Let’s take a moment to talk about the G-word – Giftedness. The term over-excitable was first introduced to me through my research on behavior problems of the gifted in schools. Highly excitable people pick up on and respond more accutely to the world around them, so it makes sense that there would be a connection.
Until recently, I have avoided using the G-word too much in my work because I believe there are a lot of highly excitable people out there who either don’t identify with or don’t realize they are gifted.
As I have interviewed more people who specialize in giftedness though, I realize that there is a need to talk about this topic more openly. If you do a podcast search in iTunes for the term “gifteness,” you mostly get religious shows with the occasional episode on gifted education. I am in a group of parents of gifted kids with several thousand members, but the groups for adults tend to be in the hundreds.
We seem to have a much easier time aknowledging the gifts in others than we do in ourselves.
People seem to think of it as bragging to say “I am gifted,” but the thing is that with giftedness comes a lot of challenges as well. Any parent of a profoundly gifted child would never say “this is easy,” and it doesn’t neccesarily get easier as an adult either.
Some of the greatest challenges that are often associated with giftedness include:
Intensity – I started my Embracing Intensity Podcast to emphasize the positive side of being intense, but if you or someone you love is intense you know that intensity has it’s downside as well. With extreme highs come extreme lows. It can be much more difficult to blow things off because they seem much bigger to you than it might to someone else.
Difficulty finding your “tribe” – I was recently at a training on gifted children that emphasized the importance of finding peers that you can relate to at an early age. Gifted folks often experience “asynchronous development,” which means that while one aspect of their development may be significantly higher than their peers, other parts may be signifiantly lower. For example, you may have a 1st gader at a 5th grade reading level but with the emotional maturity of a preschooler. When you lack peers to connect with at an early age, it becomes more and more difficult to connect as an adult. We also may have difficulty with small talk and have a tendency to “skip the pleasantries,” making introductions and conversation endings awkward.
Lack of grit – You would think that having high intelligence would make you more successful, but in fact more important than intelligence toward success is grit. Grit is the ability to persist toward your goals in the face of challenges. There tends to be an inverse relationship between IQ and Grit. This is partly because when things usually came easy to you as a child, you don’t have experience with taking on difficult tasks. Add to that our tendency toward perfectionism and our intense response to things when they don’t go our way and it makes persistence in the face of challenges that much more difficult. This takes practice and is something that I work on with my son. This weekend when he decided he wanted to make origami dragons and realized that the patern he picked was beyond his fine motor control, rather than giving in dramatic defeat, he looked for a pattern that was more within his skills at the moment and let me finish the complicated one (see above). Yes, he chose something more simple, but he didn’t give up entirely and chose a stepping stone along the way.
Unquenchable mind – This week’s podcast is with Jennifer Harvey Sallin, leader of Intergifted, a coaching network for gifted adults. In this post about High, Exceptional & Profound Giftedness, what really struck me was the feeling of insatiable curiosity. You may have an unquenchable desire to learn, explore and understand that can leave you feeling unsatisfied and/or restless. This is why multipotentiality is a common trait in the gifted. There is always more out there to learn and do.
If any of these traits sound familiar to you, you might really enjoy my podcast interviews with Jennifer Harvey Sallin and Paula Prober. Paula also has a book out called Your Rainforest Mind, and Jennifer is working on one (the post above is an excerpt from her book).
Owning your giftedness is not about bragging, but about self-understanding. For me, it’s about reflecting on the story I shared in the Huffington Post this week about how I was described as, “she’s not a smaller apple she’s an orange.” It’s not about being a bigger apple either, it’s about being an entirely different fruit. If we all understand exactly what kind of fruit we are, we can make a better contribution to our fruit salad (because really, how boring would a salad of just apples or just oranges be?)