Young, Male, Gifted, And Black In Canada

Thomas is 24. Born in Canada, his parents emigrated from Cameroon. He wrote to me while reading my first book. I suggested he write and tell me about his rainforest mind. His words speak for themselves. (Note: English is not his first language.)

photo courtesy Taylor Grote, Unsplash

Intensity, Sensitivity

“…From what I’ve been told all my life, I am somehow very intense, which I don’t realize at all…I am really sensitive, but I’ve learned how and when to express it…sometimes I feel things when I should think about it a bit more and sometimes I think about it when I should feel it. So it makes my love life and friendships quite complicated…”

“I am really sensitive to sounds, noises, and touch. I am very aware of my environment. It can be very overwhelming…”

“As I was growing up, I never really thought I was different. I still don’t really think I am that much different…but one thing I remember clearly from a young age, it’s the firm belief of being an alien.”

Perfectionism, Empathy, Racism

“I have been a perfectionist for multiple reasons throughout my life…Since I was young it was a struggle for my parents. I needed the proper clothes, it needed to fit perfectly with everything. The colors, the patterns…Also perfectionism became part of proving myself to be worthy to others based on my race. I’ve always felt that if I wasn’t perfect, I wouldn’t be heard or loved…Also for my parents, it was part of what they learned from their experience as immigrants. They couldn’t be less than irreproachable all the time…It was really heavy, draining, and felt like I was wearing a mask all the time. I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I was just the perfect reflection of what people expected from me… I was able to use my empathy in order to feel and understand others and reflect what they needed…”

“…what I am trying to say is that most people don’t believe Black giftedness actually exists or that it is possible. I’ve been confronted many times by people that were blatantly shocked by who I was. Although younger it felt like a compliment, now it just makes me horribly sad. I gave up long ago about being recognized, praised, or proving myself… All I want is to raise awareness to all kinds of giftedness that Black people possess…”

I Just Get It, Schooling

“…When I asked my mother why I skipped a year in school, she explained that since I was a kid, I was always kind of too fast for my age. A bit too mature and very kind. My kindness and empathy was shut down by my father who saw it as a weakness for a man…There was a lot of bullying. I thought in my head, well, everyone must be racist, probably there were some, but I now think that a lot of people were rather intimidated by me because everything has always been easy. That is the difficulty of my life I guess. Whether in school or sports or with people, I just get it. Although school is a different challenge. I haven’t finished my undergrad degree and it’s my fifth year, lol. To my defense, I’ve been working full-time…”

Social Responsibility, Psychotherapy

“…I do believe I have a part to play in the world…I’ve learned to stay still. Accept that I can’t do everything, I can’t fight everything. I will lose some. I will win some. I will fail. I will succeed. I will be wrong. I will be right. However, most of the time, it doesn’t really matter...Luckily for me, most of the time, I want to smile, have fun, create, write, discover, read, help, pray, love, and be loved. It’s OK for me to not be perfect. I don’t believe perfection exists anymore. I do believe that there is such a thing as the truth…living by the feeling, by intuition, or by what is right at the time…”

“I believe that therapy really helped me have a more humorous perspective on perfectionism and on life. Which greatly helped. Seeing the humor, the absurdity, sometimes dropped a lot of pressure. I was able to figure out what I really wanted, without all the real or false expectations of me. I was finally seeking the truth, which is what I was idealizing since I was young, not a better world, not change the world. Rather I want people to liberate themselves, to be more themselves. I am tired of people being lost. I am tired of people who don’t dream or give up on dreaming. I am tired of seeing people miserable. I want people to be free, happy, to believe and feel love, joy, and happiness. I would like to see people less angry, hungry, or as tired as me! I really do want to contribute to a better world, a better society, the best way I can…”

Thank you, Thomas, for sharing your beautiful rainforest mind with us. I am quite certain you shall create a better world as you continue to liberate yourself to dream, to feel love, to find truth, and to be more and more yourself.


To my bloggEEs: What parts of what Thomas is saying do you relate to? Have you had to deal with racism? What is it like to be gifted in your country? Thank you for sharing. Your comments add so much, as you know! Oh, and, did you know I have an Instagram account? I don’t post often but I’m thinking I may start to make short videos and post them there. Check it out! There is a video there now. And thank you so very much to Thomas.

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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.

12 responses to “Young, Male, Gifted, And Black In Canada”

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  1. Gifted In Serbia | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] have been from RFMs in Finland, Spain, Brazil, Malaysia, Belgium, Chile, Lebanon, Netherlands, Canada (via Cameroon), Portugal, Germany, and India. I would love to hear from those of you in countries not yet on this […]

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  3. davidatqcm Avatar

    Thanks Tom

  4. cmd1122 Avatar

    Thank you so much, Thomas, for sharing such deep experiences and reflections with us all–and thank you Paula for featuring them so well. How you painted your experiences is quite beautiful. I can identify with just about everything you wrote! I am happy to hear that you have been taking time to reflect; this is challenging to unpack (I am still trying at 30…it is not something you can easily do alone!). Congratulations on pulling off a full-time job while studying (and the average student takes 5 yrs to do their undergrad in Canada these days and most don’t work full-time!). Canada is a bizarre place with a lot of ‘under the rug’ racism that 2020 started to bring out—I am very sorry that you have experienced so much of it in this ‘mosaic’ of a country. I don’t have the language barrier that you and your family had/have, nor the harsh racism. Did you grow up speaking French and/or other languages (given the connection to Cameroon)?

    I immigrated to Canada 18 years ago and I am still considered a ‘visible minority’ (hate that term!). I was ‘lucky’ to learn English growing up until age 11 in a tiny British colony, before moving to Canada; we were already a minority there. Thanks to my parents’ hard work, I was lucky to attend good ‘British tradition’ schools where many peers were from much higher socioeconomic backgrounds. Did your parents let you freely choose what you wanted to study? Were your parents stricter than those of most of your peers? (That was a factor in why I studied more than my peers, but I chose to fill my non-class time hours being ‘productive’ and learning or making crafts to sell, or babysitting to earn money, or volunteering. I was not interested in pop culture, but there wasn’t time for it).

    Teachers would commend me for things that were stupidly easy; it seemed insulting, but I think they were serious. I tried so hard to be a grateful immigrant and complete high school by merit alone, and then win a scholarship to university. I couldn’t let my family down (parents, grandparents and the memories they shared of their parents…). Last night I tutored a 17-year-old cousin via WhatsApp for her Spanish class; she is in the place we moved from. I charge a lot for tutoring, but I tutored her as part of the free family deal; it was the first time she finally asked for help and I will help her again tomorrow, and whenever she needs it. Her parents work so hard to get by; her aunt has long been paying her school fees and a private tutor is out of the question. I want my cousin to get a scholarship for university so she can study her dream program, as her parents never had the chance to study.

    Being an immigrant was (is) exhausting. I still feel like an alien at age 30. I doubt you will ever lose the immigrant drive—it sounds like you will always be grateful for the chances you have had so far. Through this you have learned to put yourself in the shoes of others. I love what you wrote: “the truth…living by the feeling, by intuition, or by what is right at the time…”. Humour sure helps. I also want people to liberate themselves (I am now a teacher). But I do want to change the world; we need systemic changes so that people aren’t forced to fit into boxes and subjected to so much trauma in childhood and life, so that they won’t have given up on dreaming by the time they finish high school, so that they will be free to dream and not burdened by student loans from before their pre-frontal cortex has ever finished developing…

    Onwards we go. Take care Thomas, and everyone else. COVID-19 is here to stay for a good while.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing some of your story, cmd1122. I’m sure it will be reassuring for Thomas and many others. (Things you found “stupidly easy” probably were not easy for others. That’s giftedness. I’m guessing your teachers were sincere.)

  5. Someti Avatar

    Nice post Paula and Thomas! I can feel what Thomas express through this article, I am glad to “know” him a little bit. Thomas: I wish you all the best in life, I am sure you will succeed. You seem a courageous young man.

    There is one thing that I found particularly hard here: “[…] people not believing that Black giftedness exists […]”. It is certainly sad to read something like that. I think I can feel his loneliness. I wish to send him a word of courage for him to feel less lonely. Giftedness exists in all parts of the world. In particular, you can read something interesting here:

    I do not know if you already know it. And I am not sure if the link works for you, it is a book whose title is “Giftedness from an Indigenous Perspective” (ISBN: 9780980844818). There are studies of giftedness in Mäori, Navajo and Australian-Aboriginal cultures. I know it is very unrelated to this post and that it is very Australian-centered (with a few exceptions), but it clearly shows that giftedness is everywhere where humans are.
    Regards from Spain!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the link, Someti. I’m guessing that readers will find it fascinating and informative.

    2. cmd1122 Avatar

      Gracias, Someti. I look forward to reading the article soon, and that book. 🙂

  6. Julie Cumbie Avatar
    Julie Cumbie

    I really enjoyed Thomas’s post. I could relate on so many levels. For such a young man, he appears to have a firm grasp on what he wants from life and seems very confident is knowing who he is. What a fabulous example of walking that tight rope of being hopeful and idealistic with facing the current condition. This article made me smile. Wishing Thomas love, peace, and every success and joy life has to offer. I am certain he’ll make a tremendous, positive impact, no matter what he sets his beautiful, sensitive mind on.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Appreciate hearing from you, Julie.

  7. River Aaland Avatar
    River Aaland

    Wow thank you Thomas! What a beautiful and necessary view of the world/humanity! We need bright stars like you now more than ever and I’m so glad that you know your worth. 💙

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, River.