Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel Like A Failure?

photo courtesy of Vanessa Bumbeers, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Vanessa Bumbeers, Unsplash, CC

Was this you? You were told repeatedly that you were so smart; that you had a high IQ. You were the top student. Your parents and teachers praised you often for your abilities and achievements. School was easy so you could get high grades without studying. You won awards. Teachers said that you were gifted. Your parents said that you’d do great things when you reached adulthood; That you could do anything you wanted. Expectations were high. 

And so was the pressure. But you didn’t realize it at the time. Until you got to college. Suddenly, you were surrounded by smart kids. You were no longer the star. Not only that. Some of your classes were hard; studying was required. Studying? What’s that? You got your first “C.” You loved psychology and philosophy but you’d never faced a workload like this. No one else seemed to be having trouble. You started procrastinating, as usual, but last minute finishes didn’t work anymore. It was confusing and overwhelming. Your identity was crumbling; you became anxious and depressed.

In your mind, it became clear that you’d been faking your smarts all of these years. You weren’t gifted. Never had been. You’d gotten by on your charm. Now charm wasn’t enough. You were a failure. Every little mistake, every question you couldn’t answer. Failure.

Is this you? Or someone you know?

Let me give you a hug and an explanation.

Kids who are gifted are often told, repeatedly, how smart they are, by well-meaning adults. High grades and other achievements may be praised excessively. This can lead children to believe that they’re loved because they’re “so smart.” Their identity becomes dependent, then, on their capacity to continue to show their advanced abilities and on the praise and attention they receive.

This can lead to unhealthy perfectionism: fear of failure, avoidance of activities that don’t guarantee success, impostor syndrome and procrastination. It can lead to anxiety and depression. Being smart becomes a static thing. You either are or your aren’t. And because you’re used to learning many things quickly, you think that’s the way all learning should be. If you don’t get it fast, well, it just proves that you’re not gifted. Not gifted? Not lovable.

What can you do?

Understand that your worth as a human isn’t due to your accomplishments. Your worth is about who you are, not what you do. It will take time to really believe this.

Make a list of your values. What do you appreciate about others? Compassion? Generosity? Sense of humor? Can you admire these values in yourself?

Imagine your life as a work in progress or as a form of artistic expression. Focus on the journey or the process instead of the product or the outcome.

If you’re in school, design a plan for studying and completing assignments. Break projects down into smaller steps. Look for resources online about dealing with procrastination, perfectionism, expectations, and fear of failure.

Learn about Dweck’s more recent work on mindsets. Even if giftedness is the way your brain is wired, that doesn’t mean it’s an all or nothing phenomenon. You can still have strengths and weaknesses. You can make mistakes and still be a lovely human. You can have high standards and not be perfect.

Make a list of your thoughts and beliefs about your “failures.” Are they rational? Replace your irrational beliefs with what’s actually true. If you’re really struggling, try this book. The book includes ways to self-soothe and calm your anxiety.

Read biographies of eminent people and make note of their struggles, mistakes and failures. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs failed multiple times.

If you’re a parent, avoid praise. It’s often meaningless. Instead, encourage your children by giving specific feedback and asking questions. “I noticed how kind you were to that boy.” “I’m enjoying the details about the characters in your story.” “How was it for you when your team worked so well together?”

If you’re a parent, encourage your child to engage in activities where they need to struggle. They will learn how to deal with mistakes, failures and set backs and will form a stronger sense of self.

And finally, hold on to your dreams!  Even if you feel discouraged and anxious some of the time, or a lot of the time, there is love in you. There is beauty in you. You can do this.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the reader who inspired this post. Share your thoughts, feelings, questions and dreams here, please. We all benefit from your experiences!


85 Comments

Afflicted With Too Much Talent

photo courtesy of Glen Noble, Unsplash

photo courtesy of Glen Noble, Unsplash

When you were a teen, did you hear this?

“You’re so lucky. You can do anything you want, when you grow up. You could be a doctor, lawyer, musician, engineer, professor, IT professional, journalist, artist, anthropologist–anything. Aren’t you lucky!”

You didn’t feel lucky.

You felt confused and overwhelmed. Guilty and ungrateful. Paralyzed and like a failure. Did I mention that you didn’t feel lucky?

And what happened to that kid who used to be full of excitement and enthusiasm? Reading voraciously. Sleeping with the encyclopedia. Dancing spontaneously. Curious beyond measure. What happened?

Let me guess.

Maybe it was school. Maybe it was your dysfunctional family and your chainsaw parents. You’re complicated so it was probably more than one thing. But just for today, let’s look at your unending number of interests and abilities. Your passion for learning new things. Your boredom with something once you’ve mastered it. Your multipotentiality.

You are afflicted with multipotentiality. Or, as Emilie Wapnick calls it in her TED talk, you’re a multipotentialite.

Yes, indeed. I’ve known many rainforest-minded folks with this affliction. And you won’t get any sympathy from the masses. Too much talent just doesn’t bring out the compassion. But, for you, it can stop you in your tracks. How do you choose just one thing? How do you make a career out of psychoneuromusicalanthrobiocomedy? Not to mention being a psychoneuromusicalanthrobiocomedic parent.

Your coping strategies? Procrastination. Depression. Anxiety. Hot Fudge Sundaes.

Not so great.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. You don’t have to stick to one job/career.
  2. Multipotentiality is not a sign of weakness or inability to focus or ADHD or slackeritis.
  3. Use your creativity to craft careers that combine many talents and interests. Good resources for guidance are here and here. (and Emilie)
  4. Look for the book Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher.
  5. Don’t feel guilty anymore for your abundance. It’s not your fault.
  6. If you’re a parent, make a list of all of the ways parenting meets your needs for variety, emotional growth, problem solving, deep loving connection and intellectual stimulation.
  7. Make a list of all of the things you’ve done so far in your jobs/careers and family life to prove to yourself that you’ve accomplished a lot even if you feel like you haven’t. Meet with a coach or career counselor who has also slept with her encyclopedia.
  8. Let yourself grieve over the choices that you don’t take because even though you can do a lot, you probably won’t get to everything in one lifetime. Believe in reincarnation.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you afflicted with too much talent? What do you do about it? Have you created several career paths along the way? Thank you as always for reading and sharing!

 


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Most Popular Posts of 2015

Here are the top six posts of 2015. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, sharing and living your sensitive, intelligent, emotional, curious, compassionate rainforest-y life! Join me, dear bloggEEs, for more treks into the depths in 2016. Let us know, in the comments, how you’re doing and what you’d like to see next year.

Imagine A World Where Gifted Kids Don’t Have To Wait

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

My Smart Kid Is So Emotional, Am I A Parenting Failure?

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

Still Gifted After All These Years

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

photo from Flickr, CC, Phil Roeder

What Psychotherapists Need To Know About Gifted Clients

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Dumb? Part Two

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC


61 Comments

If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Dumb? Part Two

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC

The following are my top ten reasons why you may feel “dumb,” not so smart and certainly not gifted :

#10. You’re highly sensitive, emotional, idealistic and lonely. Gifted people are cynical, logical and objective and prefer being alone to think.

#9. You have multiple interests and can’t decide on one career path. Gifted people pick one thing, stick with it and achieve greatness.

#8. You start many projects that you don’t finish. Gifted people finish things.

#7. You didn’t excel in school. Gifted people always get straight ‘As’ and never have learning disabilities.

#6. You grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family. Gifted people come from happy homes.

#5. You daydream a lot, can’t decide what color to paint your bedroom, and forget to tie your shoes. Gifted people make decisions easily, don’t daydream and never forget anything.

#4. You’re terrified of failure and have exceedingly high standards so you avoid taking risks and you procrastinate. Gifted people learn quickly with no effort and get things done on time.

#3. You’re afraid of success so you hide your abilities. Gifted people love to succeed and always do.

#2. You feel overwhelmed by the suffering in your community, your country and the world and you need to do something about it. Gifted people don’t get overwhelmed and they solve problems easily. They’re self-absorbed and only care about how smart they are.

51lwGdYA0tL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_#1. You aren’t Elon Musk. Gifted people send rockets into space, build fancy electric cars, and create thriving clean energy companies all at the same time. And they’re rich.

Here’s the thing, dear readers. What gifted people supposedly do or supposedly are, as listed above, may be true, for some. But from where I sit, in the world of the rainforest mind, it’s not so simple. All of these other things that you probably are– sensitive, emotional, idealistic, empathetic, perceptive, analytical, daydreamy, terrified of failure, curious, questioning, compassionate, creative, loving learning, perfectionistic, overwhelmed by suffering, needing to make a difference–all of these things, and more, are what make you smart, what make you gifted.

And I bet, if you asked Elon Musk, well, he’d agree.

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To my blogEEs: I’ve heard from several people how your comments are just as intriguing as my posts. (well, maybe my posts are a teensy bit more intriguing…) So, my dears, keep them coming. Your thoughts, feelings, reactions and questions add so much. Thank you.


39 Comments

Top Ten Reasons Why Smart People Procrastinate

booksTop ten reasons why you procrastinate:

10. You’re really good at it.

9. You have no idea how not to procrastinate. Your entire academic career was built on it.

8. You can still get an “A” or produce something that impresses your coworkers.

7. Time pressure will make something dull a bit more interesting.

6. You’re overwhelmed by many things, including your own curiosity and creativity.

5. You delude yourself into believing that you do your best work under pressure.

4. You won’t disappoint anyone because their expectations will be lowered. You won’t disappoint yourself (as much) because your expectations will be lowered.

3. You’ve always been told that you’re so smart.

2. If you take plenty of time and fail, then your true stupidity will be revealed.

1. Perfectionism.

Can anything be done about this? Are you destined to live out your life as a prodigious profligate perfectionistic procrastinator?

Yes. And no. In that order.

Here’s what I suggest. Small steps. Nothing overwhelming or intimidating.

Start here:

You’re likely to love this post from the blog Wait But Why.

Then go here for more details from the same very funny procrastinating blogger.

Finally, you’ll be ready for a wonderfully comprehensive practical guide. This book.

And just so you know, a pattern of procrastination isn’t easy to change. Here’s why: “Confronting and changing long-held assumptions about you and your family can be unnerving and disorienting. This is why procrastination is so hard to overcome. It’s not simply a matter of changing a habit; it requires changing your inner world.”*

But it’s worth it.

“However, as you access capabilities and parts of yourself that have been held back by procrastination, you can derive great pleasure in claiming your whole self.”*

*Jane Burka & Lenora Yuen, Procrastination

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To my blogEEs: Tell us why you procrastinate and if you’ve found any resources or techniques that have helped you deal with it. And thank you, as always, for commenting and sharing.


45 Comments

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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94 Comments

If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

If I'm So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

You were five years old and couldn’t wait to get to school. But when you got there, something went terribly wrong. You anticipated learning all about the solar system and reading all of the books that you could get your curious little hands on. But, instead, you were told to help the other kids identify the letters of the alphabet and color the circles red and the triangles blue.

This was so strange. Maybe you’d entered a time machine. Maybe extraterrestrials had invaded your school. Maybe you were missing something and there was a secret code you were meant to decipher that used red, blue, circles and triangles and if you figured out the code you’d find the trap door where they hid the books.

Weren’t the other five years olds also eager to know the speed of light and to read A Wrinkle in Time? You began to wonder what was wrong with you. You weren’t like the other kids. You confused them when you spoke about your trip to NASA. They resented you when you kept correcting their spelling.

But you adored your kindergarten teacher. If you could just talk to her all day, you’d be happy.  You hung around her desk at recess wanting to ask her why the sky was blue and what she thought of tesseracts. But because she was busy and looked stressed out, you felt sad for her. She was focused on stopping Tommy from hitting Gretchen. So you didn’t ask.

And that was how it went.

You loved learning. You were starving for answers to your questions. But school didn’t know what to do with you.

Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement

Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement

I’m hoping that you didn’t interpret that to mean that you were deficient. That you were the problem. Unfortunately, I know lots of kids who did just that. And if you didn’t get good grades because you became anxious during tests or because you had exceedingly high expectations so work didn’t get turned in on time or because you became disillusioned with the pointlessness of it all, then you may have decided that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or perhaps you did get good grades. Without really trying. You could procrastinate until the very last minute and get an A. So the grades became meaningless. Or an opportunity for bullies. Or a chance for you to feel guilty. And not very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or maybe you went to a university and then your fears were realized. You hadn’t learned how to manage your time or study for exams and you felt like you shouldn’t have to ask for help. You may have been unable to choose a major because your interests were so diverse. Surely, you’d proven beyond any doubt that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Certainly not gifted?

Stop blaming yourself because you never figured out the secret code. How could you know?

You were– too gifted.

_______________________

To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences in school. Similar or different from what I’ve described here?

Disclaimer–I’m writing this blog from my perspective– growing up, going to school and counseling in the USA. I don’t know if these dynamics are common elsewhere. Can those of you from around the world let us know if you can relate? Was it similar for you? Are there differences? We’d love to hear from you. And, of course, I want to hear from all of you, my lovely readers. Your experiences, questions, feelings and insights.