Personal qualities that seem to be shared by most gifted children include being notably different and divergent in terms of thinking, interests, values and behavior.
This can lead to being called “too verbal… too bossy… too nerdy” and other labels.
These kinds of reactions from others can lead to high ability people feeling insecure and “wrong” and out of place in mainstream society, such as classmates.
“I was shy. I was a mixture of insecurities and very bossy.”
J.K. Rowling added that she was “quite quiet with strangers. Very bookish. Terrible at school.”
The photo is from Young Sheldon, a TV series prequel to The Big Bang Theory which follows the character of physicist Sheldon Cooper at age 9, living with his family in East Texas and going to high school. Iain Armitage stars as Sheldon.
Feeling “weird” may be a common experience as a gifted person.
Many gifted children and adults feel “wrong” or anxious about “not fitting in” even though being different can be a strength, a positive attribute.
Sharon M. Barnes, Therapist For Sensitive And Gifted writes:
“Highly creative, acutely aware, super- sensitive, intense and/or gifted youth and adults, I like to call CASIGYs™ – Creative, Curious, Complex, Acutely Aware, Super-sensitive, Intense, Gifted You.
“They are often assumed to have an (unfair) advantage over others because of their higher observable abilities.
“Unfortunately however, it is not unusual for a CASIGY’s inner experience of life to stand in stark contrast to the privilege and advantage that they are rumored to be experiencing.
“The characteristics that CASIGYs™ carry within them may be wonderful and also can cause great distress.”
She notes that one source of this distress can be our valued creativity:
“Creativity and creative expression can fun but can also be a great burden.
“Creative ideas show up whether we have time to pay attention to them, or do anything with them or not. They also often arrive in tandem or multiples, and the creative person has to choose which idea gets to see the light of day.
“Being aware of things that most people are not may lead to exciting AHA! moments. At the same time it can create questions of what’s real and what’s not when no one else sees what you’re seeing.
“It may also carve a canyon of separation between the acutely aware person and others who are less aware.”
See much more in her article on her site, where you can find many more resources: Different by Design: How to MOVE From FEELING Defective to BEING Distinctive.
Barnes developed her Social-Emotional ACES Home Video Program as an “interactive video-based training program for Creative, Highly Sensitive or Gifted adults and for parents and teachers of Highly Creative, Highly Sensitive, and/or Gifted children and teens.”
The photo is from one of the short videos in an article about the program:
“There was something wrong with me, I thought, because I seemed to see things other people didn’t see.” John Lennon
Learn more in article:
In the movie “Nancy Drew,” the heroine (played with style and grace by Emma Roberts) uses and celebrates her intuitive and intellectual abilities as a teen sleuth.
She accepts the fact she is exceptional, and does not fit in with her high school peers, who are mainly concerned with cliques, clothes and boys.
[From my post Entitled to Be Exceptional]
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A childhood unexplained until later
In her article “Counseling Gifted Adults – A Case Study”, counselor Paula Prober writes about Susan, who “had known that she was different since she was seven.
“Her thoughts and feelings had never fit into the box that was comfortable and reassuring for most children.
“Her appetite for learning was insatiable. Reading was more nourishing than food.
“Thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing were better than Barbie.
“And she worried about everything: poverty, world peace, and the loss of the rain forests.”
Prober notes some of the consequences of this kind of “always active” mind:
“It kept her awake at night.
“The adults around her said that she was too young to be concerned with such things.
“That didn’t help. To her classmates, she just seemed weird–certainly not birthday party material.
“All of these reactions confused and saddened Susan but no one was explaining to her that she was different because she was gifted: She had a mind running deeper and faster than most. No one told her that seven year olds don’t feel responsible for saving the world.”
Like many gifted adults, she “rediscovered” herself as gifted later in life, but also felt a strong need for emotional help, as Prober writes:
Discovering giftedness as an adult
“Forty-five years later, at age 52, Susan came to therapy. Raising her teenaged son, John, had forced her to confront herself. John had been identified as gifted in preschool. Susan started reading about gifted children and was quite surprised to find that she was reading about herself.
“When Susan first came to see me, I noticed her intensity immediately. Her penetrating hazel eyes were both anxious and skeptical behind her wire-rimmed glasses. At the same time, her affect was energetic and engaging…
“At that first session, Susan told me her reasons for therapy. She needed to understand how, if she was gifted, it affected her work and relationships and to find ways to ‘handle this better’ –to deal with the anxiety and deep loneliness she felt, to find friends who truly understood her, to communicate more effectively, and to keep her marriage from dissolving.”
“This was unusual. Most gifted clients come to counseling with the typical requests for help with depression, anxiety, relationships, and family dynamics. They do not suspect that they are gifted and even resist the idea, at first.
“They are often aware that they don’t ‘fit in,’ but they do not know why.”
Excerpted from article Counseling Gifted Adults – A Case Study, by Paula Prober.
Paula Prober, M.S., M.Ed., is a licensed counselor in private practice in Eugene, Oregon.
Her site is http://rainforestmind.com
She is author of Your Rainforest Mind.
Related books include:
Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, by Marylou Kelly Streznewski.
(Also see my interview with her.)
The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen.
Many gifted adults experience existential depression, anxiety and depression.
One of many related articles of mine:
Gifted, Sensitive, In Need Of Meaning: Existential Depression.
For help, see my Anxiety Relief Solutions site.
Also see more articles on Mental/Emotional Health
“I didn’t discover I was an artist until I was 17… It was very hard to be an artist and a child… it was like having sand up your butt when you go to the beach.” – Alfre Woodard
A number of movies include gifted and talented characters, and depict a variety of characteristics related to exceptional people that are positive – but these qualities also can generate not so positive reactions from others, such as “You think you’re so smart,” or, “You’re too verbal… too bossy… too nerdy… too sensitive.” And, of course, we may still experience some of those reactions as adults.