Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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How To Face Your Fear Of Failure

I could not have said it better myself.

(Photo by Madhi Bafandi, Unsplash)

In the words of a courageous bloggEE:

“…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 anymore. I know I will ‘fail’, but now I’d rather fail than not try…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… And today, I accept (and love) my difference …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 failure. And finally, what is failure? I’m not letting anybody decide that for me anymore. If I learn, I succeed. And that’s it!…”

So. What if we all made lists of our so-called failures until we were no longer scared of them? We look them straight in the eyes and see how small and insignificant most of them are or, if, in fact, they are actually even failures. And for the big ones, perhaps, after we get some distance, we can see what we learned. You know the saying, right? You learn more from your failures than your successes. Well, it is true! Then, you might also examine what you are calling failures to see if they are losses but not failures.

And so, let’s hold a competition to see whose list is longest and we will give that person the prize for persistence, fortitude, ingenuity, creativity, and courage. OK?

By the way, you may or may not realize that your fear of failure is so intense because of the early pressure in your family to be super smart, which felt to you like the reason why you were loved. Must be smart. Must not make mistakes. Must win at all costs. Or you will lose the love, the attention, the recognition. Your identity.

But now you are older, you realize that learning is essential. So, you must risk failure to keep learning. You must make many mistakes along the way. You must fail miserably some of the time. Failures are necessary. Failures are your friends. Failures may be minor mistakes made extra large by your inner executioner who may, at one time, have been the voice of your mother/father. Failures take you on exciting adventures you may have otherwise missed. Failures are great material for TED talks and memoirs.

Of course, I am not saying you should go out of your way to fail. Although, that might be fascinating. You can have successes now and then, too.

But, hey, what is success, anyway?

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To my darling bloggEEs: Let’s start on those lists. Let us know all about your failures! And thank you to the bloggEE who bravely went first.

For those of you who wanted more, do not despair. I wrote this article on perfectionism for psychotherapy.net published just last week. I describe healthy and unhealthy perfectionism and list many strategies for both. It might be a good one to share with your therapist.

And, my newly designed website/blog is in the works. Coming soon. It will have the same blog content. It will just be prettier.


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Being Gifted May Not Be Such A Gift

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.

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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.


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Tango Lessons — The Benefits of Being Klutzy

It was 1999. I needed something new. A creative outlet. A way to meet new people and improve my social skills. I had always been attracted to dancing but had never taken classes, unless you include my brief stint with ballet at age 11 with the strict, intimidating Russian woman who terrified me. I decided to try ballroom dancing at our local community college.

It was a gentle beginning. A nonthreatening potpourri of dance genres and styles. Kinda fun. While in the class, I learned about other dance opportunities in town. There was west coast swing on Mondays, salsa on Tuesdays, contra dancing on Saturdays, ecstatic dance on Wednesdays, and Argentine tango on Sundays. And so, I ventured out into the eclectic dance world of Eugene, Oregon.

(Note: If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have come across the adventures of Andrei and my Tango Therapy. But this is not that story.)

I first tried West Coast Swing (where I met Andrei) but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. And the community of dancers was a bit too competitive and kind of clique-ish.

So, next, I experimented with salsa. I loved the beat of the music and had a certain knack for it. But the dance events didn’t even start until 10pm and everyone there looked to be about 14 years old. So I didn’t stick with it.

(Another note: I skipped over contra and ecstatic dancing. I admit to an unfair bias. My town is known for being what might affectionately be called hippie dippy. I appreciate the progressive leanings of that population for sure but not the garlic scent that can accompany some of the dancers. Apologies to my readers who are garlic lovers or who identify as hippies.)

Then, there was the Argentine tango.

I remember the first day. I slipped into the room, standing in the shadows, hiding, just to see what was up. It looked impossible. I watched the dancers moving gracefully around the floor. Striding. Legs flicking to the haunting music. Bodies glued together. How did they do that?

But something was telling me to give it a try. And yet. I do not like looking like a klutz. Or a beginner. Or stupid. Or uncool.

Not that I was ever cool.

So. I decided to risk klutziness and stupidity, in spite of myself. And it worked. In a short few months, I was obsessed. (It took much longer to get unklutzy and smart-ish.) I mean really. Here we are now in a pandemic where no one is likely dancing the Argentine tango and I am still writing about it. That obsessed. Over time, I even experienced moments of pure astonishing unity when I was so connected with my partner, we were one body, one heart, and 4 legs.

You may ask, then, what does this have to do with you. Right? Surely I am not asking you to wrap your arms around total strangers and breathe on them during a pandemic!

That is correct. Read on.

I want you to try something new. Something you have always wanted to do. I want you to risk looking like a klutz, a beginner, stupid, or uncool. I know it will be hard. You are used to learning quickly whatever you try. If you might fail or even make mistakes along the way, you avoid it. Am I right?

This is typical rainforest-minded behavior. If your identity is linked deeply to being smart and the best at whatever you try, because that is what got you attention, or why you thought you were loved, then having to struggle, to not know something, even to have to practice to build your skills, may feel intimidating, uncomfortable, and even terrifying.

But, I am here to tell you that the risks are worth it. They really are. If you have kids, you will be saving them from those same fears if you show them it is OK to make mistakes or even fail. If you care about the future of the planet, and I know you do, breaking through your limits can expand your reach and your impact. It can build your confidence and open new doors to unknown possibilities.

It might even bring you pure astonishing unklutzified unity.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about any fears you might have of trying something new. Are you used to being the best or of knowing it before you learn it? Do you have anxiety around mistakes or failure? What might you be willing to try to expand your horizons?


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Why Bother Understanding Giftedness — Won’t They All Be Fine Because They Are So Smart?

No. Not really. Nah. Nope. It’s complicated. The gifted kids and adults I have known over the years have much more going on than just “smartness” — smartness, that is often defined as excelling in school, getting high grades, winning academic awards, attending Ivy League college, or becoming the wealthy corporate CEO. And that is where the problem often begins. We need to get more specific about what being smart, or better yet, what being gifted, actually is. (Note: It may or may not include those academic, achievement-oriented things and, yet, it is so much more.)

The gifted humans I have known are clearly intellectually advanced, deep thinking, extra-perceptive, quite analytical, creative problem solvers, highly sensitive, and intuitive. There is no doubt they crave learning new ideas, are introspective, compassionate, and make unusual connections between, oh, all the things. Being academic, achieving in a school setting, may not be where they show themselves, if the school environment is not keeping up with their capacity to think, understand, interpret, evaluate, synthesize, create, question, intuit, laugh, and reflect on concepts, ideas, philosophies, theories, emotions, insights, and facts.

Another way to describe these folks, other than by the rainforest mind analogy that we all know and love, is with a hyperlink model. The more gifted, the more hyperlinks. Making multiple connections between what seem to be unrelated ideas. Constant analysis, synthesis, and revelations. Hyperlinks within hyperlinks.

So. How might that feel to them? To you?

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Fascinating. Isolating. Stimulating. Starving. Energizing. Confusing.

Am I right?

I will focus on the challenges here because, well, that is the part where you, and others, need convincing.

Some examples come to mind, in no particular order: Sitting in meetings, day after day, month after month, waiting for coworkers to come to consensus on the conclusion you drew last year, waiting for colleagues to finish debating irrelevant information, waiting for someone to appreciate the nuance you bring to the discussion. Sharing only portions of your vast knowledge and talents in many areas for fear of judgment, rejection, or misunderstanding. Showing only small parts of yourself for fear of overwhelming others with your energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity. Constantly adapting to your environment so you can be understood and accepted. Smelling someone who needs a root canal. Enduring criticism for needing multiple career paths and for doing more than one project at a time. Grappling with learning disabilities that confuse and frustrate your intense appetite for knowledge. Never finding a mentor or guide who knows more than you do. Settling for friendships that are limited in depth and range. Being bullied in school because you want to spend recess in the library. Terrified to make a mistake because in your mind errors mean you actually are not gifted. Listening to audio books and podcasts at faster speeds to avoid boredom. Despairing over the suffering on the planet and being called dramatic by family members. Diagnosing your illness when the doctors can’t. Unable to turn off your thinking and worrying to fall asleep or just relax. Pressured to live up to others’ expectations. Pressured to not disappoint your parents and teachers who rely on you. Achieving mastery in your field(s), winning those awards, and still feeling like you are not enough. Desperate to find even one person for meaningful dialogue and open-hearted relationship.

And, finally:

Considerable self-doubt, self-criticism, and anxiety for many reasons but also because you imagine all of the REAL gifted people are high achieving, valedictorian, Ivy League, confident, super star CEOs who are all fine because, well, they are so darned smart.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Am I describing you? How? What other examples do you have? Is there someone you know who needs to read this? Thank you for sharing your feelings, thoughts, and questions. As you know, my blog wins the prize for best comments ever. Much love to you.


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“If I Admit I Am Gifted, I Will Have To Do Something Great” (A Rainforest Mind In Austria)

Has this crossed your mind? If you are gifted, you need to do something great? Create a better world? Well. I am here to tell you that it is sort of true. Sorry. But it does not have to be insanely great. It can just be kinda great. Or somewhat great. Or relatively great. Or great-ish.

Before you get all freaked out on me, let me explain.

I was talking with a wonderful woman in Austria the other day. She was having a hard time acknowledging her giftedness. Like many of you, she kind of garbled the word when she said it. Mggifffttd. Even though she found my quiz to be incredibly revealing and she scored extremely high on the test in the book The Gifted Adult, she was still not sure.

(photo courtesy of Alina Sofia, Unsplash)

But I saw so many signs. Here they are:

~ Ava is an electrical engineer and teaches engineering students. Her students do not always appreciate her. She is assuming they are as capable as she is. She doesn’t realize that what is common sense to her, may actually be confusing to them. They may need her to slow down and repeat her explanations more than once.

~ Ava spends extra time giving her students detailed feedback about assignments. She is particularly conscientious and empathetic.

~ She is an avid reader and researcher and has so many interests, she is often overwhelmed. Ava found me through an article I wrote on Emilie Wapnick’s site, the Puttyverse. She has since joined their community of multipotentialites to get support for managing her interests and choosing directions.

~ One of Ava’s favorite things to do is explore AI. On her own. For fun. To reassure her, I told her that the definition of fun for an RFM is not the same as for the masses. She was also learning Sanskrit in her spare time and had an emotional response to the beauty of robotic theory.

Have I convinced you yet that Ava is Mggiffttd? Have I convinced Ava?

There’s more.

~ Ava does not like small talk. She told me she is so relieved that when she is at the hair dresser, she can read instead of chatting about the latest neighborhood scandal.

~ Off and on throughout her life, she has been called arrogant.

~ Ava loved her seventh grade math teacher who appreciated her advanced abilities and helped her enroll at the university for math classes.

~ Colleagues talk to her and repeat themselves because they think she is not understanding them. Sure they are speaking in her non-native tongue but what is actually happening is she is thinking ahead of them and of the implications of what they are saying.

~ Ava finishes an assignment at work that is supposed to last 8 hours in 6. She feels guilty if she spends the rest of the time doing something for herself.

There is plenty of evidence, then, that Ava has a rainforest mind. Right?

But then, in our latest conversation, Ava shared her dilemma. She admitted she might still be denying her giftedness because she believes she would have to achieve eminence or win a Pulitzer or change the world if she was so smart. And that pressure to achieve would be just too much to bear.

Oh.

Of course.

Pressure to achieve. Pressure to live up to your potential. Pressure to win, to be the smartest one, to know it all. To make a difference on the planet.

The pressure is real. If you are so smart, they say, why aren’t you rich, famous, inventing the next iPhone, and solving homelessness, pandemics, racism, and the climate crisis?

No wonder Ava is not sure she is gifted.

So here is what I think.

You were born with a rainforest mind for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. And then live out that purpose in the best way you can.

How? What activities, skills, and topics open your heart and bring your life meaning, fulfillment, and maybe even joy? You may need to experiment and explore to answer this. It could take some time because there are so many things. That’s OK. Maybe environmental law? Climate science? AI Ethics? Medical intuition? ArtPoetryMusic? Dance therapy? Energy healing? Politics? Use that super creative brain of yours to turn them into a career path(s) or hobbies or nonprofits or podcasts or books or a political campaign or blog or parenthood or food cart or a unique-to-your-quirky-self side hustle.

Be sure to include ‘spread more love’ in your mission statement.

And maybe it is as simple as that. You were born to spread more love.

So do it. And be gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: What thoughts, feelings, questions, and inspirations does this post stir up? I so appreciate all of you. And thank you to Ava for sharing herself with us.

(Note: In case you missed it, I am linking here to a new experimental project of mine. I call it Sound Memes for Your Rainforest Mind. You might say this project is a glimpse into my exploration of singing and spirituality. The description on the site will tell you more. This project also might inspire you to take your own leap into that thing you have been avoiding for years for fear of being seen as a teensy weensy bit beyond the pale. Or extremely outlier-ish. Or even weirder than everyone thought. OK? Do it. Be gifted.)


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Why Do You Need To Know You Have A Rainforest Mind?

You are a big thinker. A deep thinker. A constant thinker. An analytical and creative thinker. Some might call you an overthinker.

photo courtesy of Kazi Mizan, Unsplash

You are a big feeler. A deep feeler. A constant feeler. (Unless you have learned your emotions are a sign of weakness. Or you have learned to repress them because of disturbing childhood events) An analytical and creative feeler. Some might call you an overfeeler.

You are a big perceiver/intuiter. A deep perceiver/intuiter. A constant perceiver/intuiter. An analytical and creative perceiver/intuiter. Some might call you an overperceiver/intuiter.

You have probably tried to be less of an *over* person. You may have seen it as a flaw or something you had to control or hide. Certainly not a strength or a sign of giftedness. You may have been bullied in school because of all of your questions and all of your answers. You may have lost friends because they thought you were bossy when you told them the correct way to play chess or conceited when you won the spelling bee for the third year in a row or weird when you swooned over The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As an adult, you may have been seen as irresponsible when you changed careers five times before you were 35 or too picky because you painted your living room twelve times in four years. Or judgmental when you grew impatient waiting for your coworkers to catch up.

But the truth is, your rainforest mind is enormous in its capacity to think, feel, perceive, and intuit. It is not a better mind than a meadow mind or a desert mind. It is just more vast or more complex or more hooked up or more connected. Or all of those things. It means you are managing a personhood that has a heck of a lot going on in its brain-mind-heart-body-spirit. A heck of a lot. That is why it is called a rainforest, doncha know.

And this enormous capacity is tricky. Not only does it mean you have difficulty finding others who understand you and want to geek out with you about the spiritual meaning of fractals and Foucault, it puts pressure on you to be a super high achiever in, oh, all areas, oh, all of the time. Not to mention, save the world.

That is a lot of pressure.

But rainforest-mindedness is not about achievement. At least not in the traditional sense. It is not about a 4.0 GPA or a six-figure salary at a Fortune 500 company. It is not about an Olympic gold medal or a viral video. It is not about being capable in all areas all of the time. Face it. Your garage is a disaster and you still can not find your keys. You are a wreck when your child scrapes their knee and you never can remember your sister-in-law’s third husband’s name. You read romance novels and binge watch The Bachelor. You have not solved the climate crisis.

You are not perfect.

But you need to acknowledge you have a rainforest mind. You might even use the word gifted, if you can manage it. Because that is who you are. You are the rainforest-minded variety of gifted. This is because you not only have advanced intelligence, but you also have a great deal of empathy, intuition, creativity, and multipotentiality. And you need to contribute in some way to create a better world.

By the way, not all who are gifted, have these other traits. In my experience, many do. But not all.

And if you accept your place in the rainforest mind clan, then, you can rethink your critical assessment of your thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting. You will stop trying to be less of an *over* person.

When you accept that your *over* is your normal and it is quite fine just as it is, then who knows what might happen. Imagine thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting to your heart’s content. Letting your creativity run amok. Analyzing. Inventing. Geeking out over fractals and Foucault. Creating a better world.

You are not *over.* You are not *under.* You are just right.

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To my bloggEEs: So, my darlings, I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Do you deal with the conundrum that if you acknowledge you are gifted, then you have to do something phenomenal? Do you see all of your faults and so that means you are not so smart? Are you struggling to find someone who can keep up with you? Do you have painful memories of being misunderstood and bullied? Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Thank you so much for being here.


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The Pressure To Always Be The Smartest One In The Room

It is embarrassing. Nerve wracking. Anxiety provoking. I do not know what I am doing. I am not in control. Everyone else has it figured out. Except me.

photo courtesy of Ospan Ali, Unsplash

What was I thinking when I signed up for this class?

I would drop it right now but somewhere in me I know I need it. I know if I can stand being the not-very-smart one, if I can deal with my own creative rumination that tells me I am drowning in my incompetence, I know it will be worth it. Maybe extremely worth it.

Kind of like learning the Argentine tango. I hated it. In the beginning. Everyone was gliding around the room. Effortlessly. Flicking their legs to and fro. Perfectly balanced strides. Unity. One body, four legs.

I was clueless. Clumsy. Nervous. Lost and confused. But, as you know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, it was extremely worth it. It took more than two years of study, practice, and more practice before I felt any sense of cluefulness. And then, more study and practice to get to the stage of maybe-I-can-do-this. And now (after even more years) I experience moments of extreme pleasure. Of unity. Sublime unity.*

You need to hear this.

I know you avoid trying new things because you have to be the smartest one at all costs. Your identity depends on your ingenuity, your winning, your solving the problem, your clever come-back. You have been told you are very smart for many years. You have such great potential. Now you have to keep proving it. Or who are you? Your sense of self has been built on your intelligence and achievements. Praise for your accomplishments. Pressure to be the best. Expectations you now place on yourself.

Am I right?

So, it is risky to try something where you are not guaranteed speedy success. Quite risky, if you want to know the truth. Not only is it terribly uncomfortable, it also proves what you secretly believe to be the case. That you are not as smart as everyone says. You are an impostor. You have been faking it all these years. You have been lucky. The work has been easy. Your teachers liked you.

You are no Elon Musk.

I feel you.

And I am here to tell you there is no better time to take that risk. Be the not-very-smart one. Experience clumsy. Try on clueless. Get lost and confused. Take that class. Dance that tango.

It just might be sublime.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you tend to avoid trying something when you are not sure of success? Tell us about it. It is odd, isn’t it? You love learning but your fears of failure hold you back. Let us know if this is true for you (or your kids) and what it’s like. And, as always, thank you for being here. Your comments add so much.

(*Note: Sadly, I am not actually dancing now due to the pandemic.)


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A Short Guide to the Complicated Life of Gifted Adolescents or Young Adults

photo courtesy of Christian Joudrey, Unsplash

Maybe you wonder how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time. Perhaps you feel like too much and not enough.  Maybe you are terrified of both failure and success. Perhaps you love learning but are frustrated with schooling. Maybe you live by the highest standards for excellence but can never find your shoes. Well, my darlings, you are not alone. Welcome to your rainforest mind.

Here is your short guide to being a gifted adolescent or a young adult. Click on the link to read the entire post.

I Have to Know it Before I Learn It: A Gifted Kids’ Conundrum

“…He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it…”

When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

“…Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis…”

A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism

“…Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something that you’ve done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth…”

What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

“…Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time?..”

For Gifted Kids and Their Teachers: Strategies for Success

Maybe you are an enthusiastic, hungry learner. You have so many questions and so many answers; your drive to analyze and create is massive and never ending. Your intense curiosity annoys your fellow students and rattles your teachers…”

Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart Sensitive Soul 

“…Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you…”

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To my bloggEEs: I thought it might be helpful to organize a collection of posts for the youngsters among you or for the parents of the youngsters. Or for those of you who were adolescents and young adults long ago. If you’ve been a bloggEE for a while, these posts will be familiar. Let us know what you think. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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The Roots Of Unhealthy Perfectionism And What To Do About It

photo by Dylan Siebel, Unsplash

What if, from the time that you were 2 years old, you were told how smart you were. Over and over. Enthusiastically. By (well-meaning) parents and doting relatives. What if they praised you repeatedly for your many achievements and your perfect grades. What if you could tell that your parents needed you to be smart; that they felt better about themselves because you were so capable. What if you were so persuasive that they gave you too much control and not enough limits.

What if, when you arrived at elementary school, the work was too easy. You knew it before you were taught it. You learned things without really trying. What if you could get perfect scores on tests without studying and your scores were held up as an example for your fellow students. What if you were told by your teachers that you were the best student they’d ever had.

Do you think that you might grow up terrified of failure? Afraid to disappoint others? Hiding mistakes? Paralyzed by anxiety? Believing that if you aren’t a super achiever or the best at everything that you’re a failure? Thinking that all learning must be quick and easy or else it means that you’re not smart? You’re an impostor? A fake?

Do you think that you might grow up thinking that you should know everything before you learn it so that practicing or studying or effort feels boring or scary or unfamiliar? That you have to be mature and adult-like at all times? That you can’t tell anyone that you don’t know something because you have to know everything?

Well, my dears, this, yes this, may be the root of your unhealthy perfectionism. This may be the root of your (possibly unconscious) belief that you have to be super smart at all times or you’re worthless and unlovable. 

By the way, parents, relatives and educators aren’t conspiring against you. They don’t realize the effects of their reactions. Responses like these are very common. (In another post, I explain this more and suggest what parents can do.)

Understanding this root is the first step in changing its effects. 

So, now what?

This is not easy to change, especially if you’ve been living with these beliefs for a long time.

Know this: You are more than your grades, your achievements, your intellectual abilities. So much more. You are worthy of love, whether you write the perfect essay, win the competition, enter the elite school, get the high paying job, make the right decision, invent the iPhone or if you don’t achieve these things.

Somewhere deep inside yourself you know your worth. You know who you really are. So, here’s an idea:

Imagine that there’s a place in you that isn’t about achievement or accolades or winning or losing. This place is just about Love. Just Love. It’s radiant and joyful. Maybe it’s a very young child part of you. Maybe it’s an old wise part. Maybe it’s in your heart. Maybe it’s in your gut. But trust me. It’s there. Waiting for you to notice.

In a journal or in your mind, write to or picture this part of yourself. Take your time. You may be skeptical. You may need to meditate first or sit by your favorite tree. Write a letter to this Radiance. Ask it to show itself to you. Ask it for help. Then write or hear its response. It might come quickly or you might need to wait for a while. Start a relationship.

I’m betting that finding the Love will soften you up. It’ll remind you of what’s really true.

And of who you really are.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with unhealthy perfectionism? Tell us about it. What have you done that helps? We all appreciate hearing from you.

Note: There is a healthy form of perfectionism. You were born with it. I don’t know any rainforest minds who don’t have it. It’s your innate deep need for beauty, balance, harmony, precision and justice. It can create challenges for you but it’s not something you need to heal. I write about it here.

Another note: This will be extra hard or more complicated if you had chainsaw parents. If so, you might need therapy, too.

A final note: If you need more assistance, here’s a lovely book by Christina Baldwin.

A final final note: Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.


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Paralyzed By Your Great Potential

photo courtesy of Josh Marshall, Unsplash, CC

When you were a child, you were praised for your abilities. You did most things earlier and faster than your peers. You scored well on tests. Everyone was impressed. And they told you so. They said that you had so much potential. So. Much. Potential. You determined that you had to keep performing at that highest rate to keep the attention and accolades coming. Before long, it turned into pressure. Your self-worth depended on it. It was something that you had to live up to or you would no longer be the superstar, the golden child, the winner, the prodigy.

Maybe you kept achieving in spite of the pressure. Maybe you didn’t. Either way, this great-potential-thing? It had an impact. A significant impact.

So now, in adulthood, you may ask: At what age do I no longer have potential? Am I no longer precocious because I just turned 30? If I actually achieve something, does that mean that I lose my potential? How do I live up to these expectations? If I have to work hard to achieve something, does that mean that I never really had potential? If I don’t reach my potential am I a shiftless, sluggish, slothful slacker?

So many questions. So little time.

Potential becomes a burden when we see it as a predestined calling to impressive accomplishments. Both parents and children can become seduced into focusing on performance rather than growth, on being The Best rather than making progress, and on accumulating external awards and accomplishments as the primary measure of worth. Worst of all, this one-dimensional perspective on potential creates a terrible fear of failure.”   Eileen Kennedy Moore

What if we rethink great potential? What if it includes impressive failures along with outstanding accomplishments? What if great potential means resplendent mistakes along with notable achievements?

And here’s a revolutionary thought: What if great potential has very little to do with specific accomplishments?

Potential is not an endpoint; it’s a capacity to grow and learn. Nurturing children’s potential, in the broadest sense, means cultivating their humanity. It involves supporting their expanding abilities to reach out to others with kindness and empathy, to feel part of something bigger than themselves, to find joy and satisfaction in creating a life that is personally meaningful…and so much more.”   Eileen Kennedy Moore

So, go ahead. Cultivate your humanity. Reach out to others with empathy. Find joy.

Live up to your great potential.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you feel pressure to live up to your great potential? What does that mean to you? How have you been impacted? What do you think of this new way of looking at it? I appreciate hearing from you. Your comments add so much. And, thank you to the readers who inspired this post.