A Quick Guide To Living With Uncertainty For Super Smart Overthinkers, Perfectionists, And HSPs

photo courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

Maybe you think that since you are gifted, you are not supposed to freak out about this global pandemic. You may also think some of the following:

You are not allowed to be anxious, confused, or unproductive. You ought to be using all of your time at home creatively while organizing your kitchen utensils, cleaning out your garage, and finally reading Anna Karenina. You should be patiently homeschooling your super excitable children with elaborate science experiments. It is your duty to call your neighbors to see who needs toilet paper. You must order meals from your local restaurants to keep them afloat. You should have gone to medical school like your father wanted so that you could find the cure for this virus because, after all, you are so smart, and you feel so much empathy for the medical professionals who should be you. You ought to be grateful that you have a home, enough food, and a 4.2 GPA and not be crushed because you can not walk at your graduation and all of the important activities you planned for the next months have been cancelled.

Am I in your head?

Meanwhile, your heart is breaking for the humans all over the planet who are dying. You are up nights imagining the implications and the connections and the possibilities that no one else is seeing. Feeling out of control is triggering your childhood trauma so you find yourself repeating old self-deprecating phrases that you thought were long gone. Friends are proposing simplistic scenarios about what is happening that enrage you. You ache for the human touch that you have not felt in weeks. You are anticipating even more complications from the effects of the climate crisis that everyone seems to have forgotten. You are ready to implode from the debilitating combination of boredom and loneliness. You feel helpless, irritable, frightened, and responsible. You are embarrassed to admit that you are secretly hoarding hair gel because just in case your future boyfriend finally appears which is well near impossible considering that you aren’t leaving your house, you have to have your hair under control.

Something has to be under your control. Right?

How about this:

Kindness. Generosity. Love. Light.

“…Our kindness is a light. The more we extend it, the brighter it becomes and the more darkness we illuminate. We can give without any expectations until goodness flows from our depths, presents new possibilities, and expands our sense of purpose…” Jean Houston

You have plenty of that Light. Perhaps you have been hiding it because you were shamed when you were young for glowing too brightly. Perhaps you do not believe in yourself because you were criticized for your enthusiasm for libraries, mycelium, the universe, and everything.

Time to shine anyway. Trust in your Light. See where it takes you. 

Here is an idea: Get quiet and tune into yourself. Breathe slowly and then feel into your body. Imagine that your Light is there. It may be hidden underneath the fears, anxiety, shame, and old dysfunctional family beliefs. Maybe you see/feel it, maybe you don’t. It is there. Believe me. Ask your spiritual network to help you. They are waiting to be asked. Feel your Light glowing. Let it soothe you and speak to you. Draw or write in your journal what you discover.

Now is our time. Our time to shine. Let’s do this.


To my bloggEEs: What is your Light saying? How are you doing? How is this pandemic affecting you? Can you be kind to yourself as you feel anxious and overwhelmed? How might these times inspire you to create more meaning, purpose, and direction in your life? Sending much love to you all and healing songs if you or someone you love is ill. And shall we share examples of Light in the world? Here’s one. (Playing for Change) And, don’t forget about Maria Popova, Brain Pickings. And here is more emotional support. I’m thinking about how I might reach you all in other ways. Maybe video? Will let you know when I figure something out. But I won’t stop blogging! 

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.

33 responses to “A Quick Guide To Living With Uncertainty For Super Smart Overthinkers, Perfectionists, And HSPs”

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  1. Gifted In The Netherlands | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] particularly overwhelmed right now by the pandemic and general upheaval and uncertainty, here is an older post that might help. And here’s […]

  2. Faith Currant Avatar
    Faith Currant

    “Meanwhile, your heart is breaking for the humans all over the planet who are dying.” It’s not. Not even a little bit. And that’s part of my struggle. I don’t feel the least bit guilty for my lack of empathy, but I do feel profoundly isolated from the rest of the world who DOES seem to feel that way. I see the damage that humans do to everything that I love most — the earth and its beings — and I see only a selfish, entitled species that has brought this on ourselves due to our neglect.

    What my heart IS breaking for is seeing the earth wake up and begin to heal, and knowing that it won’t last, that we’ll go back to killing her when this is all over. And more than that, that people are eager to do this. And I can’t handle it. I don’t know how to function and be okay knowing this.

    Maybe this is too political for you to post, but it felt good to write it anyway.

    This is what I posted on FB yesterday, and no one understood and then I felt even more isolated:

    I am choking on the words
    I do not say.

    What would happen
    if I said them?
    what would happen
    what would happen
    what would happen
    if I said them
    at the end of the world?

    I am already lonely.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I am guessing that many others here share your grief for what is happening to the planet. Perhaps we can have empathy or compassion for both. Thanks for sharing, Faith.

      1. Faith Currant Avatar
        Faith Currant

        And my heart breaks yet again. Trying to share something more nuanced, and getting a stock pat answer back that more or less mirrors the prevailing zeitgeist. (Not that I expect otherwise, esp not on a comment — better things to do and all and I’d probably do the same. But I live with occasionally flare ups of hope. <3) But it's a good example of why I'm mostly afraid to engage or share things. I'll keep looking for my tribe, I suppose, though I'm increasingly sure I'll not find it.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Sending love to you and your broken heart, Faith.

    2. itssue42 Avatar

      Faith – You are not alone!! People could have a beautiful planet and enjoy their lives too IF they would just wake up and put some effort into it. This incredible, endlessly amazing planet and all it’s quirky, unbelievably creative species are being killed off by humans. And the humans are, by doing that very thing, causing their own extinction! And most of them do not even care!! As long as they can live in their pretend bubble and keep breeding and keep polluting, then they are relatively happy. But humans are quickly reaching the stage where they can’t ignore reality any more. Children born today won’t live much past 50; I feel such disgust when I see new parents acting like they did something great to add to the massively overrun planet.

      I don’t know your background but I was born a biologist 64 years ago and think of myself as a planetary steward when people ask “what do you do”. The upshot of what people are doing is that there will be exponentially increasing epidemics and famines and IF people wake up in time, then they can turn it all around. There are millions of us out there trying to wake them up and there is more and more success EVERY day. Just as humans are selfish and greedy, they can also be creative, clever and giving when motivated. Truly wonderful progress is happening on all fronts! There is still hope. Truly! Hundreds of corporations and many state and local governments understand exactly what we have wrought. They also recognize that cleaning up their act is not only going to undo damage but it is generally more profitable. For example, if all goes well, in under 10 years, fossil fuel giants that don’t change course will be bankrupt and many of them are catching on. Those diving into clean energy now are finding that it’s profitable and incredibly satisfying.

      Hang in there. Just know that you are NOT alone. Life would not be worth living if the giraffe and polar bears and oak trees and sea squirts were gone; if there was no blue sky or rainbows. And we, millions of us, will fight ’til our last breath to save this incredible creature we call home and all it’s magnificent beings.

      And, on the bright side, if we fail and humans are extinct by the end of the century, then the planet and what she can rescue will prevail and heal from this failed experiment called humanity.
      And maybe, just maybe, humans will surprise us all and wake up and realize what is at stake. Truly, more people understand every day. It is particularly brutal right now in this country due to the extreme psychosis ‘in charge’ but everything will look better next year. Don’t give up. Humans can be profoundly stubborn. Those of us who know what really counts will never give up. Your are not alone.

      There are hundreds of great organizations fighting the good fight on every front you can imagine. They put out newsletters full of progress and hope. I know it helps blunt my intense grief and anger to read their progress and help where I can. Meditate and send healing thoughts and strength into the universe. Positive thoughts make for positive change. Hugs

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thanks for the “bright side,” itssue42. If you have any examples of the organizations “fighting the good fight,” it would be nice to hear a bit about them or look them up.

        1. itssue42 Avatar

          It’s a long list I’m happy to say. Off the top of my head… A couple of my personal favorites because they are open about the need for humans to slow down their massive overbreeding are ‘Center for Biological Diversity’ and ‘Negative Population Growth’. NPG produces education kits for schools – helping young people understand reality and what’s at stake and they work with governments at all levels. They publish thoroughly researched white papers on the need to halt unchecked immigration, the actual realistic number of people the U.S. can support, what to do about our water supply etc. CBD, along with many others like Environmental Defense Fund, Earthjustice etc stay on top of the continuous barrage from our government to kill every living thing. Their win rate in court is very high…
          Earth Day is about to start up – it’s really at least 3 days now and millions will be participating in virtual marches, twitter storms, etc.
          CBD is holding a webinar this week discussing their current strategic goal of protecting 30% of wildlands and waters by 2030 and 50% of them by 2050.
          Environmental Defense (EDF) works with corporations, has programs training university students, etc in clean energy techniques and benefits.
          EarthJustice “Because the earth needs a good lawyer” focuses their efforts on hard hitting legal work.
          Xerces Society focuses on insects, bringing back pollinators, teaching people harmonious techniques, helping governments learn to plant roadsides with beneficial plants etc etc
          All of these organizations, and hundreds of others, do a wide variety of crucial work on multiple fronts.

          Ecuador (or a country very near there) just opened the world’s first Quiet Park. Hundreds of acres with no humans where you can go on a guided listening excursion teaching people (in a very small group) to actually hear what’s going on around them.

          Tampa Bay Watch started about 25 years ago when the Bay was so badly polluted that the shellfish were gone, the water was filthy and fishing very limited. Over those years they have built oyster shell reefs, planted marsh grasses, collected fishing net and abandoned crab traps, removed trash, run educational programs for kids etc etc. Today the Bay is a transformed haven teeming with fish, clean water, scallops. I worked with them for several years when I lived in Tampa. Mostly all volunteer crew that work their butts off. Great exercise!! They’ve just built a big educational center at the water in St Pete. One person started this effort which has grown into a big organization. It has transformed a huge area, and educated and inspired many people.

          … I used to make an effort every few days to check out some of the sources I have that ferret out positive environmental news. It’s amazing and innovative and gives hope, and yet I confess I’ve let this whole thing impact me in too many negative ways. I knew it was coming, and I know it will get worse every year if people don’t wake up. I have hoped most of my life that someone would invent a way to sterilize human beings en masse so that the true world would be able to get rid of this scourge that we are. But, when I stop and reach inside, I realize that although we are a deeply flawed, young species we do indeed have also a breathtaking ability to do good and amazing things. So I choose to hope that our positive nature will win out. When humans get together they can accomplish miracles. That time indeed may well be upon us and I have to choose to hope that it is, and that we will undo so much of the horrific damage we have done.

          Thank you Paula, as always, for steering all of us in a positive direction. I needed a good kick in the head to stop feeling sorry for myself and to stop wallowing in despair for our planet.

          Will get back to reading positive news and I’ll share links and tidbits here for anyone that needs a bit of cheering up with good news and progress for the world that really matters. I PROMISE to keep it brief.

          Meanwhile for a bit of silly cheer amusing yourself with what humans do for general zany fun — check out Canada’s annual hair freezing contest complete with photos etc. Don’t worry, they did this before the world went ‘viral’.

          Or if you appreciate classical music and want to grin for 5 minutes, watch this: https://youtu.be/S75gYhODS0M

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Thank you, itssue42. I appreciate your sharing the good news. As you know, I’m wanting to manage comments so that bloggEEs get a chance to share their real personal feelings and experiences around being a RFM but without moving into political statements or opinions that can be expressed elsewhere. I have strong opinions myself around some of the political dysfunction in this country in particular but this isn’t the place to grapple with it. Thank you everyone for understanding. Sending you all love. <3

  3. Jennifer Avatar

    This was perfect. Particularly the worrying about what is being missed while the world focuses on the pandemic. All I can think about is all of the preventable deaths that are ignored every day (drug abuse, effects of pollution, lack of health care, etc.) and how we as a world could fix them all if we could shine the light on them, too. My silver lining is that I have been trying to get the middle of my three rainforest mind children in for psychological testing so we can figure out how best to work with her wonderful brain and thanks to everyone canceling everything, I could finally get an assessment appointment for her last week!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Jennifer. I’m glad it was helpful. And that you got in for the assessment!

  4. Dorothy Morgan Avatar
    Dorothy Morgan

    Yes, you are in my head and thank goodness for that. Thanks, as always, Paula for providing just the right words and just the right descriptions to make what I experience so relatable and normalized. It is so refreshing to feel that sense of relief which washes over me as I read your posts and recognize myself. A true gift. With much gratitude and appreciation.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It is nourishing to me in this crazy time to know that my words are soothing. Thank you, Dorothy.

  5. Author_Joanne_Reed Avatar

    Great Post. I like your perspective on this. I have recently uploaded an article on a similar subject seen from the point of view of Black Swan Event and finding the solution in making yourself antifragile. https://authorjoannereed.net/living-in-uncertain-times/ – Feel free to check it out!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I will, Joanne. Thank you!

  6. Gail Post Avatar
    Gail Post

    Beautifully written, highlighting the fears and worries we all share – and how to calm ourselves. Thanks!

  7. ewabs2 Avatar

    you are for a big part in my head.
    but my main feeling is guilt.
    I did go to med school, I am a MD. but with my specialization my job is to stay home, stay safe and just call people to reasure them. So all I do it sit at home and talk. I am not on the front line. I dont have any risk.
    and yet. My neighbours bring me food, because I have such a hard job on the frontline. but I am not.
    the guilt is killing me. I feel useless. and that after all that learning. and still not making that virus vacine.

    1. Someti Avatar

      Reasuring people is a great task too. 😉 Don’t feel bad. If only I could reasure the people I talk to when they’re excessively worried…

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sending you hugs, ewabs2. Thanks for sharing. <3

  8. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    An extra note to my dear bloggEEs: Just so you know, I continue to moderate comments here so you may not see your comment posted if you get too far into the politics of this situation or if you express political opinions or give advice to others. I know there is so much to say right now about how this pandemic is unfolding but there are better places for those details. Here, I’m more interested in your personal feelings, thoughts, and experiences as an RFM. I want to keep this a safe nonpartisan place. I hope you understand this. You are welcome to email me directly if you have questions. Thank you.

  9. River Aaland Avatar
    River Aaland

    Why yes, you are in my head!
    A lot of self-condemnation and blame when I get paralyzed from fear and worry (about all the things you mention). A lot of “shoulding” myself. Struggles to maintain basic self-care and worry that I’m driving other people nuts with my fears and need to check in. Even though I don’t actually do very much of the latter at all.

    Hope that we learn something. That we learn we can be good and kind and that we need each other.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s important to ask for support when you need it, River. This is a good time to practice reaching out. You are very likely not “driving other people nuts.” This is a very scary time, especially if you’re on your own. <3

  10. Frances Avatar

    Great post! And I laughed at loud at the hair gel. Last week I was the same. What if my lipstick and hair goo suppliers go out of business? I’ve only got one favourite. Small things that are so personally significant.

    So many complicated thoughts and feelings. Loneliness but also feeling like I can’t return to how I was over-functioning and over-whelmed before. Things I thought were important aren’t really. How much I enjoying being at home but then I realise I can’t go anywhere and feel helpless to do anything.

    Work is as busy as ever with zoom meetings and trying to keep it all going. But life is totally changed. Getting angry at people being stupid and putting others at risk.

    Spiritual practice is a grounding life giving moment of calm each day.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’ll be interested to see if many people say that, Frances. That they’re figuring out what is really important. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

  11. itssue42 Avatar

    Oh Paula, so much what I needed to hear. Just reading your post gave me considerable peace. You are such a blessing 🙂

    Yup, inside my head big time. I was making so much progress and now POOF – nervous wreck, self-hatred, zombie behavior etc etc. You nailed it completely. Feeling like I should be happy and grateful because I live in the country, have an income etc etc

    If it helps anyone to hear the perspective of someone who was born a biologist, environmentalist, tree hugger from the moment I existed (64+ yrs ago); there is a GREAT deal of GOOD that can come of this event. We were already on the fast track to extinction within a century, and unbreathable air within 25 years. With any luck this will serve as a massive wakeup call to those in power that we must do a 180 on pollution and gross human overpopulation if our species is to survive.

    From a current situation viewpoint, this is basically a flu variant, another SARS; and should have been handled worldwide without drastic isolation which is highly destructive. But since governments weren’t prepared and hospitals weren’t adequately stocked, governmental panic took hold. The consequences are going to yield greater overall harm than if we had just treated this like other situations. Up to 750,000 people die every year from flu, 9 million starve to death, 8 million die from air pollution; and most people in the U.S. don’t even notice!! In the scheme of things, the overreaction and inconsistent reaction of governments (ours being one of the worst) has traumatized the whole populace unnecessarily and left millions in the lurch. BUT because of it, people are rediscovering what matters in life. People are learning basic hygiene that parents used to teach kids, families are bonding, people are reaching out to help each other. And the planet is healing! With any intelligence on the part of humans, history will look back at this horror as the turning point that saved our species from extinction.

    In the meantime all kinds of imaginative, kind souls are dreaming up creative ways to help a great many of the people abandoned by our government. I worry obsessively about whether some artists and other unemployed professions are even able to get adequate food.

    Thanks to you Paula, I’ll be less bonkers tomorrow thanks to your always being able to read our minds and point out what I feel like I should already know. Now maybe I can be more useful. 🙂 Hugs to all.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, itssue42. I’m not sure about your viewpoint on the social isolation part of things but I get that you are sharing your perspective based on your bio-environmentalist background. This is so complex, we are all not going to agree on what this is about and what are the best actions to take. Hoping we can all be “less bonkers” over time! 🙂

  12. Jay Avatar

    I had a severe panic when I first realised how unprepared my family is for immediate self-sufficiency. I am feeling better now, for myself and my family, knowing places are shutting down and people are staying home.
    I have family in NYC, each of them alone. So I worry about them, whether they will get sick, and what the future holds for such a grand city after the chaos takes full hold.

    I struggle to communicate these types of real concerns to my husband who doesn’t think as deeply. Don’t go out unnecessarily, don’t overshop, wash your hands, yes you did rub your lips with your finger while you were using the shared keyboard. With my rainforest mind, for the first time in my adult life, I now believe my thoughts and worries are realistic projections. I do fear for the future, the next three months, six months, year, and beyond. The world is going to be different.

    The surreal feeling of peace at home, when things are chaotic elsewhere, is helping me maintain a calm facade for my children. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the whole picture, while functioning in my microcosm. But I cannot control the madness unfolding. I can only control how I respond to things, and how I interact with others.

    Thanks for reminding me to use my superpowers 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It would be so hard not to panic around this event, particularly because so much of our future is unknown at this point. Letting yourself feel the peace at home can help us all, I believe. And certainly revving up your superpowers!! Thank you, Jay.

  13. Someti Avatar

    Oh! And I forgot reminding you that you are (and your hair is) great, Paula. ^_^

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


    2. River Aaland Avatar
      River Aaland

      Her hair is the BEST!

  14. Someti Avatar

    A little (very little, just slightly) off-topic, but I would like to share with you this video, that I found to be quite interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxAaO2rsdIs

    I think many rainforest-minded people may appreciate it. Plus: what I share this time is in English, so no need to translate it from Spanish 😉

    Anyway: thank you again, Paula, for being there. Oh! and I almost fall from my chair laughing when I read that sentence saying “You are embarrassed to admit that you are secretly hoarding hair gel because just in case your future boyfriend finally appears which is, well, near impossible considering that you aren’t leaving your house, you have to have your hair under control.”
    Because if you change “boyfriend” by “girlfriend” and tweak it just slightly, it almost me. 😂

    Now seriously… what is my Light saying? well… it is hard to hear right now. It is too noisy right now here in Spain! But I promise I’ll try to find out.
    How am I doing? I am doing well, hopefully. Thank you. And you, Paula? What about all other people usually writing comments here?
    How is this pandemic affecting me? It is affecting me as almost every one else, but I understand that the best thing I can do right now is stay at home to try to stop all this. I work from home, use the internet to buy my food and necessary stuff, etc. On the positive side, I can now do things I didn’t have time to before. I write, I compose music, I let my brain come with whatever creative stuff it wants 🤷‍♂️

    Hope you all are doing well!
    Hugs! (just virtual ones! do not worry)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I can imagine it might be hard to hear what your Light is saying in the midst of the chaos, Someti. But keep trying! It’ll be worth it. And, yes, I was hoping for laughs at the thought of me hoarding my hair gel!! 🙂 Thank you for sharing. It helps all of us to hear how we’re coping and expanding!

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