Surprised to be Gifted: The Inner World of Unrecognized GiftednessPosted by Sonia Dabboussi | 11 comments
Going through life not knowing that you’re gifted, or not understanding what giftedness means, can be a very difficult and painful experience. Take a look through the eyes of someone who was willing to share an inside perspective…
In her post “to my surprise…” on her site Temporary Reality, “neighbor” writes about the experience of growing up gifted that many of us can relate to. Here is an excerpt [published here by permission]:
The story I’ve always told myself though, to explain why misery hit me head-on in between 8th and 10th grade, is that I was bored.
But I wasn’t bored – at least not bored enough to let me disappoint all those whose claims had been tacked onto me about how smart I was.
Even if I went through the motions I still got As and Bs – THAT was discouraging.
What I realize now is that I wasn’t technically bored with the subject matter, I was apalled by the purpose. I could sense I was being groomed for a profession. Suddenly everyone’s focus, if not on getting drunk or laid, was the requirement that we pick a college and a major and a career.
I’ve been suffering a perpetual mid-life crisis since I was 15.
And by suffering, I mean seriously suffering.
Here’s what some of it looked like (well, looks like, ’cause it’s still existent):
- I’d never realized that my pure love of learning and being challenged, for its own sake, made me different. I assumed it was the norm and that the norm was that everyone set that aside and accepted specialization and the inevitable full-time job without much complaint. But then I was struck by the simultaneous recognition that I must be somehow outside the norm for my utter unwillingness to conform to that.
- I never comprehended being praised (or considered gifted) for being my very regular self, for feeling downright average. This led to few options: a total distrust of praise; then a distrust of myself for not fulfilling the expectations put forth by the praise (am I supposed to be smart and successful? What the hell is wrong then, because I just feel normal.). Everything became wrapped up in second-guessing and self-doubt.
- A long term, fundamental assumption that I am flawed for being unable to mold myself, force myself to match the acceptable mode of being. I took all my divergent interests, my fabulous imaginings and wished for experiences, as proof of my failing. Proof of success would be…well, success at something.
I turned sharply, deeply inward. It was an attempt to understand the very ground on which I stood, on which I was founded. I needed to understand what I perceived as my deviance, for not choosing a path, for not following but forging my own path, for… everything.
I was certain the universe hated me (as evidenced by its not “calling” me to fulfill my potential in any particular way), I hated my lack of conviction or gumption that, had it existed, would have allowed me to express my giftedness in one realm, to match, ultimately, the model of success we’re supposed to copy.
Existential depression (if only you knew). Severe internal critic (it’s a wonder I’ve not bled all over the place). Survival tactics that required I downplay my “strengths” (see, still can’t admit I have them), blend in (I’d never stand out in a crowd), keep my secret, imaginative dreams to myself (they’re dangerous, they reveal my true multi-facets and inconsistencies, my wild, irresponsible flights).
You Can Accomplish Anything You Set Your Mind To
If I’m good at everything I put my mind to, it’s my fault I’m not good at making a conventional living, that I’m not earning a pension with my 20 year loyalty to The Company, that I can’t follow through with anything (except what really fires me up), that I can’t just buckle down and do the job.
I ought to try harder? Trim the edges a little more, squeeze a little to the left, bite my tongue. Maybe that’ll work.
A Very Lonely Thing
Only it hasn’t really worked – and believe me, I’ve tried: grad school, full-time employment, part-time employment, at-home parenting, freelance writing and editing, etc. etc..
Meanwhile, whenever my true nature shows, it’s met with: “You need to choose something to do” “maybe you should get another degree” “what is it that you do?” “it doesn’t matter what you do, just pick something”…
But the childish methods I adopted for survival have taken their toll. It’s not a good idea to have a habit of silencing yourself. Ideas trickle to a stop, my creative muse-mind shirks and hides and doesn’t want to talk to me, I’ve thrashed about with every job description in the universe and don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing (all the tests I take show the bleeping result being high aptitude in multiple fields – totally unhelpful).
I’ve decided an existentially depressed person is like an alcoholic – you’re never cured (likewise I knew it wouldn’t do to seek help, I don’t WANT to be reconciled to society’s norms!! And don’t get me started on anti-depressants! 100% Not For Me). I have become extremely hermetic about “what I do,” though I’m very generous and open about nearly every other aspect of my life and relating to people.
The first lightning bolt that struck was Can You Hear the Flowers Sing? Issues for Gifted Adults from the Journal of Counseling and Development, May 1986. Holy moly, mother of Toledo! You mean there are ramifications for giftedness? You mean it wasn’t a mis-characterization all along? and that somebody else figured out that the road was bumpy? Somebody understands! And I’m not the only one?!
~ article by Cat Robson from Talent Develop