Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Giftedness, Achievement, and Guilt

photo courtesy Samuel Zeller, Unsplash

How are giftedness, achievement, and guilt related?

I’m glad you asked.

Here’s how:

People find all sorts of ways to define giftedness: High IQ, exceptional talent, 10,000 hours of practice, task commitment, academic achievement, high test scores, straight A’s in school, Nobel prizes, eminence, etc. Typically, high achievement is the main requirement.

If you don’t fit into the high achiever category, your teachers, relatives, therapists, and pets may not think that you’re gifted. And you may agree with them.

Not so fast, sweetie pie. Can I call you sweetie pie?

In my humble opinion, based on my many fabulous years communing with gifted kids and adults, high achievement may or may not be part of the picture.

And what is high achievement anyway, I ask you. Wealth? Awards? Good grades in school? Celebrity? iPhones? But I digress.

The gifted humans that I know were born with their rainforest minds. Whether they’re creating masterpieces or not, they’re highly: sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, curious, perfectionistic, analytical, creative, smart, and emotional. They’re obsessed with learning when they’re interested in the topic. And, their interests are many and varied. They’re fast, deep, and wide thinkers.

So far so good?

Here’s where the guilt shows up:

Pressure. Expectations. “If you’re so smart why aren’t you…rich, famous, like Elon Musk?”

Feeling like you’re disappointing your parents and teachers. Being impatient with slower people and excelling at everything you try.¬†Changing jobs every 2-5 years.

Not living up to your own high standards. Not living up to your potential. Not saving the world.

Those are just some of the reasons for guilt.

Looking for more? Read this post. And this one.

And, yes, even gifted “high achievers” can feel guilt. Such as: When is your achievement high enough? With all of your success, why are you still depressed and anxious? If you’re so smart, why are you so lonely?

See what I mean?

The achievement-thing, the guilt-thing. They’re tricky if you have a rainforest mind.

So here’s one idea:

Having a rainforest mind, being gifted, may involve designing energy-efficient electric cars and sending rockets into space. It may involve intense compassion, empathy, intuition, and generosity.

That all sounds like high achievement to me.

And, I promise not to feel guilty about it.

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To my bloggEEs: How do you define achievement? When do you feel guilt related to your smartness? Can you describe how you deal with pressure to achieve “greatness” because you’re “so smart?” Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and feelings. I’m writing a little less often (I’m feeling guilty!) because my body has been tweaking out a little from all of the sitting/typing. But know that I’m still thinking about you.

For those of you who’ve read my book, I’d be so grateful if you’d write a review on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be long or perfect, ok? And you don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t do it… ūüôā

If you want to read posts from other bloggers about giftedness and achievement click here.

And, finally, please know that I’m not saying that you shouldn’t find your work/purpose in the world or you needn’t make a significant contribution. I’m just suggesting that your giftedness isn’t dependent on what you do. It’s much more about who you are.

 

 

 

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Gifted, Sensitive, Curious Children In School — What Can Parents And Teachers Do?

photo courtesy of Les Anderson, Unsplash

You would think that kids who love literature, enjoy mathematical puzzles and scientific enigmas and who are curious beyond measure, would be high achievers in school and a teacher’s dream.

There are times when this is the case: When curriculum is challenging and engaging. When teachers are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized. When classes are reasonable sizes. When administrators are supportive. When teachers get plenty of massages, dark chocolate, sleep.

And when giftedness is understood and appreciated.

Let me help you with that.

Meet six-year-old Ben. Eager to enter school, he was reading at age 4 and fascinated by the BBC documentaries on Planet Earth. He asked complicated questions about natural disasters, climate change, ancient Egypt and bacteria and told anyone who would listen about his discoveries. Ben cried easily when children or animals were hurt. He was bullied for his sensitivity and empathy. He didn’t understand why he had to practice his addition facts when he was multiplying fractions. Ben dreamed of becoming an astronaut-paleontologist-artist-poet when he grew up. He wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Meet Louise. She loved reading and learning but was overwhelmed by middle school. Overcrowded classrooms, buzzing lights, strange odors, disrespectful students who didn’t care about learning, frustrated teachers, mean girls and the pressure to be perfect all triggered her extreme anxiety and her existential depression. She appeared confident and arrogant. She was neither. She refused to go back to school.

Meet Carmen. Even though she was an exceptional writer and former straight-A student, she was failing high school English and math. She’d become discouraged over the years with the repetitive assignments and excessive homework. But she wasn’t turning in her writing for another reason this time. Carmen had very high expectations for herself and spent hours agonizing over particular words and the interconnections within her research. There were so many ideas demanding her attention that a 5 page paper turned into a doctoral thesis. But no one ever knew. She never turned it in.

These are just a few of the gifted children that I’ve known.

What can teachers do?

Get to know all of the faces of giftedness and the ways gifted children might look ungifted. Don’t assume that these kids are lazy or arrogant or immature or ADHD if they’re not achieving. Make the time (I know you don’t have much time. It’ll be worth it.) to talk individually with them. Be curious and listen to what they tell you. Problem solve together. Be flexible with deadlines and curriculum. If you use the multiple intelligences model in your classroom, all students will expect that some assignments might be different for some kids. Reduce the amount of rote learning and repetition for the students who don’t need it. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

What can parents do?

Get involved at the school and be supportive of staff. Look for the sensitive, flexible teachers and bribe them explain nicely why your child ought to be in their class. Help your older children advocate for themselves by helping them talk directly to teachers about concerns and needs. Access school counselors and former teachers who loved your youngster, so they can be advocates. If you run into lots of roadblocks, there are options. Explore acceleration, charter schools, private schools, micro schools, homeschooling, early graduation, early college, online classes, part-time school, and tutoring. Join an online parent support group. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

There are more tips for teachers in this post. More suggestions for parents are here.

Gifted children like Ben, Louise and Carmen are extremely curious, eager learners. They can appear to be ungifted when their sensitivities, intensities, divergent thinking and perfectionism are misunderstood. They can appear to be ungifted when they resist certain assignments, suffer from anxiety or depression and stop achieving.

Teachers who understand this and appreciate these children? Teachers who are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized? Well, they will be a gifted kid’s dream. They will be loved beyond measure.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences with your kids or yourself in school. What challenges did you face? What successes? If you’re a teacher, let us know what it’s like for you. As always, thank you all for being here.


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Sensitivity Is Your Superpower

In times like these, you may wish that you had less sensitivity. Life as an empathetic soul is often overwhelming. It can be easy to fall into despair or anxiety. And because you are capable in multiple ways, relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants and animals may be clamoring for your assistance. 

You may be happy to help. It could be your calling to serve others . But you might feel inadequate because you aren’t the one dragging people out of burning buildings. You aren’t the one rushing into war zones to cover the atrocities.

And the clamoring may make you want to stay in bed. On your good days. On your bad days, it may make you want to pulverize the clamorers, if you know what I mean. ( Just because you’re sensitive doesn’t mean that you never feel drawn to pulverizing. I don’t recommend doing it. I’m just saying… )

You need to understand that your sensitivity is your strength. Being perceptive, empathetic, compassionate and intuitive are skills that the world needs. Desperately.

But because you’re a sensitive soul, there are some things that you need to know.

First: Just because you can sense someone’s pain, doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for fixing it. ¬†Just because you can do something faster, better and more easily than other people, doesn’t mean that you have to do that something. Practice saying no. Think of it like this: There are many helpers out there. You’re giving someone else a chance to step up. You’re helping someone else learn. I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibilities. I’m just suggesting that it’s healthy to set boundaries and limits. You’re very capable in many areas. It’s impossible and inappropriate for you to do everything you could possibly do. Exhausting yourself? Not recommended. Look for the times when you’re drawn to something because it’s energizing. Head in that direction.

Second: Get toxic people out of your life. They’ll get help elsewhere. You may be enabling them by letting them rely on you; and we all know that enabling is a no-no. And, by the way, the toxic people might include family members. In that case, get them out of your life, too. ( If that sounds harsh, it is. Most certainly, try therapy first and blunt discussions, if you’re so inclined. But for the truly toxic, you may need to say bye-bye.*) You’ll feel guilt. Try to let go of the guilt. Tell yourself that you’re healing the legacy of dysfunction in your family line. That your ancestors are benefitting. Because they are. ( Trust me on that one. ) Everyone benefits when you stand up for yourself.

Third: Self-care is your friend. You are not a wimp if you need to rest.

Finally: Appreciate your sensitivity. It makes you powerful. Your awareness and your capacity for compassion and loving is vast. And surely this planet, your relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants, animals and even your politicians, need all of the love and compassion they can get.

Sensitivity is your superpower.

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* I know that in some cases you won’t be able to say good-bye to toxic family members. In those cases, do your best to set limits, protect yourself and get support.

To my dear bloggEEs: Tell us about your sensitivities. How do you protect yourself from the clamorers? Describe how you use your superpower. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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How Can You Be Too Much And Not Enough At The Same Time?

photo courtesy of Joshua Earle, Unsplash

How is it possible to be both too much and not enough at the same time?

Here’s how:

Reasons you think that you are too much:

You question too much. You read too much. You think too much. You feel too much. You talk too much. You research too much. You do too much. You know too much.

You are too intense. Too sensitive. Too empathetic. Too curious. Too obsessive. Too smart. Too geeky. Too emotional. Too self-absorbed. Too compassionate. Too introspective. Too intuitive. Too analytical. Too creative. Too idealistic. Too weird.

Reasons you think that you are not enough:

You’ll never meet your high expectations. You know how much you don’t know. You haven’t won a Nobel prize. You haven’t invented anything “insanely great.” You dropped out of college. You dropped out of elementary school. You couldn’t save your parents from their dysfunctional patterns. You have too many interests. You haven’t settled on one career. You don’t have friends. Your mother said so. You haven’t lived up to “your great potential.” You’re easily overwhelmed. Your friends do so much more than you do. Your gifted child is getting bad grades in school and hitting kids on the playground. You make mistakes.

What is the truth?

If you have a rainforest mind, which you know you do, pretty much everything about you is MORE. It’s not too much. It’s just more. It’s natural for the jungle to be more. More life. More death. More growth. More wild. More you.

But not everyone is comfortable in the jungle. And your moreness probably includes massive amounts of self-analysis, self-criticism and self-awareness.

Which leads you to. You guessed it. Not enoughness.

How paradoxical of you.

Lucky that you have a rainforest mind so that you can appreciate paradox.

And what do you do about it?

Here’s an idea from one of our lovely bloggEEs:

“…I think it‚Äôs ‚Äúok‚ÄĚ to be too much, but have come to understand that the mainstream sometimes needs it organized, categorized, and occasionally drip-fed to be palatable. Sort of a form of self-curation, a rotation of the collections‚Ķ even the world‚Äôs greatest museums don‚Äôt have their entire collections on display…”

And here’s another idea from the great rainforest mind of Maya Angelou:

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with too muchness and not enoughness? How do you handle it? Thank you to the reader who made the above comment and to the reader who inspired this post. Comments are greatly appreciated by all of us. Please. Show us your collection. We can handle it.

And if you’re looking for more support and strategies and haven’t read my book yet, well, what are you waitin’ fer??? And if you have read my book, thank you. Let us know your thoughts.


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Are You A Driven Perfectionist In A Slacker World?

photo courtesy of Andrew Branch, Unsplash

Angela is driven. At her job as a graphic designer and communications coordinator, she works 10-12 hour days, and some weekends. Her standards for her work are well beyond those of her colleagues, including the CEO of the organization. Coworkers depend on her to keep the company functioning but also resent her high expectations, her critiques of their writing and her evaluation of their less than adequate customer service.

Angela didn’t attend college. She was raised in a seriously dysfunctional family. It’s hard to understand how she knows what she knows, unless you realize that she has a rainforest mind: A mind that learns quickly and deeply whatever it finds appealing, fascinating or complicated. A heart that feels extreme empathy for humans, animals and plants.

Coworkers take advantage of Angela. Because her work is always of the highest quality and completed in less than half the time, she’s one person doing a two-three person job. Not only that: Workmates¬†ask her to create¬†invitations to their kids’ birthday parties and to design¬†the programs for their Aunt Matilda’s half-sister’s memorial. In her spare time. For free. She does it because she can and because she can’t say ‘no.’

Angela is a driven perfectionist in a slacker world.

I tell her: “Just because you’re able to do it, doesn’t mean you have to do it. You have a right to set boundaries. To say ‘no.’ To have a life outside of your job.” But her extraordinary abilities, her empathy and her early trauma all tell her ‘no’ is not an option.

I tell her: “Feel your satisfaction-sometimes-joy in finding¬†the perfect phrase¬†and the most striking images. Understand that others may not notice or care. Feel your satisfaction-sometimes-joy anyway.” This is the¬†healthy perfectionism that comes with a¬†rainforest mind. Regular people¬†may not¬†understand it.

I tell her: “If you feel resentment, anger or extra stressed¬†at your job, consider allowing some of your work to be¬†less than¬†extraordinary. Settle for excellent. Notice if you need to excel because it gives you joy or because¬†you have to prove your worth. Or both.”¬†If it’s unworthiness, it’s unhealthy perfectionism. You can thank your dysfunctional family for that. Your therapist can help you detach your sense of worth from your achievements.

Well, then. If you are, like Angela, a driven perfectionist in a slacker world, take heart. Find the places where your drive, idealism and high standards are appreciated and needed. (Your favorite struggling nonprofit? Your gifted kids? Your community garden? Your elderly neighbors?) Spend time in those places.

And, your coworker’s Aunt Matilda’s half-sister? I’m pretty sure she won’t mind if there aren’t any programs at her memorial.

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To my bloggEEs: Does Angela sound like you? Do you find yourself overworked and under-appreciated at your job, at school or at home? Are you a perfectionist? How do you manage your drive, high standards and expectations? How do make¬†time to rest? And, if you’re wanting to improve¬†your work environment¬†,¬†in spite of the slackers,¬†and don’t know where to begin, try the folks at Rebels At Work for ideas and for a community of like-minds. And thank you for being here.


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What Does Gifted Look Like? Clearing Up Your Confusion

photo courtesy Marcus Dall Col, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy Marcus Dall Col, Unsplash, CC

People are astonished by how much you can do. You think you’re lazy. There’s so much that you’re not doing.

People tell you how smart you are. You feel dumb. You know how much you don’t know and you still haven’t decided¬†what you want to be when you grow up.

People admire your (musical, artistic, mathematical, linguistic, etc.) talents. You think they’re patronizing you. You notice all of the mistakes you make. Surely, they do, too, but they’re too¬†polite to mention them.

How is it possible that you see yourself as a lazy not-so-smart slacker and others see you as so-lucky-to-be-gifted? How can your sense of yourself be so different from how others see you?

Like life in the rain forest, it’s complicated.

Maybe it’s your super high expectations. You don’t realize that others don’t have similar¬†standards. Doesn’t everyone want to create¬†beauty, balance, harmony and justice all of the time? Don’t all people value precision?

Um, no.

Maybe it’s your enthusiasm for learning about, well, everything. Isn’t¬†everyone obsessed with reading and researching multiple disparate topics instead of sleeping, which is such a waste of time? Aren’t all people thrilled¬†that MIT is offering classes online? Doesn’t everyone dream of changing career paths every 3-5 years?

Not really.

Maybe it’s your capacity for observing and perceiving and noticing. Isn’t everyone bothered by the buzzing florescent lights, the crooked pictures on the wall, the house in your neighborhood that was painted chartreuse?

Nope.

Maybe it’s your extra sensitivity and empathy. Can’t everyone feel the distress in the room? Isn’t everyone overwhelmed by the news? Don’t all humans want to save the world?

Nah.

So, if you’re confused by the difference between¬†the feedback that you get and your own self-perception, time to get unconfused. Maybe it’s your highest standards, your zest¬†for learning, your keen capacity to perceive, your intense¬†sensitivity and your exceptional empathy.

Maybe that is what gifted looks like.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the reader who suggested this topic. Let us know if you’ve lived with this confusion and what you think and feel about it.¬†I appreciate hearing from you! By the way, there’s another factor that might contribute to your confusion: Growing up in a dysfunctional family. Find out more here and here.

There’s a new podcast interview of me. You can find it here. It’s a two-parter from Christy Harvey¬†about gifted adults and parenting gifted kids.

And here’s an earlier¬†podcast, if you haven’t heard it. This one is from Aurora Remember¬†with a focus on me!


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The Benefits Of Being Gifted

photo courtesy of Rowan Heuvel, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Rowan Heuvel, Unsplash, CC

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m focusing on all of the many challenges that can exist when you have a¬†rainforest mind. What about all of the good stuff, you might ask. Are there benefits to having a rainforest mind and, if there are, can¬†you acknowledge them? And not feel guilty?

I imagine that you¬†experience, on a daily basis, how it’s not easy being green gifted. But many¬†people assume that it’s a perfectly fabulous life of great achievement and private jets that fly you to your second home mansion on your personal¬†island paradise every other weekend. Maybe you also believed that, and so, because your life isn’t perfectly fabulous, you assumed that you weren’t gifted.

And¬†it may be hard to speak about your actual strengths and accomplishments, without being seen as arrogant, conceited or insensitive. Without feeling guilty. That you don’t deserve these abilities¬†and achievements. That it was a fluke that you got that award or that promotion. And it’s weird that¬†people keep asking you how you know so much. When you know how much you don’t know.

How, then, can you identify your strengths, accept them, and be comfortable in your intense, emotional, supersmart, sensitive skin?

For starters: Here’s my handy dandy list of ways your rainforest mind is beneficial:

Sensitivity: Makes you a better parent, healer, therapist, colleague, cook, artist, political activist, dancer, musician, teacher, spouse, medical professional, realtor, electrician, plumber, neighbor, everything. You see? Whatever you do. Being sensitive makes you better at it. You’re perceptive. You notice things others don’t. You have deep emotions. You care. Think of it this way: Would you prefer working with a sensitive dentist or an insensitive one?

Intensity: You’re passionate, mysterious, and fascinating.¬†You can get a lot done in a short amount of time. You scare away people you’d rather not talk to anyway.

Fast, deep, and wide learning; Curiosity: The world needs more people who actually know something, think deeply, ask questions, seek answers and analyze possibilities. When things get dull, you can always captivate yourself.

Sense of humor: You are fun to have around in uncomfortable situations. People will overlook your quirks.

Creativity: Whether it’s art, music, inventing, problem solving, designing, filming, synthesizing, rocket launching, brainstorming, writing, parenting, teaching, knitting or something else, your creating is medicine.

Perfectionism: You have the intrinsic driving need to create beauty, harmony, balance and justice. If you’re a surgeon, you’re very popular.

Empathy: See sensitivity. It makes you a better everything. You understand and feel the hearts of humans, animals and plants. You’ll probably never start a war.

Multipotentiality: You can change jobs easily when things get dull. There are countless ways that you are useful. Your children will appreciate how entertaining you are. Your memoir will be a bestseller.

Social conscience: You need to make the world a better place. And because of your sensitivity, intensity, learning capacity, curiosity, sense of humor, creativity, perfectionism, empathy and multipotentiality, you will make it so.

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Thank you to the bloggEE who requested this topic. I’m open to other topic suggestions as well. In what ways do you appreciate your rainforest traits? Make a list of your strengths. How have you and others benefitted from your giftedness? Your comments, questions, and ideas are most welcome!