“If I Admit I Am Gifted, I Will Have To Do Something Great” (A Rainforest Mind In Austria)

Has this crossed your mind? If you are gifted, you need to do something great? Create a better world? Well. I am here to tell you that it is sort of true. Sorry. But it does not have to be insanely great. It can just be kinda great. Or somewhat great. Or relatively great. Or great-ish.

Before you get all freaked out on me, let me explain.

I was talking with a wonderful woman in Austria the other day. She was having a hard time acknowledging her giftedness. Like many of you, she kind of garbled the word when she said it. Mggifffttd. Even though she found my quiz to be incredibly revealing and she scored extremely high on the test in the book The Gifted Adult, she was still not sure.

(photo courtesy of Alina Sofia, Unsplash)

But I saw so many signs. Here they are:

~ Ava is an electrical engineer and teaches engineering students. Her students do not always appreciate her. She is assuming they are as capable as she is. She doesn’t realize that what is common sense to her, may actually be confusing to them. They may need her to slow down and repeat her explanations more than once.

~ Ava spends extra time giving her students detailed feedback about assignments. She is particularly conscientious and empathetic.

~ She is an avid reader and researcher and has so many interests, she is often overwhelmed. Ava found me through an article I wrote on Emilie Wapnick’s site, the Puttyverse. She has since joined their community of multipotentialites to get support for managing her interests and choosing directions.

~ One of Ava’s favorite things to do is explore AI. On her own. For fun. To reassure her, I told her that the definition of fun for an RFM is not the same as for the masses. She was also learning Sanskrit in her spare time and had an emotional response to the beauty of robotic theory.

Have I convinced you yet that Ava is Mggiffttd? Have I convinced Ava?

There’s more.

~ Ava does not like small talk. She told me she is so relieved that when she is at the hair dresser, she can read instead of chatting about the latest neighborhood scandal.

~ Off and on throughout her life, she has been called arrogant.

~ Ava loved her seventh grade math teacher who appreciated her advanced abilities and helped her enroll at the university for math classes.

~ Colleagues talk to her and repeat themselves because they think she is not understanding them. Sure they are speaking in her non-native tongue but what is actually happening is she is thinking ahead of them and of the implications of what they are saying.

~ Ava finishes an assignment at work that is supposed to last 8 hours in 6. She feels guilty if she spends the rest of the time doing something for herself.

There is plenty of evidence, then, that Ava has a rainforest mind. Right?

But then, in our latest conversation, Ava shared her dilemma. She admitted she might still be denying her giftedness because she believes she would have to achieve eminence or win a Pulitzer or change the world if she was so smart. And that pressure to achieve would be just too much to bear.


Of course.

Pressure to achieve. Pressure to live up to your potential. Pressure to win, to be the smartest one, to know it all. To make a difference on the planet.

The pressure is real. If you are so smart, they say, why aren’t you rich, famous, inventing the next iPhone, and solving homelessness, pandemics, racism, and the climate crisis?

No wonder Ava is not sure she is gifted.

So here is what I think.

You were born with a rainforest mind for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. And then live out that purpose in the best way you can.

How? What activities, skills, and topics open your heart and bring your life meaning, fulfillment, and maybe even joy? You may need to experiment and explore to answer this. It could take some time because there are so many things. That’s OK. Maybe environmental law? Climate science? AI Ethics? Medical intuition? ArtPoetryMusic? Dance therapy? Energy healing? Politics? Use that super creative brain of yours to turn them into a career path(s) or hobbies or nonprofits or podcasts or books or a political campaign or blog or parenthood or food cart or a unique-to-your-quirky-self side hustle.

Be sure to include ‘spread more love’ in your mission statement.

And maybe it is as simple as that. You were born to spread more love.

So do it. And be gifted.


To my bloggEEs: What thoughts, feelings, questions, and inspirations does this post stir up? I so appreciate all of you. And thank you to Ava for sharing herself with us.

(Note: In case you missed it, I am linking here to a new experimental project of mine. I call it Sound Memes for Your Rainforest Mind. You might say this project is a glimpse into my exploration of singing and spirituality. The description on the site will tell you more. This project also might inspire you to take your own leap into that thing you have been avoiding for years for fear of being seen as a teensy weensy bit beyond the pale. Or extremely outlier-ish. Or even weirder than everyone thought. OK? Do it. Be gifted.)

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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.

35 responses to ““If I Admit I Am Gifted, I Will Have To Do Something Great” (A Rainforest Mind In Austria)”

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  3. Marie Lamb Avatar
    Marie Lamb

    So very true, and managing your interests, and the ‘puddleduck’ parable vs practicality… ie: I know that there are ‘high level college material’ interests I have that there is no way anyone I know can relate to, and feel I will never make much progress in because it is books and youtubes and khan academy that, logically, has no practicality to my actual life at all…. like Beatrix Potter’s puddleduck holding the book under her arm but not knowing how to read, I can read the books but still feel I never touch the information and processes that I am meant to. So I try to put it on a shelf, and it comes at me large as life in the middle of the night, in dreams, and waking up with images, charts, words… my brain working overdrive since I did not allow it to earlier. Then I am up looking up chemistry formulas, math, wikipedia skating, trying to take my mind off of it with ten different hobbies etc… and that works, for a while. Fast forward always to me standing in the middle of my day, making ends meet, smack dab in the middle of that practicality pool where I should be – and part of me is staring across that chasm between here and there – both me – and whispering ‘How did I get here? How am I this.. whatever I am?’ Puttyverse helped some a few years back, as well – just knowing there are so many others out there, and your blog, and a few other wonderful groups. I always feel like – mentally, I am Siamese twins, trying to walk in both directions at once.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I loved reading this, Marie. Glad you are here. <3

  4. j'adore champagne Avatar
    j’adore champagne

    I like that there might be someone who could help one narrow down possibilities. I thought it was normal to be interested in lots of things. Then I learned in the Corporate world that it not true. But it didn’t stop me from being interested in them and even finding ways that things connected and related to each other. Well- THAT didn’t always go over well.
    I wondered if others were and felt similar.
    It’s a lifelong journey to learn how to be this way.

    I do hope you can stay cool in the brutal heat you are experiencing.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Certainly the journey is ongoing! Lifelong. And, yeah, this heat in the Pacific NW, here in the US is unprecedented. These climate issues are part of what creates the urgency in me to help RFMs find their paths to purpose and influence!

      1. j'adore champagne Avatar
        j’adore champagne

        You have helped me with your blog. I am doing a post grad law certificate in Financial Services Compliance. I’ve 20+ year of experience but need to feel more engaged. I’m focusing on anti money laundering and the related issue- human trafficking and modern slavery. You have helped me understand that I HAVE to care deeply about what I do. Xx

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Wow! That sounds amazing! Thank you for letting us know.

  5. Gail Post Avatar
    Gail Post

    Great points, Paula. Once the sense of pressure is removed, gifted people can appreciate their “gifts” and use them for the greater good.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Gail. I’m sure that pressure is tricky for so many. And then figuring out what to do. So complicated! But so important to talk about. 🙂

  6. Stef Avatar

    Paula, my website is DESPERATELY in need of updating, so people shouldn’t judge…but it’s http://www.stephanietolan.com. Welcome to the Ark and Flight of the Raven are still in print and available from Amazon, and I am finally working on the third book of the series–for the children or even grandchildren of the first readers of Ark. Several people who’ve read or reread Ark and Raven recently have said they are scarily connected to the present–Yes. Part of the magic of fiction writing…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Stef. No judgement! (or is it judgment?)

      1. Stef Avatar

        No “e.” (yes, I was briefly an English teacher). 😛

        One can go to Amazon and enter “Stephanie S. Tolan” as author and find both Ark and Raven. They’re pushing Kindle editions, but if the actual books are wanted, you can click on Paperbacks. If you don’t see those two titles with “matching” paperback covers, they are the older editions, but the same books. Earlier editions are nearly out of stock. Others of my books are there also, in paper or as Kindles… It seems better to enter my name than to enter titles, however…the titles come up under my name.

  7. Jen Merrill Avatar
    Jen Merrill

    Oh Paula I love this. <3
    The focus on eminence being the only "proof" of giftedness has angered me for years. We are so much more than we accomplish! And what if we accomplish something wonderful and eminent in one area and then stop? Are we then no longer gifted?
    And Ava sounds like a fascinating person, someone I'd enjoy. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You would definitely enjoy Ava, Jen. And she would enjoy, you, too. I know I do! 🙂

  8. Stef Avatar

    When learning about our son’s giftedness, my husband’s mother said she wasn’t surprised because HE had had the highest IQ score of anyone in his school. He hadn’t known, of course, because she was warned never to tell him–he even thought the special experimental school he was sent to (had to go on a trolley in those days) was for “bad kids.” His question when he learned was “Then why haven’t I done more with my life?” [He had done a lot!] I would say these days that we are who we were meant to be, and it’s worth looking for what gives us joy. Even if that changes from year to year or decade to decade.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, using “what gives us joy” as a way to find our path(s), makes so much sense, Stef. Speaking of that, would you be willing to share a link to your website or your books here? I still remember reading Welcome to the Ark many years ago and loving it! My readers may want to find out more about you, being a long time specialist in giftedness.

      1. Kristen Shields Avatar
        Kristen Shields

        This is the Stephanie that wrote that fabulous book? Stephanie, you have no idea how much that rocked my world, and still does. I recommend it to so many people. I love ALL your books, for what that’s worth, but that one was especially, well, special … thank you for that gift to the world. You have helped so many! (As have you, Paula!)

  9. Karli Avatar

    Yes, I do feel pressured to achieve and strive for great things; to change the world somehow. Yet, I am a bit behind in my life, still in university, and not entirely sure what I want to do to make a difference, but I think I feel culturally pressured to make great strides, especially in our competitive society. I am also introverted and have a difficult time socialising and do not always want to stand out in order to make a difference. I also have a lot of family members that are driven through entrepreneurship and finance, and I don’t feel like I can share that kind of driven change. Yet, I would like to embark on starting a literary podcast after university, and maybe get involved with a non-profit board for a social/environmental cause – but going to take it slowly and one step at a time. I think a lack of confidence impedes it for me at times, but slowly working on it. Nice post, as always!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think it comes down to that question, what does your heart tell you to do? How do you spread more love? Thanks, Karli.

  10. laneyp Avatar

    As always, thank so much for clearly laying out some of the challenges of being a grown-up gifted person! When you are in school, there’s an easy benchmark of achievement. You can immediately tell how well you are doing by the grades you get and your skills compared to the skills of those around you, which leads you to believe that the correct benchmark for your “success” must be achievement. Life is so much more complex than that, especially for gifted minds! It took me a good 15 years to slowly and clearly elucidate what success is to me and not use the accomplishments of my peers or of my predecessors to define me. And of course, we’re all still a WIP! <3 <3 <3

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So important, laneyp, to decide what success and achievement are for you personally. Thank you for sharing.

  11. ewabs2 Avatar

    I always find this a hard one. why? why would I have to do something great? why can I not just live my life the best way for me and forget about greatness, making a contribution, even making the world a slightly better place.
    Why can’t I just be selfish and do what I want.

    And then I start thinking and also remebering and it turns out, I do constantly help people. as a doctor but also just as a person. is it greatness to point someone to the right adres? no not really, but making sure someone has a fun day without stress because they where at the wrong place, yeah that already counts.
    and I like helping people. is that a great thing? helping people navigate the medical world? and how to deal with health issues and work? and anoying managers? does that already count as a great thing?
    I feel as if it doesnt. you know, it isnt like I cured cancer. I just help people with cancer keep their jobs, I dont even do the real medical stuff. I just, and I feel that is the hard word, just, it is a just, not a big thing. not to me at least.

    every now and then I meet one of the people I helped years ago. and they are always so glad to see me and tell me how well they are doing and how much I helped them. I feel as if I just did my job.

    so hard one.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for writing, ewabs2. I know this post will bring up some questions and emotions! Like, as you ask, what is greatness? How do we define it? Is helping people enough? How? What do we do that makes the world a better place? Kindness? Compassion? Sometimes I explain it like, well, what is your mission here on earth? Maybe it’s raising healthy empathetic children. Lots of questions. Appreciate hearing your thoughts.

  12. elinetb Avatar

    Unfortunately I currently experience my RFM traits more as obstacles to greatness. I feel like I am contributing less to the world than the average person, rather than more. These RFM obstacles include mental health, unrealistic expectations, communication difficulties, not being understood by most. Why have I been given all these abilities when I cannot use them and I am just struggling to survive? This makes me feel like such a failure sometimes…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      There may be many reasons you are struggling, elinetb. I write this blog and my books because I have run into so many RFMs who are not feeling successful or not achieving like they think they should. So you are certainly not alone. Hopefully this blog and my books will help you see what is contributing to your difficulties. If you are dealing with trauma or some other form of early childhood abuse, looking for a good therapist might help. Sometimes we can’t figure these things out for ourselves. There is a list of practitioners here: https://www.sengifted.org/providers And if you are outside of the US, I have a short list of therapists. You can email me and I’ll send you the list. <3

      1. elinetb Avatar

        Thank you Paula. Yes therapy is great advice. I have just recently started and I really hope it will bring some breakthrough!

        I think the encouragement to do great things in life can be a sensitive topic, especially for ‘gifted’ people. I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in society nowadays I already sense so much pressure on young people especially to achieve, to be ‘seen’ and make your life count in some way. And then as a gifted person the expectations are at least twice as high. When all throughout high school you are top of the class and at the end you receive an award for ‘most promising student’ and people keep telling you you must have a great calling to be blessed with so many talents, it creates this HUGE burden of responsibility. You are not allowed to ‘waste’ your amazing potential.

        But what if I’m not that great in reality? Then I’ll spend my whole life disappointing myself and feeling like I’m not measuring up to what everyone expected.

        I’m a bit tired of it all. And with the increasing numbers of burnouts I expect I’m not the only one.. I wish life was a bit simpler and we would spend more time just ‘being’ and ‘loving’ and ‘enjoying’.

        I also wonder whether it is realistic to expect more greatness from RFMs. More ‘differentness’ maybe yes, but most often it’s only after finding the right tribe and platform and opportunities that our gifts translate into greatness. And I think that holds true for all people, not just those identified as gifted.

        Maybe it’s like those computer games where you can choose between easy to play allround characters, or the really special ones that are potentially a lot better but require a lot of skill to be able to play.. 🙂 I suspect that for most RFMs it’s much harder than average to find their sweetspot and a place to belong in life, but for the few that do, they will be able to create something extraordinary.

        I hope we can help all people in the world to flourish and not by putting a burden of expectation on them, but by calling out the gold that is within each unique human being. <3

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Yes, yes, yes. “…calling out the gold that is within each unique human being.” I’m glad to hear you are in therapy, elinetb. If your counselor needs help understanding your rainforest mind, you can always recommend my blog/books!

          1. elinetb Avatar

            I think my counselor understands : ) She is not specialized in giftedness but she has read enough on the topic to know the traits. And more importantly, she is intelligent and sensitive enough to connect with my thought processes and her attitude is open and curious and really partnering with me in discovery and also letting me join in on the therapy method so I can contribute my strengths of self-awareness and analysis instead of her doing all the work. I guess I need that autonomy and room to express my own ideas 😉 (there’s this great Dutch word ‘eigenwijs’, which I am). Of course she uses her experience to challenge them when needed.

            I’m glad to have found the right help, and also glad to have found your blog ❤️

            Oh and I’m just curious: do you have any personal favorite therapy methods? 😊 I am enjoying the Malan triangles because I love patterns and connecting all the dots and also the visual representation.

            1. Paula Prober Avatar
              Paula Prober

              You have described a great counselor, elinetb! Actually, I haven’t heard about the Malan triangles! I will look them up. I use a combination of internal family systems therapy, somatic experiencing, and psychodynamic. (family of origin) With, of course, building a safe relationship/container.

              1. elinetb Avatar

                I think the triangles trend to be used in psychodynamic. This is a great in depth video: https://youtu.be/o0ntwuObrnI

                The other ones you mention sound interesting as well, I’ll look them up out of curiosity 🙂

  13. Lieke Avatar

    ‘Colleagues talk to her and repeat themselves because they think she is not understanding them. ’ Yes, this happens to me all the time! When I am in a group and ask something about a topic the others talked about, they will smile kindly and repeat it but in different words. It is not that I didn’t understand them. I just want to stimulate their thought process. Sometimes I feel so stupid for asking things that seem to be explained already. They just totally miss that my question had a deeper level.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It must be so frustrating to want to have a deeper discussion and be misinterpreted. Thank you for sharing, Lieke.

  14. hksounds Avatar

    Thanks for this interesting post. “If you are gifted, you need to do something great?” Yes. I think it is true. When you are gifted, and have advanced levels of awareness and insight and knowledge, then you recognize that you do have to, and will, do whatever you can to reach towards whatever/wherever your greatness lies. And yes, you may find many different places for that effort as you live, learn and develop new interests. The search is on-going; it cannot be judged as some arbitrary point along the way. And greatness is not to be conflated with acclaim.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, important to separate your capacity to make a contribution from whether or not you receive acclaim. Thanks, hksounds.

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