Advice for Gifted Adults Living in a Not-So-Gifted World

photo courtesy of Alfonso Scarpa, Unsplash

Let’s say that you understand that you are gifted. That you are super smart, highly sensitive, emotional, and empathetic. That you have a rainforest mind. That you think deeply, analyze everything, love learning, and seek justice. You are even starting to accept your compassionately quirky ways.

But what you don’t understand is how to communicate with other humans. How to manage in your workplace. Where to find friends. How to find a suitable partner. How to be authentic. How to live at 95 mph when everyone around you is running at 35 mph.

There are some suggestions if you click on the links above. Here are more:

Accept who you are in all of your curious, passionate, deep-diving intensities. Be as introspective as you want to be because your inner knowing will guide your self-acceptance, your choices, and your evolution. To reach this goal, keep reading my blog and, ahem, my books. If your self-criticism and self-doubt is excessive, consider examining your experiences in your family of origin for the source of your distress. Get professional help, if needed. You may be a fast learner when it comes to cognitive capacities but emotional healing from trauma is slow going. Your complexity requires a team of practitioners. Give yourself time to find them. Be selective. My team has consisted of these folks, not necessarily all at the same time: Psychotherapist, acupuncturist, energy intuitive, physical therapist, naturopath, massage therapist, astrologer, and tango dancer.

Give yourself permission to adjust how you communicate with others, depending on the people and the situation. Telling people you are gifted is probably not going to be the best strategy. Sadly, in many instances, you’ll need to consciously slow your speech and simplify your ideas. I realize that this is not the advice that you want to hear. I get it. I’m not saying that you can’t be all of who you are. Except that I am saying that. Truth be told. In certain circumstances. There will be times when slowing down will be the best choice for reaching others and being understood. Active listening skills will be useful in awkward social situations. Recognize that your “too muchness” is not something that is wrong with you, though. It is the others who have not enough-ness that is the problem.

Be on the lookout for a job/career path(s) that is a good fit. Allow yourself to change jobs when you need more stimulation, if you can. Find subtle ways to entertain yourself* when you have to sit in meetings waiting for consensus or waiting for coworkers to draw the conclusions you told them two months ago. Find allies at work and bring them coffee and dark chocolate. Remember that what is obvious to you may be mysterious to someone else, not because they are not smart, or they are lazy (although they might be), but probably because they aren’t gifted. If you have entreprenurial skills, use them. Go to an Everything Conference and meet other multipotentialites. Use Barbara Sher’s books to help you find a path(s).

Keep looking for other RFMs. I swear they are out there. 4298 of them are reading my blog. I realize that even if you find a RFM, they might not get you. But don’t give up.** I mean, just look at all of the booknerd sites there are now. It’s astonishing. I get overwhelmed just looking at the book reviews and recommendations and images of book stacks on Instagram. All of those LitHub people and BookBub folks and Silent Book Club enthusiasts. There are RFMs among them! Surely, the 899.6K followers of Brain Pickings are gifted. So, take the initiative to start and nourish a relationship that has promise. I know you’d like someone right in your hometown to be there when you are dying to start a Foucault study group. But online relationships can be a part of the solution. Try the community at The School of Life. Use that creative overthinking brain of yours to design your own unique Facebook group, podcast, blog, or research project. If you build it, they will come.

And what about your sense of justice? Your concerns over the suffering on the planet? Your grief over the climate crisis? Well, here is where you go full speed ahead. This is where you turn it on. This is where you be all of who you are. Access your intuition and your connection to your spirituality. This will give you the guidance that you need to create or speak out in your particular rainforest-y way. In fact, as you step into your true Self, you will see that you are more powerful than you ever thought possible. Now is the time to go 95mph. Or 150+mph. Start a journaling process if you don’t know where to begin: Free write. What is your destiny? How can you use your strengths to contribute? What makes your heart sing?

Your heart singing? It will make the not-so-gifted world a little more gifted.


To my bloggEEs: Share your thoughts, feelings, questions, hopes, and dreams with us. Your comments add so much, especially sharing the ways you’ve discovered to live well in this not-so-gifted world. Thank you, as always, for being here. I am singing with you.

(* from cmd1122: “…I enjoy amusing myself with translating conversations (live time) into one of the several languages I know. I also love having a song running in my head (from memory, not with headphones) while visualizing the fingering for violin/cello/piano as if I were playing one of the lines. I love replicating the actual fingering in my pocket, just gently tapping, and walking down the street and feeling like I am playing right then and there with the big wave of music flowing through me, while no one around knows.)…”)

(**from Sarah: “…I have friends I talk to about education, friends I discuss cultures or literature with, foodie friends, friends who are parents of my children’s friends, friends I go to movies or plays with, and even friends I enjoy arguing with! These groups do not necessarily intersect. Some are RFM, and some are not…”)




Related Posts

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.

46 responses to “Advice for Gifted Adults Living in a Not-So-Gifted World”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ian Avatar

    In my everyday life I find that the world that I live in is often hectic and fast-paced and many people are regularly in a rush and are regularly flustered by any sort of inconvenience or delay. It’s often said that we need to slow down from that point of view, and I think I do a better job of it than most, having created a life for myself with relatively few obligations that involve hefty time pressure.

    Unfortunately, when I get into difficulties because my mental functioning runs at 95mph and the people around me are functioning at 35mph, I get told that I should be content to wait around for them because I shouldn’t be in a rush and I should be patient. I get told that if we all operated more slowly the world would be a better place. It seems to me that being “too much” in terms of mental functioning gets lumped together with always being busy and in a hurry.

    Just as motorists are taught that you may as well drive slowly because if you drive faster you will get slowed down by traffic or by the next set of traffic lights, I have often been taught that I may as well function and work slowly, because if I get tasks done twice as quickly as my peers I will be slowed down to their level by systemic factors, such as being required to wait around for everyone else to finish.

    I agree with Sarah (above) that there’s a “two way street” here – it’s a mix of others’ lack of acceptance of our “too muchness” and our lack of acceptance of their “not so muchness”. However, in the society that I live in, it seems that society’s politeness rules only go one way – there is a strong onus on me to accept others’ “not so muchness”, but there is no similar onus on them to accept my “too muchness” – the onus is on me to slow down to their level and to “grin and bear it”, or be dismissed as “emotional and thus irrational”.

    In today’s increasingly risk averse society there’s also a tendency for us all to be increasingly required to slow down to the lowest common denominator in the hope of minimising the risk of a minority being “too much” in the wrong time and place, and we get told that this is necessary because “the minority have to spoil it for everybody else, that’s life, it’s what happens”. But while this trend requires most of us to slow down to some extent, those of us towards the rainforest mind end of the spectrum have to work much harder than average to slow down to the level that is required.

    Which brings me to Arachne’s comments, which also resonate with me: I find it frustrating seeing social trends like these unfolding, and yet I feel very alone in having these concerns because my peers either deny that they are occurring, or say “That’s life”. We are in good company though, as for example Albert Einstein famously had this problem in the early 1930s when he found himself seemingly alone in seeing that Adolf Hitler was ultimately aiming to start a war.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      This is a great description of the slowing down/waiting for others issue. I may take parts of this and quote you in another post that I write. Thank you for sharing, Ian.

  2. Relationships For Creative, Sensitive, Intuitive, Analytical Overthinkers — Where Do You Start? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] then, do you have relationships with humans who might be overcome by your overdrive. Or who might be overloaded by your […]

  3.  Avatar

    I need to check out your books! 😉

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, you do! 🙂

  4. veroniqz Avatar

    My feelings? Pain.
    Even the relief when reading your posts does not take away the hurt, caused by people turning me down. Despite all my emphatical efforts to be friendly, helpful and understanding, I have been thrown out, accused of not being able to communicate or collaborate. The things I love most.
    I long to be a part of something. To contribute to the whole. But they will not allow me.
    And I certainly do not have a genius for saving the world on my own, sadly.
    So, I’ll keep on searching for a tiny place in the universe for my soul to catch some sun. One day, maybe…

    1. renovatio06 Avatar

      Your words echo the exact same feelings I have, veroniqz! To a T, so.

      1. veroniqz Avatar

        A sad consolation, perhaps, but at least we understand each other. Thank you. Don’t give up.

        1. renovatio06 Avatar

          And you, neither pls., Veroniqz!

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You will find it, veroniqz. <3

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        And, you, too, renovatio06! <3

        1. renovatio06 Avatar

          Thank you, kindly, Paula!

      2. veroniqz Avatar

        Thank you, Paula! ☀️

  5. Sarah Avatar

    Great post, Paula, and thank you!
    I spent the weekend out of the country, visiting my in-laws and going to a big party in my second language. I speak it fluently, but I don’t have the same level of sophistication in my vocabulary that I do in English. I reflected on how much easier it is to make small talk and feel like I fit in when I’m so obviously different. Everyone expects me to be eccentric because I’m foreign and they accept me at face value, albeit on a superficial level. I’m going to try to cultivate that feeling at home, the concept that of course I don’t fit in, because I am different (even though it’s not as immediately obvious to others) and maybe it will help ease the anxiety I sometimes feel.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That makes sense, Sarah. Let us know how it goes.

  6. FredB Avatar

    There are wizards and there are muggles,

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  7. Someti Avatar

    I love this inspiring post, Paula. Additionally, I laughed when I read what cmd1122 suggests… I also translate “in real time” what people say in boring meetings! 😂 In fact, one of my job mates asked me once, which was the language I was using to take notes during a meeting (I was taking notes in an African language I learnt long time ago and completely unrelated to our culture, in Spain). And I also “play” music in my head while walking (and my fingers try to match the imaginary piano I am bearing in my pockets). I thought I was the weirdest person in the World… thanks for sharing this 😂 -kind of funny coincidence.

    Thanks for your reading/internet suggestions, Paula. As always, so rich 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m guessing that cmd1122 will be happy to hear that she’s not the only one! Thanks, Someti. Always good to hear from you.

    2. cmd1122 Avatar

      Así que no soy la única manera persona loca. ¡Qué alivio! Jaja
      (So I am not the only crazy person. What a relief. Haha)
      Thanks for this comment, Someti.
      What African language were you referring to? I love that you were taking the meeting notes in a language that I presume others at your meeting did not know, too funny. I very much enjoyed being the secretary of a Portuguese cultural association in France (while on a uni exchange) and taking bilingual notes according to whichever language people were speaking in, either Portuguese or French–fun times as I was still learning those languages. I will try your idea about taking notes in language that the meeting is not taking place in one day. 🙂
      Saludos desde Canadá.

      1. cmd1122 Avatar

        ahhhh…spell check added in ‘manera’ while I was typing on my phone!

        1. Someti Avatar

          Haha! Your reply made me smile! 🙂 Thanks for your kind words. Indeed: “es un alivio” 😉
          I was taking notes in Swahili, which is certainly exotic (at least for a caucasian). But my notes are usually messy, as I trend to write quickly. What you told us reminded me that a few years ago I was in a meeting in France, with a mixture of French, German, Italian people and myself… The meeting being held in English and whispers in whatever (you can imagin…) So at the end of the meeting I could see about 3 languages in a single line within my notes (!!!) 🤦‍♂️
          Anyway: ¡Saludos desde España igualmente! I hope I’ll be able to visit Canada one day. I just missed it (for very little) 2 years ago, when I planned a trip to Banff and I finally couldn’t make it. I know one day I will 🙂

          1. cmd1122 Avatar

            jaja, it is hilarious that you found 3 languages all in one line of your notes!! I like the sound of Swahili–they have it on Duolingo now, though not up to an advanced level. Did you learn it while living in Eastern Africa?
            I miss living in Europe and speaking 4 languages every day–my brain loved that so much. Spain was amazing, but there is so much that I didn’t see. I hope that you make it to Canada one day (Banff is amazing, and so is coastal BC where I live) 😉

            1. Someti Avatar

              Hey! I didn’t know Duolingo. I’ll have a look to that tool, it seems interesting. 🙂
              As for Swahili… I have never been in East Africa. But when I was a 5-year-old (or so) kid, there was a gardener from Kenya in my neighbourhood. It was the first time in my life that I saw a skin like his. So, as curious as I was (and I still am), I started to talk with him. Naïvely asking things, we become friends and eventually we started to talk about Kenya, about his native language… and there you have it: I started to ask him for sentences and easy words in Swahili. And as internet come into our lives later on, I took some time to explore the language a little bit more, and more, and slightly more… 🙂
              By the way: I am far from an advanced speaker of Swahili 😀
              I am glad to know that you enjoyed Spain while you were around. And certainly, I will visit Canada in the future. Every country has a lot of interesting spots (and Canada is so big that it has a lot of spots all over its land, although I will try not to go there in winter 😉 )

  8. Arachne Avatar

    “Find subtle ways to entertain yourself* when you have to sit in meetings waiting for consensus or waiting for coworkers to draw the conclusions you told them two months ago.”

    This is quite frustrating, and I can’t distract myself too much because I’m usually “leading” the meeting and have to guide them back on track if it gets too weird. However, I do try to entertain myself by watching how each person goes through their problem-solving process and interactions, and trying to predict how and when they will arrive at a solution. Even doodling will send my mind too far down the rabbit hole to help with the meeting.

    I think it’s so fascinating that you can point the way and explain the process, but usually people still have to figure everything out all on their own, and also be in the right time, place, and mindset. Like, even when handed a map, they still have to learn cartography first and then be standing in the correct position in relation to the map (maybe at the “you are here” arrow?) before they can read it. But, if I can figure out their process, I can say, ‘hey, try standing over there,’ or, ‘here is a protractor’ instead of giving them a map and hoping they know how to read it.

    “Remember that what is obvious to you may be mysterious to someone else, not because they are not smart, or they are lazy (although they might be), but probably because they aren’t gifted.” Also hard. I try to default to this, but still, sometimes it’s a struggle to understand how a person can really not be able to do it? Or how they can seriously take a month to do something that would take me three days? So as a supervisor I’m almost afraid to ever discipline anyone at all because I am afraid I won’t always be able to tell the difference between lazy and trying-but-not-like-me.

    These things certainly cross out of the work place, too. Like… how heartbreaking is it to be able to predict the bad path that friends and family are on, and know years ahead of time that (for example) they will put themselves in a place that they can’t pay their rent, or have a serious health problem because x, or (fill in the blank), but be powerless to steer them away from that path or help them off of it, no matter how hard you try? It’s like waiting for people to solve problems in a meeting, only a hundred times worse. I feel like I can watch people kill themselves, tiny bits at a time, over many years, and it’s so so hard. I don’t understand how I can predict their lives so far in advance, but I wish that I couldn’t, because so far it’s been a useless and stressful skill. (I can weirdly do this with societal/cultural trends, also, but it’s less stressful, because I feel less personally involved/responsible)

    Thanks for your work, Paula. 🙂 I plan to pick up one of your books soon.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So many important ideas here, Arachne. Thank you for taking the time to share them.

  9. Nimue Brown Avatar
    Nimue Brown

    I’ve learned how to slow down and really listen to people who don’t go at the same pace as me. What I’ve found, sometimes, are really deep thinkers whose minds work in very different ways to my own – and there’s a lot of richness and blessing in this, and it’s done me a lot of good. exploring the worlds of people with very different minds can be a wonderful thing, and sometimes in those contexts i can show up as very much my whole self, so the ‘cost’ of dropping pace can turn out to be a pretty small one when weighed against what can be gained.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for your insight and sensitivity, Nimue.

  10. unschoolingNL Avatar

    I am so happy I found you a few years ago. Your words have made me so happy. Every blog you speak to my heart, mind and soul.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  11. Iowan42 Avatar

    No one is to blame, any more than the square peg and the round hole should determine blame. It’s about understanding and adapting to others with grace and empathy.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Grace and empathy. Yes.

  12. Sara Cash Avatar
    Sara Cash

    Hi Paula, Thank you for your blog. You mentioned that it is not our too muchness that is too much but rather others’ not enoughness. I would phrase this tension around the idea that the problem is their LACK OF ACCEPTANCE of our too muchness and also our lack of acceptance of their not as muchness. Perhaps I am not saying anything different from you. However I contend that my phrasing holds more potential for reconciliation and relationship and therefore more positive social connection. Thanks for listening.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I understand what you’re saying, Sara. I don’t usually write with a bit of a negative flavor but I couldn’t resist that expression. It was written with a little lightness, not meant to offend. But thanks for your input. Point well taken.

    2. renovatio06 Avatar

      I concur, Sarah. I’ve come in touch with some very strong feelings of mine, which I had no idea I was capable of feeling from some of the ramifications and “debris of friction” that past interactions around this particular rift caused.

      At the end of the day and when applying “Occam’s Razor”: They outnumber us. That’s where the pragmatic side of things start (for me, at least). In other words and from my experience (without meaning to associate any “one size fits all”-ness to it, experiences will vary): I found myself needing to put myself in “their” skin first, thus often meeting the other 98% not only half way, but all the way. Sadly, the latter is often taken for weakness, being stupid or whatnot. It’s a very tricky slope to navigate.

      And that’s why it came as a sort of relief to hear Paula speak of the need to slow down in certain situations and under certain circumstances. Relief as in: OK, I wasn’t all wrong about this. However, that particular part is the very one that drains me to no end and having landed me in a place of rather staying solitary at this point than engaging in pointless conversations and finding myself being pushed into the corner of the outcast from the get-go. I’m afraid a droplet of bitterness has spilled into the sweet cocktail of our (my) giftedness here and there. (and I’m fighting it by telling myself that things will get better the more I learn and understand, the more I find other RFMs, both in the virtual world and IRL, and the more REAL connection I feel as I move on).

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Yes, renovatio06, it can be a “very tricky slope.” The higher the level of giftedness, the trickier the slope.

        1. renovatio06 Avatar

          Naive as I was, I thought that my giftedness would help me in that regard, too, i.e. navigating the territory. However, I didn’t have the info then that I do now and insecurities about how to best move forward – or speak and move at all and WHEN – did me in. Naturally, you’ll never learn exactly WHAT it was that the other person or group of persons didn’t like as it’s not commonly accepted lingo for anyone to say “I think you stink” … (rhetoric dramatization to more sharply make the point about the “communicative gap” between HSPs and non-HSPs; I’m thinking, there should be a language guide for HSPs complete with a dos and donts list or rather: Says – plural – and No-Says or something.)

          1. Iowan42 Avatar

            Being gifted does not mean that sometimes people are weird. Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s not you, and you and they are human.

  13. Stef Avatar

    “Access your intuition and your connection to your spirituality. ” This is my favorite of all those excellent tips.

  14. Carol Avatar

    This phrase is a HUGE help: Recognize that your “too muchness” is not something that is wrong with you, though. It is the others who have not enough-ness that is the problem.

    I have a boring job that does not suit me at all (and I am underpaid for it). I am a musician and a poet, so, at my desk, I do research on new poetry material, and write poems. I add to my WordPress poetry blog, I imagine myself practicing my instruments in my head, or just “hear” a piece in my inner ear, so that I can sort of practice it in my head. I am getting to the point that my gifts will be recognized (it has started), and I will feel that I am contributing in a much bigger way. And it will make my heart sing! Music and poetry are who I am (and I’m an equestrian). I won’t be in this job forever, and in the meantime, I will not longer feel like the “outsider”. There is nothing “wrong” with me! They are all too slow – lol!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great to hear that your poetry/music heart-singing is expanding, Carol. Thanks for sharing.

  15. richard Avatar

    god this me your so right i feel i am running at 100 miles per hour. why cant others in my company be the same its normal to me.

  16. Iowan42 Avatar

    Still can’t type! “Daily OM.” My typing teacher (what we had when I was in 8th grade, not keyboarding) told me to type a little to practice when I sit down. He was right.

  17. Iowan42 Avatar

    Correction, the name is Madisyn Taylor. at Daily OM”

  18. Iowan42 Avatar

    Excellent, empowering post.

    And this just came today from Madison Taylor’s “Daily OM: As you embrace your gifts and allow their light to shine, you will discover that more and more opportunities to make use of them arise. This is because your gifts are a channel through which the universe operates. By simply doing what you are good at and also love to do, you make a positive difference. The recognition you receive for your efforts will pale in comparison to the satisfaction you feel when fulfilling your innate potential.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Beautiful, Iowan42. Thank you!

%d bloggers like this: