Gifted or Impostor — Living With Asynchrony In Your Kids and Yourself

photo from Krista Mangulsone, Unsplash, CC
photo from Krista Mangulsone, Unsplash, CC

If you’re gifted, does that mean that you’re always smart? And everything comes easily? All of the time?


But, that can be the expectation. Yours. Your parents. Friends. Teachers. Your dog, Earl. Well, OK. Earl just loves you. No pressure.

Does it mean that you’re a genius and if you’re not, then you’re not gifted? Instead, you’re a fake, a phony, an impostor?


But that can be the belief. Yours. Your parents. Friends. Teachers. Your cat, Eloise. Well, OK. Eloise knows that she’s the genius.

And so, as with most things in your rainforest mind, it’s complicated.

You may have heard of asynchrony. Simply stated, it means that you may be advanced in some areas and not in others. You may learn some things quickly and some things slowly. This can be confusing, especially if you’ve felt pressure to be the stereotypical super-smart person. Brilliant at all times at everything. (Note: The term “asynchronous development” is also used to define giftedness, in general. For more on this, look for articles by Silverman and Tolan.)

When applied to your kids, it can mean the following:

Let’s say her (or his) chronological age is six but her mental age is twelve or thereabouts. This means that her body does what any typical six year old body does but her thinking is more like that of a twelve-year-old (and a curious, sensitive, empathetic twelve-year-old at that). Can you imagine the havoc that might ensue?

She adores Beethoven but can only play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on her violin. He admires Van Gogh but can only draw stick figures. She understands advanced math concepts but can’t remember her multiplication facts. He worries about climate change but can’t convince friends to conserve water. She wins chess tournaments but melts down when her sister gets to sit in the front seat of the car. He loves Shakespeare but hates handwriting. She’s designing intricate imaginative games for her friends but they just want to play dodgeball. He excels at learning new languages but can never find his homework or tie his shoes.

This might be disconcerting. OK, terribly frustrating and annoying. For you and your child. Not to mention, fertile ground for the seeds of impostor syndrome.

But what can you do, other than head out to a deserted island with Earl and Eloise?

Read all about it: From Caitlin Curley’s blog post via Raising Lifelong Learners.  And in the book, Off the Charts: Asynchrony and the Gifted Child.

Validate your child’s feelings: You understand that he’s frustrated and upset right now. You can see that she’s confused and angry. Validate your own feelings: No wonder I feel crazy sometimes.

Then, explain to your child and yourself what asynchrony is. It’s the nature of your rainforest mind to be intense, sensitive and out-of-sync. And make time to nurture yourself.

Earl and, even Eloise, will approve.


To my bloggEEs: When do you feel out-of-sync? Have you felt pressure to be super-smart in multiple areas? How do you deal with abilities/topics where you aren’t advanced? Maybe you actually are gifted in several different domains. What’s that like? How do you deal with uneven development in your kids? And, if you’re looking for an online place to find other rainforest minds, check out Thank you for reading and sharing!






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.

25 responses to “Gifted or Impostor — Living With Asynchrony In Your Kids and Yourself”

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  3. H Avatar

    What a relief… Never ever identified with “gifted” before as I’m no genius and my husband makes fun of me cause I struggle to put a duvet cover on and fold things. When I became a full time housewife mother I actually felt like a complete idiot. I never linked my mum telling me how I read at two years old. Memorised Shakespeare for fun and acted out Macbeth at about seven. Corrected my teacher who underlined my word in red so I sweetly told her it really was in the dictionary, honestly 🙂 I always thought my mum had found a magical way to teach toddlers. And that the school system was completely messed up because I could get an A in anything only revising a week before after basically paying no attention all year. It’s so strange to see it from a different angle….thank you for all your inspiring words and insights.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’re welcome, H. I’m glad that you’re putting the pieces together.

  4. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    I have a personal tale to tell of how knowing “asynchronous development” is normal for gifted people, and to not let someone less enlightened — even well-intentioned professionals — tell us it is not.

    Since there are no therapists in my area who are experienced with gifted patients, last year my GP sent me to a doctor who he thought might be open-minded and eager enough to learn about giftedness in order to help me. Unfortunately our first meeting was a disaster. He didn’t seem very interested in anything I had to say about my personal experiences of being gifted, and instead was rather fixated on the results of an intelligence test I had done some years earlier.

    He was especially puzzled by the discrepancies between (IIRC) the results in my verbal and visual-spatial tests. One of them was really high, the other “merely” high, though I can’t remember which was which. (Frankly, as someone equally talented at creative writing and visual arts, I am more puzzled that the tests revealed any great discrepancies between the two. But I was pretty doped up on a triple dose of anxiolytics to cope with my anxiety while taking that test, which obviously might have skewed the results).

    He suggested these discrepancies may indicate some underlying disorder, casually listing several — none of which I can remember the names of at the moment because by then I had begun to get angry, knowing this ignoramus not only was wrong but could even be dangerously so.

    Thanks to an increased understanding of giftedness, particularly due to Paula and this blog, I had the courage to say “thanks but no thanks” and walk away from what could have been yet another misdiagnosis. There had already been several prior to learning I was gifted and not disordered, and I know from experience how much work it takes to undo the damage a misdiagnosis can do.

    I hated school, but I finally know how much it pays to do your homework!! 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing your example, Mark. Important to say “no” when it’s not the right match.

      1. Mark V Avatar
        Mark V

        Thank you Paula. I’m obviously still angry about it (and a bit sheepish about still being angry). I’m not so much angry about that guy in particular — I knew there were no guarantees going in that he would be receptive — but at the psychiatric system that he represents.

        It took a lot of courage to admit my life was spinning out of control and to then put my trust in psychiatrists to help steer it back on track. But after years of being subjected to misdiagnoses and experiment after failed experiment, I have to say it took a lot more courage to finally get to the point where I could say to psychiatry “no, you are NOT helping me get better, you are in fact making things much worse.”

        The good news is that I suppose that act of independence is a step in the right direction, but there is much work to be done. In addition to those original issues now known to be gifted-related, I have to undo the harm those doctors did over the years, and also deal with the grief of losing so many years to the bad decision to let doctors tell me who I am and what is and what isn’t “healthy”.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          It’s so hard to see how medical professionals can get it wrong when we go to them when we’re so vulnerable. You do have so much courage, Mark, to be facing all this.

          1. Mark V Avatar
            Mark V

            Thanks! Hey, don’t you ever get tired of cleaning up their f***ing messes? haha

  5. Emily VR Avatar
    Emily VR

    Love, love love. I will share this with my older son… your posts are my favorite. <3

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      <3 Thanks, Emily.

  6. Nimue Brown Avatar
    Nimue Brown

    If the problems seem to be organisational in nature, also worth checking out dysgraphia. I think it’s a big issue for kids who are naturally good to learn how to work at things that doesn’t come easily. I’ve seen innately talented people stall because they didn’t have a clue how to push themselves once it stopped being easy. it’s difficult to learn without admitting you don’t know, and difficult to admit you don’t know if there’s a pressure (real or perceived) to automatically know everything and know how to do everything.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes. Hard to know what to do if it doesn’t come easily. Or to admit that you’re struggling. Thanks, Nimue.

  7. Esme Avatar

    Thank you for writing this post as you have put a name to a face for me. One way I can describe my experience is that I have intelligence that others don’t (and vice versa) and my kind of level of intelligence is not of interest to others and oddly (to me) is not necessary for the task at hand. My way of thinking is seen as over complicating the simple frequently. There are moments when my innovation is acknowleged but is done so with confusion from those acknowledging. Confusion as to why I’m not innovative all the time and frustrating when I “over complicate”. I try to keep my audience in mind, but I yam what I yam. What line of work relishes this kind of intensity?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I suspect that other readers will relate to what you’re saying here, Esme. Have you heard the expression that for the gifted, the simple is complex and the complex is simple? About the line of work, I’m not sure. It probably depends on the person. But I have clients who’ve started their own businesses and thrive because of the complexity and variety. A client started a toy store beginning with remodeling the building where the store would be and then handling all of the many details and aspects of such an endeavor. But I think it really depends on multiple factors.

  8. Genealogy Jen Avatar
    Genealogy Jen

    I thought of you last week Paula. I was in the process of building a new website, and reading about coding and domain transfers and all sorts of meticulous details that aren’t what I love. I said I was stupid. My boys reminded me that’s a garbage word in our home. Instead of clawing out my eyeballs in frustration I remembered. Things usually come easily to me when it comes to learning. Sometimes, I have to push out of the comfort zone and admit I’m struggling and ask for help. Normal people don’t expect perfection on the first round. I shouldn’t expect that of myself. And eventually, I figured it out.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great example, Jen. Thanks so much for sharing. Good for your boys for reminding you!

  9. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Great points about asynchronous development, and how frustrating it is to the individual, and how hard it is to grasp at times. Even when you understand it intellectually, it is still hard to witness your child going through it.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Gail. If you’ve written about it on your blog, can you drop the link here so readers can find out what you have to say about it?

  10. Sarah Avatar

    Thank you so much for this! I was really needing it. I’ve always struggled with this. I’m a teen, and I struggle with ADHD and Imposter’s Syndrome. Some testing indicates I may have Aspergers, but I don’t really care. My world is my world, no matter how I view it.

    I’m pretty well rounded academically. I am at a really ridiculously high reading level, I can do advanced math, I love acting (and people tell me I’m good t it, I’m not sure), and I learn most things really quickly.

    The problem…

    I am a teensy-weeny bit “off” when it comes to social situations. I’m a great leader… but most of the time I act like a three year old. But I hate getting in trouble.

    And I often find myself not letting other people look at my schoolwork or look at what I’m working on. For awhile, I thought it was only because I wasn”t good enough, but after reading up on it and getting diagnosed, I figured out that the feeling I got was from Imposter Syndrome.

    This is a great post, Paula! Nice job.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah. Giftedness has its challenges and with ADHD, impostor syndrome, and possibly Aspergers, you’ve got a lot to sort out! I hope that reading my blog can help with the process.

  11. Confused Avatar

    Why is it that I’m so friggin’ smart but always seem to screw up social things. I’ll say something that I intend to be kind, but the recipient will be totally offended. It happens over and over again. I feel so “Sheldon” at times (reference to Big Bang Theory). My wife is constantly telling me “You shouldn’t say things like that.” *sigh*

    So Yeah, as an adult I’m full of asyncrony.

    You mentioned something about living on an island? Where do I sign up for that?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I know. A private island can sound so appealing! Thanks for sharing.

  12. litebeing Avatar

    Thanks for this. Was not aware of asynchrony. English, creative pursuits, psychology, sociology, philosophy, this is where I excel. I am awful at Science ( Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, etc.) and it was confusing to me how poorly I performed. I was in the highest track for all other subjects, but relegated to the B track for the sciences with the regular kids. Spending time with all the smart kids made me feel less alone. But many of them excelled at both the sciences and the humanities.

    As an adult, this is less of a concern, but I do wish I could grasp scientific info easily, especially quantum physics. Like your examples, I am intrigued by the concepts, but get lost in the execution.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad I could help you understand asynchrony, litebeing. Thanks for sharing and for following!

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