Being Told That You’re Gifted — Good News And Bad News

I make a pretty convincing argument in this blog that you have a rainforest mind. In spite of yourself, you have to agree. Right?

photo from Jeff Sheldon--Unsplash
photo from Jeff Sheldon–Unsplash

On the other hand, when I tell you that you’re gifted, I can see you squirm.

For many reasons.

For one– being told that you’re gifted is both good news and bad news.

It’s bad news when it comes with enormous expectations to achieve “greatness” or when it means that you’re paralyzed by pressure to prove your worth through your achievements. It’s bad news when you can’t risk appearing un-smart so you don’t try anything that might be difficult. It’s bad news if you think you’re either smart or you’re not. It’s bad news when you interpret it to mean that you can never make a mistake or fail at anything. It’s bad news if you use it to hurt others. It’s bad news when you’re bullied or bored at school. It’s bad news if you never learn how to study or apply effort to solve a problem. It’s bad news if you become dependent on praise and believe you always have to be the best at everything.

It’s good news because you will understand why you’ve had particular problems with school, relationships, perfectionism and so on. It’s good news because knowing that you’re naturally extra sensitive and extra perceptive and extra analytical will help you interpret your experiences more accurately. It’s good news if it leads to teachers allowing you to learn at your own level and pace. It’s good news if it helps your parents understand your quirks.

It’s good news because accepting your giftedness will strengthen your capacity to live the life you’re meant to live.

And that will be good news for everyone.

So what do I do?

Do I tell you, or not?


To my bloggEEs:  Were you told that you were gifted when you were a child? What did it mean to you? Are you just realizing that you’re gifted now? How do you feel about it? Do you still believe that you’re not gifted but that you’re fooling everyone, including me? What emotions, thoughts and questions do you have?

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

17 responses to “Being Told That You’re Gifted — Good News And Bad News”

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  1. what is bitcoin cryptocurrency Avatar
    what is bitcoin cryptocurrency

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who was conducting a little homework on this. And he actually bought me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this topic here on your web site.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’re welcome!

  2. zeldakunsartgifted Avatar

    Good Day! Amazing question, Tx. I went to grade 1 at age 4. School bored the Blue daylights out of me. Flew through my school years.
    What I hated most was the fact that my Mother knew my Intelectual IQ and through out my childhood I always had to hear: U are Not Performing to your ability. I used to play alone as other humans bored me quick and to this day it is same. Now I realize WHY!!! Many humans have commented about all my abilities and how I just can do such a variety of stuff. (But I get bored very quick… and then get “The Tongue… Why do U jump from one Project to another..?) Now it makes sense.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Hi Zelda. I’m glad my blog is helping you make sense of your experiences. It can be so hard to hear that message “you’re not performing up to your ability” and to know what to do about it!

  3. Jack Avatar

    How do I stop being paralyzed? I’m 26 y o and I feel like time is running out for me. I’ve seen it all, I feel like and old man trying to keep a straight face in world that has rushed him by.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Hi Jack. I don’t have a quick answer for you because I’m not sure of the reasons for your paralysis. That said, rainforestminded people can feel like you do for many reasons, including perfectionism, sensitivity, loneliness, and more. One post on perfectionism is here– I also have some resources and ideas here– There’s also the book by Jacobsen called The Gifted Adult and one by Burka and Yuen called Procrastination. So hopefully you’ll get some help with these resources. Another idea is to look for a counselor. You may need to talk with someone who can help you sort all of this out. Thanks for writing. If you send me a bit more information, I could respond in a new post in the future.

      1. paulaprober Avatar

  4. Caitie Avatar

    I love all of your posts, Paula. I was pulled out in early elementary. Then I switched to a public school in a very wealthy district where now, in retrospect, I realize only the squeaky wheels were “gifted” … always did well. Realizing it more now 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for commenting, Caitie. I’m enjoying getting to know you through your blog.

  5. Celi Trepanier Avatar
    Celi Trepanier

    I loved this. And I loved being able to ponder what your wrote and then overlay it onto the lives of my three sons. For two out of my three sons, it was good to tell them that all the issues that made them feel weird, less-than and so different were due to their giftedness. One son still doesn’t know he is gifted and my guess is, it is better that way. Always love what you write, Paula!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks so much, Celi. The feeling is mutual.

  6. The Common Mom Avatar
    The Common Mom

    Back in my day (whoa, I sound old) we didn’t have a gifted program in elementary school. Looking back on things now I realize there’s a pretty good chance I was. We had ‘tracking’ of students back then and I was on the advanced track and I remember a parent conference regarding how my choice of books was not appropriate for 6th grade.

    In my daughter’s last school they had a session each week with the gifted counselor to discuss what it means to be gifted. It was so helpful for her to learn what gifted is and what it’s not.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Common Mom. I just found your blog and will start following!

  7. telperion1214 Avatar

    When we all share, we all get to learn. I’d love to know what you do. 🙂
    For me, I try to adhere to a positive code of honesty, respect, humility and loving kindness.
    I try to stay right-sized and admit that I’m human and will make mistakes.
    I try to enjoy the good aspects of my sensitivity, being creative.
    And I try to use my code to help me with the difficult aspects of sensitivity, which right now are health issues.
    If I have a rainforest mind, it doesn’t make sense to wish I had a high desert mind. LOL
    I accept it for what it is, and in that acceptance, also accept what it isn’t.

    It’s not the corporate structure “we do what we’re told” model. 🙂
    It’s not the rebel fighting model, although I used to think it was.
    It’s not the “If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich” model.
    It’s not the religious or cult-joining model.

    It is a fun and sometimes kind of funky model.
    It is an enjoyable, child-like not childish model.
    It can incorporate a great deal of spirit.

    I suspect that some of my heroes have this kind of a mind. 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I love this description! I always look forward to what you have to say.

  8. byamtich Avatar

    Thanks for writing this! I tested into the gifted program in third grade, which was a minor pull out program in preparation for stand-alone fourth and fifth grade. I remember feeling so nervous that I wouldn’t be accepted because I didn’t do my homework. Over the years, my dad’s friends would consult with him, and he said, “I know how to raise smart kids.” It was acknowledged, but not central. In high school, I told my parents, “You seem to have a real sense of duty about parenting me. Relax, it’s going to be ok.”

    Can any authority, internal or external, say that everything is going to be ok?

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      What a provocative question, Bob. Wish we could meet for coffee and talk about it! Thanks for commenting and for all of your wonderful retweeting.

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