it in the classroom while I was subbing.

          As a country, we lose so much potential. I could go into depth here. It’s a travesty that in a time when we have abundant technology at our fingertips, we still try to cram everyone into the same size hole, using the same method to educate the masses.

          Liked by 4 people

    • Good question, Joy. Here are some of my experiences. Gifted folks often know how much they don’t know and they feel “normal” to them so it doesn’t feel gifted. They have said to me, “isn’t everyone like this?” Also there are the stereotypes around what giftedness is. High test scores. All A’s in school. One career path/job for life. Linear sequential thinking. Awards, high achievement. Science/Math. The “nerd” at MIT. OK? Now these people may very well be gifted too and still may not believe it about themselves. But the people who I see who are RFMs and have empathy, sensitivity, multipotentiality, plus high intelligence, do not often see it as giftedness. All that plus, the stigma of using the word that may make others feel bad or less than. Make sense?

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks for your reply, Paula. I think there are several things at play here. One is that I grew up prior to the use of the word ‘gifted,’ before they had any programs, that I was aware of, and so the term only got applied long after my school days. Another may be possibly a lack of clarity of what is meant by ‘gifted’ so that may account for why the shoe doesn’t fit for some people. idk.

        What I do know, it that none of the pronouncements I have heard about, or read, seem to fit me. If Kruger-Duning says smart people don’t know they are smart, then I think that is just nuts, or they were testing and referring to a limited group that didn’t include people like me but now gets applied to everyone.

        I am sure what is gratifying about reading your blog for many is the sense of recognition and validation of their experiences and the idea of being able to connect with similar-situated people. But some of us are still waiting for that, waiting for that moment when we can say, “Oh, that sounds like me.” Instead of the more usual, “What/who are they talking about?” when you have once again been excluded from a framework that far too often claims universal application, as mentioned above.

        I think it is easier for the exceptionally smart if they are male, interested in science and math, and come from a highly educated, not to mention financially secure, family background. If you fall outside of, perhaps even one of, these categories, I think the opportunities for optimal development diminish. I could imaging some experience severe punishment or else allow their abilities to atrophy to the vanishing point.

        When I read that some gifted people think that their ability is normal, it suggests to me that they may have been fortunate enough to be in an environment that allowed them to feel that way. They must have been able to have meaningful conversations about their insights into life, and discuss their interpretations of the interactions going on all around them, as well as asking probing questions without receiving scoldings, or blank stares. They would not have felt the kinds of deep frustrations I have, since early childhood, in not having someone to have thoughtful interactions with, even as I sought to do this with the adults that I knew.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Joy. I think the Kruger Dunning study says the smartest people underestimate their abilities and the less smart people overestimate their abilities. It doesn’t say they don’t know they are smart. See the difference? Another thought. Didn’t you say one time that you are twice exceptional? If so, that might be an additional factor why you have felt such deep frustration. Either way, I am glad you are here and I hope you find some acceptance here and some love! ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          • Since the question seems to be genuine, let me explain. I of course feel like an impostor, and fraud even writing on this blog at all, because I do have a STEM PhD from one of those universities that at any given year is listed in the top 10 in the world: at some point I rationalised that this probably puts me in the 1 in 1000 category of giftedness, so I am trying reluctantly accept that I am gifted. As typical, it all started to unwind when I got a child who was very much like I was as a child, curious, quick-witted, gifted. But when I have been in the circles of high-achievers, I have felt barely gifted at all. There are various reasons for this. First of all, I do not come from the majority, male, rich or even highly educated background. Teachers and relatives were very keen to tell me not to think that I would be any better than others. Pride was a terrible thing to have. They told me repeatedly that in the next school I would not be the best, and I should prepare for that fact. Teachers told me not to be perfectionist and try so hard, which I did not have to do anyway, it was all easy. My high grades at school were explained as ‘not deserved, you just have a good memory’, while I really did understand everything in a very deep level and learnt quickly. Again it has taken years to realise it was not all ‘good memory’, I was not parroting everything, I was curious, keen and enthusiastic, but I did not get feedback or mirroring to any of this as a child. I did not fit with the other kids. I was intellectually and probably also emotionally on my own by age of 10 the latest. In the countryside high school no teacher was interested in extending the material for me, and used to answer my questions ‘I don’t know and I don’t care’. It is pretty surprising then that I ended up where I ended up to do a PhD. Even while doing my PhD my grandmother said ‘Why is she still studying, she should get a job and earn her living’. There was no understanding from my family for my passion and curiosity. In the university itself, I was then encountered by these privileged males, who did everything they could to tell me that I did not belong, and crushed my ideas one after another — only later to be found in documents that they had written. So I guess, when it comes to it, it is whether you can continue believing in your own intelligence against all the other people telling you that you are crazy or not deserving or just lucky or not belonging anyway. As for not realising it was not normal as a child, or later, it has taken very deep discussions with close friends to realise how exceptional my mind is — it is pretty much only my partner who keeps telling me that ‘that is not normal’ or ‘you made a massive mental jump right there’. I honestly expected that everyone had similarly good memory, and ability to see patterns and connections. And when there are enough blank looks, you stop trying to talk about these wonderful things you see around you, and try to assimilate. The environment we grow up seems to have massive effect in how we turn up. I know people who have always been in a supportive environment, and they seem to be much more comfortable with their intellectual prowess than I ever have been. Even now, I do have to keep my guard up most of the time at work, not to make others feel bad about the fact that I have seen things quicker and faster. There are luckily a handful of people with whom I can make these mental jumps and they understand and appreciate them. People who understand that everything is connected to everything and it is possible to be interested in multiple things.

            Liked by 7 people

  7. So, was it just me that thought the higher the education the dumber people got? I’d watch my friends in high school get better grades, but couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag. Sorry, school was rough! College became another game with competing for grades on a curve, which seemed to teach cheating. My apologies, but I watched premed & predent students become unethical & the future engineers become illogical. Where’s John Lennon & watching the wheels go round & round?.. I just had to let it go (still working on that).

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Annette, I too had a terrible time in college and pretty much dropped out for many years. But then I went back. I focused on what I needed from the class, put in hard work, good effort and I kept my own self interested. I had an almost 4.0 GPA from then on. I have gone on to further degrees as well. I do it because I am interested in what they have to offer. Education is supposed to be for the student but has become so twisted that now the student is doing it for the teachers, for the grades, etc. Don’t fall into that trap anymore.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Annette, I have clients who were so disappointed in college because they thought they would finally experience the intellectual challenges they longed for. So frustrating.

      Like

    • Annette,
      I found I had to jump through more “professor’s bias” hoops in my University life.
      It broke me in so many ways. I wanted to learn. Not regurgitate their beliefs in my words.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. To hksounds; Everyone is unique, so your experiences are also. For me, it was not a lot of fact/figures intelligence thing, but more of an overview of life around me. I am empathetic, caring and respectful and can see all the nuances of peoples interactions.
    My “problem” (of not recognizing myself) was that I thought everyone was -basically- like me, and they are NOT! There are bully A-H’s that are just never (ever) going to “get it”. And they can make it to be President, YIKES!
    And there are people that are not bullies, but are kinda just “stuck”, IE just humming along in life and doing their thing, not sad, but not really happy, because they just don’t know what it can really be like.
    These “other” people judge, ridicule and then I ended up thinking something was wrong with ME. (just my humble opinion).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yup, Keith. You think they are like you but over time realize they are not. I’m hoping my blog helps you and others realize there is nothing actually wrong with you/ them!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Paula, a question if I may? What relation do you think may exist between giftedness and autism spectrum disorder? I totally understand they are not the same, but there may be overlaps. I was just wondering if you had reflected upon this, especially with the above descriptors of childhood experiences. I may have missed a post, so do feel free to redirect me to previous ones. Thank you very much for your time.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Great question anna. I don’t write about it because I don’t have expertise in the area but there are definitely traits that can make it hard for some people to distinguish. There is more and more online these days about it. Here is one post: https://rainforestmind.wordpress.com/2021/03/10/what-my-twice-exceptional-client-taught-me/

          Liked by 2 people

          • Thank you so very much Paula, this was luminary. ‘2e’ or, as I have just discovered ‘dual exceptionality’ in the UK is a new concept to me, and I am so very glad you have introduced it into my research (on ‘self’, I had to do it as enough is enough sometimes coping in this world). I have been referred for an ASD test, but discovered your concept of rainforesting well before that. I thought maybe that was all that was there, to begin with (that is not meant dismissively, but joyfully), but upon digging and reflecting, there was more mental earth to move. I am a bit lost as to what is going on, but I am very grateful for every piece of help. So thank you, you are a legend.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Hi Anna,

              That was exactly my referral to 2/3E. I’m a RFM, gifted (thank you, Paula, for definitely confirming that! Now I “only” have to wrap my mind around it 🤣), highly sensitive (HSP), an Empath, highly intelligent, and possibly somewhere on the spectrum of Autism. That will be fully diagnosticized by a clinic specialised in Autism.

              I’m on the waitlist as we speak, have pushed it forward twice now due to moving from one place to another and am not able nor capable to do three things at a time – moving out of my current apartment, moving into the new apartment ánd coming in for sessions and tests for a final and thorough diagnosis of where I am on the spectrum. If I am there at all, could be HSP all the way as well.. so, to give you sort of an insight, one does not exclude the other.
              It makes life a bit more confusing at times, but Paula and this blog give me plenty of hope, insight and knowledge to further examine and understand what it means to be so many “things” at the same time.

              Sometimes I think that the stories of Harry Potter aren’t that far fetched, with the “Muggles”! 🙄🙈😴

              Liked by 2 people

              • Hi Clignett
                Thank you so very much for taking the time out to type this. It can all be quite confusing, as you outline, to juggle many potential aspects of personality, all of which intertwine like vines. I really hope you have a positive experience on the trail of your diagnosis.
                Virtual hug,
                Anna

                Liked by 2 people

  9. Yes, the whole primary I remember not talking to anyone. Total silence, I was daydreaming while looking outside, at that bird singing, or that branch moving gracefully with the rhythm of the wind. I was tested not so long ago. I clearly have ADHD which camouflages giftedness. Validated.
    As for the text, it resonates so much with me.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Paula,
    I bought your book..Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind. A Field Guide.
    You have made me laugh so hard. Reading my life in print.
    This post resonates so much with me…with my life.
    The crazy pressure to achieve. Yet wanting to learn so many different things. The pain of being the puzzle piece that doesn’t belong to the kit I was put into.
    I love how you have drawn us out in a post for us to see and hear one another.
    It feels like “Everything. Everywhere. All at Once” kinda of brain stimulation.

    After watching that show together, and watching all my reactions…finally my wife had an epiphany of what my mind was capable of.

    Being with other rainforest minds brings me joy.
    Thank you for asking these questions.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A new podcast from the Netherlands is out about me! Hear it here first! Let me know what you think. https://open.spotify.com/episode/0BgEPupfvKxP5cY3yyYHhn?si=2VsZWZCITHCVva_TZJmXjQ

    Like

  12. ‘Dyslexic’, Unfocused, Focused on Everything But what we need you to be, You Have So Much Potential, If You’d Just Pay Attention, Why do you Always Run Away, Why are you Always in the Corner, Can you Just Sit Still? I always felt torn at by all the hands and pulled in three directions and none of them were where I wanted to go …. even when I had ‘great ideas’ they weren’t ‘great enough’ and were picked apart like Cinderella’s dress by her stepsisters just to make sure I knew my place. I felt: just leave me alone, give me time and paper and a library and stop telling me STOP and SHOULD and BE QUIET and maybe I’ll creep back to the edges after society’s shame has worn off and start listening again in case the conversation gets interesting.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Dear Paula,

    Thank you so much for your words. Even if everything you said rings true, and many of us are in fact aware of it, hearing them from you makes them all the more believable, and that goes a long way.

    Many thanks for everything you’ve done and keep doing.
    Love to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Me identifico con todo lo relatado. Me reconozco superdotada pero es una palabra que no me agrada y me gustaría que tuviera otro nombre ya que suena soberbia y en muchos aspectos me considero con dificultades, por ejemplo, para entender ciertos funcionamientos sociales, para hacer esfuerzos o cosas que tengan algún grado de dificultad, para optimizar el tiempo y organizar las tareas diarias y más rutinarias.

    Liked by 3 people

    • If you see yourself in these posts, chances are you are gifted, Meli. You do not have to be perfect! Or good at everything. You may have both strengths and weaknesses. We all do! Thank you for writing. Gracias.

      Like

  15. Actually I realised we all are gifted. A gift given by the creator to the earth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion, Steve. The way I see it is, we all have gifts but we are not all gifted, if the definition includes the traits of advanced intellect, high sensitivity and empathy, and the other traits I write about.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Gosh, Paula – what can I say… May welling up here for a moment serve as “Bingo! Nailed it! (again)” ? From your magnificient expertise in really knowing whom you’ve been “hanging with” for the past 35+ years, I’ll take the liberty of presuming it can. ❤ Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

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