You Agree, You Are Gifted — Now What?

I rant a lot about how you need to recognize you have a rainforest mind so you can find greater self-acceptance, self-confidence, and move ahead into your fulfilling, meaningful, creative life. Right? But what if you already know you are gifted? What then?

A blog reader put it this way:

(photo from Unsplash)

“…NOW WHAT? What do I do with that knowledge? How do I find more/others (friends?)? How do I honor this part of myself without making other people feel awkward (without making myself feel awkward)? How do I trust that my perspective is wanted/needed when the messages I often got were that I was too much? How do I stay open to my gifts when they don’t result in actual success, but are often a source of pain and indecision and overwhelm?…”

What a great bunch of questions. Here are my answers:

What do I do with that knowledge?

You use it to finally make sense of and love the complicated jungle of fabuliciousness that is you.

How do I find more/others (friends)?

Gifted folks are hard to find. And even when you find one, they may not be quite right for you. I have written about it here. And here. One basic strategy: Take what you know about rainforest-mindedness and look for others while doing things you love. Use your intuition to sniff out the gifted souls. Then take the brave step of introducing yourself and asking them to coffee or tea or to the library. If they look at you like you are out of your mind, then move on, giving yourself credit for your courage and knowing it is sad for them that they will never know the amazing you, and they must be a muggle disguised as a wizard. If they say, yes, you still may need to court them for a while if they have busy lives. But it will be worth it if they are a good catch. Eventually, they will thank you for it. One way to improve the odds of finding someone is to start or join a Silent Book Club. Reading, of course, is likely to attract many RFMs which will make your job much easier. It is never too late to find your besties.

How do I honor this part of myself without making other people (and myself) feel awkward?

You honor yourself by learning to trust yourself, no matter what others think, and regardless of any looming imaginary or real failures. Or potential successes. That said, you will need to be cautious when talking about giftedness. Using the G word could trigger resentment, ridicule, or rejection. Using the rainforest metaphor when explaining who you are, might make it easier, especially if you use my quiz as a way to add some humor. But even that requires some finesse. One approach would be to avoid using any label and just talk about your traits. In other words, talk about how you are super analytical, a divergent thinker, a lover of learning so many things, and so on. Sharing who you truly are with close friends and caring family is important. It just takes some delicate navigation. Then again, when you find like minds, little or no finesse is required.

How do I trust that my perspective is wanted/needed when the messages I often got were that I was too much?

It depends on the circumstances. You will probably need to evaluate each particular situation for the other person’s readiness for your perspective. The reality is, with advanced intelligence, others may not be able to keep up with you or even understand the depth or the complexity of what you are sharing. This may be the too muchness they are referring to. It is not your fault. You may need to ask if they want to hear your thoughts. Use your intuition to decide if the timing is right. Then again, if you were told you were too much by dysfunctional family members and you are now living with people who know and appreciate you, it is likely you can be yourself with abandon.

How do I stay open to my gifts when they don’t result in actual success, but are often a source of pain and indecision and overwhelm?

Take plenty of time for introspection to examine and heal the pain. Journaling and therapy might help, along with time in nature and a spiritual practice. With indecision, you may need to work on perfectionism and self-doubt but also give yourself credit for your creative mind that comes up with so many possibilities. Learning to trust your intuition helps with indecision. For the overwhelm, start a regular self-soothing or meditation practice. Recognize your sensitivities as strengths, because they are.

And, well. I will embrace your giftedness, your complicated jungle of fabuliciousness, until you can. OK?


To my bloggEEs: Please share your thoughts, feelings, and questions. You know how much your comments enrich this blog. Much love to you all. And thank you to the bloggEE who posed these questions!

(Note: If you are feeling anxious about the upcoming holiday season, here and here are my favorite posts. Read them and know you are not alone!)

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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.

25 responses to “You Agree, You Are Gifted — Now What?”

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  1. Overexcitability – Matt Singley

    […] early in life, although I do not care for that term (I recently came across the term “Rainforest Mind” and although it’s a bit of a mouthful, feels better to me). It’s funny how it […]

  2. yvonnejudge Avatar

    I am a psychotherapist as well and was excited when a colleague showed me your blog. It’s wonderful to see giftedness described in this way. I can’t wait to learn more.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome! Glad to have you here, yvonnejudge!

  3. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    My personal thoughts on how I’m living with Kates‘s questions.

    New Knowledge?
    Update & revise my frame of reference. When new information changes everything, then I need to change everything.

    Finding Others?
    My unique brain wiring exists at the edge. In spectrums it’s beyond the visible. In bell curves it’s at the rim. Living in a low population density rural area I’m not likely to find similar. A different kind of creative solution is necessary. And that remains of work in process.

    Honor vs. Awkward?
    Kindness & Questions. When combined, both create space for self and other.

    Too Much?
    Compound words following over- or overly are features not bugs. Preemptive honest descriptions of self positively alter expectations in others. So, complaints about when I’m over(fill-in-the-blank) are simply other’s flawed observations about my process to accomplish outcomes they desire. Sausage making metaphors apply.

    Suspend judgment, perhaps for decades. I once blurted out what I was convinced was a lie, but it turned out to be prophetic. 15 years later, upon examination, it was one of the most honest things I had ever said in my life.

    Those are the brief strategies by which I am approaching–What Now?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the strategies, M.J! Love the “features not bugs.” 🙂

  4. Barbara Avatar

    I’ve got low level SADS, too.
    I got the full-spectrum bulb for my desk lamp at work and at home, plus I take the liquid Vitamin D in double the “suggested dose” on the back of the dropper bottle. It keeps me balanced through the winter until spring comes again.

    Plus? I CELEBRATE winter solstice. The sun is coming BACK and I am THERE FOR IT. Somehow, knowing the days are getting longer again helps, too.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Helpful suggestions! Thank you, Barbara.

  5. itssue42 Avatar

    Sorry, more accurate if I had said that I have often had to deal with those high IQ folks who aren’t kind in one of my of work, i.e. IT. I’ve met so very many ‘average Joe’ people who are automatically compassionate. Look at the huge numbers that rush in to help when a disaster occurs — whether it’s their neighbor or a city halfway across the country or the planet. So, I’ve ended up, from my observations, feeling like high IQ definitely isn’t strongly correlated to compassion, in my experience and observation of the world. Just have met and worked with a lot of high IQ people in my life and never yet feel like I’ve encountered an RFM, though I know they can be hard to spot if they’re laying low. I tried laying low in life, but can’t help it; when there’s a new direction or a possible solution that people are missing, I couldn’t help but speak up. Every RFM knows how well that tends to go in the corporate world …

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for clarifying, Sue. I have wondered where to put someone in the IT world who is clearly brilliant at IT but maybe not in other areas. Are some on the autism spectrum? I have heard the stories of how women in the IT field can be mistreated by the men. Not a lot of empathy there it seems? So, perhaps there are not many RFMs who choose tech or the corporate world? Someone told me that there isn’t a lot of room in the corporate world for divergent thinkers. All of this is speculation on my part and probably too generalized. For example, i had a wonderfully rainforest male client who worked in the IT field, interestingly, with a nonprofit. So, well, it’s a conundrum! All that said, I hope you will let us know when you meet some RFMs who are just the right fit for you!!

      1. itssue42 Avatar

        re: autism & IT – someone (male) I’ve been close to for decades is definitely ‘autism spectrum’, has tried the occasional therapist but they don’t ever seem to really understand his quirks. IT loves him, he’s still working full-time at 76 and has recently been given a signed contract to receive a huge bonus if he’ll stay another 4 years. Being how he is, he doesn’t socialize, just works tirelessly, ignores office politics, never gets ruffled by corporate antics; so he’s the ‘go-to’ guy for everyone. He works remotely, I doubt he could tolerate an office environment. But definitely certain types of autism fit in really well in IT.
        And yes, it’s taken for granted that men give women s**t in IT & are incredibly misogynistic; at least all the places I’ve worked. IT in academic settings isn’t like that, and I’m sure there are some great corporations to work for…
        But also for me, quintessential RFM, IT is not at all something I love, it pays well and it exercises my brain — that’s the only reason I do it. I spent years as a wildlife biologist and oftentimes over the years I’ve taken up other activities in addition to, or in between IT. I don’t think IT would be a satisfying place for an RFM if you were just doing that full time, all the time.
        Not sure if that’s useful personal experience commentary or not, but I’ve been playing around in IT for almost 40 years and am finishing MS in data analytics next year looking for something more challenging — still hoping to help save people from themselves 🙂 I plan to see what I can accomplish, stash a bunch of bucks and then walk away from IT again in 5-10 years and pursue other directions. Good brain exercise, but no heart to IT work; at least not for corporations. Hoping to work with Earthjustice or some group like that starting next year; I don’t want to go back to corporations, and their for-profit cutthroat world.
        Sorry, that’s a lot of rambling, no need to post this unless you think others might find interesting.

  6. Mary Frances Sullivan Avatar
    Mary Frances Sullivan

    I have not found it difficult to find other gifted/ talented people in my life. The challenge is to get over myself and realize that “gifted” means I didn’t do anything to earn my natural powers and I didn’t have to work for them, or learn my skills like others who struggle with what comes naturally to me.
    When I can open myself to appreciation of others, gifted or not, and not focus on how “special ” I am, I find support and build community rather than engendering envy and competition.
    My daughter’s teacher in elementary school told her how “special” she was because her I.Q. was over 140, so she announced to me that her teacher said she was, “Probably even smarter than her parents at 7 years of age and one of the two smartest kids in her class”.
    “So, what did you do to earn that?”
    “And how does it make you feel?”
    “Lonesome”, she replied.
    “Show your gifts by using them to help yourself and others and you won’t have to brag and make others feel badly about themselves. Lift others up, rather than putting yourself on a pedestal.”
    The person who came up with “Indigo Children” did them few favors a generation ago: suddenly, the intake interviews for the nonprofit parent/ teacher cooperative where I was the Academic Administrator included practically whispered inquiries of “Do you know about the new “Indigo Children?” “I think we may have one, what do we do?”
    “First of all, don’t tell them. Second, they are nothing new. Third, I have already raised three that fit the criteria to adulthood. Fourth, they aren’t as rare as the author makes out, (True for Rainforest People in my experience as well), so they will have peers!”

    I like your advice to find, “the people you can join who are making a difference, even if it seems small” A rising tide lifts all boats!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad it has not been hard for you to find other rainforest minds, Mary. My experience with RFMs here and in my practice is that they do not think they are special. Often, it’s quite the opposite. They are often quite self-critical. But I know there are folks that you describe as well, people who, like your daughter’s teacher, put an emphasis on IQ and specialness and who boast about their intelligence. In my experience, though, RFMs are rare and hard to find. In the data on giftedness in children, the numbers say they are 3-5% of the population. (I think this is based on an IQ of 130 and above.) I haven’t read about Indigo children so am not clear about who they are. Thank you for sharing.

      1. itssue42 Avatar

        High IQ alone doesn’t seem to make for a rainforest mind though. It can often make for selfish, short-sighted bigots. Don’t know if there’s anecdotal stats for this, but seems like although RFMs are by nature gifted, not that large a portion of gifted people are RFMs ?

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          I don’t think it’s fair to say that high IQ often makes selfish short-sighted bigots, Sue. That might be in line with the mythology that highly intelligent people are all arrogant know-it-alls Right? Of course there are bigots at all levels. And I think you are saying that just having a high IQ is not enough to create a compassionate person? The larger point you are making, that RFMs are gifted and highly sensitive and empathetic is true in my experience. It’s how I define RFM. And not all gifted folks are RFMs for sure. I don’t know the percentages, though. Perhaps my experience is skewed because the people I see are wanting to examine themselves so they are more unique, more sensitive?? I don’t know. Make sense?

  7. itssue42 Avatar

    Sort of on the topic of staying open to gifts, and also finding others like you…. How on earth are we supposed to survive and thrive on a planet that seems more and more to be peopled by mindless, frightened, violent, selfish creatures that call themselves humans? Especially when light levels are low (yeah I’m definitely a daylight/sun flower, and really droop when it seems like it gets dark almost right after you get up and get going with your day.)
    I end up so weary and feeling so inadequate that I cannot truthfully make a difference in the survival of this truly incredible planet and its myriad of creatures, because it is overrun by billions of creatures that I don’t even think of as human any more. No, not everybody, not by a long shot, but way too many of them.
    How does a person find peace with that, and find inclusion and feel like they’re somehow making a true positive difference? Are we just wise to try to wear blinders and improve our little pocket of the planet? I really prefer, and try, to be optimistic but right now….. looking at all the unnecessary misery that those “creatures” are causing … Really desperately want to see entire faces again, and go to assorted meetings, group activities etc… Can’t even go Down Under where summer is on the way because they wisely aren’t allowing us into their country right now … either gotta laugh or cry or get hardened or ….

    Am falling back into the ‘what is wrong with me?’ mode that I’ve made so much progress shaking.
    Sorry to fuss, just hoping someone can smack me with some advice that’ll help 🙂 And yes, I do great with bluntness, often helps me see what I’m doing “wrong” and get my act together. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      These are tough times for sure, Sue. One idea is to think about what you have control over. If you tend to fall back into self-criticism, that is a great place to start, How do you find strength and energy to have self-compassion? What are those practices? Do them. What do you need to keep your mood elevated during the darker months? What are the actions you can take to impact the planet? Who are the people you can join who are making a difference, even if it seems small? You can do this, Sue!!

      1. itssue42 Avatar

        Thanks for reaching out. 🙂 I’m trying, and I’ve still got my 17-yr old beagle cheering the world on. Fortunately he thinks freezing temperatures are great fun & very energizing; otherwise I’d hide indoors too much, and I’m always happiest when I’m outside and can feel the biological webs vibrating.

        Helps if I stop reading the “news” and the latest “statistics”. And books are a great distraction – picked up Hound of the Baskervilles to reread last night, mostly randomly – hadn’t read it in decades. When we get out of our own way, and smack the pity party out of us through sheer stubborness, that pushes us into the light. 🙂
        Thank you so much for being there for all of us; it makes a huge huge difference.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober


  8. yesiamrevolting Avatar

    Thank you Paula. I have so many regrets about my life, at 63. I don’t know how many years I have left, but none of us do. I’m grateful that I can move forward and enjoy the gifts I have. One of them is writing. You have helped me clarify that it is important to me to pursue this, even though every time I’ve pursued it I’ve been published and won awards and subsequently stopped. I’m brave enough now to write and, perhaps someday, be published again. Thank you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So happy you are writing again!

    2. Maureen Helen Avatar
      Maureen Helen

      Fabulous you are writing again. I’m 84, and my first book (part of a PhD thesis) was published the year after I completed my doctorate when I was 69. Then I remarried. And lost my writing confidence. I’m playing on the edges of writing again and would like to connect with someone like you who feels like part of my tribe.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Keep writing, Maureen!! 84 is the new 64!

  9. hksounds Avatar

    You are so right that finding other gifted, and compatible, folks is really a challenge and sometimes, it can seem impossible. What then, besides continuing to look? Maybe just accepting they aren’t out there anywhere near where you are and just enjoy living and learning on your own, especially about the natural world with its endless diversity and unexplored pathways. At least, that is where I am right now. It’s sort of like looking through a telescope at a distant planet, one that some people claim can be reached, and sometimes wishing you were on it. Or you can decide that since you are not on it and don’t know how to get there, you might as well do the best you can right where you are, on your own.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I wonder if it’s possible to do both, hksounds. To deeply enjoy your capacity to connect with nature and your curiosity for the unexplored and also stay open to finding another person who is compatible. It could be that they are not near you but if you are ok with using the internet, it’s possible to find other RFMs that way. It might be extra hard if you’re not interested in social media or finding groups via Zoom or Facebook/Instagram. All that said, it sounds like you find a very deep connection in the natural world.

  10. cathytea Avatar

    This kind of specific information is so useful! Thank you!

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