Being highly talented and exceptional can engender a complex mix of feelings about your self and how you relate to your advanced abilities, and to the world.
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen writes about clients “coming to grips with his or her giftedness, and what that means when re-discovery unlocks feelings of guilt, remorse, regret, anger, and fears about expectations.”
As an example of a “newly-identified gifted adult” she quotes a former client: “All these years I thought being so sensitive, picky, emotional, and driven was something to be ashamed of.
“I can’t tell you how many times I looked to the sky and pleaded to be ‘normal.’ This changes everything. I’m not weird after all.
“Maybe now I can make up for lost time in the selfhood realm; supporting myself and my goals from the inside out for a change. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“All I know is I’m back. My vitality has returned along with hope. I can be me in my own way, differences and all. What a relief to no longer be absent in my own life!”
From her article Arousing the Sleeping Giant: Giftedness in Adult Psychotherapy.
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PsyD is author of The Gifted Adult.
Rachel Weisz won an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for The Constant Gardener (2005).
A Guardian article years earlier interviewed her, noting she had acted in two fairly big studio movies: “Stealing Beauty” and “Chain Reaction.”
The writer Suzie Mackenzie noted, “With it all came money: ‘My own flat, my own car, a comfortable life.’ And she felt it was all undeserved. Maybe this is natural. Not only was she young, she was brought up ‘on the work ethic’ by her parents, Jewish refugees who came to Britain before the war ‘with nothing’ and made their way in the world.
“Maybe it was natural, too, that she felt guilt. ‘Guilt, yes, I am very good at that.’ The thing about guilt, she explains, is that you don’t have to have done anything wrong. ‘I can feel guilty about anything.’
“But her guilt was specifically bound up with her success. ‘Any success – getting a good degree, getting an agent, getting on TV. As if somehow by doing well, I was depriving someone else of something – it could be anyone, sister, mother, friend And it all became a bit too much. I didn’t feel I had the right.’”
Mackenzie adds, “It is a strange notion this, that things are ours by right. It is not by right that we are born beautiful, not by right are we clever.
“It wasn’t even as if her parents were dumping guilt on her. ‘On the contrary. My dad always says that he thinks my generation had it harder than his, because for us there are no moral boundaries.’ Guilt was just something she imbibed with the air – guilt about being beautiful, being bright, being successful.”
From “Talented, clever, sexy… and guilty” by Suzie Mackenzie [Guardian Unlimited guardian.co.uk March 22, 1999]
It isn’t always easy or natural for many high ability people to acknowledge the value of the good achievements our passions lead to.
One reason may be that some people hold a stereotyped view of what giftedness or exceptional talent means (as merely high IQ, for example) and feel that an identity as “gifted” is incompatible with their self-concept.
Others may have a fear of failure or success related to living up to the label, or have an aversion to being thought “elitist”, “superior”, or “hogging all the glory” — and they may feel guilt, shame, or other destabilizing feelings about being exceptional. Highly talented women, according to some research, may hide abilities in order to survive socially.