Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Don’t Show How Smart You Are. Other Kids Will Feel Bad.

photo courtesy of Austin Schmid, Unsplash

Who do you think you are? Don’t ask so many questions. Stop showing off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Don’t steal my thunder. You think you’re so smart. Don’t show how much you know; the other kids will feel bad. 

Sound familiar?

If you have a rainforest mind, you’ve probably heard this a lot. I mean A LOT. And it’s so discouraging. Because you’re just being you. At least you were. When you were younger. Curious. Enthusiastic. Wanting to know-it-all. Assuming that everyone knew what you knew. Could do what you could do.

That’s what was so confusing. Didn’t the other kindergartners love reading Harry Potter or wondering about negative numbers? Couldn’t everyone feel it when the teacher was so sad? Didn’t all kids cry when a spider was crushed?

We don’t often explain these differences to kids. We don’t know what to say. So, we say, “Slow down so the others can catch up.” or “If you keep talking about Richard Feynman, you won’t have any friends.” Or even, “Why can’t you just be normal?”

Not helpful.

So you shrink. Dumb down. Slow down. Take up less space. Hide your love of words. Ask fewer questions. Over-apologize. Become anxious and depressed. Smoke pot.

Maybe you’re like 40-year-old Joan. Fascinated by so many things. Good at anything she tried: photography, writing, graphic design, event planning, floral design, painting, teaching yoga, running meetings, water skiing, fund raising, parenting, winning whipped cream eating contests and 3-legged races. (although she hasn’t run any 3-legged races recently) Tending to stay behind the scenes and hide her successes. Thrust into leadership positions on the one hand and resented for her creative ideas on the other. Careful not to outshine anyone. (She’ll make exceptions when it comes to whipped cream.)

Of course, you’re grateful for your skills and abilities. You appreciate your rainforest mind. But you don’t think you’re so smart. There are all those other people smarter than you. You’re not arrogant or full of yourself.

You’re not full of yourself.

You just want to be fully yourself.

And that’s not easy.

I have good news and bad-ish news.

The bad-ish news: You’ll need to be strategic. There will be people who can’t handle your intense emotions or your desire to discuss Dickens for hours. Some of them will be critical, rejecting, or worse. You will need to find healthy ways to cope or to limit your time with these folks. You might want to share some parts of yourself and protect other parts. You might need to monitor your communication to be better understood. There will be people who want to take advantage of your big heart and your problem solving abilities. You’ll need to learn how to set limits and say “no” when needed. To recognize that just because you’re able to do something, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. You may have to redefine what it means to be authentic.

The good news: Your sensitivity, intelligence, and empathy is an extremely valuable resource. Geeks are becoming more popular, respected, and indispensable. Geeking out is now a thing. It’s possible to find other humans with rainforest minds who will appreciate you. (I wouldn’t have a thriving practice without them!) You can be fully yourself with other humans who have rainforest minds. And surely, the planet needs you to be fully yourself. Now, more than ever.

So don’t waste any more time. Show us how smart you are. In your very own strategically authentic Richard Feynman-obsessed, whipped cream eating, geeking out, rainforest-minded way.

The other kids will be OK.

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To my bloggEEs: What messages have you received that told you that you were too much, or that you should hide your giftedness? What keeps you from being fully yourself now? How are you strategic in protecting yourself when needed? What would being fully yourself look like?

Thank you to the clients who inspired this post. And thank you so much to all of you!

 

 

 


51 Comments

Time to Agree: Gifted Kids Exist

 

photo courtesy of Zachary Nelson, Unsplash

• I think it’s time we acknowledged that super smart kids do exist.

The eight year old who wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. The five year old reading The Chronicles of Narnia. The four year old who cries listening to Mozart. The ten year old whose favorite pastime is watching BBC documentaries. The six year old who refuses to eat meat for ethical reasons. The nine year old who rescues the grasshoppers on the playground. The ten year old whose poetry breaks your heart. The fourteen year old who’d rather read David Foster Wallace than hang out on social media.

Gifted kids exist. We don’t love them any more than any other kids. All children are precious. But, we have to agree. Most eight years olds don’t aspire to be Richard Feynman.

• I think it’s time that we no longer felt threatened by our super smart kids.

What if we let them correct our spelling errors and appreciated their desire for accuracy? What if we were supportive of their intellectual needs and let them read, research, question and dive as much as they wanted?  What if we didn’t have to know everything that they know about narwhals? What if we don’t need to share their passion for reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy eleven times but we do need to love their intensity and get out of the way? What if we recognize how darned lonely they are as they yearn to meet even just one person who truly gets them?

Gifted kids exist. Sure, a six year old who knows more than you do about the origin of the universe might be a bit unsettling, threatening even, especially if you’re the science teacher. But, we have to agree. It’s OK that I don’t know what narwhals are and that you probably don’t either.

• I think it’s time that we made school a vibrant, nourishing place for our super smart kids.

What if they didn’t have to hide their capacity to get A’s without studying because the work was so challenging that they had to study? What if they didn’t have to underachieve so the other kids wouldn’t feel bad? What if we didn’t put them under pressure because they’re so smart, by over-emphasizing their achievements and their potential?  What if we didn’t ridicule and bully them because we feared their supposed arrogance or were jealous of their abilities? What if we redesigned our school systems so each child’s needs could be met and teachers would be paid the same as George Clooney for his next movie.

Gifted kids exist. They come in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Let’s all agree. Shall we?

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your reactions, thoughts, feelings, and questions. What were you like when you were a child? If you’re a parent, how do your issues overlap with those of your child? For more on gifted children, here’s a great article from Gail Post, psychologist in eastern Pennsylvania, USA. Her article actually inspired mine. Thanks, Gail!

And for those of you looking for a fun outing on June 2, 2018, Linda Silverman and I will be presenting at our very own one day Gifted Women Symposium in Denver, CO. (Apologies, fellas!) I’d love to meet you. Registration is open now.

And one more thing, a documentary about giftedness, called The G Word, will be coming out sometime in 2019. You won’t want to miss it. Here’s a taste.

 

 


54 Comments

Communicating — When Your Mind Travels At Warp Speed

photo courtesy Mubariz Mehdizadeh, Unsplash

You have a lot to say. A gazillion ideas run through your head. Insight. Analysis. Book reviews. Strong opinions. Inventions. Songs. Stories. Responsibilities. Poems. To Do Lists. Intuitions. Worries. Self-criticism. Images of catastrophes yet to unfold.

You may have trouble communicating these ideas. Being heard. Feeling understood.

For several possible reasons:

How do you choose which of the gazillion to share? It’s hard to grab onto any one idea when they’re flying so fast. You don’t know anyone who cares about dark matter. You could pontificate excitedly for hours about your latest research but even your dog falls asleep after ten minutes. You can’t control your urge to correct people’s errors. You were told girls shouldn’t look too smart. You were seen as the trouble-maker in your family. Teachers ignored you when you raised your hand for the 50th time that day. You were told boys shouldn’t have so many feelings. You’re an introvert. You’re an extravert. You’re not speaking your native language. You’ve been bullied for your smartness. You talk really, really fast.

So what do you do?

Well, first, darlings, depending on your interests and your depth and who you’re trying to communicate with, you may have to practice limiting your sharing and slowing your speech. I’m so sorry to tell you this. What you need to understand, though, is that it’s not because you are flawed in some despicable way. Quite the opposite. It’s more likely because you’re ahead of your time. I’m hoping that more humans are being born every day whose minds travel at warp speed. You just might be a trail blazer. And that can be a lonely place.

What else? Practice active listening with people you care about. Listening deeply is a great way to reach someone and it’s more likely that they’ll reciprocate.  And if you’re a better writer than speaker, try writing a note to get your message across. And, remember: Don’t waste your time with the toxic people.

Then, look for activities where you can nourish yourself and let your mind fly.

Here’s a partial list:

Start a blog. Keep a journal. Write a book. Get another degree. Become a researcher for wikipedia. Learn to meditate. Study a martial art. Become an indexer. Learn NVC. (nonviolent communication) Become an entrepreneur. Get involved in activities you love and use your intuition to find other RFMs. Learn the Argentine tango. Become a college professor. Talk to trees and rivers. Paint. Read and contact your favorite authors. Find a therapist who loves smart people. Write comments on a blog for rainforest minds.

You have a lot to say.

And the world needs to hear it.

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To my bloggEEs: Have I told you that I love you? I feel so honored to be able to help you see what amazing beings you are. Tell us your experiences with communication and what you’ve found that helps. And thank you to the bloggEEs who suggested this topic.


53 Comments

How Can I Be Authentic When I Overwhelm Everyone?

photo courtesy Brian Mann, Unsplash

Authenticity.

You want it. You need it. You gotta have it.

But what does authenticity mean when you have a rainforest mind? When you have so many monkeys swinging from your branches? When your terrain is so lively, emotional and intense?

How do you live authentically in all of your jungle glory and not overwhelm the humans more used to the meadow life? How do you live authentically when you’re made up of layers upon layers that you haven’t even uncovered yourself?

It’s complicated.

Authenticity for the rainforest-minded does NOT mean that you have to show all of who you are all of the time. Instead, it means being real and true to yourself.

I get that you want to be totally direct, sincere and clear. All of the time. Everywhere.

Am I right?

And yet. If you’re around chainsaw humans, particularly if they’re family members, it’s authentic to protect yourself. This may mean that you limit your time with them or that you only share small bits of yourself. If you’re around humans who get overwhelmed by your intensity and intellect, you may need to slow your pace and select activities that allow for less talk and more action. You may need to switch from fire hose to garden hose.

And if you’re being strategic in your relationships as a way to improve your experiences with others or as a way to cope with difficult people, you’re being authentic. (By strategic I mean thinking carefully about how you interact. This is not being manipulative, in case you’re wondering. It’s being analytical and sensitive.) You can be both sincere and strategic at the same time. You are consciously making the most compassionate choice in the moment.

Make sense?

If this news is discouraging, I understand. Find other gifted humans with whom you can be your deep, sensitive, complicated self. I’ve written about where to find them on other posts. Remember the silent reading party? There are ways to find others who live in the rain forest. You can also express your authenticity, for example, through an art form, in your garden, raising children, in your house remodel, or on your blog. Or on my blog.

But, honey, as long as you’re being real and true to yourself, your authenticity is intact.

Trust me on this. Your monkeys will thank you.

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To my bloggEEs: What does authenticity mean to you? How are you authentic in relationships and with yourself? Do you agree with the idea that you need to be strategic some of the time? Your comments deepen everyone’s experience of my blog. Thank you for reading and contributing.

You may not hear from me as often over the next few weeks. I’m preparing my talk for the SENG conference in Chicago, USA, in August. If you get there, please find me and introduce yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 


42 Comments

Smart, Sensitive, Intense And In Love

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photo courtesy Wilson Sanchez, Unsplash

Do you occasionally overwhelm your partner with your intensity? Does the depth of emotion that comes so naturally to you, scare your sweetie? Is your enthusiasm over your fascinating study of ant behavior not matched by your spouse? Do you find that the love of your life just can’t keep up?

Or is it the reverse? You’re the one who is overwhelmed, can’t keep up, not enticed by the study of ant behavior and frightened by your darling’s emotional intensity?

Or is it this? You’re both super-smart, highly sensitive and terribly intense. It’s thrilling and exhausting to be living in your jungle. Together.

Here’s what not to do: Do not panic. Do not start binge-watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island.*

Instead, here are some things to think about:

~ What do you need from your relationship? Make a list. Verbal intimacy? Shared values? Humor? Love of Reality TV? How many of those needs are met by your partner? How many of them can be met in other ways? How do you take time to celebrate your connection?

~ Is there a balance in what you give and what you receive? How might you create a better balance? Look at careers, child raising, household chores, emotional support, financial support, friendships, extended family, holiday celebrations, spiritual well-being, and other elements of family life. If you have children, how do you make time to nourish your couple-ness?

~ How important is intellectual equality? Where might you and your partner get your intellectual needs met outside of your relationship? Can you feel nourished and supported by your partner without being intellectually similar? Or is intellectual compatibility necessary for you to feel fed by the relationship?

~ If you often communicate like a fire hose and your partner gets overwhelmed, set up a signal so that you can change to a garden-hose-communicator (GHC) when needed. Decide how often you’re being asked to be a GHC and if you’re OK with that.

~ Have your partner read some of my blog posts. Talk about them. What parts fit? What parts don’t fit? If you wrote your own post for this blog, what would it say?

~ Remember what first brought you together. Share those early stories with each other. If you’ve lost your sense of humor, go find it.

~ Share books on relationships by John Gottman, Sue Johnson and John Welwood. Learn more about what draws particular people to each other. Find strategies in the books that will improve your communication skills and deepen your intimacy.

~ If you or your partner have experienced trauma, your relationship will be that much more complicated. Working through past traumatic experiences with a professional will soothe your soul and allow you to open more deeply to love.

~ If you have some differences that are particularly challenging, look for a good couples counselor, preferably one who understands rainforest minds.

Note: Thanks to Anne Allanketner, poet and couples counselor in Portland, Oregon, USA, for her help with this post.

(*For those of you too young or from outside the USA, this was a really ridiculous North American TV show.)

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To my blogEEs: If you’re in a partnership, tell us how you navigate your differences and your similarities. How do you manage your intensities, sensitivities and intellectual curiosity? What are the benefits of rainforest-minded partners and what are the downsides? Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They add so much to my blog!


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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.


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Most Popular Post of 2014 — If I’m So Smart Why Am I So Dumb?

photo from Casey Fyfe, Unsplash

photo from Casey Fyfe, Unsplash

People may have told you that you were smart. But you may not feel smart. Why? Because you graduated from college with a 2.65 grade point average after changing your major 5 times. Why? Because you never finish any of the projects you start. Why? Because you can’t decide what color to paint the bedroom and it’s been three years. Why? Because you still daydream all the time and forget to tie your shoes. Why? Because you haven’t won the Nobel Prize. In fact, you haven’t won anything except the spelling bee in third grade. Why? Because you still cry when you gaze at the stars. Why? Because you know how much you don’t know.

 

Let me explain. It’s complicated.

• If you have multiple interests and abilities (multipotentiality), you may want to study many topics and not want to narrow yourself down to one field. One day you’re fascinated by marine biology and the next by philosophy. How do you choose?

• Perhaps, college was the first time you were challenged academically. You didn’t know how to study and you couldn’t stop yourself from procrastinating, so your grades suffered.

• You love learning new things and once you learn what you need, it’s time to move on. This may mean that certain projects don’t look complete even though they are complete for you.

• You have very high standards for your work. If you’re feeling pressure to be perfect, you abandon a project because you feel paralyzed.

• You’re very sensitive to color so it really matters what colors you live with. Decisions, in general, are hard because you can think of way too many possibilities.

• Daydreaming still gets a bad rap and you believed what your teachers told you about it. Some of my best friends are daydreamers. And who has time to tie their shoes?

• Winning has never been your objective.

• Crying gets a bad rap, especially if you’re a male. But you see the incredible beauty in the sky and are amazed.

People may have told you that you were smart. You may not feel so smart. That’s OK. Nobody said living with a rainforest mind was going to be easy.

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To my bloggEEs: Even though it hasn’t been a full year yet (I started this blog in March 2014), it still feels like a good time to thank you for finding me, reading, sharing, commenting, liking and being with me, here, in this astonishing blogworld. Thank you! I look forward to joining you in 2015 and beyond. Please continue to read and share your thoughts, feelings, questions and insights. And remember to LOVE that sensitive, complicated, creative, and curious rainforest mind of yours.