240: A Grown-Up Gifted Kid Helping People Through Therapy and Training with Dr. Matt Zakreski

I first met today’s guest when he enthusiastically shared some of my animated shorts on 2E experiences. We have followed each other, and I’m a big fan of his advocacy work.

Join us to learn more! Dr. Matt Zakreski is a psychologist who works with gifted and twice-exceptional folks. We have connected over social media, and I’m excited to talk to him today and introduce him to the Embracing Intensity audience.

In this episode:

  • How Matt is intensely passionate about his experience as a “grown-up gifted kid,” helping people through therapy and training, ultimate Frisbee, craft beer, Bruce Springsteen, and comic books
  • Why Matt’s personal brand of intensity means that he wants things to be “this way,” and has a tough time when they aren’t; he wants to know expectations ahead of time
  • How Matt learned to embrace his giftedness  in his school years and had to find his people in the arts
  • Why Matt speaks the language of caring and wants to be around people who care about something
  • How even with ADHD and giftedness, Matt appreciates authenticity in himself and others
  • In his school experience, Matt realized how to “flex” his gifts in language arts but struggled in STEM classes
  • How Matt advises families to learn from his mistakes to “work smart, not hard”
  • How Matt felt responsibility and a lot of expectations as the oldest child in his family
  • How Matt felt the divide in high school between living in the sports world as an athlete and the arts world
  • How Matt tried to tone himself down and embrace his leadership style of being second in command
  • How Matt felt his intensity out of control significantly when he was bullied in 8th grade
  • How Matt uses his fire for good by helping kids learn to lift others up instead of tearing others down
  • Why getting in touch with his emotional world and being vulnerable have helped Matt harness the power of his intensity
  • Personal habits that have helped Matt use his fire positively are taking time daily for long walks, podcasts, and music
  • How Matt helps others use their fire by helping them be their best selves
  • Why it’s energizing to make time for yourself
  • Parting words from Matt: “If you are too much for some people, then those are not your people. Do something for you, and do your version of it. Have the confidence to put your own spin on what self-care looks like for you. We have to value putting ourselves in inspiring and charging situations instead of draining ones. You are worth putting yourself first.”

Ep. 240 Transcript

* Rough Transcript *

Ep. 240

[00:00:00] Matt: It wasn’t until late middle school, early high school that I actually really sort of embraced the idea of being a gifted kid. I was always smart, but there’s that difference between being smart and sort of like put it under a bushel right. It’s like, eh, I don’t really wanna talk about, and then I went to CTY, and I’m like, oh no, no, it’s cool. I can be as smart as I am. And then it took me a couple years to find my people.

[00:00:28] Aurora: Welcome to the embracing intensity podcast. I’ll be sharing interviews and tips for gifted, creative, twice exceptional and outside the box thinkers who use their fire in a positive way. My name is Aurora. Remember Holtzman after years of feeling too much. I finally realized that intensity is the source of my greatest power.

Now. Instead of beating myself up about not measuring up to my own self-imposed standards, I’m on a mission to help people embrace their own intensity and befriend their brains so they can share their gifts with the world through the embracing intensity community, coaching, educational assessment, and other tools to help use your fire without getting burned, you can join us at embracingintensity.com.

Hello, today’s guest is Dr. Matt Zakreski, who I first discovered when he enthusiastically shared several of my two E animations from the. Animated shorts that I made on twice exceptional experiences. And we followed each other for a little while now. And I love all of the advocacy work he is doing for gifted and twice exceptional individuals.

And he has a really fantastic Facebook page where he shares all sorts of relatable memes and posts, et cetera. And it’s really fun to watch. So. Check out Dr. Matt Zakreski on Facebook. And on that note, it’s been a super busy fall with school stuff, but I do have a lot of things in the works for the new year, for twice exceptional folks.

And so, keep your eyes out for those. I’m looking at some really fun events and other things that I wanna share. So, keep your eyes peeled and. Hope you enjoy. Welcome to embracing intensity today. I am super thrilled to have Matt Zakreski, who is a psychologist who works with gifted and two E folks. And we’ve connected a lot on social media and I’m super excited to meet sort of in person so.

Welcome Matt. Great to have you.

[00:02:54] Matt: It is nice to meet in person ish, right? I someday we’ll all be together again and it will be glorious, but this is, this is a lot better than nothing that’s for sure.

[00:03:05] Aurora: So,

Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you are intensely passionate about.

[00:03:11] Matt: Ooh, boy, this, this could take a minute.

So, I’m a grown-up gifted kid. I got into this work when I, you know, being younger, right. Being in school, you know, feeling like, okay, this is all pretty easy. Is it not easy for everybody? And then, you know, And then realizing that I felt best around other smart kids getting to do the center for talented youth camp through CT Y and Johns Hopkins.

And, you know, and when I was able to get to grad school, I realized like, oh, I’ve just, I’ve been living this life my whole life. Now it’s time to turn around and help other people. So. You know, I do what I can to as a clinical psychologist, to help people in as many different spheres of that they occupy.

So, I do individual therapy. I do a lot of trainings for schools. Like here’s how you meet the needs of neurodiverse kids. I work with a lot of parents. I do a lot of family therapy. I do a lot of testing, you know, I think like a lot of neurodiverse people, it’s sort of like, I need a lot of different things to keep my brain happy.

So, I do a lot of different things to keep my brain happy. And then outside of the various spheres of work that I do I am passionate about ultimate Frisbee. I am passionate about craft beer, and I am passionate about the patron Saint of New Jersey and Mr. Bruce Springsteen, comic books, and I could probably keep rattling stuff on, but that’s a good list I’d say.

[00:04:36] Aurora: Awesome, indeed. So.

Tell me a little bit about your own personal brand of intensity. What does intensity look like for you?

[00:04:42] Matt: Ooh, so I think that my, the language I use for it is. Is that I want things to be this way. And then when they’re not this way, my bandwidth of stuff that I can tolerate that is not as I want it to be has increased over the years.

Right. Therapy works but you know, there are things that. When they’re not a certain way that I have a tough time with. And, you know, and I think oftentimes that, you know, that turns out to how people are treated. You know, I, one of my rules for working with me as a human being is tell me what is expected of me, right?

If you need me to wear a purple shirts and bright green ties, I will wear purple shirts and great bright green ties. Cuz you told me what I needed to do. It’s when I find out after the fact of being held to a standard. That I didn’t know I was being held to that’s something that just like, that’s an intensity for me that I’m just like you know, and that is, you know, like, like anything else, like we’re working on it.

Right. But it’s, you know, a big piece of my job is I have to be adaptable. I have to be roll with the punches and trying to fit that kind of professional skillset into. You know, sort of a top down intensity model is, is, is tricky. There’s friction there. Right. But I try to own it. I try to bring it into the space.

Right. And like, anything else, like when we talk about it, when we make space for it, it gets, it never gets easy, but it gets easier, right?

[00:06:11] Aurora: Mm-hmm yeah, totally. And I get that, like when people aren’t explicit in their expectations, those hidden expectations can really get you.

[00:06:19] Matt: It’s the worst, you know,

[00:06:24] Aurora: I think I also reached a point where, especially in relationships, I feel like that’s their job to communicate. So, if an expectation isn’t communicated, I mean, there are certain things obviously that you learn over time, but so.

How do you think your intensity affected you growing up?

[00:06:42] Matt: So. It wasn’t until late middle school, early high school that I actually really sort of embraced the idea of being a gifted kid. I was always smart, but there’s right.

There’s that difference between being smart and sort of doing that thing, gifted kids do where you sort of like put it under a bushel, right? It’s like, eh, I don’t really wanna talk about, but. You know, then I went to CTY, and I’m like, oh no, no, it’s cool. I can be as smart as I am. And then it took me a couple years to find my people, but you know, my people are in the arts.

Right. So, you know, theater you know, I’m also an artist. I draw cartoons and I like to take pictures and have written plays and I’m writing a graphic novel right now. So, like the various arts were where I found my people. So that was a place where I didn’t have to pretend not to have intensities.

Right. I didn’t have to. Sort of pretend that I, that, you know, like have that ironic detachment that was very big in the late nineties. Right. And I just, I remember like, even as like a 13-year-old thinking, like I don’t get this caring about stuff matters. I care about a lot of things. Why is everyone pretending that they don’t care about things and then you get into spaces and you find people that unabashedly care about things and.

Sometimes it’s, you know, who they cast is mark in, in rent. And sometimes it’s social justice and sometimes it’s, you know, how high school is treating its seniors and we da da da, da, da, da, but I’ve always found in my life that I wanna be around people who care because in those spaces, you know, I would say, I may not care about what you care.

But I care that you care, right. So, you know, you might tell me like, oh, I’m super involved in this, like save the wetland thing. And I’m like, didn’t know that was the thing, but I’m in, let’s do it. Let’s, let’s pick it. Let’s March, let’s clean up the water shed, whatever we need to do. So, you know, I speak the language of caring, which is definitely an intensity and.

The world does not always allow that the world doesn’t always make space for it, which means that we need to do a good job of taking care of ourselves. Right. You know, and leave those intensities off in safe places while also seeking out spaces where we can have that and be fueled by that.

[00:08:56] Aurora: Mm-hmm . Yeah, totally.

And do I remember correctly that, did I say that you’re also 2 E?

[00:09:03] Matt: Yes. So, I have ADHD which just makes all of this just so much more fun. but you know, it is a, it is a piece of this that, you know, like I think neurodiverse people and intense people crave authenticity. Right?

Like, I don’t, I don’t care if you like me. I don’t care if you don’t like me, but be authentic about it. Right? Like, speak, your truth, right? And I think we, you know, I think, as we get deeper into the social media world, as we get deeper into niceties and go along to get along, I think that authenticity is and increasingly short supply.

So, people with whom I can be authentic, just feel like they’re worth their way in gold these days. And. And that’s why I try, you know, with my own social media stuff, right? I try to speak, honestly, I don’t, you know, it’s like, things are great. If you believe positively great things will happen. Like, cuz positive thinking doesn’t always equate to good outcomes.

It would be great if it did. Right. But I say, I’d rather meet you in the resiliency land and say, Hey, that was hard. You got your butt kicked you’re on the ground. Right? But I’ll give you a hand up and we’re gonna March out here together. I bring that authenticity or try to bring that authenticity. You’ll have to tell me if it, if it comes across in the podcast, you know, cuz I can say to a kid, I know what it’s like to be 15, be 2 E and think is this as good as it gets?

Because my God, right? Navigating high school and friendships and dating. And identity shifts and I’m smarter than my teachers and nobody understands me, but I desperately want them to understand me, but I also don’t wanna share anything about myself. Like I’ve been there, right? And my story’s not your story, but there’s enough of an overlap that I think we can authentically connect on that. And once again, let’s walk outta here together.

[00:10:48] Aurora: Yeah, totally.

And how do you think the combination of ADHD and gifted has affected your school experience?

[00:10:54] Matt: I think that, so there’s this concept I like to talk about called the gifted sea. Right where you sit there in class and you’re not really paying attention and you miss the homework, you don’t participate in class, but then the test comes, oh, I got this 97.

Right? So, your, a test scores and a papers combined with your zeros in homework and zeros in class participation, average out to be a C. And I found that in the classes that I could flex. My gifts, right. Which are more on the literary side of things or the words you know, like history and ELA and you know, and arts and foreign languages.

I’ve got pretty much straight A’s throughout my whole career with, with effort, but like not really breaking much of a sweat. but it was the stem classes that, because they just didn’t fit how I learned. They didn’t fit my gifts. That was where I really felt flexed in my, where I felt the deficit model of the two E experience.

Right. You know, the, the harmonics of. These are the things that when they go together, you saw, these are the things that when they go together, you plummet. And, and I actually remember thinking about this as a high school student, struggling with trying to like, keep myself organized in math. Cuz everyone said, you gotta have a system.

You have a system. Math will be easy, but I didn’t wanna have a system cuz I have ADHD and I was used just coming easy to me cuz I’m gifted. So, And I remember at one point saying to my mom, why are people asking me to learn this thing I don’t wanna do in a space? I don’t want to do it. Like, you know, like my baseball cards are organized, right?

Like I, you know, I know where every single one of my movies is. I know where all my video games are because I care about that stuff. Right. So, I think we make, I think we constantly make the mistake of teaching. Kids the skills they need to live in environments or settings that don’t facilitate that kind of learning.

Right? If you don’t like math, I’m not gonna teach you self-organization in math. Yes. You probably need it there. But if we teach it in other space, then it can generalize into less preferred options. And that’s something I wish I had known as a kid that now I try to impart that to families and say like, Hey, listen, learn from my mistakes. I’d much rather you not struggle through this. Let’s work smart, not hard.

[00:13:07] Aurora: mm-hmm yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I hadn’t really thought about it that way.

[00:13:13] Matt: makes sense up here. So that’s

[00:13:15] Aurora: yeah, yeah, no, I hadn’t thought about it that way, but yeah, practicing those skills in a sub a more preferred area makes a lot of sense.

Do you think there were any cultural factors that affected how you were able to express yourself?

[00:13:27] Matt: That is a fascinating idea. I think one of the ways that showed up for me is being the oldest child of two oldest children. and, and feeling sort of the, the responsibility that comes with that. And I’m not gonna try and say that I grew up fast in the way that kids who lose a parent or go through some sort of tragedy grow up fast.

That it’s, I certainly would not deem to equate that experience, but it is sort of the sort of thing that a lot was expected. Of me from a young age. And there were times that felt empowering and there were times that felt very burdensome, you know, and I think culturally that tried to put me in certain places, right? And, and sent me on certain paths. I also think that, you know, we didn’t call it toxic masculinity in the late nineties, but it is certainly what it was. You know? I mean, this story I tell fairly often, right? My wife always teases me that my life is like a movie and this is a particularly cinematic moment, you know?

So, I played soccer. I’ve been a soccer player, my whole life and decently high level at it. And I had always played basketball growing. Because my dad loves basketball and I like basketball, but I’m not very good at it. And so, I was supposed to try out for the freshman basketball team and it was the same day as theater tryouts, and my friends that I had made in high school, weren’t doing theater.

So, I’m standing there in the auditorium. Waiting room of our high school. And literally the gym is to the left, the theater’s to the right. And I’m sitting there like, what do I do? So, I just walked into the theater, you know, and that ADHD, impulsiveness, I wasn’t prepared. But, and it was that sort of thing that like, I got a lot of pushback on that, you know, like people like, oh, so like what it means you’re gay now.

It’s like, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I, they gave me lines. I have to say the, I have to remember these words. I don’t think that’s particularly anything. It’s just words, but, you know, I mean like really feeling the, like how that grates right against a person and someone’s identity. I always felt a lot of kinship with the character, Finn Hudson from glee, right.

Because you know, like living in those two worlds and it’s a bit of a cliché, but sports people didn’t get the theater kids and the theater kids didn’t get the sports people. And I had to navigate those two worlds and it was really hard, you know, and it’s the sort of thing where, you know, when you live in two different worlds, it can feed two different parts of your soul, but if you don’t handle it right, you can also feel like you’re never safe and we don’t feel safe.

We can’t heal. Relax refresh. So, I think high school in high school in particular was a four years of sort of juggling. Until I sort of came to its own stasis.

[00:16:08] Aurora: Yeah. I could totally see that. I don’t know if you saw I did an animation of do you know Brendan Mann, the, of ADHD essentials, yep. Of his experience of that kind of masculinity. Ideal in the eighties and nineties.

[00:16:23] Matt: That’s what pops into my head when I was telling the story. It’s just like that thing you did. So, Yeah.

[00:16:27] Aurora: Yeah. Awesome. So.

Did you ever try to tone yourself down or tune yourself out?

[00:16:33] Matt: Definitely tried to tone myself down. And it’s funny because for someone who makes a living using words. Right. And I give a lot of talks and I record podcasts. Right. You know, I’ve always been somebody who finds himself in leadership roles almost by accident. Like I don’t show up a place like, “I need to be in charge of this.” It’s more of like a. Oh, gosh, there’s a leadership vacuum and I’m pretty good at things.

And I know, and you’re asking me to do these things, but I am much better as a number two. I’m much better as a sounding board, vice president, second in command. You know, my leadership style is good. I mean, seems to have been pretty good for me, but, you know, I would rather not put myself front and center in that particular way.

And it took me a long time to come to the middle ground there of like, you either have to have the spotlight on you or you’re below decks. Right. There’s actually the middle ground is like, where do you feel comfortable leading from? And for me, that’s sort of a second in command type now, you know, running my own business and advocate, you know, and.

Applying for conferences and all those other things I have to, you know, carve out space for myself and hold the space I have I’ve carved out, which as I’m sure you can empathize with is not easy. You know, but it’s the sort of thing where, you know, that is a, that is a piece where I’m constantly pushing against my own anxiety because it would be so much easier to just tone down, tune out and just go about my business and do my thing.

You know, if I have words to say that I think can help people, then I have an obligation to push back against those feelings and try and get myself out there.

[00:18:11] Aurora: Mm-hmm yeah, totally. I think you do a good job of that.

[00:18:15] Matt: thank you.

[00:18:18] Aurora: So,

Can you think of a time when your intensity felt out of control?

[00:18:22] Matt: Woo. I mean, that can be part, part two of the podcast, right?

Just all the times that like, I think the first time I can really, really feel like my intensity was out of control. So, it was the sort of, so I think like a lot of gifted kids, like I’ve been bullied. Right. And, and so my worst bullying was in eighth grade. Right. That was just, it was a very tough year for me.

And I remember it started with losing some friendships. It’s turned into more overt, bullying. It turned into ostracization, right? Because middle school’s a survival of fittest. Right. If somebody’s down, if you step on their shoulders, you get to rise up. And, and I remember as that year went on other intensities that had not, that had to that point been dormant, flared.

Like I remember thinking like, like that whole year, like my clothes didn’t feel right on my body and, and foods I used to like didn’t taste right anymore. And I think it’s that sort of fight or flight thing where your body’s in hyperdrive. So, your intensities are in hyperdrive and you know, and I remember being like everything, everything good, bad and different ended in tears that year.

Right? Like I got a great Christmas present. I burst out, burst out crying. Right. I was bullied in school. I came home crying. You know, missed a shot in basketball started crying. Right. It was just, it was just a very, everything was ramped to 14 that year. And that’s the sort of thing that I know how hard it was on me.

I can guess how hard it was on my parents. Right. Because they, they had to pick, you know, put me back together every day when I came home as a puddle of goo. So, I think that’s the first time where it felt like I wasn’t in charge of the ship anymore. It was the environment I was in, sort of set me.

You set me on a course that I had no control over and it took a long time to, to write the ship as it were. Right. But, you know, that’s, I remember that’s the first time really feeling like not only are there things happening to me in my life that I have no control over, but I am feeling like my responses to it are no longer in my control.

[00:20:23] Aurora: Mm-hmm.

Yeah, I can definitely see that. And I have got a kid exactly that age, so but they moved to a different environment this year, which is more positive. So that’s been good. so.

How do you use your fire for good?

[00:20:41] Matt: I think, I mean, it’s, it’s funny. The language you used is right. I often tell kids in session, like, listen, really, if therapy is anything it’s about learning to use your powers for good.

Right. We all like, you know, we all have the ability to, you know, to use our powers for evil. And, and, and, and I’m not saying that we need to die on some hill of always doing right by everybody all the time forever, because in that way, lies madness. Right? I’m fond of saying you have to be selfish to be selfless.

You have to take care of yourself first, but telling kids. Here’s how you use these things that come with the brain. You have to lift people up rather than knock them down. Right. You know, I do an exercise with people. We call it the brain bracket where you sort of go through like your opinions on things versus other people’s opinions on things in a March madness style bracket.

And it’s all about separating fact from opinion, right. And understanding that if I think Charizard’s the best Pokémon and you think it’s Bulbasaur, what matters is that we both like Pokémon rather than like grass type versus fire type in the, you know, and then we throw hands at each other. Right. And it’s amazing how many kids in the community and frankly, adults too.

Lose the forest for the trees there. I mean, you know, I said before, I love craft beer. I am a big craft beer guy and you know, and the Pennsylvania gifted conference. Right. Which I’m on their board is in Pittsburgh this year. And I mentioned casually to an adult that I know I’m like, oh man, I’m gonna Pittsburgh, great craft beer.

Like great craft beer city. Yeah. Like I’m gonna hit dancing gnome while I’m out there. It’s an awesome word. Hey don’t go there, go to this other place. Like I had offended him personally. And like that is also rude. Gentleman is also a great brewery. I’ve got time for like, like it’s right. Isn’t it more important that we share this interest rather than like, what I think is best is not what you think is best, but like, you know, If you think the best Harry Potter book is book five.

And I think its book two, let’s sit there and trade Harry Potter factoids. Right. Rather than screaming at each other over an unsolvable problem. Mm-hmm

[00:22:47] Aurora: yeah. I notice that too, especially online when people like, feel this need to insert their opinion about things. it’s like. Gosh,

[00:22:55] Matt: just, just let me enjoy that.

[00:22:57] Aurora: just let, let them enjoy whatever they’re enjoying. You don’t have to insert your opinion. So.

What do you think has helped the most with harnessing the power of your own intensity?

[00:23:06] Matt: I think it’s getting more in touch with my own emotional state, my internal, emotional world. And then using that to practice vulnerability, I’m not afraid to be vulnerable.

I’m not afraid to cry or. Show emotion or ask for help. But I certainly can’t say that those things have been true my whole life. When I look back at that, you know, it’s with a certain amount of regret, right? Because it’s like, ah, those missed opportunities, but as Maya Angelou said, right, do the best you can until, you know, better then do better.

Right. I okay. I I’ll try to live that life. And you know, I mean, at the end of the day, Knowing myself better knowing my emotional strengths, weaknesses triggers, right. Puts me in a situation to, to help manage myself a little bit better and not feel constantly caught off guard. Why am I angry right now? I wasn’t angry before.

So, it’s that sort of thing, because emotions will sneak up on you. If you’re not aware. The, the spaces we occupy the media, we consume the people we let into our lives. You know, one of my favorite therapy sayings is don’t let someone live rent free in your head, you know? So, if you’re carrying somebody with you, who’s probably not thinking about you, you’re letting them ruin your day before you even run into them.

So, it’s sort of thing, like, you know, Like, oh, wow. That person is in my head right now. I wish they were not in there, but all I can do is acknowledge them and say, yep, I’m having a thought about that. And then go about doing what I’m doing, because if I don’t give them any attention, they shut up. But it, when we try and wrestle them out of our brains, that they dig their heels in and start screaming.

So, you know, I mean, it is that. And like every person, right. It is easier said than done. You know, I’m not perfect at it, but you know, it is the sort of thing. At least now I have words for it. Right. I can do meta-communication around like, Hey, these are the things I’m struggling with. So, you might exceed XYZ for me today, which is not words I had a decade ago.

So that’s, that’s, you know, growth curve for me. I’m very proud of

[00:25:12] Aurora: mm. Yeah, totally. And.

Are there any personal habits that have helped you to use your fire in a positive way?

[00:25:18] Matt: Oh yes. So, I am really good at taking care of other people. I’m really good at cooking for others and organizing activities and reaching out to friends.

And I increasingly have had to make sacred the time where I take care of myself. So, you know, I mean, it’s funny, like I know I’m a doctor, right. And., I have this fancy degree and I’m relatively well known, I think. And, and I’m still an hourly employee in some ways I am, you know, it’s like being 19 and working in a restaurant again, right?

Like, oh, better, better pull a double shift today. Right? Gotta, gotta put some gas in, in the car. And I share that because. It would be very tempting to fill every hour of the day with clients. There’s certainly the demand and I feel called to help people with these things. But the other thing is that I drop my kids off in the morning at daycare at eight 15.

I come back and I go for a long walk between eight 30 and nine 30, try and do four miles. I listen to my, my audio book. I listen to my podcast. This is when I would normally shout out your podcast. But since I’m literally talking to you, I think probably that’s answered unless you want me to shout it out there.

I dunno. Or I just crank, you know, you know, whatever soundtrack I’m feeling and I just do my walk, but then I come back and I do my day at work and I just, I, that is the single biggest variable in my life between filling my cup and not filling my cup. Like, you know, The demands on us as humans, as professionals, as people who are, you know, in families and friend groups and all that stuff, it’s those things are never going away.

And I think if you accept that there’s a certain freedom that comes with, I can never fully climb that mountain. So instead of trying to do an impossible task, I’m gonna say, all right, I’m gonna take care of me and get done what I can. Right. And living that is, it’s good for my mental health.

I think it makes, makes me better at my job. It really makes me a better partner and a better parent. So, mm-hmm, a lot of good things flow from there.

[00:27:22] Aurora: So,

Tell me a little bit about how you help others use their own fire.

[00:27:26] Matt: So, all almost all good things in our lives flow from passion, right. Flow from the things we care the most about.

So, and it’s easy to mistake that for other things or adjunctive things like, you know, like, you know, you’re a parent, right? So, if I asked you, what’s the most important thing in your life, you might say your kids, right? Because obviously at least I would hope so. I, I suppose I don’t know, actually know the answer to that question, but, but, you know, if I asked you, like, what’s the thing that matters most to you outside of your family?

What would you say?

[00:27:57] Aurora: Me?

[00:27:58] Matt: The podcast is become the podcast E

[00:28:02] Aurora: I think helping others understand themselves.

[00:28:04] Matt: Right. And when you follow that thread, good things happen, right? I mean, I love giving talks every time I give a talk, I grow as a person. I grow as a professional and I usually get some referrals out of it. So, it helps me in my business too, but it, it, it feeds my soul.

I’m a very extroverted person in case that wasn’t abundantly clear at this. So, if I talk to a room, 300 people, I leave with 300 energy, right? I’m like, yes, I’ll go run through a brick wall for you. And as much as sitting in a chair and seeing eight clients in a row is awesome. And I love what I do.

To me that’s like eating my vegetables. Good for me. I like doing it. There are things I can do to make those vegetables taste better. But like speaking, speaking to a crowd, you know, we, I did, I did a talk for Colorado gifted on Tuesday and we had 95 people in the zoom room. And that was like, I was like vibrating when I like, yeah, this is the best.

Because when we do the things that make us feel best. We are our best, the closest version to our best self, which means we’re gonna make better relationships and have better business opportunities. It’s the same version, right? Of not trying to learn self-organization in a class you don’t wanna learn, like you wanna be your best self, go to the places where you feel like you’re your best self and then continue doing things.

And you know, one of the. In the therapy space, you know, it’s not quit your job and join a circus unless you have the financial means to do so then by all means I will come and buy tickets when you come to town. But it’s said it’s like, if you can’t move to Hollywood, can you do community theater? Right.

If you don’t have the time to write the great American novel. Can you do a writer’s group at your local library, right? Can you know, it’s, you have to carve out those X number of hours a week for you to follow those passions. Right. And if you don’t what they are then carve out that time to explore a whole bunch of things that might just be your passions.

One of the clients I work with, it ended up for him. It ended up being rollerblading. He is a very happy rollerblader. And then his rollerblading people introduced him to disc golf. So now he’s a disc golfer and he is the happiest he’s ever been. And that’s the sort of thing. He followed a passion, which led to another passion.

And now he has a community, right. You know, good flows from good, you know, I don’t think it’s not to say that we can’t meet good people, you know, going to religious services or going to the gym or doing our taxes. Right. I. Sure the good people are everywhere, but it just given how little time any of us have to me, it’s like, well, let’s maximize the potential return, right?

Like if you think you’re funny and you wanna tell jokes, take a standup comedy class, do an improv class. Right. You know, Gordon Smith who I think we both know is in our circles. Right. He and I, you know, geek out about improv every time we talk. Right. And it’s the sort of thing. You know, he lives in North Carolina.

I live in New Jersey. We don’t see each other as often as we’d like, but I know there’s a deep connection there because that’s a thing that we share. Right. So, when I show up in my best spaces, people who want to be in those spaces too, also show up that way. And I think that it’s about giving yourself permission to get there.

And then also managing the infrastructure around it, like., you know, if you don’t physically have the time, can we make the time? Right. Like, cuz we have to it’s important, but you know, I mean, it it’d be like, Hey, you know, I think you should start training for a marathon, but train, change nothing about your life.

Like those, those, those, that center can’t hold you’ve gotta change something to get something. So oftentimes that com starts with a conversation about what your values are. What’s important to you. How do you make in informed and intentional decisions from that place?

[00:31:49] Aurora: Totally.

And that filling up one of the most revealing things I ever did was to like, look at my

Weekly schedule how I spend my time. And that was when I was in school full time. And I was in a relationship that someone who was very, very kind, but also draining for a variety of reasons. and I realized like all my time was spent either in my draining job or in this draining relationship. And it was like, I had to let it go because I had, I had nothing energizing going on at the time.

and it was just really eye opening. When you look at how you’re spending your time and what’s draining and what’s energizing. And if you have nothing energizing in your week, it’s, you know, something’s gotta give.

[00:32:27] Matt: Yeah. And then how that ties into self-worth. Right. You deserve to have things and people that energize you.

Right. Because it’s very easy to find a head space where you don’t, you know, my kids, my partner, my job, everything, you know, I have to come last and. One of the things that has become something that I used to guide myself is like, you may be the least important person in whatever circle you’re in. That doesn’t mean you’re not important.

And I, you know, cuz least doesn’t mean zero. Right. You know, if you finish last in the race, you’re still in the race. And I think that’s a, especially for my parents out there, like it is so easy to get sucked. Dry by the school, the homework, the teachers, the conferences, the soccer, the dance, the karate, the American ninja warrior, the baking class, the sleepovers, right.

Those things aren’t going anywhere, but just because other people are more important and that, and it’s okay to conceptualize it that way. That doesn’t mean you don’t have value and it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be taken care of. Right. So that’s, you know, like understanding. That both of those thoughts can be true is a major leap that, you know, I certainly I struggle with, but you know, I feel like I’ve come to a pretty good place on it.

[00:33:41] Aurora: Mm-hmm totally, totally. So.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the embracing intensity audience?

[00:33:49] Matt: So, I think, and I probably am directly quoting either you or something that you’ve shared in the past, but the idea that if you’re too much, for some people, those aren’t your people. right. If your therapist is exhausted by you, then find a therapist who can vibe with that energy.

Right? If you actually, this is a great example. I, I work with this woman’s son, but she was, you know, she said, can I talk to you for 20 minutes? Say, I’m feeling run down. I’m feeling, you know, and what are you doing to take care of yourself? And she was like, well, you know, I do yoga. Okay. Do you like yoga?

Not really. What do you wanna do? I don’t know. I just, I like to dance turns out at the exact same time at the Y M C a, there was her yoga class was a zoom book class. And this woman was made to Zumba you know, so she goes and she Zumba’s and she shakes and she wiggles and she jumps in the air and, you know, she, she was just, she, she told me the other she’s like, I just learned about beta, an artist named Faddy Wop and I’m like, “good, I, yep. Okay.”

You know, I mean way to catch up that we’re very proud of you. Right. But that’s the thing, it’s like the things that are the things that are supposed to be good for us have to be good for you. Right. So, if someone’s telling you to take care of yourself and like do mindful meditation, and you’re not the sort of person who can sit and mindfully meditate, then go for a.

Surf, do painting, whatever your version of that thing is. Right. You know, and it’s about knowing yourself, but it’s also about having the confidence to put your own spin on what self-care looks like when we’re, when you’re intense person you burn hot. Right? I think we, we are all in sort of a constant battle for energy regulation.

Like much do I have left in the tank, right? Oh, it’s 10:00 AM. Oh boy. Right. you know, so that means that we have to value the self-care. We have to value knowing ourselves and putting ourselves in inspiring and charging situations rather than draining ones, because you know, our needs are greater in that.

So, you know, it is perhaps a cliché, but I think all clichés have a grain of truth. You are worth putting yourself first. And as you listen to my words, wherever you are, I hope you take that as, as marching orders, right? Like. Go do something for you and do your version of it, right? It doesn’t have to be the sedate book club.

It can be kickboxing, you know, mm-hmm whatever that, whatever that is, but your selfcare gets to be defined by you.

[00:36:24] Aurora: Mm. That’s so true. And that’s actually, that was a, you know, probably 15, 20-year journey for me reading all the books about health and wellness and what I should be doing, and then realizing that the biggest impact wasn’t so much those habits as it was my own, like what, where I was spending my time.

And I think that’s true too, of like executive functioning tasks when we get our stuck in our head of how we should do so. Sometimes it prevents us from doing the thing at all. When a couple little tweaks might make it easier and we can do it our own way. So very, very helpful. Awesome. Well.

How can they find out more about you?

[00:37:04] Matt: So, I have a website www.dot Dr. Matt Zakreski.com and the doctor is Dr. I have, we have a pretty, pretty fun Facebook community. I think that’s facebook.com/dr. Matt Zakreski. And, you know, I post about giftedness and neurodiversity, but also the hilarity that is life, right. There’s a lot of psychology jokes out there.

And I try to leverage those and communicate in meme. And then really, you know, if you feel like this is a helpful thing and you know, I mean, please feel free to reach out to me. I mean, You know, whether it’s either Facebook or my website, you can contact me through both of those. What I do is about making connections with people, right.

And we didn’t know each other before, you know, two years ago. And now here we are doing a podcast together. Right. And, and you are just such a warm and generous person and so easy to talk. To me, it’s just like, right. You know, imagine how much less rich my life would be if I didn’t know you, you know, so seek out a connection.

Right. And if it’s with me fabulous. Right. I let’s have a conversation,

[00:38:08] Aurora: so, mm-hmm awesome. Yeah. And it’s so true, you know, it’s funny because I think I. First discovered you because you were sharing something I had done. And then I started following you and I loved like your memes and take on things were just, you know, inspiring.

So, I actually shared your social media as an example, for someone who’s taking over social media for the two E connection page and yours was one of the ones I showed as an example, because. Have such fun, inspiring posts and everything. So, you never know what happens when you reach out so, well, thank you so much.

This is great. I’m so glad to have you.

[00:38:48] Matt: This was a true treat and I mean, it was a great conversation. I hope I did a good. Yeah, you did indeed.

[00:39:06] Aurora: Looking for ways to embrace your own intensity. Join our embracing intensity community@embracingintensity.com where you’ll meet a growing group of like-minded people who get what it’s like to be gifted and intense and are committed to creating a supportive community, as well as access to our courses and tools to help you use your fire without getting burned.

There’s also a pay what you can option through our Patreon. Where you can increase your pledge to help sustain the podcast or join us at a rate that better fits your needs. You can also sign up for my free harnessing the power of your intensity, a self-regulation workbook for gifted, creative, and twice exceptional adults and teens.

All links can be found in the show notes or on embracing intensity. Dot com.

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