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.
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.
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.