Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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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.

______________________________

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.

___________________________

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.

 

 

 


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Why You Still Don’t Believe That You’re Gifted

photo by Maarten van den Heuvel, Unsplash

photo by Maarten van den Heuvel, Unsplash

People tell you that you’re super smart. They’re baffled by how much you know and how you know it. You can ace a test without studying. You can talk with just about anyone about just about anything. You’re always thinking, analyzing, imagining and empathizing.

But you’re sure that you’re not gifted.

How is that possible?

Here are some ideas:

• You know how much you don’t know.

• You think you’re normal. Doesn’t everyone obsess about Dr. Who and David Attenborough’s Planet Earth documentaries?

• Too many people have told you “Don’t get a swelled head,Who do you think you are,” “You think you’re so smart,” or “Nobody likes a know-it-all.”

• You value justice and equality. If someone is gifted, someone is not gifted. It can imply that you’re better than someone else.

• Your Aunt Mindy was gifted and she didn’t turn out too well.

• You haven’t sent rockets into space or designed something “insanely great.”

• You’re good at faking it. If people knew the real you, it would be obvious that you’re average.

• You’ve been told over and over that you can’t possibly know as much as you know. You’re starting to believe it.

• When you were in school, it was embarrassing and lonely to be the smart kid.

• You’d have to live up to it and the PRESSURE would be overwhelming and then everyone would be disappointed in you and the PRESSURE would be even more overwhelming. So overwhelming, then, that you’d have to disappear into a witness protection program and acquire a new identity and not even Sherlock could find you.

• You fear rejection from family and friends. You want to belong, to fit in, to be normal.

• You have so many interests in so many diverse areas that you flit from topic/job to topic/job instead of mastering only one topic/job thoroughly and completely for your entire lifetime. In fact mastering ONLY ONE topic/job thoroughly and completely for your entire lifetime is totally terrifying.

• If you were gifted, you wouldn’t be so anxious, so depressed, so not rich or so bad at chess.

Why does it matter? Why do you need to realize that you are, in fact, gifted?

I’m glad you asked. It’s pretty simple. If you accept and embrace your giftedness (your rainforest mind), you’ll be better able to find your authentic voice and contribute in your uniquely sensitive, intense and complicated way to making a better world. Your Aunt Mindy will thank you! (so will your kids, your friends, your partner, your pets, your colleagues, your neighbors, your trees, your rivers, your planet….) 

_______________________________

To my bloggEEs: Tell us, why it is that you still don’t believe that you’re gifted. Or, if you do believe it, tell us how that happened. Thank you for sharing. I so appreciate that you’re here!


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Pressure, Paralysis And Your Great Potential

photo courtesy of Unsplash Jayakumar Ananthan CC

photo courtesy of Unsplash Jayakumar Ananthan CC

Have people repeatedly accused you of not living up to your potential? Were you called an underachiever when your grades in school were not A’s? Are people shocked and disappointed that you didn’t become a Nobel prize winning neurosurgeon? Are you convinced that all of the talk of giftedness was not meant for you and your real IQ test must’ve been eaten by aliens?

Yes? Then, you must be suffering from High Potential Deficit Disorder. (HPDD)

HPDD is a common malady among humans who are super smart but don’t perform up to a standard that society decides equals greatness or eminence. Onset of the condition is usually during early school years when paralysis sets in from an overdose of dullness due to too many worksheets and not enough actual learning. HPDD worsens if you were told, directly or indirectly, that your accomplishments were what made you lovable and worthwhile. 

HPDD can be particularly intense when accompanied by other conditions such as ADHD, SPD (sensory processing disorder), anxiety or depression. Symptoms include: extreme pressure to be smart or right at all times, eventual avoidance of situations that might be intellectually challenging, chronic loss of curiosity and effervescence, FDE (fear of disappointing everyone), FBM (fear of being misunderstood), and FOB (fear of boredom).

What can you do if you suffer from HPDD?

Decide for yourself how to define achievement. Write your own treatise on what makes a human successful. Record in your journal your memories of what was said about your potential and feel your feelings as you write. Then, design a plan to live according to your own assessment of a life worth living.

If your HPDD feels overwhelming, unmanageable or destructive, there may be another co-existing condition. You may have GUCP. Growing Up with Chainsaw Parents. In that case, find a therapist– One who loves rainforest minds and understands the predicament — the pressure and paralysis of your great potential.

____________________________

To my dear blogEEs: Were you told how much potential you had and how you weren’t living up to it? What was that like? What did you do? Does it still affect you? How have you dealt with it? Thank you, as always, for your insight, sensitivity and kindness.

This post is part of a collection of great posts on “other achieving.” To read more click on the link.  12642533_10207269014896228_7155678351495096720_n


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Most Popular Posts of 2015

Here are the top six posts of 2015. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, sharing and living your sensitive, intelligent, emotional, curious, compassionate rainforest-y life! Join me, dear bloggEEs, for more treks into the depths in 2016. Let us know, in the comments, how you’re doing and what you’d like to see next year.

Imagine A World Where Gifted Kids Don’t Have To Wait

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

My Smart Kid Is So Emotional, Am I A Parenting Failure?

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

Still Gifted After All These Years

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

photo from Flickr, CC, Phil Roeder

What Psychotherapists Need To Know About Gifted Clients

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Dumb? Part Two

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC


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If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

If I'm So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

You were five years old and couldn’t wait to get to school. But when you got there, something went terribly wrong. You anticipated learning all about the solar system and reading all of the books that you could get your curious little hands on. But, instead, you were told to help the other kids identify the letters of the alphabet and color the circles red and the triangles blue.

This was so strange. Maybe you’d entered a time machine. Maybe extraterrestrials had invaded your school. Maybe you were missing something and there was a secret code you were meant to decipher that used red, blue, circles and triangles and if you figured out the code you’d find the trap door where they hid the books.

Weren’t the other five years olds also eager to know the speed of light and to read A Wrinkle in Time? You began to wonder what was wrong with you. You weren’t like the other kids. You confused them when you spoke about your trip to NASA. They resented you when you kept correcting their spelling.

But you adored your kindergarten teacher. If you could just talk to her all day, you’d be happy.  You hung around her desk at recess wanting to ask her why the sky was blue and what she thought of tesseracts. But because she was busy and looked stressed out, you felt sad for her. She was focused on stopping Tommy from hitting Gretchen. So you didn’t ask.

And that was how it went.

You loved learning. You were starving for answers to your questions. But school didn’t know what to do with you.

Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement

Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement

I’m hoping that you didn’t interpret that to mean that you were deficient. That you were the problem. Unfortunately, I know lots of kids who did just that. And if you didn’t get good grades because you became anxious during tests or because you had exceedingly high expectations so work didn’t get turned in on time or because you became disillusioned with the pointlessness of it all, then you may have decided that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or perhaps you did get good grades. Without really trying. You could procrastinate until the very last minute and get an A. So the grades became meaningless. Or an opportunity for bullies. Or a chance for you to feel guilty. And not very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or maybe you went to a university and then your fears were realized. You hadn’t learned how to manage your time or study for exams and you felt like you shouldn’t have to ask for help. You may have been unable to choose a major because your interests were so diverse. Surely, you’d proven beyond any doubt that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Certainly not gifted?

Stop blaming yourself because you never figured out the secret code. How could you know?

You were– too gifted.

_______________________

To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences in school. Similar or different from what I’ve described here?

Disclaimer–I’m writing this blog from my perspective– growing up, going to school and counseling in the USA. I don’t know if these dynamics are common elsewhere. Can those of you from around the world let us know if you can relate? Was it similar for you? Are there differences? We’d love to hear from you. And, of course, I want to hear from all of you, my lovely readers. Your experiences, questions, feelings and insights.