Giftedness often tied to achievement
So much categorizing people as gifted children or adults emphasizes having achieved significantly, having some distinction – high IQ or SAT scores, having a bestseller book or movie or being a sport superstar.
And with perfectionism and high levels of self criticism, many gifted and talented people feel they don’t make it.
[Photo above: valedictorian Bianca Phillips – see post: Smarter Than Others.]
Impostor feelings affect many talented people, regardless of their accomplishments.
Rosalyn Lang (Ph.D. in molecular biology, postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University, launched her own consulting firm) says “I felt inadequate the entire time I was in graduate school. If I got a nice compliment, I just felt, ‘What? They’re trying to pull my leg! I can get kicked out at any minute.”
Another example: Meryl Streep has said, “I have varying degrees of confidence and self-loathing… You can have a perfectly horrible day where you doubt your talent… Or that you’re boring and they’re going to find out that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
This is not an isolated feeling or an issue for only a few talented people. – From article: Getting Beyond Impostor Feelings.
Actor Ellen Muth, who starred as George (for Georgia) Lass in the tv series “Dead Like Me,” has admitted she had low self-esteem, like her character, and also said, “But I still feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.. like I haven’t made it anywhere, I haven’t done anything, and I’ll never get anywhere in life, and I’m going to be a failure my whole life.
“And I know in the rational part of my mind that it’s not true.”
Earlier in her life, at 14, Muth gained widespread acclaim for her portrayal of the young Selena in the film “Dolores Claiborne” and her starring role in the “The Young Girl & the Monsoon” earned her the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival Best Actress Award in 1999. She is a member of MENSA.
Recognition doesn’t always accompany high ability or giftedness
It can help us develop a more accurate self concept as a high ability person to garner awards and acclaim, but most of us do not get much recognition.
In his article “Does Giftedness Matter?,” psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman addresses many of the issues facing gifted children and adults, with multiple links to related writings. Here is an excerpt:
On August 23, 2016, Farrah Alexander, a writer and mother, published an article on the Huffington Post, entitled “Maybe My Child is Gifted. Maybe Not. Maybe It Doesn’t Matter” To which she concluded,
“Every child is gifted and talented. So let’s stop distinguishing which children are gifted and start celebrating our children’s unique gifts. How is your child gifted.”
Well, naturally this stoked the ire of large segments of the gifted and talented community, who already feel as though they have to constantly justify the existence of gifted and talented programming in school.
Fair enough. If you were fighting for the unique rights of children with autism, or dyslexia, for instance, and someone wrote a piece arguing that “every child has autism”, and therefore “let’s stop distinguishing which children have autism and start celebrating our children’s unique autism”, you would probably be pretty peeved.
In her response, Heather Boorman, a writer and licensed clinical social worker who advocates for awareness and support for gifted and talented individuals, wrote that Alexander’s piece doesn’t make her mad, but instead makes her feel sad:
“I’m sad because the misconception of giftedness is so rampant. I’m sad because giftedness continues to be thought of only in terms of education and intellect, when in truth, it has very little to do with education. It has to do with living and experiencing life more intensely. It has to do with being wired differently. Which, trust me, has some great benefits and some great disadvantages.”
This response is really interesting, and I’d like to reflect a bit on this debate. The thing is, the whole concept of giftedness was, from the very beginning of its inception, tied to educational outcomes. When Lewis Terman invented the concept*, he made giftedness synonymous with high IQ scores (on his own test, of course), and linked it to high achievement (genius).
What seems to be going on here (and I document this trend in my book Ungifted), is that a sizable proportion of the gifted and talented community– mostly clinicians who actually work with such children on a daily basis– fundamentally conceptualize giftedness as something very different than high achievement, and often also very different from high cognitive ability. …
Look: I don’t have the answers by any stretch of the imagination. I do believe that giftedness matters. But if the field of gifted and talented education truly wishes to broaden conceptualizations of giftedness beyond academic achievement, or even cognitive ability as measured by IQ tests, it won’t hold water to say things like: “the gifted child lives and experiences life more intensely”.
There is indeed a way of scientifically operationalizing this hazy definition, but I should hope that if we truly care about supporting exquisite sensitivity to the environment, as well as any other dimension of giftedness, we could do better to define the terms, define the measurement, and define the interventions, so that we can give help to the specific population of children who would really benefit from the support.
Read more of his stimulating article: Does Giftedness Matter?
He includes a personal story about being mis-identified as a child on account of a medical condition in this video:
Scott Barry Kaufman – Creativity and Intelligence
Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
His books include:
Cheryl M. Ackerman, PhD notes in her article Gifted Adults, “It is important to remember that just because a person was not identified as gifted when they were in school, doesn’t mean she isn’t a gifted individual.
“In addition, something that may seem as benign as whether or not a person was identified as gifted can have significant effects on the development of his self-concept and self-esteem.
She adds, “While the fundamental characteristics of gifted adults are the same regardless of whether or not they were identified earlier in life, those who were not identified face the challenge of making sense of their gifted characteristics without the gifted label to guide them in any way.”
Comic strip: The Closing Argument, Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller.
School testing isn’t measuring up
And there are other problems with labels in adulthood, and earlier in life as students.
Daniel Koretz, a professor of education at Harvard, agrees “We need accountability in education, and standardized tests give comparable information from different schools.”
But, he cautions, “tests don’t measure things like complex problem-solving ability, creativity, and persistence. High-stakes testing puts pressure on teachers to take shortcuts to raise scores and can give an illusion of progress.”
[Parade magazine, Jan. 11 2009]
One of the people in the book When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers: How to Meet Their Social and Emotional Needs, by James R. Delisle, PhD et. al., is Christine, 15, who asked, “Why is giftedness linked to achievement — that is, what I can or cannot do — instead of what and how I feel?”
Who we are vs. what we do
As adults, we still are pressured to achieve.
Robert Maurer, PhD, in his article The Vision Thing notes, “Successful people are able to sustain their identity as separate from their profession and what’s happening to them. That’s particularly important in the arts, where what happens to you bears only faint correlation to your talent.”
Being gifted without the scores – by Nora Brahim.