Why can’t gifted adults just be gifted?

Is there something really wrong with being gifted?  The word, amazingly enough, has a lot of negative connotations for a lot of people, so if someone learns that it has been associated with them, far too often they quickly recoil and deny the entire idea…

To avoid this problem, a whole host of other words, titles, descriptions and the like have been invented to be able to express giftedness in some other way.  Have you heard any of these?

  • gifted and talented
  • of high ability
  • highly sensitive
  • intellectually gifted
  • extra intelligent
  • a scanner
  • highly intelligent
  • advanced
  • a genius
  • super-powered
  • a geek
  • of extreme intellect
  • exceptional

The funny thing is, each one of these words has their own unique meaning, none of which completely captures the essence of giftedness.  Most of them relate primarily to intelligence, but we know that’s just one part of what makes us who we are.  Others relate to ability or behaviour, but only in one particular way.  So what about everything else?

And, to make the mix more complicated,  the more often people say things like, “Everyone is gifted in their own way,”  even the word gifted doesn’t easily describe what we’re looking for either.

We have enough trouble just trying to figure out who we are to begin with, and when we can’t even all verbalize what connects our minuscule slice of the population it makes it all the more difficult.

So what are we to do?  What word or words really capture who we are, what we feel, and how we experience the world?

I’d love to hear your opinion.  What do you think?

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  • http://fluffylittleidiot.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Braun

    Oh, I think people know what ‘gifted’ means, whether or not they say ‘we all have gifts’, which is, of course, quite true=). Many will just say that as a defense against what they may see as someone’s superior attitude: ‘I’m more intelligent that you and most other folk, you know.’ It’s OK to *be* more intelligent, but it’s often culturally unacceptable to *say* so! Also, there’s jealousy and the perfectly understandable fears and feelings of inadequacy when someone is brighter than us etc.

    On the denial from the gifted themselves side. I don’t think folk are rejecting labels or anything like that, it’s often part modesty and part just a big surprise. I thought I was just a B+/A- student and never realised I was an A* student who’d never learnt to work (always found stuff easy and if it wasn’t easy, I just concluded I couldn’t do that. I didn’t realise I had to work at any time…) To suddenly discover at age 38 that I had all the traits of giftedness etc (got 27/28 on your quiz and would say I scored a half on the 28th), was a shock to the system. Suddenly I found myself belonging to a league I’d never envisioned myself as coming even close to!

    To my mind, words and descriptions don’t matter. What matters is how we use our gifts to work towards our goals and, more importantly, to help others. People know we’re bright and whilst, yes, there *are* frustrations, I think it best just to get on do what we can without getting overly upset at attitudes and social conventions that we can’t change. My ‘discovery’ has boosted my self-confidence greatly and made me think of doing things I never seriously considered before. Now I know I have the ability, I can put aside the lingering fears and try. I think that’s a better plan than worrying about what to label myself.=)

    • Sonia Dabboussi

      You have raised some great points here. You’re right that everyone has gifts – I believe that totally. And yes, for sure there are modesty issues and cultural factors to take into account with all of this. The idea for me here was to consider what words work to describe what giftedness really is without the negative connotations that are involved. Do you think it’s possible to alter the way people think about giftedness so that somehow it isn’t a bad thing? Or to find a word that captures giftedness without bringing in the negative feelings? I’m not a big advocate of labels or names at all. For me, it’s just a matter of finding some way to refer to what we experience so we can use that expression to talk with one another about how to make the most of our lives.

      I am so glad that you’ve discovered your own giftedness! And I absolutely love your approach to your new knowledge. I hope all gifted adults can find the confidence and encouragement to give up their fears and do what they really want to do in their lives as you are doing. If you wouldn’t mind, please share your experiences as you go along. I’m sure they will benefit many people who read this.


      • http://fluffylittleidiot.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Braun

        Thanks Sonia. I do have a blog where I’m going to continue documenting certain related things, but as I’ve recently moved internationally etc, I’ve been neglecting my writing and now I find myself swamped with new ideas and interests that writing about them on-line seems to swallow up time I could spend actively pursuing them!!!

        As far as finding a name goes. In a word, no, I don’t think it’s possible to find a name that will eliminate any negative feelings towards higher ability. Whichever way you slice it, it’s going to state that others are not as able and that’s going to hurt. Some don’t mind, others do and we’ll never be able to please everyone. Jesus was a perfect man and even he couldn’t please everyone and had folk, literally, hound him to the point of murder! So, even the most profoundly gifted amongst us not being in that bracket, I vote for giving it up as a bad job.=)

        Interesting site though. I’ve put it on my blog reader.=)

  • http://www.ArtNetworking.com Donna J Gamache

    I think in the US “gifted” has always been assumed as synonymous with “high IQ,” and that is always closely aligned with traditional math skills and knowledge of science, much more than linguistic gifts or ability in visual arts. Am I wrong? I can’t imagine anyone being told they are gifted in the US without being able to do relatively high-level math, and/or being a science geek, whereas being “just” a skilled or imaginative thinker whose work manifests in writing, or or “just” a skilled or imaginative visualizer whose work manifests in the arts, without the math or science skills, has always meant you were good enough to be acknowledged in some area, but not necessarily thought as “gifted.” That needs to change, and I think the reticence to accept the label of “gifted” has to do with thinking that if there’s ONE AREA where we don’t excel, particularly math and science, but not being astonishing across the board in every area, then we fear we are counterfeits. We already have trouble fitting in with so many groups because we can’t turn off our brains: We don’t need to add disgrace of being told we’re counterfeits to that!

    • Sonia Dabboussi

      There seems to be so much confusion about what being gifted actually means, even for those who are gifted themselves. Somehow we think we’re supposed to be perfect in every area to be even ‘good enough’, but of course that can never be the case. The counterfeit feeling, often called Impostor Syndrome, is so common among the gifted because of so many things you’ve mentioned here.

      I hope this is a time for change for all of us…