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.

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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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It’s Never Too Late To Be Your Gifted Self — Part Two

Me. Still dancing the tango.

A 35-year-old client told me that she thought it was too late for her to find a fulfilling career and a meaningful life.

I tried to control my facial expression.

35.

I’m here to tell all of you 20-30-40-50-60-70-80+ somethings, that it’s never too late. Never. Too. Late.

I can say this because I’m 65. I started my counseling practice at 41. I began dancing the Argentine tango at 47. I started appreciating my mind-of-its-own free-range hair at 53. I discovered my sense of humor at 55. I created this blog at 62. My first book was published at 64.

And I’m not finished yet.

But, I’ll admit it. 65 sounds old to me. 65. Medicare. Social security. AARP.

I almost didn’t want to tell you.

But luckily, I’m in a profession (counseling / consulting) where you improve with age. You benefit from experience. You don’t have to move much.

And as a blogger and author, no one notices my post-menopausal moods or my creaking knees.

Granted, I’ve been lucky or blessed to be in excellent health. I attribute that to genetics, years of obsessive self-care, a child-free-so-much-less-stressful life and white middle class privilege.

My self-care includes psychotherapy, acupuncture, energy healing, naturopathy, sweet deep friendships, easy access to organic food, intermittent exercise, more psychotherapy, massage, singing, a spotty yet well-intentioned meditation practice, uncontrolled book buying, astrology, dancing, journaling, Netflix, rolfing, the Canadian Tenors, spiritual connections, avoiding toxic people and breathing. Oh, and hearing from you, my fabulous bloggEE fan club.

Of course, 65 is the new 55. So I’m really just middle-aged.

But here’s the thing. Many of you are just realizing that you have rainforest minds. And, with that realization and understanding, there will be new discoveries. New horizons. What confused you in the past, when you thought you were ADHD or OCD or bipolar or a freak or a slacker, will become clearer.

In the process, though, you may feel despair over all of the time lost, thinking that you were crazy. You may feel anger over all of the missed opportunities. You may grieve because you’re 35 and you think your life is over.

Fear not, my lovelies. You’re just getting started. It’ll only get better from here. There is still time. The planet needs your sensitivity, your intellect, your empathy, your optimism, your humor, your you-ness. No matter how old you are.

And, in case you’re wondering, you can’t become ungifted.

Thirty-five or sixty-five, it’s not too late.

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To my bloggEEs: Have I mentioned that I love you? Thank you so much for being here. Let us know if you’ve ever worried that it’s too late. Tell us your concerns about aging. And, for more posts about aging and the gifted from the wonderful people at Hoagiesgifted, click on the image. (And if you want to read part one of this post click here. Be sure to read the comments.)


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Fifteen Quick Reminders To Help You Make It Through The ‘Holidaze’

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

(This post was first published on intergifted, a great site for gifted adults.)

1  You’re not too sensitive if you’re easily overwhelmed by the holiday muzak, the florescent lights, the crowds, the frenetic meaningless pace, the likely psychopathic Santa and the smell of stale popcorn at the shopping mall.

2  You’re not a failure as a human being if your siblings went to Stanford and are all doctors and have two and a half kids and you’re still wondering what to do when you grow up because you took a detour into drug treatment and psychotherapy because your soft heart and gentle spirit needed to heal.

3  You’re not lacking in empathy if you’re frustrated and irritated, well, OK, enraged by society’s focus on the status of having more and more stuff, the bigger the better, while they’re oblivious to the impact of said stuff.

4  You’re not socially inept or paranoid if you have to abruptly leave a gathering of people who seem happy and charming and delightful but who make your stomach ache because unbeknownst to your conscious mind, they’re really miserable.

5  You’re not an arrogant know-it-all if you choose to wrap the kids’ gifts in newspaper, or if you give your precocious nieces homemade light switch plates instead of Barbie dolls, or if you choose funding a homeless family over yet another plastic giraffe for your adorable nephew.

6  You’re not a bad daughter/son if you have mixed feelings about attending the family event and if you make a plan to leave early when your alcoholic relative starts to berate you about your political or religious beliefs or about why you didn’t go to Harvard when you had so much potential.

7  You are not being inauthentic if you consciously avoid certain topics with family members who you know will react with anger or misunderstanding to your attempt to explain, say, your logical reasons for changing your college major for the fifth time.

8  You’re not too persnickety if you start your own holiday rituals and don’t allow your toddler to watch reality TV, use your iPad, or learn how to operate a cell phone.

9  You’re not a failure as a parent if your holiday meal is a flop, if your kids throw their biggest tantrums ever just when the grandparents arrive, if you still haven’t gotten your hair cut or trained your dog not to beg for food.

10  You’re not an oddball if you question the traditions, religion or the obsession with television that organizes your extended family members. Well, maybe you are an oddball in that regard but there are times when oddballs are needed. This might be one of those times.

11  You’re not rude and obsessive if you are still avoiding eating the jello marshmallow carrot salad that your Aunt Gracie always makes.

12  You’re not too dramatic if you cry when your relatives tease you, well, OK, bully you, because you’re following yet another career path, you’ve stopped straightening your hair and you’re still single.

13  You’re not too intense if you can’t totally enjoy the holiday because people around the globe are suffering, the ice caps are melting and you’re distracted by your need to find and manifest your purpose on the planet.

14  You’re not too idealistic if you believe that it’s still possible for a transformation to occur where the peoples of the world embrace compassion over fear.

15  You’re not alone if you dread the stresses of the holiday season and look forward to the end of said season. And, you’re not wrong if you understand the following to be true: You are successfully sensitive, effervescently empathetic, indescribably intense, awesomely authentic, prudently persnickety, illustriously idealistic, and resplendently rainforest-minded. (And, hey, when you get a chance, could you send me the recipe for Aunt Gracie’s jello marshmallow carrot salad?)

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what the holiday season is like for you. If you have coping strategies for the challenging times, let us know what they are. And, if you have totally joyous experiences during the holiday season, we love you, too! Oh, and the 16th reminder, my book would make a great gift for your teens, your friends, your parents, your therapist, your sensitive Uncle Phil, and your sweet self.


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The Top Thirty Reasons Gifted Humans Feel Guilty

Photo courtesy of Evan Kirby, Unsplash, CC

Photo courtesy of Evan Kirby, Unsplash, CC

Top 30 Reasons You May Feel Guilty: 

  • You aren’t living up to your potential.
  • You get impatient with people slower than you.
  • You’ve painted your living room 12 times in 5 years.
  • You haven’t won the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, or any prize except the spelling bee in third grade.
  • You got good grades in school for work that you did 30 minutes before it was due.
  • You’ve disappointed your parents because you didn’t become a neurosurgeon.
  • You’re responsible for all of the suffering on the planet.
  • You’re good at everything you try.
  • You live a privileged life in an economically prosperous country.
  • You hide your intelligence.
  • You don’t hide your intelligence.
  • You’re brighter than many of your teachers.
  • You’re competitive and always need to be right and usually are.
  • You didn’t invent the iPhone.
  • You’ve accomplished more than your mentors.
  • You didn’t have children.
  • You had children.
  • You make mistakes.
  • You’re emotional, sensitive, anxious and intense.
  • You’re not a perfect parent.
  • You’re reading a blog about giftedness.
  • You haven’t solved the problem of climate change or world hunger.
  • You haven’t gotten rid of your car.
  • You haven’t stayed in one job longer than 4 years, 5 months, 13 days, 8.5 hours.
  • You’re in therapy.
  • You’re terrified of failure and don’t try anything that might take you there.
  • You drove right by the person on the street with the sign who needed help.
  • You were born gifted.
  • You haven’t lived up to everyone’s expectations, including your own.
  • In spite of multiple signs of doom and gloom and despite the coolness of cynicism, you’re still idealistic and optimistic.

How many of these reasons did you check? You probably ought to feel guilty if you checked less than twenty.

Just kidding.

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To my bloggEEs: You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. I was preparing for a webinar that I presented last week for SENG. (It should be posted on the site in a few weeks.) But I feel guilty that I abandoned you. (And I missed you.) Let us know how you’re doing and what you feel guilty about!


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Gifted and Misunderstood

photo courtesy pixabay CC

photo courtesy pixabay CC

How are you misunderstood? Let me count the ways.

People tell you to lighten up when you’re just trying to enlighten them.

People tell you to stop being so critical when you’re just making careful, thoughtful and thorough observations.

People tell you that you need to stop overthinking when you haven’t even begun to truly analyze the situation.

People tell you that you’re arrogant when you’re just desperate to find someone who can discuss the philosophy of William James. Doesn’t everyone love William James?

People tell you that you don’t know how to have fun when you’re having a ball reading Tolstoy.

People tell you to slow down when you’re already going at a painfully plodding pace.

People tell you that you’re OCD when you’ve painted your living room 12 times in the last 3 years, but you discern the difference between white, off-white, and off-off-white. And, you’re distressed when the color isn’t right.

People tell you that you’re lazy when you’re actually choreographing complicated mathematical equations in your head.

People tell you to stop daydreaming when you’re actually mentally entertaining yourself because the intellectual stimulation in the room is less than negligible.

People tell you to just write the darned e-mail but you have to get the punctuation, grammar and tone exactly exact.

People tell you to stop repeating yourself but you’re just trying to be sure that they understand what you’ve said; to be sure that they understand. What you’ve said.

People tell you to pick one career and stick with it but you can’t stand a job once you’ve mastered it. Why would anyone stay in a job that no longer teaches them anything?

People tell you to pick one career and stick with it but you have too many interests and abilities so you have to get to at least 42 of them before you die.

People tell you to just make a decision already but you’re considering all of the possibilities and the variables within each possibility.

People tell you to stop being so sensitive, so dramatic, and so emotional but you’ve been looking for the off button for years and have finally determined that there is no off button.

 

Maybe, many of “the people” will continue to misunderstand you. But, that’s OK.

Because now, you understand yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: In what ways have you been misunderstood? Let us know in the comments. And if someone you love misunderstands you, share this post (and others) with him/her, and use it as a way to start the conversation.

And speaking of being misunderstood, I’m getting a little nervous since I haven’t heard from many of you about my webinar. (the last post) I suspect that, because it’s an hour and 20 minutes long, you’re waiting to find enough time to savor the full-on experience of, well, me. Ha! But, if you’re unhappy with something in the webinar post, I promise, I want to hear it. OK?

 

 

 


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Giftedness, Therapy, and Your Dysfunctional Family — Diving Into the Abyss

photo courtesy of Frances Gunn, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Frances Gunn, Unsplash, CC

What happens to your sensitivity, empathy and intellect when you grow up in a seriously dysfunctional family? How does your perceptive mind and open heart survive the alcoholic parent or the emotional abuse? What beliefs or patterns set up in your childhood follow you into adulthood? When is it time to find a good psychotherapist and dive into the abyss?

In this post, I’ll begin to answer these questions. (more in future posts) And, disclaimer, I’m only speaking to my experience with my particular clients and myself. OK? I don’t speak for all psychotherapy everywhere. (But you knew that.)

Here’s what I see: Even though you’re super-sensitive, emotional and aware so that you can be easily hurt, you’re also terribly resilient because you’re super-sensitive, emotional and aware. You’re likely quite affected if you grew up in a chainsaw family system. And yet, there’s also something gorgeous-powerful deep inside you that was untouched. Your self-esteem is what’s been damaged. You have a distorted sense of your true self. That may look like lack of self-confidence, getting into abusive relationships, self-hatred, underachieving, anxiety and depression.

As a child, you were so vulnerable, that you had to believe what your parents told you. It was inevitable that you’d misinterpret their dysfunction to mean that something was wrong with you. Even though you were smart, the intensity of parental shame, fear, rage and who-knows-what got transmitted to you. So this is what needs to be dismantled: Your misunderstanding of who you are.

And that requires diving into the abyss. Poet Adrienne Rich calls it Diving into the Wreck.

Yeah. Abyss. Wreck. Oh boy. You’ll want a guide. Someone who’s been in their own Abyss and is very familiar with it. Someone who has explored their Wreck and found the buried treasure hidden inside.

It can be a scary proposition. It can take time. Even though you’re a fast learner, this process is slow. You’ll get impatient and think you’re doing it wrong. You’ll have times when you’re feeling overwhelming sadness. You’ll wonder why the hell you thought that hanging out in an Abyss was such a grand idea.

But, eventually, you’ll find that it’s worth the time, money, and tears. You’ll notice changes in your inner and outer worlds. You’ll start to discover your gorgeous-powerful self.

That doesn’t mean that the Wreck will disappear, by the way. You may fall in every now and then. Get lost. Flounder. Cry. Shriek. But it’ll be less scary, more familiar, smaller. You’ll add a cozy chair or hang a piece of art.

And, while you’re there. Well. You’ll find the jewels.

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To my bloggEEs: I wish I could be your therapist. But I’m only licensed to counsel in Oregon. But here’s something that you can give to the therapist that you find. It will help him/her understand your giftedness. And, of course, you can give her/him a copy of my book! Let us know in the comments how you’ve dealt with growing up in a dysfunctional family. And thank you for being here and for your courage. (and for putting up with my on-going and shameless self-promotion)

 

 


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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.