How Do I Know You Are Gifted?

You say you are not gifted. I understand. You do not fit the typical profile of what people say advanced intelligence looks like. But I see it. It is so obvious to me. Here is what I see. How many of these traits describe you?

~ You ask lots of questions in most situations and want to do endless research to find answers that do not necessarily satisfy your unbounded curiosity.

~ When taking tests in school, you are frustrated by poorly worded or vague questions or you don’t believe in the questions or you find true/false questions to be maddening or you find all of the multiple choice answers to be correct or incorrect depending on the circumstances.

~ People underestimate your abilities because you’ve been told many times to slow down, curb your enthusiasm, stop showing off, don’t make the other kids feel bad, wait for the others to catch up, and no one likes a know-it-all. So, you hide your capacity, even to yourself.

~ You are deeply emotional and highly sensitive. This has been labelled immaturity since you were little so you believe gifted people are only highly rational. You are highly rational and deep thinking, too, but you don’t believe it is unusual because you say, isn’t everyone like this?

~ You are a random, creative, out-of-the-box thinker. This can look messy, disorganized, and irresponsible. The linear-sequential thinkers have been seen as the only smart ones.

~ Your intuitive abilities are expansive and you are searching for a loving, spiritual source and a vibrant community of sensitive souls.

~ If you are a parent, you feel deeply responsible for raising empathetic, kind-hearted children and you feel guilty for the times you are frustrated by the repetitive nature of parenting. You also are often worried about how your children will manage in a climate-stressed world.

~ The possibility that you are average or your work is mediocre is terrifying because you feel great pressure to live up to expectations to reach your “potential” and your identity depends on it.

~ Your very high standards and expectations come naturally to you and it is confusing and frustrating that your co-workers see you as difficult and not a team player because you are demanding more from them than they might actually be capable of delivering.

~ Your sense of humor is often ignored because people don’t get your references to historical figures they have never heard of.

~ The loneliness you feel because your complexity is not met or seen by family or friends is overwhelming at times often.

~ You are pretty constantly concerned that you are not doing enough to create a more peaceful, compassionate, just planet.

~ You’ve never liked the word ‘gifted’ because it sounds elitist or it doesn’t really explain your complexity in any depth but having a way to find self-understanding and seeing yourself through this lens has made a huge difference in your self-acceptance and in giving yourself permission to be you.

So, you see, my dearest gifted ones? Your rainforest traits shine brightly. They are easy to see if you know where to look.

So, start looking!


To my bloggEEs: Do you see yourself in this list? What would you add to it? And if you are looking for a way to continue to find yourself, my newest book is on the way (mid-June?)! It is a guided journal that takes you on a deep dive into your complexity and includes entries from my own journals. There is not a way to preorder it but I will let you know as soon as it is available. I can’t wait to show it to you!! I’m planning a virtual launch party, too, if I can figure out the tech to arrange it! (any suggestions?) It might be easiest if you follow me on Instagram, too, to get the announcement faster. Or on Facebook. Or both! Much love to you, as always. Your comments here and love notes to me as so appreciated!

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.

21 responses to “How Do I Know You Are Gifted?”

Leave a Reply

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

  1. Alia Avatar

    I know this wasn’t written for me; my Gifted status was used as a cudgel by my abusive parent my entire life. I don’t need to wonder if I qualify any more than I wonder what color my eyes are. But, wow, I wince every time someone slings the word “potential.” I can’t be the only one who attended Gifted programs where that word was weaponized, even if I got an extra portion of it at home. Be a little gentle with that damned word, okay?
    I was just doing some thinking and poison-purging over Mothers’ Day weekend. I got a promotion at work. My first as I’m semi-new to the corporate world, and it’s big. I was trying to pin down why I felt awful. And then I realized that growing up, any time I was recognized for an achievement, it was the signal to berate me for not doing it better, sooner, more spectacularly; for not living up to my “potential.” Or it was compared to my Gifted mother’s achievements, found lacking, and who praises a loser? I wasn’t up to her standards or my “potential.” If only I worked harder, did more, instead of being a lazy disappointment.
    And then I realized the other half of the dance: the dissonance of having to seem pleased as people in the larger world called out said achievement and said nice things, requiring me to say nice things, and why did I have to go through the expected lies before getting berated at home? What was in it for them? Why were they doing it to me?! Why couldn’t they just leave me alone? Needless to say, I think I pinpointed how maybe I’m less neurodivergent than I was raised in the Twilight Zone. Or porque no los dos, I guess.
    Heck with all that, and my odious “potential.” The cat and I are having fish tacos to celebrate my promotion.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, Alia, I’m so sorry this happened. It is why I often put “great potential” in quotes because it can be such a burden. Thank you for sharing. I’m sure other readers will resonate.

    2. Marina Avatar

      Oh Alia, how terrible… I send you lots of good thoughts and hope that you can enjoy your promotion, in spite of all. You are quite right: the word “potential” is tricky, because it gives (at least me) the impression that I can always do better to achieve something better, in the eyes of others. And finally, it’s all about my life and what I want to make of it, not what others want me to do with it. I would rather see “giftedness” not as a potential but simply as a different way of living the human existence and dealing with everyday problems. It becomes complicated when the traits connected to this are not accepted nor acknowledged by one’s family, community or social environment.
      What helped me a lot with the concept of “potential” was to learn about the Impostor syndrome. This made me understand why I felt so dissatisfied all the time, not reaching my goals (far too high because of my perfectionism), and feeling like a failure most of the time. It takes time, though, to accept oneself, and getting rid of the concept of “potential”, especially when imposed by others. Best wishes to you!

      1. Alia Avatar

        Thank you for the kind response. Once I figured out my negative reaction and tossed it aside, the promotion appears to be nothing more than a bit more money and a lot more work. That’s not so bad.
        I’m sorry to be correct about what a loaded word “potential” is, at least for the two of us. Maybe there are Gifted people out there who don’t wince when it’s used, but my experience is that most of us do. Maybe we start referring to it as being “burdened with glorious purpose” a la Marvel’s Loki. At least then we could be united in laughing rather than wincing.
        Speaking of tricksters. Rather than striving for perfection or huge goals, have you considered being an imposter? Shamelessly. Like your solution, it requires a shift in the measuring stick of “success,” just in a very different direction. Plus, it’s fun. I’m an imposter. Sure, you “should” have training and study to do something, but if I can do it without all that? Who should be ashamed, me or the people doing things the plodding, traditional way? I’ve been hired to do jobs I’ve never heard of, casually commiserate with engineers, collaborate with math Ph.D.s. The best part? Usually after I’ve confessed, “my degrees are in art and literature, but I used to do other people’s homework for fun. Mostly law and physics,” their faces! Ha! Polymath as trickster. Once “unmasked,” though I wasn’t hiding, I regularly get asked to do things no one knows how to do or to assist an expert. Because I’ll figure it out. It won’t necessarily be as perfect as a Trained Professional could manage, but good enough.
        As with most things, your mileage may vary. I wish you good fortune in tackling your dreaded “potential” in whatever way works best for you.

        1. pprober Avatar

          Years ago I remember seeing an image, I think it was of an elephant, with the phrase “the burden of a great potential.” You and Marina are not alone in experiencing the pressures, the wincing, and the abilities to have skills in areas where you were not trained. I appreciate hearing from you and hope that you can feel some support here!

  2. Carlie Avatar

    Thank you, Paula, for this post…. As with so very many (maybe all?) of your posts, this one hits home yet again to clarify the intensity, loneliness, urgency, and depth that exists in my mind and in the minds of so many other kindred souls wandering this planet who are trying to survive and thrive. THANK YOU for listening, for understanding, and for giving us both a voice, and a mirror. Please don’t stop.

    1. pprober Avatar

      No plans to stop, Carlie! 🙂 (especially when I get such lovely feedback!)

  3. Audra Avatar

    Spot on and as usual, Paula. The only thing I can think to add is that for me, complexity not being met or seen by family and friends also leads to lack of validation which leads to ongoing questioning of whether or not I am delusional for thinking everything else on the list. Thank you for always seeing us and meeting our complexity. I am looking forward to your new book! I think Zoom would probably be your best bet for a launch party if you want to be able to see others. Or just a livestream on Facebook or Instagram, depending on how you want it to work.

    1. pprober Avatar

      I was just talking this morning with someone about lack of validation, Audra. It can make it hard to believe in yourself when you are not met/seen by others. And thanks for the suggestion. I was thinking of Zoom so we could all see each other but I still need to find out how to make that work easily. It’s likely I will put out a video when it’s out. I’ve never done a livestream so it might be time to try that!

  4. Robin Heinen Avatar
    Robin Heinen

    The loneliness is real, huh? Thanks for this post. I’m really looking forward to reading your new book. Let us know where we can order it under the best conditions for you!

    1. pprober Avatar

      I will let you know, Robin. Thanks!

  5. Ciera Avatar

    Thanks for another reaffirming post, dear Paula. It is always good timing for one of your posts, a bit like having a super fresh and nutrious home-cooked meal.
    Also, a virtual launch party sounds fun!
    I am nodding my head to these and at this moment as I wind down for reading before bed, what comes to mind is multitudes. As in so many different possibilities that we are capable of, but that most people would never consider us to be capable of, and that they are usually actively disinterested in hearing about. (The amount of pushback for innovation, even in the world of education, is astonishing.) Kind of the expansiveness you mentioned (and yes, “searching for a loving, spiritual source and a vibrant community of sensitive souls” is of high priority, ever more so given the state of the world). But more like the multitudes in everyday life (recipes, spontaneous happenings and perceptiveness of the subtle at all times…), for life paths and that insatiable love of learning, at all hours. Whether or not there are people to ask questions to, whether or not there is time in the schedule to pause to do that research, we just do it. I generally fit a lot more in my days that many folks I know, in part because I don’t have Netflix or cable, and can’t rationalize a complicated beauty routine, but mostly because I long to do many things, learn and grow as person and must express myself in one way of another (and not just let my brain become bored or anxious). I sleep much more soundly if I have spent a lot of time learning or planning or brainstorming and reading all sorts of things (poems, song lyrics, biographies, quality journalism pieces, unique blogs, fiction and non-fiction…and in various languages. And I keep mentioning those languages as my brain and my being would be so, so unhappy if it had not been for learning languages after high school). Listening and playing music, practising yoga and wandering outdoors are essential for balance, as is walking dogs of friends who calm me and make me forget the realities of my city and the world. Connecting with other at least somewhat like-minded folks is important. But those multitudes are always there (which I prefer over the alternative), so learning to make the most of them for happiness and to generate love in the world (and not just because they could be easily exploited for economic gain) is critical for me. How can we ‘best’ use our RFM superpowers in ways that rebel against the dominant systems, through interdisciplinary applications of our knowledge and creativity, for collective benefit and growth? I’m trying to find/create a community of folks interested in taking acion on that during this relatively new chapter of my life that is still unfolding. The master’s program is helping, but upcoming volunteering seems hopeful. I’m just so tired of the status quo, the complacency, and I know I am not alone in that, but finding others in the same region is the perpetual challenge, so I am fortunate for the internet (for now, though I would like to rely on it and technology less).
    Wishing you well lovely RFMs. (Typing from my phone, don’t mind the typos).

    1. pprober Avatar

      Your description here is such a great specific example of deep rainforest-mindedness, Ciera. I look forward to hearing that you have found a community near where you live! I am not sure how to set up a virtual launch party. I probably need a small tech team to pull it off or to do it through an organization. Will keep you posted.

  6. Leafy Avatar

    I’ve just finished your second book, and now this beautiful and affirming post. Thank you Paula, for making my soul sing. And I’m looking forward to it singing more when the next book comes out (I’m glad my timing is right in that regard)!

    1. pprober Avatar

      We shall form a choir, Leafy! Thank you.

  7. Jade Avatar

    I was thinking the other day that i feel my brain has been too fast for most therapists to keep up with and with a background in mental health myself, I feel I have often had more insight than most of my therapists. It feels arrogant to even think that though but I think your post and others you’ve written have helped me understand why this might be the case, better. I’ve always tried to “be the client” and be open but I feel like I link together things in a way that a lot of other people don’t and it has nearly always felt “clunky”. I’ve ended up being my own therapist (with help from my fabulous partner) and actually made much more progress that way. Your posts are incredibly validating!

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, it can be hard to find a therapist who can hold a large enough container for all that you are! I’m so glad my posts are helping, Jade!

    2. Audra Avatar

      I had similar issues with a long-term therapist whom I was already seeing when I found out about being an RFM. Learning about my giftedness made me understand that she was not truly seeing or understanding me, or trying to, and it allowed me to start the journey of self-therapy over a decade ago which of course continues. But I also feel I’ve made much more progress that way! Thank you for your post.

      1. Jade Avatar

        Well done on recognising that you needed something more too Audra and then providing that for yourself. I’m glad I’m not alone! I think the more I get to know myself, the easier it becomes. Do you find that? I feel like I have about a good therapy session most days with myself most days lol! Also writings by like minded, insightful souls like Paula, always get my neurons popping and creating even more links and progress!

  8. Marina Avatar

    Beautifully written, Paula! Thank you for seeing all this and writing about it, it gives me hope that others might see (and accept) it as well.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Yes, Marina! <3