Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Being Gifted May Not Be Such A Gift

56 Comments

I have been working with gifted kids and adults since the late 1970’s (were any of you even alive then?), and I am STILL stunned by your beauty. By your big-hearted compassion. By your vast, deep, bold intelligence. By your unparalleled curiosity. By your striving, your questing, your seeking. By your passionate drive to know. By your peculiar sensitivities and your unruly anxieties. By your youness.

I really want you to believe me when I say you have a rainforest mind. I know some of you do believe me. But many of you still question it. You say, you were not good at math. You did not get high grades or high test scores. You do not write for the New Yorker. Me, neither.

(Note: You may have been good at math, gotten high grades and test scores. You may write for the New Yorker. And still question your giftedness.)

Some of you might also have been raised in families where you were neglected or abused. Or where you were ignored because you were so smart so you must be just fine. These conditions would not provide the nourishment you would need to recognize your strengths. Your authentic self would be hidden, possibly crushed, under the rubble of your family’s dysfunctional legacy.

I suspect some of you are resisting your giftedness because you believe it means you have to do something “insanely great with your life. (words attributed to Steve Jobs) But I would counter that you do not want to do *anything* insanely. Great? OK. Insanely? Not so much.

You may have been told how smart you were over and over but with no understanding of what that really meant or with no support for your sensitivities or emotional needs. Just enormous pressure to win, to achieve, to be the best. You may have had to wait for your fellow students or your coworkers to catch up to you or to understand you. You may still be waiting.

It could be you think you are just a terrible communicator with inadequate social skills when you find relationships difficult and human beings kind of boring. Your frustrations with small talk and simplistic answers to complex problems can leave you lonely and discouraged.

Being gifted might not feel like such a gift.

But there is good news.

Trust me. I know this. I have known you since the late 1970’s.

You are beautiful. You have big-hearted compassion. Vast, deep, bold intelligence. Unparalleled curiosity. You are a striver, a quester, a seeker. You have peculiar sensitivities and unruly anxieties.

You have a rainforest mind.

I recommend you keep the gift.

_____________________________


To my bloggEEs: What makes being gifted difficult for you? What are the benefits? Let us know in the comments, please! They add so much. And here are a couple of items you might want to know about:

“A conference for gifted & 2e adults is back – and deeply discounted! You can get on-demand access to 16 experts worth of strategies on dating, friendships, professional fulfillment, psychological assessments and everything in between. (Organized by Julie Skolnick of With Understanding Comes Calm.)

This re-release also features a brand new piece of content: an interview with therapist and author of Your Rainforest Mind Paula Prober on August 9th at 5 pm ET! (that would be me) Learn more and sign up today using this affiliate link.

And, for those of you looking for many specific ideas on how to rehabilitate muggles create a better world, I wrote this post last week for Highly Sensitive Refuge.

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 “Being Gifted May Not Be Such A Gift

  1. My mom was an educator (and most certainly gifted) and was always adamant that giftedness was a special need just like any other special need. It was generally thought of as something with *only* advantages, but it also has some definite troubles. Modifications and accommodations are sometimes needed as well. In hindsight, I realize that my own experiences with the educational system are part of why I opted to homeschool my own kids. (Loved the extracurriculars and loathed the vast majority of the classes, plus dealt with… interesting interactions with other students and several teachers. Had a small group of gifted or near-gifted friends, and we were in all the same extracurriculars.) I’m grateful that I was raised with that nuanced perspective on giftedness, or I would think that I was very defective in a number of ways. As I raise my 2e younger teen, I so wish that I could lean on my mom for perspective and encouragement. I’m glad that you are discussing these topics with a wide audience!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes I was alive😅

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I call it a gift and a curse.
    To be acceptable, the fire must be iced.
    Christ said to never hide your light under a bushel, but sometimes it has to be forcibly dampened so as not to blind others.
    You’re expected to be “just bright enough” or “just good enough” to be useful to society, but not too brilliant as to intimidate.
    Tap dancing on this tightrope is madness.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. Thank you Paula for your encouraging post. Small talk is rather fun, actually (I learnt it painstakingly!), as long as it is not the only existing thing in conversation. I still feel that I need to to something insanely great, though, and I know I will never manage, which is rather discouraging. But I suppose I will just have to be content with writing a PhD thesis on Late Modern English Language across gender and class (I’m serious – I just finished an MA in Digital Humanities!) before I retire, alongside thousands of textile projects, hopefully a part-time day job and perhaps illustrated e-books (if I get around to write and publish them on Amazon, that is!). And after retirement, I might start with Gender Studies, or even catching up on maths to study astronomy…who knows? ;-). I will never get to understand non-gifted people, though, which is kind of sad, as I am an extrovert person and haven’t found any other gifted people to mingle with. But sometime in the future, I might. Who knows?!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Marina, that is such an encouraging and uplifting post of yours, full of buoyancy and life.
    I love your diverse interests and projects. Your enthusiasm is actually inspiring.
    Sometimes, I wonder if I have hampered myself somewhere along the line – or if it is my present challenge to vie with and overcome – fear of failure. This fear and perfectionism seem to hold me back from diving into a multiplicity of interests/projects. I’m not complaining but seeking to understand perhaps better to unleash myself and creativity and discoveries out into the world.
    Have you ever had to overcome this? Or has any other poster here?
    Greetings and warm wishes to all!

    P.S. Paula, I read your recent post on Highly Sensitive Refuge. It is stellar, I loved it, and I find it very important (one for me to keep and go back to reconsult often. THANK YOU!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Here is a post on fear of failure that might help, Sheep’s Wool: https://rainforestmind.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/if-im-so-smart-why-do-i-feel-like-a-failure/ Glad you read the HSR article. I hope it gets widely shared. The information in it is so important. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Sheep’s Wool, thank you for sharing. My enthusiasm actually gets really annoying for most people, because I am ‘too’ active, ‘too’ energetic, ‘too’ fast, ‘too’ diversified, actually ‘too much’ all the time. So thanks so much for saying you find it inspiring, I really appreciate that.
      Fear of failure – yes, I’ve had that too, and still have. I was a perfectionist all the way to my fingertips and toes (and still am). I almost drowned in the impostor syndrome, falling into the bottomless pit of depression, not wanting to live anymore. You see, I feel I have failed so many times (I failed being perfect, I failed finding lots of new friends in a foreign country, I failed finding a stable job and even getting a boring day-job, I failed twice being self-employed, I failed my mother-in-law as I and my husband chose to be childfree, I failed having my books published, and so on – the list is long!), so it isn’t all that scary any more. I know I will ‘fail’, but now I’d rather fail than not try. I’ve always wanted to do my best and even today, I push myself even further. I don’t take myself so seriously anymore, so it’s much easier to DO new things and enjoy them, things that I have chosen myself, creative things that nourish me (yes, I am privileged because I can do this, financially speaking). And today, I accept (and love) my difference – earlier, I just tried to fit in, as I didn’t know I was gifted. And hey, if I express my quirkyness, other RFM people will probably find me!
      Today, I understand that learning new things all the time is essential to me in my life – if I don’t keep learning, I will once more fall into the pit of despair, and that is a place I don’t want to go back to. So yes, I prefer doing and trying instead of being afraid of faliure. And finally, what is failure? I’m not letting anybody decide that for me anymore. If I learn, I succeed. And that’s it!
      What is essential to you?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well said, Marina. Well said. I may have to write a newer post on fear of failure and quote you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, Marina – there you go again saying words that are inspiring and carry so much meaning for me. Thank you so much! I need to read your post back several times to let the meaning sink in.

        Thank you for sharing your experience of fear of failure and talking out loud about the differing reasons that contribute to that (I recognise them too). It’s inspiring to know you moved through it. I love seeing you thrive as a multiply creative person like a flourishing wild garden – hurray!!!

        I loved these parts of your post especially:
        “…I failed finding a stable job and even getting a boring day-job…😀”

        “… I don’t take myself so seriously anymore, so it’s much easier to DO new things and enjoy them, things that I have chosen myself, creative things that nourish me…”

        “ Today, I understand that learning new things all the time is essential to me in my life ❤️– if I don’t keep learning, I will once more fall into the pit of despair, and that is a place I don’t want to go back to. So yes, I prefer doing and trying instead of being afraid of faliure…”

        “ What is essential to you?” ❤️❤️❤️

        You are a gem!!!!

        It makes such a difference to hear this from another RFM, to have that testimony and hear that validation. 🌼

        Paula, thank you for sharing the link to your post on RFMs and the idea of failure. I’ll read it avidly. I must thank you for introducing me in another blog post to the idea – incredibly inspiring for me – of the intrinsic perfectionism of RFMs. I saw myself in this. I didn’t really think of my perfectionism as a bad thing but something positive.
        Your posts and Marina’s testimony are a heady mix and I can’t wait to sit with them and take them in.
        Love to you both and my fellow RFMs 🌸

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh my gosh! I’m understood. I’m not brilliant but I do have have places of great creativity. I will never be remembered but I am known by my family.
    I taught elementary art for 25 yrs. I loved and hated it. I am better alone than in groups, way to sensitive for most people, and always feel like an outsider. But, I’ve come to understand my needs. Now I sew for myself. I make everything I wear except shoes. Lol. I ride my horse, and take him cross country to new places.
    Now at 70, I finally understand what fills me and what drains me. Just wish I had known this earlier in my life. Oh well…. This too has developed me.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. When required I have no problem doing neurotypical, but it seems impossible for non-RFMS to do any kind of RFM behavior. This leaves, reciprocation, one of friendships central components unfulfilled. Which in turn, causes a constant imbalance in the friendship. That imbalance leaves no room for parity based play, think Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams.

    The upshot being the most annoying of lines I’ve heard said to me by so many other people: “I don’t understand why you can’t be more normal?” Which reminds me of the wonderful line the writers gave Cumberbatch to say in Sherlock: “Dear God, what is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. hey y’all! All your posts are super inspiring and I love that this community can find comfort in each other. But I’m here to ask for advice. I’m a 14 year old who skipped 5th grade, is in the most advanced classes possible, and no one in my small-town high school can keep up with me. Any tips? 🙃

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I adore your writing and appreciate your wisdom, Paula. Those of us who are 2Es need never worry about being misunderstood when playing in your sandbox! I was very much alive in the late 70’s. As much as I wish I had known you then, I am enormously grateful for your contributions to this field.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Uhh.. that accurate description of me growing up is a bit scary, Paula! Dysfunctional family, very bad at math, piles of pressure to go to university “because you are so smart” (I quit), being found weird and too much and not enough, envying cousins and nieces because they were good at being social / they got included, … oh and irritating teachers because you are the only one in the classroom who asks questions… Way too much questions 😀
    (I’m doing much “processing the past” (what do yo call that in English?) at the moment)

    Thanks so much for knowing and understanding us!

    Benefits:
    – not needing much words to understand people (pitfall: finishing their sentences and not checking whether you’re right because in 95% of the cases you are right)
    – excelling at work but thinking that is normal (ptfall: misantrhopy. Why is their work so inaccurate? Why don’t they follow up anything? Why aren’t they transparent with their agenda so it becomes possible to plan meetings? Why do I want so much information that is not available? Why do I ALWAYS blame all that on myself?)
    – HSP gives you the option to fully enjoy every moment and everything you see, feel, smell etc (pitfall: chronic stress which keeps you out of this moment)
    (now I need to go make food, I could go on but these three should be the most important because they came up first!)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for sharing benefits and pitfalls, eline! I think “processing the past” is how you say it in English! Not sure what else I would call it. Being in therapy? Doing your own self-analysis? Being introspective?

      Like

      • Thanks 🙂 In dutch it is a verb on its own, “verwerken” (processing and integration of old pain). I thought the English had a word for everything 😀

        (& I’m proud of having made a few typos and not checking the spelling of everything I wasn’t sure of, getting out of that perfectionism! Yay!)

        Liked by 1 person

        • English is pretty limited actually, eline! We need a word like verwerken! And congratulations for letting go of perfection here!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m sure your blogees can come up with a word and we can start using it 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hi Eline,

              Couldn’t help myself, so I googled it.. 🙄🙈😅

              Vertalingen van verwerken (Translations of “verwerken”):

              werkwoord (verb)

              1. process
              verwerken

              2. digest
              verteren, verwerken, digesten, verduwen, slikken, kroppen

              3. assimilate
              assimileren, verwerken, opnemen, gelijkstellen, gelijk maken

              4. work up
              opwerken, verwerken, opbouwen, aanzetten, omhoog komen, opkruipen

              5. put into work
              verwerken

              The Dutch language has many words for the same “thing”, which graduates from low to high emotion/feeling/value/etc..

              Most of the time the English language has just a few words for the same “thing”, so you’ll have to make a complete sentence for the same “thing” that in Dutch you can say with one word.

              That said, I prefer the English language because it has many layers (for me more than Dutch) to say exactly what you mean. In Dutch I keep struggling to find the right word for what I want to say, which reflects the exact emotion. Probably because the Dutch have so many words, that I’m constantly trying to find the exact right one. Ending up saying it in English 🙈🙄

              Just a sidebar, nothing to do with the topic nor the blog.. which I’m still pondering about… it really has my mind going in all directions, so I’m not really comfortable enough to put my minds struggles in black and white yet..

              Liked by 2 people

              • Het is inderdaad een hele uitdaging om in het Nederlands de juiste nuance mee te geven. Misschien hebben wij (in België toch) daarom zoveel communicatieproblemen…? Of is dat ook bij Engelstaligen zo, in jouw ervaring?

                Liked by 2 people

                • Just so everyone can read and understand this, I’ll reply in English 😇.

                  In my experience it could be a RFM / Muggles communication challenge. I’ve had multiple therapists that “corrected” my words. For example I’d say I was frustrated with something or someone and they would translate this as being angry about/with something or someone. For me frustration has nothing to do with anger. Nothing at all! So I’d be frustrated again with the therapist who (in my opinion and in my mind) was putting words in my mouth that I wasn’t feeling nor saying. Keep going on like that long enough and thèn I’ll get angry.. they saw the difference at the end. But it took the whole session to get that across, leaving me feeling drained.

                  This challenge could be either in English or in Dutch, so that didn’t make a difference. Unfortunately! Hard to find therapists that get it right from the start, though.
                  So, thank you, Paula!! You really have been and still are my go-to person to keep me sane and not feeling absolutely bonkers! In my extremely “all over the place” mind.. 🥰

                  But then again, I’m really a nerd about language, whether Dutch or English (or French/Portuguese/Spanish/you name it).

                  And I love a good word pun, as long as people get it. Usually a bit sarcastic, which takes a certain kind of humor to appreciate 😅..
                  (Indie looks at me as if saying “just let her talk, she’s mental anyway”, snorting and puffing sometimes at my “rants” while walking outside 🤣🐶..)

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • I love your “all over the place mind,” clignett. It is a very familiar rainforest mind trait!

                    Liked by 2 people

                  • Oh dear, multiple therapists acted that way, you say? That’s… terrible. I had to look up Muggles and I think I understand what you mean.

                    So, apparently, misunderstanding isn’t a Dutch problem but a global issue 😀 😥

                    And yes, thank god for Paula! 😉 ❤

                    I've been to the gifted people therapy center thingy in Berchem (Exentra) and I was quite disappointed… Reading their book "Meer dan intelligent" was more insightful than that session. They focus on gifted children, not on adults who have to struggle their way through life because they never knew about the RFM until recently. And they ask way too much € for their activities if you ask me. Arrogant people and, yeah, exactly, that is the word, frustrating environment….
                    You can read about my visit here (in Dutch) on my (not-as-anonymous-as-it-used-to-be blog: https://enerziek.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/66-de-puzzel-is-volledig/

                    Liked by 2 people

  11. Hi Paula, it’s been a while since I commented- hope your summer is going well!

    I think the most difficult part of having a rainforest mind is not being able to socially connect with everyone I meet – it can feel isolating to not be my true self at times but I’m thankful for the people I have that can share the same wavelength of the intellectual and creative plane. But it is so difficult- especially when it comes to making friends or finding a romantic relationship (especially with women as the dating pool is smaller and more difficult for LGBTQ folk).

    Though the positives is that it is an enriching world – old black and white films, literature, political science, being creative and thinking outside the box makes life more enjoyable but it is nice to find the right tribe that understands me. I enjoy solitude but it’s wonderful when you find the right person that shares your wavelength and rainforest mind!

    Liked by 2 people

    • PS: The 1970s seemed like a unique decade. Would have loved to see Queen live. But I think the 1920s or 1940s would have been a very glamorous era to witness! (I’m born in the 90s).

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for your thoughts, Paula. I remember being in an African rain-forest back in the mid 1960’s. It was serenely beautiful, but it was also great to see the sunlight once in a while. I love those places, but great care is required with each step.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thrilled to have stumbled upon your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think I’ve found the theme song for this blog. I’ve recently been delving into the composer Stephen Sondheim and some lyrics made me think of you, Paula, and everyone else in here. It’s called “Anyone can whistle”.

    —————————–

    Anyone can whistle, that’s what they say-easy.
    Anyone can whistle, any old day-easy.
    It’s all so simple.
    Relax, let go, let fly.
    So someone tell me, why can’t I?
    I can dance a tango, I can read Greek-easy.
    I can slay a dragon, any old week-easy.
    What’s hard is simple.
    What’s natural come hard.
    Maybe you could show me how to let go,
    Lower my gaurd,
    Learn to be free.
    Maybe if you whistle,
    Whistle for me.

    —————————–

    Liked by 3 people

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