Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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

photo courtesy of Thought Catalog, Unsplash

You may have read about Ben. He’s the gifted teen who said “I have to know it before I learn it.” He learned to read early. No one taught him. Learning was easy. He knew what they were teaching in school before they taught it. He came to believe that all learning happened this way. He didn’t feel particularly smart, though. Doesn’t everyone remember everything that they read? Isn’t everyone fascinated by fractals? Doesn’t everyone want to be an anthropologist-poet-engineer-actor-scuba diver when they grow up? 

It’s assumed that these kids will be fine because they’re so smart.

Not Ben. Not the gifted kids I know.

Anxiety. Perfectionism. Expectations. Pressure.

To the max.

Does this sound like you or your kids?

“I should be good at everything. I feel lost, empty, and helpless when I don’t know something. When I was very little, I was frustrated when adults didn’t respect me. I didn’t have the words to express my intense feelings and I felt powerless and angry. My body couldn’t accomplish what my mind could imagine. I can still feel that helplessness. Probably why I need so much control now.”

“They kept saying that I was so smart so I felt that if I didn’t get high grades, I’d disappoint them. Or worse. They’d see that I wasn’t so smart. And that would be devastating. Who was I if I was average? Or mediocre? I couldn’t even bake a cake without worrying that I’d make a mistake.”

“I feel everything so intensely. That includes frustration. Sadness. Empathy. All of it. No wonder I’m anxious.”

“…I am so afraid of failure. I tend to work on skills privately to protect my self-image. If it’s not ready for prime time, no one sees…”

“Up to a certain point, most things came easily. When I didn’t automatically know what to do, I watched or mimicked a few times and then the information or process was stored for good. But if I didn’t think I’d be successful at something in a short period of time (or at all), I wouldn’t even try…”

“…when you can imagine the ideal creation in greater detail…(or when you can imagine so many more different VERSIONS of perfection) then it’s much harder, emotionally, when you inevitably fall short…The scary thing about actually working to achieve something is that there’s always the possibility that, even if you work hard, the product could be mediocre…” 

“…I’m now in my forties and have multiple advanced degrees, but I still struggle with forgiving myself when learning doesn’t come easily. My daughter exhibits similar behaviors, and as I help her learn about how her brain functions, I’m finding the compassion to help myself…”

What, then, are some ways that you can help yourself and your kids?

• 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.

•  Make a list of self-soothing techniques that work for you. Try the different apps that exist such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. It often helps to create a daily meditation practice or exercise plan. Some people have found morning pages from The Artist’s Way to be useful. Notice if food sensitivities or hormones are a factor. Get help from a smart, sensitive practitioner, such as a bodyworker, acupuncturist, naturopath, or therapist.

• Make a list of calming reminders. Here are some items on one teen client’s list: I’m a fallible human. I make mistakes, like everyone. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. Making a mistake does not make me a bad person. Am I catastrophizing? Do I need to be this upset? My body tends to be anxious, but I’m actually safe. It’s going to be OK. I’m older now and I have more control over my experiences. Now that I’m older, it makes sense that there will be many things that I won’t know. 

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne is a good resource if you need many specific techniques.

Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination.

•  If you’re a parent, share these ideas with your children. Listen to them as they share their frustrations and fears. Careful listening and reflection often works better than advice giving or rescuing. If they’re very young, give them the specific words for their emotions.

• You have great compassion for others. Let yourself receive some of that sweetness, too. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.

And remember, above all, your kids and you will learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. And your memoir will be much more fascinating because of your failures, your foibles, and even your fears. Where would David Sedaris be today without failures, foibles, and fears?

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To my bloggEEs: You may notice that some of these quotes come from your comments. Thank you so much. What else do you have to say about anxiety and perfectionism? Clearly, sharing your experiences helps us all! And thank you to the client who inspired this post and gave me permission to use some of her words.

Thank you to those of you who’ve read my book. If you could write an imperfect review on Amazon, I’d be so grateful. And if you don’t have my book yet, well, ahem, what are you waitin’ for? And, if you go to my About page, you’ll see I’ve added a podcast and an interview about parenting gifted kids. Sending you all much love.


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I Have to Know it Before I Learn It — A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum

photo courtesy of Talen de St Croix, Unsplash

My 16-year-old client, I’ll call him Ben, was struggling in school. No one thought he was gifted. His grades were average. He didn’t turn in many assignments. He didn’t get high test scores. He was so anxious, he’d miss many days of school. His parents were confused. They knew he was capable of completing the homework. Why didn’t he just do it?

Because I’d seen many kids like this, I could tell that Ben was, indeed, gifted. He asked penetrating questions. Had multiple interests. Spent hours online researching musical genres , computer coding, bike repair, mathematics, psychological theories, and on and on.  He was highly sensitive and empathetic with all plants, animals, and humans.

Ben had difficulty relating to youngsters his age. The friends he did have, he wanted to rescue. They were often the troubled kids. He could feel their hopelessness and their anger and felt a responsibility to intervene. He didn’t understand why they didn’t respond well to his help or why they weren’t interested in his intellectual pursuits.

Ben wanted to learn what he wanted to learn and when he mastered, say, a new guitar playing technique, he’d raise the bar and keep questing for the next big thing. He’d spend many hours worrying about the future of the planet and how he might make an impact.

These are the traits of a gifted human; a person with a rainforest mind.

One day he said to me, I have to know everything before I learn it.

What?

I have to know everything before I learn it.

It took me some time to understand what he meant and why this was his experience.

Like many gifted children, Ben learned how to read at an early age. No one taught him to read. He just started reading. Learning was easy. He’d read and he’d remember. He could watch someone riding a bike and be successful on the first try. He taught himself guitar. When he started school, he already knew the material. He knew it before he learned it.

This was the 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.

With gifted kids who, unlike Ben, have been told repeatedly that they’re so smart, this is still a problem. They also know it before they learn it. And they can feel great pressure to achieve, to please the adults who are praising them, and to prove their worth through their accomplishments. So, for them, if they’re facing a difficult task, their identity is threatened. And they, too, can experience confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance.

Either way, having to know it before you learn it, is a tricky proposition.

And you wondered why it was so hard to parent these kids?

Or to be one yourself?

Welcome to your rainforest mind.

And to one of its many tangled, multi-layered, sticky, complicated conundrums.

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To my bloggEEs: Was this you? Tell us how you dealt with the pressure to always know it before you learned it. To have the right answer. To prove how smart you were. Do you avoid activities where you might not succeed? Did you learn how to study? We’d love to hear from you. Your experiences make this blog so much richer. And thank you, dearest ones, for being here.

And for more information about gifted kids, here’s a recent podcast interview with me and Kathleen Casper of the Florida Association for the Gifted. We’re talking about the social, emotional, and academic issues gifted children face. Join us!

 

 


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Even Though You’ve Been Told You’re Too Bright, Now is the Time to Shine Your Light

photo courtesy of Joshua Hibbert, Unsplash

“When you dim your light, the whole world gets darker.” *

How do you shine your Light if you’ve been told repeatedly that you shine too bright. That your Light will blind others. That your Light isn’t really Light but is actually bipolar disorder and you are arrogant to think otherwise. That it’s only fair that you keep your Light dim because people will feel bad if you outshine them. That your Light will expose the truth in your family and that’s dangerous. That your Light threatens to shake up the world order. 

How do you shine your Light anyway?

How do you expand your Light even further than you ever thought possible?

What do you do if your Light scares the heck out of YOU?

Well, dearest friends. Here’s a theory:

What if there’s so much turmoil in the world right now because there’s so much Light shining? The Light is showing us where the darkness** still lurks. What if we’re more aware of the crazy because there’s more enLightenment, not less? What if our job is to create more Light because it will eventually shine so bright that Light/Love will win?

(** Just for the record, I’m not really fond of the light versus dark analogy. It can indirectly support the whole light is good and dark is bad paradigm, which can then be ignorantly applied to people. In my opinion, “dark” can symbolize beauty, fertility, lush, green, wet, incubation, rest, power, balance, healing, growth, death/rebirth, transformation…and so on. Where would the rainforest be without the dark? But I digress.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah. How can you shine your Light in spite of the bullies, the critics, the misdiagnoses, the chainsaw family members, and your own fears of failure, success, overwhelm, and, oh, annihilation?

It’s complicated.

First, you have to realize that you have Light to shine. It’s time to recognize your strengths. That you indeed do have a rainforest mind. That you’re resonating with this blog because you belong here. So. In your journal, make a list of your strengths and write an ode to your rainforestness. Or draw a huge mindmap of your strengths, interests, and accomplishments. Prepare to be impressed.

Then, accept that your fears make sense, considering your experiences. If you’ve been told to hide your Light multiple times, in various ways, it can be discouraging and demoralizing. It can convince you that you’re crazy, and certainly not gifted. Of course, you have doubts. Your rainforest mind can create millions of doubts.

So here’s another thing to do: Make a list of books, websites, and people who can provide support, insight, and guidance. Then, make time to read, research, and receive the understanding and love. Remind yourself that being in a healing and growth process is important for yourself, your family, your ancestors, and the planet.

Then find small ways and big ways to shine. And imagine that you can shine even brighter. That it’s safe now to get brighter. That you’ve only just begun to know the extent of your reach.

Together. Let’s shake up the world order.

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your resources for personal and planetary support, insight and guidance in the comments. (You can share your Odes, too!) For example, I’m reading two great books right now that are positive and powerful guides to action on climate change. The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker and We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. What are you reading? And thank you, as always, for your wonderful beingness.

And, hey. I’m thinking about designing an online class for rainforest minds. What do you think? What would you like me to include in the class?

I’ll be at the SENG conference July 19-22, 2018. If you attend, please find me and introduce yourself!

*Christiane Northrup

 

 

 


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Goodbye To Your Impostor Syndrome — Hello To Your Authentic Self

photo courtesy Madeline Tallman, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy Madeline Tallman, Unsplash, CC

If you really were an impostor, you wouldn’t be worrying that you’re an impostor.

Think about it. There are people we all know who do not worry about this. They firmly believe that they have all of the answers and that they are very smart. They do not worry that they are impostors. Kind of like a narcissist doesn’t worry that he’s a narcissist because he’s a narcissist.

You, on the other hand, well, you worry. You have the depth, sensitivity and intelligence to know that there are no easy answers or quick solutions. Except, maybe, if you’re asking: Should I eat that hot fudge sundae now or later?

But you don’t trust that your depth, sensitivity and intelligence is enough. You don’t trust that it means that you’re gifted. You imagine that some day the truth will come out and you’ll be exposed as the fraud that you truly are.

And there are good reasons for this. You can find them here. It’s helpful to know the reasons.

But. What if, just for today, you decided that you couldn’t waste any more time worrying when the truth will come out. Worrying when you’ll be exposed. Worrying when you will fail spectacularly.

You have things to do.

What might that be like? Saying goodbye to your impostor syndrome.

Maybe you’d have more time to create. Maybe you’d finally start that project that’s been calling your name for years. Maybe your children would need less therapy when they got older. Maybe it would bring you closer to your authentic Self and your mission here on earth.

(Note: Do not panic about the “mission” thing. No pressure. Well, maybe a little pressure. But your mission doesn’t need to be: end world hunger. Although, it can be. Your purpose may be to raise compassionate, sensitive, empathetic humans and/or to end the legacy of abuse in your family line. Just imagine if everyone on earth did that. Just imagine.)

I know saying goodbye will not be easy. The impostor syndrome is tangled and thorny. I’m just asking you to start the process. Feel into it. Repeat after me: I have a rainforest mind. In my own particular uniquely magnificent way, I am gifted. If I were really an impostor, I wouldn’t be worrying that I’m an impostor.

Now, let’s go eat that sundae.

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To my bloggEEs: What if you play with this idea and describe or draw an image of yourself without your impostor syndrome. What do you look like? How do you feel? Is it scary? Lonely? Freeing? Exciting? If you have a journal, write about it. Tell us in the comments what you’ve discovered. And thank you, as always, for your courage.

This post is part of a blog hop from Hoagiesgifted.org. Click on the image to find more posts on the topic of gifted children and adults, written by parents and professionals.13879215_10208710258486417_2791415865854519067_n

 

 

 

 


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The Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Love Your Impostor Syndrome

photo courtesy of Brian Chan, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Brian Chan, Unsplash, CC

As you may have heard, ahem, I have written a book that will be released next month, June 2016. I’m noticing just a teensy weensy bit of impostor syndrome.

Well, OK, maybe it’s not so teensy weensy. Possibly because it’s infused with generous amounts of fear: of failure, success, overwhelm, and, oh, utter humiliation and devastation for now and all eternity.

Because I know that you also have bouts of the syndrome, affectionately known as IMPS, it occurred to me that there must be some benefits. Right? Why would so many of us be afflicted if there weren’t something to gain?

So, here it is. My list of the top ten reasons why you should love your IMPS:

10. You can avoid the pressure and expectations that come with being seen as a very smart (not to mention gifted) person.

9. You’re protected from ever having to produce anything of note.

8. You don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed because no one will be paying attention to you and that’s the way your introverted soul likes it.

7. You might actually be an impostor so you’re not embarrassing yourself by admitting it now.

6. In a past life, you were burned at the stake for being brilliant, and that was kind of painful so you’d rather not repeat it.

5. Family members like you better when you’re not so uppity.

4. You were bullied in school for showing your intellectual enthusiasm so you decided that  mediocrity was a safe alternative.

3. You grew up with narcissistic parents and will avoid being like them — at all costs.

2. Your need to be fair and equitable to all humans overwhelms the evidence that you might be smarter than many of them.

1. People like you because you’re less annoying so they bring you tuna casseroles and cupcakes when you’re sick.

So, the next time you go out and write your book or speak your mind or believe that you’re gifted in spite of your fears of utter humiliation and devastation for all eternity, remember to love your IMPS.

And yourself.

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences with impostor syndrome. What’s it like for you? What helps? And, thank you. When we meet? I’ll bring the cupcakes.

 


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Fear of Success? — Time To Let It Go

photo courtesy of Elowyn Allanketner

These times require that all of us with rainforest minds step up. These times require that our fears of success and anxieties over failure be damned. These times require that we do whatever it takes to heal the wounding that has kept us from being our True Selves.

Normally, my message is gentle and respectful. I believe that kindness and empathy are important keys to helping people change. That said, today, I’m gonna push.

Some of you need a push because you’re oh-so-close to radiance. Oh-so-close to compassionate power. Oh-so-close to intuitive awarenesses that could rearrange and reconfigure your perceptions of reality. But you can’t quite get there because you don’t believe in yourselves or you have “memories” of being burned at the stake in one form or another or you don’t know how to tap into your Wisdom.

Well, then:

•  Believe in yourself. Come on. You have a rainforest mind. That means that you’re a quick learner, an analytical thinker and a sensitive soul. What’s in the way of your self-appreciation? Critical voices from your past? Start journaling to explore the voices. Get to know them. Draw them. Write letters to them. Ask them what they’re protecting you from. If they’re very convincing, find a good therapist who can help calm the little buggers and get them to ease up on you. Then you can start to see who you really are.

•  Risk the burning. I know. Easy for me to say. If you carry “memories” from traumatic events in other times (metaphorically speaking or within the collective unconscious or in a past life), particularly when you were being powerful, you might hesitate to step into the limelight now. I understand. But maybe it’s time to join the other “witches” and go for it. You can use your creative mind to visualize where your strength and insight live in your body, then, go there regularly. Imagine that protective animals or guardian angels or spiritual back-up singers are around you, cheering you on. Tools that can help are hypnotherapy or shamanic journeying.

•  Tap into your Wisdom. How do you find your inner guidance? Through a meditation or spiritual practice? Through a martial art? In nature? Yoga? Writing? Painting? Dancing? Hiking? Dreaming? Praying? Do you need to read about developing your intuition? Or take a class in mindfulness? Find a support group on Facebook? Whatever works for you, find your way and tap (dance) into your Wisdom (also known as your True Self).

These times require that all of us with rainforest minds step up. These times require that our fears of success and anxieties over failure be damned. These times require that we do whatever it takes to heal the wounding that has kept us from being our True Selves. 

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To my bloggEEs: What are some of the ways you’ve overcome your fear of “success” (however you define it) and what holds you back? Some of you may be unhappy with my references to what could be construed as New Age-ish ideas. I hope that you’ll hang in there with me anyway. The rainforest mind has incredible variety and nuance so we won’t always agree on every little thing. Take what works for you and leave the rest. OK?

 


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10 Signs That You’re a Perfectionist and 10 Things You Can Do About It

Photo from Jaroslaw Pocztarski, Flickr, CC

Photo from Jaroslaw Pocztarski, Flickr, CC

The Signs   

1. You remember every mistake you ever made–even the time you threw the chair in kindergarten because you already knew that A is for Apple and you didn’t know why they didn’t seem to realize that A is actually for Ardent Avaricious Alligator.

2. You won lots of awards as a teenager for your ___ abilities. (fill in the blank: musical? debate? academic? athletic? other?) But you never felt satisfied because you knew how much better you could be.

3. You have trouble completing projects because they won’t turn out how you envision them and then you’ll be terribly disappointed in yourself and your suspicions of impostor-ism will be confirmed. You’ll have to move to a foreign country and join a cult.

4. When you do accomplish something, you raise the bar before you can appreciate what you’ve done. And you’re getting a little too old for the high jump.

5. You procrastinate until the very last minute on most things because you’re terrified of failure and you’re convinced that failure is likely because you really aren’t very smart. So you’ll have to move to a foreign country and join a cult.

6. You procrastinate until the very last minute on most things because if your work isn’t great, you have an excuse. You can say, “Heh. I’m a busy person. I don’t have time for such trivial pettinesses.” But what you’re thinking is, “OMG, I am a total failure now and for all time.”

7. You have to be the best, the smartest, the fastest and the right-est. All the time.

8. In five years you’ve painted your living room twelve times and the color still isn’t right.

9. Either you color code your clothes, alphabetize your books and need to control your visual environment or you live in clutter-town.

10. You don’t think that any of these signs are very funny.

 

What You Can Do About It

1. Make this your mantra: My worth as a human is not dependent on how much I achieve.

2. Distinguish between healthy perfectionism that looks like very high standards and aims for beauty, balance, justice, harmony and precision and unhealthy perfectionism that looks like anxiety, paralysis and worthlessness when faced with a task where you’re not guaranteed success. The former, you learn to love; the latter, you work to heal.

3. Make this your mantra: I learn more from failures than I do from successes. My failures will make a much more fascinating memoir.

4. Read Dweck’s book Mindset and practice having a growth mindset where you recognize that your intelligence isn’t fixed. Struggling with a problem and having to practice something to learn it builds brain cells.

5. Read Burka and Yuen’s book Procrastination for an in-depth explanation and for in-depth solutions.

6. Make this your mantra: A mistake is not the same as a failure.

7. Build a relationship with your inner perfectionist. Dialogue with him/her in your journal. Find out what s/he needs to feel safe and understood.

8. Find something fun that you can do that’s more about the process than the product.

9. If you’re a parent, make it a family project to try doing activities that challenge you. Have everyone in the family choose something they want to do but avoid because they suspect they’ll feel incompetent.  Do the activities and then talk about what it was like. Appreciate the courage it took to look unskilled, inadequate and clumsy.

10. If your unhealthy perfectionism is so entrenched that these ideas aren’t helping, find a good therapist. If you’ve grown up in a seriously dysfunctional household, you may have felt pressure to be perfect as a way to get your parents’ attention and love. Those patterns can continue into adulthood and keep you from finding your true Self and your authentic voice.

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To my bloggEEs: Looks like you’re starting to interact more and benefit from each others’ comments. Thank you for all of your thoughtful sharing and support. Tell us how perfectionism has been a part of your life and what you do to work with it. Let us know if you’ve found any helpful resources. For a  detailed description of perfectionism, see this wonderful article by Linda Silverman of the Gifted Development Center.

This post is part of a blog hop with Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Click on this link to read many wonderful posts on perfectionism written by parents of gifted children and professionals.

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