Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


Giftedness, Achievement, and Guilt

photo courtesy Samuel Zeller, Unsplash

How are giftedness, achievement, and guilt related?

I’m glad you asked.

Here’s how:

People find all sorts of ways to define giftedness: High IQ, exceptional talent, 10,000 hours of practice, task commitment, academic achievement, high test scores, straight A’s in school, Nobel prizes, eminence, etc. Typically, high achievement is the main requirement.

If you don’t fit into the high achiever category, your teachers, relatives, therapists, and pets may not think that you’re gifted. And you may agree with them.

Not so fast, sweetie pie. Can I call you sweetie pie?

In my humble opinion, based on my many fabulous years communing with gifted kids and adults, high achievement may or may not be part of the picture.

And what is high achievement anyway, I ask you. Wealth? Awards? Good grades in school? Celebrity? iPhones? But I digress.

The gifted humans that I know were born with their rainforest minds. Whether they’re creating masterpieces or not, they’re highly: sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, curious, perfectionistic, analytical, creative, smart, and emotional. They’re obsessed with learning when they’re interested in the topic. And, their interests are many and varied. They’re fast, deep, and wide thinkers.

So far so good?

Here’s where the guilt shows up:

Pressure. Expectations. “If you’re so smart why aren’t you…rich, famous, like Elon Musk?”

Feeling like you’re disappointing your parents and teachers. Being impatient with slower people and excelling at everything you try.¬†Changing jobs every 2-5 years.

Not living up to your own high standards. Not living up to your potential. Not saving the world.

Those are just some of the reasons for guilt.

Looking for more? Read this post. And this one.

And, yes, even gifted “high achievers” can feel guilt. Such as: When is your achievement high enough? With all of your success, why are you still depressed and anxious? If you’re so smart, why are you so lonely?

See what I mean?

The achievement-thing, the guilt-thing. They’re tricky if you have a rainforest mind.

So here’s one idea:

Having a rainforest mind, being gifted, may involve designing energy-efficient electric cars and sending rockets into space. It may involve intense compassion, empathy, intuition, and generosity.

That all sounds like high achievement to me.

And, I promise not to feel guilty about it.


To my bloggEEs: How do you define achievement? When do you feel guilt related to your smartness? Can you describe how you deal with pressure to achieve “greatness” because you’re “so smart?” Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and feelings. I’m writing a little less often (I’m feeling guilty!) because my body has been tweaking out a little from all of the sitting/typing. But know that I’m still thinking about you.

For those of you who’ve read my book, I’d be so grateful if you’d write a review on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be long or perfect, ok? And you don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t do it… ūüôā

If you want to read posts from other bloggers about giftedness and achievement click here.

And, finally, please know that I’m not saying that you shouldn’t find your work/purpose in the world or you needn’t make a significant contribution. I’m just suggesting that your giftedness isn’t dependent on what you do. It’s much more about who you are.






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‚Äôt 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‚Äôt 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‚Äôre 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.


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!


If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel So Much Guilt?

photo courtesy of STSci NASA

photo courtesy of STSci NASA

It started early. The other kindergartners were¬†struggling to learn their ABCs. You were reading chapter books. The other second graders didn’t care about the photos from the Hubble Telescope.¬†You obsessed over¬†them. The other teens enjoyed stories about vampires. You adored Jane Austen.

At first, you may have felt confused, weird and lonely. As you got older, perhaps you felt guilt, too.

Guilt because learning came easily to you. Guilt because you could accomplish quickly what took others hours to finish. Guilt because teachers and parents praised your high grades. Guilt because you were held up as a role model for others. Guilt because you excelled at most things that you tried. Guilt because you hid your abilities and made mistakes on tests on purpose.

And now, as an adult, there may be more guilt.

Guilt because you daydream¬†about the latest Dr. Who episode when you should be focused on the next mundane task. Guilt because you don’t always feel grateful for your intelligence. Guilt because¬†you feel some boredom raising your child. Guilt because you aren’t living up to your potential. Guilt because you end up with extra time at work with nothing to do. Guilt because you’re bored at meetings and want to strangle your colleagues. Guilt because you procrastinate. Guilt because it’s easy¬†for you to come up with creative ideas and implement them. Guilt because you’re smarter than your parents and siblings. Guilt because your home isn’t spotless. Guilt because you aren’t perfect. Guilt because you aren’t saving the world. Guilt because you’ve fooled people into thinking that you’re gifted.

Is that enough guilt?

Here’s the thing. Guilt is only helpful if you’ve done something wrong that you need to apologize for or that you need to repair. Then, guilt can be productive.

In this case, guilt is not productive. You were born with your rainforest mind. You don’t need to feel guilty about it.

It’s not your fault that you’re gifted.


To my blogEEs:  Tell us what you feel guilty about. Then, see if you can breathe out and let it go. And thank you to the readers who suggested this topic.

(Note: Added after publication: From a reader–Guilt for impatience with others’ slowness, Guilt for thinking that others are stupid, Guilt for not speaking up because you assume others won’t understand.)