The Top Thirty Reasons Gifted Humans Feel Guilty

Photo courtesy of Evan Kirby, Unsplash, CC
Photo courtesy of Evan Kirby, Unsplash, CC

Top 30 Reasons You May Feel Guilty: 

  • You aren’t living up to your potential.
  • You get impatient with people slower than you.
  • You’ve painted your living room 12 times in 5 years.
  • You haven’t won the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, or any prize except the spelling bee in third grade.
  • You got good grades in school for work that you did 30 minutes before it was due.
  • You’ve disappointed your parents because you didn’t become a neurosurgeon.
  • You’re responsible for all of the suffering on the planet.
  • You’re good at everything you try.
  • You live a privileged life in an economically prosperous country.
  • You hide your intelligence.
  • You don’t hide your intelligence.
  • You’re brighter than many of your teachers.
  • You’re competitive and always need to be right and usually are.
  • You didn’t invent the iPhone.
  • You’ve accomplished more than your mentors.
  • You didn’t have children.
  • You had children.
  • You make mistakes.
  • You’re emotional, sensitive, anxious and intense.
  • You’re not a perfect parent.
  • You’re reading a blog about giftedness.
  • You haven’t solved the problem of climate change or world hunger.
  • You haven’t gotten rid of your car.
  • You haven’t stayed in one job longer than 4 years, 5 months, 13 days, 8.5 hours.
  • You’re in therapy.
  • You’re terrified of failure and don’t try anything that might take you there.
  • You drove right by the person on the street with the sign who needed help.
  • You were born gifted.
  • You haven’t lived up to everyone’s expectations, including your own.
  • In spite of multiple signs of doom and gloom and despite the coolness of cynicism, you’re still idealistic and optimistic.

How many of these reasons did you check? You probably ought to feel guilty if you checked less than twenty.

Just kidding.


To my bloggEEs: You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. I was preparing for a webinar that I presented last week for SENG. (It should be posted on the site in a few weeks.) But I feel guilty that I abandoned you. (And I missed you.) Let us know how you’re doing and what you feel guilty about!

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.

41 responses to “The Top Thirty Reasons Gifted Humans Feel Guilty”

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  5. Catherine Avatar

    I feel guilty that I can no longer work up the energy to care about the prizes, accolades, or even faking it in general because these things do matter to a lot of people and showing my true gritty self can be a bit dangerous. The guilt comes from being dishonest.

    I feel guilty that I’ve begun walk away from people and helping people because I think that what they are concerned about is trivial in the grand scheme of things, but if I don’t walk away my irritation and frustration potentially outweigh my guilt. I’m not sure which is worse.

    I feel guilty that sometimes I’ll ask a question and then say “never mind” because I’ve either already figured out the answer or I realize that I’d have to actually explain my question before getting some semblance of an answer and I’m too impatient for that. That’s on me, not the other person.

    I feel guilty when someone puts out my name for a team leadership role and I have to turn it down because I know it’s not a good fit for my temperament.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      These will be all too familiar to many readers, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing them, Catherine.

  6. Noks Nauta Avatar
    Noks Nauta

    Making such a list is very therapeutic in itself!
    Look also at the positive sides of guilt (and shame, whcih is related in my opinion) which are for me that we have high standards and we have values that we protect. Based on your own list of reasons for feeling guilty you can find which values are for you the most important. That gives a very different feeling then.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Makes sense, Noks! Thanks for the idea. Good to hear from you.

  7. Beth Avatar

    Think I’ll chime in here, Jonquil. You appear to be quite young. Am I correct? One of life’s lessons I had to learn was, at WORK, we all have to play be certain social rules. As one employee among the infamous ‘team’ you’re supposed to fit in with, you have to learn how to swallow things that are truly annoying. It requires huge amounts of social finesse, which in turn requires lots of patience and objectivity. When one is younger (I am speaking from experience), one may not as much of that as is needed. HOpefully, one learns patience and tolerance along the way.

    On the other hand, maybe you are not suited one bit for work that is heavily team-oriented. Maybe you need to work alone more often than not, like immersing yourself in analyzing things, projects, etc.? And reporting to just one person who leaves you alone to do the work? There are plenty of jobs like that out there. I had a great job doing just that, I had co-workers in other cubicles who did their thing, I did mine, and we chatted a little, or got info from them sometimes, but that’s about it.

    Work can be so very challenging for us smart whips, especially when we’re required to sub-perform.

    I can suggest a really awesome website I myself was referred to, called It would be interesting to see what type you are!

    Hang in there. Do you have any mentors or older friends who can help you out by listening and supporting you?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Beth, for sharing you’re experiences and suggestions. Loved this: “Work can be so very challenging for us smart whips, especially when we’re required to sub-perform.”

    2. Laura Avatar

      Thanks for sharing, Beth! Your views and the url! It’s a very interesting personality test! 🙂

  8. Jonquil McDaniel Avatar
    Jonquil McDaniel

    6 months. Like, to the DAY. That’s exactly how long I’ve spent at most of my jobs, until I started figuring out that I just can’t handle most conventional jobs where I’m surrounded by other employees all the time and have a boss riding my back, like, at all. I already try so hard to be perfect, having someone criticize me in a negative manner is just too much for me to handle; I’m sorry I’m not like everyone else who can just brush it off or gripe about it after work to their friends then forget it. I am a perfectionist, and while I’m not competitive, I do place a HUUUUUUUGE responsibility on myself to be the one who is always right, always knows the answer/what to do, always can take responsibility not only for myself but also for everyone around me, etc. And your list here just describes sooo much of that. I worry so much about the environment and world problems right now as it is it can literally make me sick and depress me/cause anxiety/panic… so I’ve learned to try to just shut it out from my mind; then I feel guilty for doing the same exact thing everyone else does, which is why these problems aren’t getting resolved. I feel so responsible for others because I feel like they are often on the mental level of children; I however am aware of how condescending this outlook is, and feel guilty about viewing them in this context… I am very ashamed to admit I have quite often logically debated with myself inside whether or not I am a sociopath or have some other form of severe personality disorder. But the key component to most of them is a lack of self awareness and empathy, which if I did not have those I would not be so self critical and asking these questions, lol! And yes, sometimes, I get mad at people for being the way they are even though I know they can’t help it; it is at these times I retreat to my home and avoid socializing as much as possible until the moment passes so I don’t end up blowing my top off at someone and hurting their feelings with my sharp words. And sometimes at even darker moments I feel like I quite simply cannot survive in this world, or that I cannot take another minute in this place any more and I just want to check out of this existence entirely, not because I’m depressed particularly but because I am just FED UP with it and TIRED of the struggle that the most simple tasks often turn in to just because other people are incompetent and they aren’t even aware of how incompetent they are and I can’t even try to bring them in to the light because they will argue relentlessly with me whether or not they make any sense or not because… they just don’t seem to use any logic at all… again, the children reference. I mean, look at our presidential candidates this year… I know it’s not just me that is seeing this phenomenon of the average American intelligence sliding downhill quickly.

    And to any “normal” readers here – I am sooooo very sorry about this post of mine. Really. It gives me no pleasure to type this except to actually be getting it off my chest. I feel bad about it, I really do. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, that’s why this bugs me so badly that I feel like this sometimes. And it really bugs me that I feel so responsible for everyone and the world…. it’s too heavy a burden to carry. I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly no super hero. I don’t know how I got to think like this; then again, I do. My family raised me to be like this. They taught me that it was up to me to take care of everyone since I was the smartest, while simultaneously teaching me that I was no better than anyone else and to be humble. All together, I basically got taught that my gifts made me a slave to humanity. And I really resent that role sometimes.

    Please tell me I am not the only one that feels this way… and fights it with everything I’ve got…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Jonquil, I think you can see from this post and from others and from the comments that you’re not the only one feeling this way. It sounds like you’re experiencing some of the complexities of giftedness. And if there are also family challenges from childhood or present socio-economic issues, everything is even harder to sort through and deal with. Perhaps there will be other comments who will chime in, too.

  9. eliwoodbine Avatar

    Uncanny haha.

    I endlessly toil and struggle with myself.

    Nice to know I’m not alone. (Is that mean to say? Oh, I feel so guilty)


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Not mean. 🙂

      1. eliwoodbine Avatar

        Wonderful. 🙂

  10. Jen G Avatar
    Jen G

    Great list! Made me smile when I read it! love the You hide your intelligence/don’t hide your intelligence, and also you haven’t lived up to everyone’s expectations, including your own…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for letting us know, Jen!!

  11. Lynne-ish Avatar

    Only 11. I’m feeling concerned that it isn’t higher. 😉

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Ha! Probably a very good thing to have a low number on this one!

  12. Chrissy Avatar

    About 20! But at least my daughter hasn’t disappointed HER parents – she is doing her PhD in neuroscience! (But I bet she would answer to at least 25!)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, Chrissy.

  13. KtCallista Avatar

    24 – I’m sure I could add a ton too. I don’t think I’ve accomplished more than my mentors, but I had mentors in wildlife that dedicated multiple decades of their life to the intimate knowledge of a single species and knew so much about them. It was impressive!

    As for the staying in one job…. well I just hit year 2 in this one. Maybe it will last.

    I’m not doing enough, I’m doing too much. I’m hiding my intelligence, I’m letting my intelligence show too much. I’m too hard to relate to, I need to slow down for others. I hate dumbing things down. I’m sick of living an impoverished financial situation. I don’t want to do meaningless work even if it pays well. I want to dedicate my time to helping others, I want a work life balance. I probably need therapy, but I keep putting it off until a better time.


    Paula you’ve helped me so much!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m happy to hear that I’ve helped, KtCallista. It’s an honor. And fun, too!!

  14. Dragonwyst Avatar

    19 – ticked both hiding and not hiding intelligence 😛 – and now you can add guilty because I’m doing this instead of writing a few more words for my 4500 word essay on ecopsychology, and guilty because I watched a full documentary on the Nankai Trough (fault) and how the plate tectonics work in the region of Japan when I should be reading for my Masters that has nothing to do with geology and plate tectonics *sigh* – but I am laughing at myself for it. 😛

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Laughing. Yes! Good to hear from you, Dragonwyst.

    2.  Avatar

      I TOTALLY get that, Dragonwyst! It’s amazing the winding paths I can take from the one I should be and STAY on…. heh heh heh! We’re just too darn distracted by interesting stuff…. 🙂

  15. Donna Avatar

    24. I feel guilty for not being able to do more. Although I’ve already done more than the majority of my peers. Go figure.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Typically, rainforest-minded standards of “doing” are higher than the average, so, yup, you still feel guilty. Thanks for sharing, Donna.

  16. maggiebrown2015 Avatar

    ACTUALLY 113: I feel guilty for being competitve

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Surely, you win, Maggie!!

  17. maggiebrown2015 Avatar

    I can think of 112 more. snicker. Beat that!

  18. em4mighty Avatar

    haha! so i’m not alone!!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes! Not alone!

  19. lauralynnwalsh Avatar

    25 or 26 out of 30. Not bad.

  20. Traci Epperson Avatar
    Traci Epperson

    You haven’t stayed in one job longer than 4 years, 5 months, 13 days, 8.5 hours.

    This. This is so me right now! (As were many of the others…at least more than 20)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks Traci. You might want to read the posts about multipotentiality!

  21. FredB Avatar

    Scored 17.

    Let’s see you highly competitive highly intelligent types beat that. I know that was your first thought when you saw that number. I know you as well as I know myself.

    1. Melanie Paige Avatar
      Melanie Paige

      Yeah… I think only 3 don’t apply to me because I do have children, I’m not currently in therapy, and I haven’t accomplished more than my mentors. Sigh.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Yikes! Lots of guilt. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Melanie.

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Ha! I don’t know, FredB. You don’t seem guilty enough to me!