“Listen up fives, a ten is speaking.” – Jenna Maroney
This is from the 30 Rock (TV series) episode ‘I Heart Connecticut’ (2011) with Jenna – played so exuberantly by Jane Krakowski – making another pronouncement about her “obvious” (to her) superiority.
Her character may be very fun in a comedy, but in real life so many exceptional people feel insecure, with impostor feelings, that can lead us to wonder about the validity of the gifted or high ability label being applied to ourselves.
Not settling for underachievement
We may not have realized all or even many of the promises of our identity as a gifted kid, and through circumstance or suppression left talents unmanifested or unspoken.
But that doesn’t mean we have lost that aspect of who we are.
You can learn more about the traits that gifted people have, and stop denying your high abilities – accepting and celebrating who you really are.
But you may have to “get over” aversions you have to allowing others – and yourself – to recognize you as different and exceptional.
The challenge to accept our exceptionality
Author M. Scott Peck has noted, “Many who are truly superior.. are reluctant to consider themselves ‘better than’ or ‘above’ others, in large part because a sense of humility accompanies their personal and spiritual power.”
In his book “The Road Less Traveled and Beyond” he describes his interview with Jane, a young business school student:
“‘I don’t want to be a whiner’ [she said]. ‘Then you’ll need to learn how to accept your superiority’ I retorted. ‘My what? What do you mean?’
“Jane was dumbfounded. ‘I’m not superior.’ ‘All your complaints [I said] – your whining, if you will – center around your probably accurate assessment that your dates aren’t as smart as you, your professors aren’t as humble as you, and your fellow students aren’t as interesting as you.'”
[Also quoted in my article Gifted Women: Identity and Expression.]
[Photo at top: Winona Ryder as Jo in film Little Women.
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Our different drummer
In her post [with a great title] Is Your Different Drummer Insane or Are You A Gifted Adult?, Laura Young comments about the value of the book The Gifted Adult by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, and asks about gifted children: “Where did all those kids go?. What happened to them once they hit adulthood?
“Well, it turns out, a lot of them have felt a bit out of step with their peers and have been fluctuating between trying to force themselves to be normal by shutting themselves down and berating themselves (“But everyone else seems so happy. What’s wrong with me?”) and not giving a rip (“Screw it. I’m the smartest one here. Too bad I’m not smart enough to hide it. Fire me, go ahead, this place is whacked anyway.”)
“In short, that leaves a lot of people (Jacobsen estimates between 5-10% of the population) feeling lonely, confused, wracked with self-doubt, irritable, questioning, stalled, inconsistent, frustrated and wondering if the drummer they have been desperately trying to march to is, well, insane.”
A rose by any other name
The term “gifted” of course has a lot of baggage, and exceptional people do often get negative reactions from other people, as I mention in my post Do gifted and talented people get appreciated and supported?
But some people have learned to “get over” wishing they were “normal” and accept they are… whatever they are, whether they may want to be called “gifted” or not.
Actor Richard E. Grant once commented, “You only learn about yourself, it seems, from how other people react… From the get go I’ve been accused of asking too many questions and being too passionate and extreme about what I like or what I don’t like.
“It’s like gorgonzola cheese – I’m probably an acquired taste! You know, I’m right in there. And it’s not something that I really have control over so much as just that that’s, you know, the DNA of my personality.”
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Jodie Foster admits, “I have this incredibly passionate feeling about what I do that can make me annoying, and I recognize it.
“Sometimes, I’ll talk about a movie I’ve seen, and then I’ll start seeing foam coming out of my mouth. I go, And then they did this and they did that! People ask me if I could just lighten up a little bit.”
[See more quotes on the page Giftedness characteristics.]
Another post: Jodie Foster on impostor feelings and faking it.
Also read my interview with Jodie Foster on making her film “Contact” and on filmmaking, and gifted women.
Photo of Foster also used in post: Dancing With Our Unconscious.
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Am I really gifted?
Dr. Mary-Elaine Jacobsen notes in her book The Gifted Adult,
“When many of us hear the word gifted we almost always think two things:
(1) Only schoolchildren are gifted and
(2) Since I’m not a child, I can’t be gifted.”
“These automatic responses are understandable given what most of us have been told about bright people.
“But most of what we have been told is radically incorrect and enormously incomplete.”
Here is an image of a page from the book:
The book also has a number of questions that can affirm whether you are likely to be gifted:
She prefaces the list with: “Choose all of those statements that best describe the way you experience the world. Please keep in mind that Everyday Geniuses tend to undervalue their own abilities.”
I have always had an insatiable curiosity.
I am able to run my mind on multiple tracks at the same time.
I learn rapidly and retain / apply what I learn.
I tend to be very independent.
I tend to be less motivated than others are by rewards, bonuses, and praise.
At times I have asked embarrassing questions or rudely pointed out truths at the wrong time.
My preference for the complex can fool me into underestimating the simple answer.
I like to refine and improve others’ innovations.
I feel comfortable with a wide range of emotions. [continued]
See more on the page: Self-tests: giftedness / high ability.
Articles by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen
Arousing the Sleeping Giant: Giftedness in Adult Psychotherapy
“When the term gifted is used in casual conversation, it generally is assumed the discussion is about someone under the age of eighteen. Yet the attributes and concerns of the gifted do not disappear in adulthood, and at certain junctures in an adult’s lifespan can become critical to an individual’s well-being.”
Giftedness in the Workplace: Can the Bright Mind Thrive in Organizations?
“Inspiring though they may be, tales of eminence often imply that from an early age the truly gifted know exactly what they must do and undeviatingly pursue their lifework. Such distortions exacerbate gifted people’s inner pressure to make their mark in the world. Furthermore.. the transition from full-time learner to full-time worker can be painfully disillusioning.”
Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time
“There are many confusing notions about what giftedness is and is not. Indeed, in several respects, the life experience of the gifted individual seems paradoxical (e.g., being considered highly successful while secretly feeling like an impostor).”
More related articles:
Adult Underachievement: Living Up to the “Gifted” Label – Or Not — “I don’t think I’m even close to fulfilling my potential.” Actor Kerry Washington
Addressing gifted adult underachievement: Acknowledging our own abilities – One aspect of high ability, and being able to do many things well, is a tendency to discount those abilities.
Adult Underachievement – The ‘gifted’ label & the pressure to deliver
Unrealized talent, unrecognized giftedness – “Unrealized talent does not make a comfortable chair, unless you’ve sat on it your whole life, then it makes it a dangerously comfortable chair.” Actor Eric Roberts
Self-Knowledge, Self-Esteem and the Gifted Adult by Stephanie S. Tolan – she points out that self-identification as a gifted adult “is complicated by the great diversity among the gifted adult population. What does a gifted adult look like? Unfortunately, for many gifted adults, it looks like somebody else.”
Psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel notes how intelligence – one of the key qualities of giftedness, though not the only one – is such a central aspect of our identity:
“Smartness is a smart person’s defining characteristic. Everything she thinks about the world—how she forms her identity, how she construes her needs, how she talks to herself about her life purposes and goals—is a function of how her particular brain operates.”
He notes that every smart person experiences challenges, and lists fifteen of them that many people have in common, including:
“Living in a society and a world that does more than disparage smartness, that actually silences smart people (because the power and privilege of leaders is undercut by smart people like you pointing out fraud, illogic, and injustice).
“Doing work day after day and year after year that fails to make real use of your brainpower…”
See more in article: Brainpower and The Smart Gap.
One of his related books: Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative.