Being different as a child
“I was shy. I was a mixture of insecurities and very bossy.”
J.K. Rowling added that she was “Very bossy to my sister but quite quiet with strangers. Very bookish. Terrible at school.
One of the personal qualities that seems to be shared by most gifted children is being different and divergent – in terms of thinking, interests, values and behavior.
Many gifted adults feel “wrong” or anxious about “not fitting in” even though being different can be a strength, a positive attribute.
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, and accepts the fact she is exceptional, and does not fit in with her high school peers mainly concerned with cliques, clothes and boys.
[From my post Entitled to Be Exceptional]
“When I met her [actor Scarlett Johansson], OK, she’s 15, but she could easily pass for 30. She’s a very attractive girl, but she’s sort of a weirdo. I like that about her.” Terry Zwigoff – her director for “Ghost World” (2000) [From the page Eccentricity]
A childhood unexplained
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. 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, SENG / Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted.
Paula Prober, M.S., M.Ed., is a licensed counselor in private practice in Eugene, Oregon.
Her site is http://rainforestmind.com
The image is from book Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, by Marylou Kelly Streznewski.
(Also see my interview with her.)
Many gifted adults experience existential depression, anxiety and depression.
For help, see Anxiety Relief Solutions.