Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


34 Comments

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?

__________________________________________________

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.


79 Comments

When Humans Keep Letting You Down

photo courtesy John Nakamura Remy, Unsplash

Humans disappoint you. They don’t live up to your expectations. Sure you have high standards. But you’re not asking all that much, right? If people just tried harder, they could accomplish quite a lot.

Couldn’t they?

Not just relatives and friends. Not just politicians and educators. But others. Contractors, internet providers, artists, activists, doctors, celebrities and psychotherapists. Disappointing.

What is wrong with humans? Don’t they care about quality? Excellence? Compassion?

Now, I don’t actually know all humans. But I’m guessing that most of them do care. That said, here are some things that you need to know.

When you have a rainforest mind, you have many abilities. A large capacity for learning and a love of knowledge. You may know a lot, in multiple fields; sometimes more than the “experts.” You can also have exceptionally high standards for your work. Producing quality is part of your identity. Being fair and compassionate matters to you. And all of this feels normal. Isn’t everyone like this? 

No. Everyone is not like this.

You may not have any training in home building but you may know that your contractor’s plan for your family room will not work. You may not have a medical degree but you may know that your cardiologist is not seeing the whole picture. You may never have run a nonprofit but in two weeks you could set up a system that would provide for much greater efficiency and productivity. You may not have a psychology degree but you’re a better counselor than your psychotherapy-trained coworkers.

People tell you that you expect too much. That you need to be satisfied with less. That mediocrity is good enough. That you’re an overachiever and an arrogant know-it-all. That you need to “shut up and sing…” (to quote a powerful song from the Dixie Chicks)

These messages and experiences can make you feel a little crazy. A little less than. Maybe a lot less than. Lonely. A little too responsible.

Or you may wonder how to live your best life when people you’d like to depend upon keep dropping the ball.

You’re tired of always picking up the balls.

So darned many balls.

But your family, your community and your world needs you. Your excellence. Your quality. Your compassion. Now, more than ever.*

So you can still sing. Definitely sing.

But don’t shut up.

_______________________________

To my dearest bloggEEs: How do you deal with this? Are you tired of juggling all the balls? Are there ways you take care of yourself when you feel discouraged or exhausted? Are there people that you’ve found who will show up for you? Where have you found others with rainforest minds? Can you allow yourself to acknowledge your limits and create a healthy balance? This blog post is just the beginning of the discussion. We need to hear from you!

*That said, repeat after me: I am not responsible for everyone’s dropped balls.

Thank you to the bloggEE who suggested this topic.

Here’s the story behind the Dixie Chicks’ song.


32 Comments

What Does Gifted Look Like? Clearing Up Your Confusion

photo courtesy Marcus Dall Col, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy Marcus Dall Col, Unsplash, CC

People are astonished by how much you can do. You think you’re lazy. There’s so much that you’re not doing.

People tell you how smart you are. You feel dumb. You know how much you don’t know and you still haven’t decided what you want to be when you grow up.

People admire your (musical, artistic, mathematical, linguistic, etc.) talents. You think they’re patronizing you. You notice all of the mistakes you make. Surely, they do, too, but they’re too polite to mention them.

How is it possible that you see yourself as a lazy not-so-smart slacker and others see you as so-lucky-to-be-gifted? How can your sense of yourself be so different from how others see you?

Like life in the rain forest, it’s complicated.

Maybe it’s your super high expectations. You don’t realize that others don’t have similar standards. Doesn’t everyone want to create beauty, balance, harmony and justice all of the time? Don’t all people value precision?

Um, no.

Maybe it’s your enthusiasm for learning about, well, everything. Isn’t everyone obsessed with reading and researching multiple disparate topics instead of sleeping, which is such a waste of time? Aren’t all people thrilled that MIT is offering classes online? Doesn’t everyone dream of changing career paths every 3-5 years?

Not really.

Maybe it’s your capacity for observing and perceiving and noticing. Isn’t everyone bothered by the buzzing florescent lights, the crooked pictures on the wall, the house in your neighborhood that was painted chartreuse?

Nope.

Maybe it’s your extra sensitivity and empathy. Can’t everyone feel the distress in the room? Isn’t everyone overwhelmed by the news? Don’t all humans want to save the world?

Nah.

So, if you’re confused by the difference between the feedback that you get and your own self-perception, time to get unconfused. Maybe it’s your highest standards, your zest for learning, your keen capacity to perceive, your intense sensitivity and your exceptional empathy.

Maybe that is what gifted looks like.

__________________________

To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the reader who suggested this topic. Let us know if you’ve lived with this confusion and what you think and feel about it. I appreciate hearing from you! By the way, there’s another factor that might contribute to your confusion: Growing up in a dysfunctional family. Find out more here and here.

There’s a new podcast interview of me. You can find it here. It’s a two-parter from Christy Harvey about gifted adults and parenting gifted kids.

And here’s an earlier podcast, if you haven’t heard it. This one is from Aurora Remember with a focus on me!