The Gifted Human’s Guide To Normal

photo courtesy of Dan Price, Unsplash

You may think that you’re normal because you’ve always been the way that you are. It feels normal to be you. You may not spend much time comparing yourself to others. At the same time, you may often feel weird, left out, and misunderstood. Different. It’s a paradox. You can feel normal and abnormal at the same time.

Let me clear this up right now. You are not normal.


You’ll never be normal.

You may be OK with this now. You may even celebrate it. But I bet when you were a child, this was hard. I hear it from kids. I just want to be normal. Yeah. You wanted to fit in and be one of the gang. It was painful to be an outcast, to be excluded, to be rejected.

But normal for you?

Not gonna happen.

You’ll need to prepare your kids.

And, just for the record, normal isn’t particularly good or bad. It’s just one way to describe what we might see as typical or average or middle-of-the-road or majority or consensus reality. I mean, I must admit, I do wonder if our world would be a more peaceful place if more humans had rainforest minds. But that’s a topic for another day.

My clients struggle with feeling excluded and outcast. Desperate to be embraced by others, to belong, to not be rejected for living beyond normal.

Just this week a client told me about how she felt deeply touched and in wonder, moved to tears, by a moment when she saw light coming through clouds and hitting trees in such an indescribably beautiful way. She was crying at nature’s gorgeousness. Deeply appreciating life in that moment. Moved by a spiritual connection to beauty.

This is not normal.

Chances are, most humans would not notice the light, the clouds, the trees and be awestruck by the wonder of it all. You, on the other hand, see more, feel more, and perceive more than normal. It could be how you’re wired. Or it could be that you’re an old soul. Or both. It could be that humans are evolving to develop the more-ness that you have. To evolve to be less normal.

I’m counting on that.

What do you do in the meantime?

You embrace abnormal! Find your peeps. The ones who also cry when the light comes through the clouds. Use your perceptive and intuitive powers to feel connected to the Force, to your spirituality, to Nature. Use your creativity to discover your next project or path or purpose.

Let go of the belief that you need to be normal.

Normal got us into this mess.

Abnormal can get us out.


To my bloggEEs: How have you felt rejected because of your rainforest mind? Have you felt the desire to be normal? Are you able to connect with Nature or a spirituality that gives you some of the deep connection that you yearn for? Have you found some peeps who love you just as you are? Well, I’m sending you love right now for all of your rainforest-y abnormality! And if the holiday season is getting you down, this one’s for you.


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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.

29 responses to “The Gifted Human’s Guide To Normal”

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  1. Zoe Avatar

    I think at the heart of the tension in the relations between normal and exceptional are misunderstandings due to projection. Most people are unaware that they are exceptional and assume that everyone is just the same as them. Social rejection is a common thread in gifted circles. What I have found is that exceptionality requires an unusual level of engagement. Anything less than this can be experienced as rejection, when in fact most regular folk just don’t expect to go so deep.

    I know from personal experience, and as a kid especially, that when interactions failed to reach what I expected as a reasonable level of intensity or engagement, I perceived this as a rejection. When in fact it was just a mismatch of intensity and expectation. Even now there are some circles in which I find the rules of engagement baffling.

    The conversations seem to go nowhere and for extended periods of time, there are no particular points of interest for discussion, no interjections; there is just what seems to be systematic retellings of mundane events, with zero analysis. I feel like I am constantly going off on tangents which is experienced as bizarre by some.

    After these social activities, the attendees post photos on social media with captions saying “Great night ladies!” “Lets do it more often!”. Dinner with these friends feels almost like ethnographic fieldwork. Like I’m stepping into another cultural dimension. The rules of engagement are different and the impasse is pretty great.

    As I age I have learned to stop experiencing these differences as rejections and to go to these dinners with a sense of curiosity. One things for sure, things never get heated, no-one gets offended, and everyone seems in pretty good spirits! So that can’t be so bad.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Very helpful explanation, Zoe. It will also be good for you to find people who are exceptional. Right?

      1. Zoe Avatar

        Thanks Paula.


        However, I do think it is important to bridge the gap between diversity, especially when a shared activity such as sport is involved.

        Also, I have learned from regular folk, that there are some things that just don’t matter some of the time, and that that’s ok.

        Thanks again. Love your blog!


  2. Who Were You Before You Learned That You Are Supposed To Be Normal? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Might it be time to rejuvenate that person? Bring that person back to life? Time to say the hell with normal? […]

  3. Carol Avatar

    I have never cared to be “normal” : ) I really enjoy your posts! Thank you for your awesome messages. I believe in love, self-evolution, universal connection, and the amazing, bone-aching beauty of this gorgeous planet! <3

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for being here, Carol!

  4. RainySunshine Avatar

    I meant performance, not pressure.

  5. RainySunshine Avatar

    “She was crying at nature’s gorgeousness. Deeply appreciating life in that moment. Moved by a spiritual connection to beauty.

    This is not normal.”

    I snorted at the “reality check” part. Sigh. I cried when I saw a rainbow pulling over the clouds and sunshine breaking through at the same time when I was out jogging. It did feel normal to me. I was more like with others passing: CAN YOU NOT SEE THE GORGEOUSNESS?

    Normal, abnormal, I don’t even know anymore. When I was a child I never felt abnormal or that I was a misfit! I did however as an adolescent felt an extreme relief when a friend told me I was allowed to just be average, I suspect that my parents in some way demanded for me to be “special” and “perfect” all the time, which caused me to tumble into fear or failure and freeze states when it comes to pressure.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes! I’m happy when folks get my humor! Sometimes it can be unclear. I know the words normal-abnormal can be triggering for some. And confusing. And it’s a tricky dance for parents knowing how to explain giftedness so it doesn’t create pressure to perform perfectly at all times! Hm. Maybe I’ll write about that! Thank you RainySunshine. 🙂

  6. Finn Avatar

    Hi Paula,
    Thank you so much for this post and all the others. I’ve been going through your blog all morning and so many of the things you and the various commenters here have written resonate with me deeply.

    I was identified as twice-exceptional fairly early in my life – I grew up with both a ‘gifted’ and autistic label – and have always stood out, whether for good or for ill. But it’s hard not to stick out when you’re reading at a 12th-grade level at the age of 6, or find the world so intense and overwhelming that you react visibly, or have odd mannerisms that people can’t always figure out. I’ve never felt normal as a *person*, though I’ve often yearned to be even when it would be an impossibility. I’ve also thought the things I’ve been able to do are normal, or are at the very least unworthy of comment. I remember being embarrassed when people made a big deal of my learning the equivalent of four years’ worth of classroom French instruction in the course of about nine months back when I was 16. I think I probably had thoughts along the lines of ‘Can’t anybody do that?’

    Still, though, I sometimes feel like a fraud as an adult in my early 30s. I had my IQ estimated at a neuropsychology appointment, and the score was at least 20 points lower than any score I’d had as a child. It turns out, though, that the assessment method they used was the wrong kind and had a low ceiling. I still can’t dispel the feeling of being a fraud and a faker, though; there’s a niggling voice that tells me I’ve somehow imagined my history and that my intelligence, sensitivity and way of perceiving the world are, well, ‘fake news’. That I just see things others don’t because I’m crazy, or that it can all be explained by the autism alone.

    I’m working on trying to embrace my thinking and learning style in all its complexity, but it’s hard when you’ve internalised so many messages about the benefits of normality.

  7. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    I don’t know what is more mystifying about normal people: that they so readily condemn anyone who does not think or act the same way they do according to the (oftentimes arbitrary) rules of the
    group, religion, or country they are devoted to, or that almost none of them consistently act in accordance to those very same principles.

    My own personal experience with normals is bittersweet. On the one hand normals may assume I am a deviant freak, no questions asked. But on the other hand they may see my devotion to moral ideals and high standards as the mark of a reliable, predictable friend they can count on.

    Except that kind of respect lasts only so long as we all hold ourselves to the same standards. If any conflict arises between us because their own standards are somewhat more lax, this may result in feelings being hurt. And then that is not only my problem, but it is my fault as well because what were previously valued as high standards are now symptoms of an overly judgmental pr**k. And I have a hard time arguing that point, because unlike normals, I do have high standards which I also hold myself to….

    Anyway I gotta go because my WiFi on this ice floe is getting spotty….I’m on my way to the Island of Misfit Toys. But the OTHER one, the one where everyone is happy to stay there unadopted forever.

    Merry Christmas to all you abnormal misfits.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Here’s to the beauty of misfitting! <3 Happy holidays to all of you lovely rainforest minders.

  8. EwaB Avatar

    I often thought that I wanted the instructions or how to manual. because then I could at least succesfully pretend to be “Normal”. Nobody ever managed to explain to me how I was not “normal” just that I am not. and it is so confusing and exhausting. also hoped as a kid that at some point in time I would outgrow the “not normal” but it seems grownups have the same stupid secret rules as kids. And I still dont get them. It feels as if the world is playing checkers and I am trying to play 3D chess.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That’s an analogy that many rainforest minds will understand. Thanks for sharing, EwaB.

  9. hksounds Avatar

    ” How have you felt rejected because of your rainforest mind?” – Pretty much always since I was the smallest child.

    “Have you felt the desire to be normal?” – Only if the others could be more like me and not the other way round. Others seem to live life on the surface, interested in superficialities and unaware of deeper meanings. Why would I ever want to be like that? Do I want to be with others who think and feel the way I do? Of course, but that seems impossible. We are all standing in a different place and so, even if we are looking, we won’t be seeing the same things. I’d just like to be around people who are trying to see the real and trying to change the direction our species is heading in.

    “Are you able to connect with Nature or a spirituality that gives you some of the deep connection that you yearn for?” Panbiophile, is my word to describe what I am feeling these days and I think it does indicate a ‘connection’ to/with Nature.

    “Have you found some peeps who love you just as you are?” Very, very few and far between. I never stop looking but in the meantime, I am living alone and feel happy. Alone and lonely are not the same. Some of my best friends are characters in novels.

    But I also love writers and non-fiction. I just finished yesterday a very interesting book by someone who is definitely a rainforest person and it made me so happy to have read it and to know there are people out there living that kind of life. It’s called “Cathedral of the Wild” by Boyd Varty. He did a google talk that I found on Youtube while I was reading the book.

    Thanks again Paula. When will you tell us about your connection to Nature or would that be ourtof bounds?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      “Panbiophile” sounds fascinating. Tell us more? I think it’s a great way to feel less lonely, to connect with books and authors and book characters. Thanks for the book suggestion. I’ll think about how I might talk about my own connection to Nature and see how I might work it into a post. It’s kind of an odd story!

  10.  Avatar

    Thank you.

  11. helenjnoble Avatar

    Reblogged this on helenjnoble.

  12.  Avatar

    It is so true that I have always thought of myself as normal, and I always think that I am acting normally, but somehow people can tell that I’m not normal, and I have had it pointed it out to me several times. I would ask why they think I’m not normal, and often times I would realize that here I am thinking they are the one who’s not normal!
    Fortunately, I have never really experienced too many problems because I’m not normal, but I still wish people would stop commenting about my abnormalness because hey you’re not normal to me either and I don’t comment about that!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Right! I’ve had clients tell me that they think certain people aren’t very smart. Often what it really is, is that others are actually fairly smart but the client is exceptionally bright. So, it’s all relative!

  13. Jens Lyon Avatar
    Jens Lyon

    When I was a tween, I studied normal people the way an anthropologist studies a foreign culture. As a fiction writer, scenes with normal characters are the hardest ones to write. Thankfully, there aren’t any normal people in my book.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Tell us more about your book, Jens!

      1. Jens Lyon Avatar
        Jens Lyon

        My book, Red Flags, is a coming-of-age novel about a Soviet figure skating champion whose coach is a 1980s version of Harvey Weinstein. The main character is intellectually as well as athletically gifted, but her mind is perpetually in survival mode, which often means playing dumb in order to keep the powers-that-be from knowing what she’s really up to.

  14. Sharleen Nelson Avatar
    Sharleen Nelson

    It’s interesting because I was thinking about what “normal” is just the other day. When I was digging through the attic looking for xmas stuff, I came across a box containing a bunch of my childhood things, including a stack of creative writing papers I’d written when I was 10. One of them was a very detailed account of a couple of Vietnamese children whose village had been bombed, killing their parents and forcing them to run away to the hills. I was 10 in 1968, during the Vietnam war. So while my peers were probably writing about their pets or playing baseball, “not” normal me was writing about war.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Love that 10 year old little sweetie. Thanks for sharing that great example, Sharleen.

  15.  Avatar

    Your posts are always so timely. I was upset last night thinking about how loneliness is a constant in my life and has been since I was little. I kept thinking if I could just seem more normal, then I wouldn’t be lonely. But, I also remembered how exhausting it is to pretend to be normal…I can’t sustain that and don’t want to.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you. Yep. Too exhausting to try to pretend to be normal.

    2.  Avatar

      I connected with this post because normal was never a word used to describe me or the way I live. I’ve always existed more in the realm of odd. Your comment articulates the paradox of my life as well. I’m currently sitting in the airport, alone waiting for a flight to my parents for Christmas. I was thinking how lovely it would be to have a companion to fly with.then thought how exhausting it would be to get to the point where said person was accepting of my oddness.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Could be you’ll find another “odd” person who will understand you just as you are. At the same time, solitude can be nourishing, relaxing and sweet.

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