What Are the Signs You Are Gifted? Why Does it Matter That You Know?

The controversy continues. I started in gifted education in the later 1970’s. It is 2023. And we are still trying to understand who is gifted and why it matters.

(photo from Unsplash)

You may not like this, but I choose the anecdotal route. Have you taken my totally, completely, utterly unscientific, absolutely anecdotal quiz? Then you know. I avoid IQ scores and other test data, although I know they are valid in their own way, in some cases. And they can reveal some types of intelligence. I get that.

And yet, when it comes to definitions, there are so many differing opinions. It is rather discombobulating.

But maybe because I’ve been hanging out with folks like you for some decades, I can say with confidence: I know one when I see one.

It is so obvious.

I only need to look at your blog comments to find the evidence.

Here is one about life in kindergarten:

…The oft-quoted incident that got me booted up 2 grades was when the kindergarten teacher overheard me tell a kid that according to the schedule, our favorite activity was coming up at a certain time and we should rendezvous 5 minutes early to get the best spot, thereby betraying that I could read, tell time, plan my activities, and had a vocabulary that would get me funny looks … in the rural community where we lived. I had no business in K, where kids were learning “orange” and how to count past 10; I’m lucky they didn’t burn me as a witch. But any adult taking a few minutes to explain the problem or be kind to me while I got shuffled around, rather than irritated that they had to figure out where to stash me, would’ve gone a long way…”

Or this particularly eloquent self-description:

“…Others can only interact with one small slice of me – and they see how incomplete that is, how many holes are in it, how many cracks.. they can see there is so much ‘flaky’ layer to it – but they have no idea that it is only the LCD interface scene, badly damaged, prone to blinking in and out, and portraying only even a portion of the information I wish it did to them..even the ones who care enough to peer at the pixels. And behind it is the entire ‘computer’ but it is made of ropes and weights, pulley systems, balances and vacuum tubes, small men sitting in boxes shouting, ancient inscriptions still being deciphered, birds flying formations, the murmur of rivers and the roar of oceans, composers and painters and philosophers arguing nonstop in a library-to-die-for, numerous adventurers falling into pits of snakes and once in a while the proud student who puts the pen to paper and says ‘Eureka, I have it.. now what was it, and how do I tell anyone if I can’t tell myself?”

Or this partial list of interests and projects along with the all-too-often expressed fear of too muchness:

“…The upshot is a whole mind palace filled with gorgeous fractals — an alternative to bitcoin, two pop science books, a way to make balls roll uphill, a quantum programming language, new results in complexity theory, a poetry chapbook, Latin philosophical translations, completions of De Quincey’s lost Suspiria, a method of artificially dreaming, and so on — which I cannot bring myself to unleash, not only on the world but on myself. They sit there, gathering dust on easels and drafting tables, in long corridors lined with the mahogany cabinets of imagination, abandoned for fear that they are too much. That I am too much. That if the world saw inside, it would rightly conclude I was an alien and fire me into space…”

And the loneliness:

“…So often, expectations of worldly success are hung like a dead albatross around the neck of the cognitively special, when what we really need is permission to become ourselves in unencumbered weirdness. My favourite aliens — the ones I’ve learned most from — are gloriously, heroically, and unapologetically weird. It’s a lonely venture. I’m desperately trying to self-generate that permission right now; the effect is not dissimilar to yanking my own bootstraps. It’s clear I need to go into the world and find a few more people willing to mingle their light with mine, and perhaps, if the occasion suits, take a turn about the mind palace…”

This final one is not from the blog but from a recent interview with the filmmaker Greta Gerwig. You will recognize her schooling experience.

“…I was assigned to do a group project and I completely took it over in 7th grade and I was like explaining how everyone was going to do everything. I remember some kid made fun of me and said that I was annoying…I was considered a kind of a bossy, unappealing girl…I deliberately tamped it down. But it didn’t really go away…it just kind of went underground. It’s the person who I tried to crush…”

So, you see? Pretty obvious.

And it matters.

Because each time you crush yourself, there is a little less rainforest on the planet.


To my dearest bloggEEs: Tell us how you know you are gifted! ( And if you are still unsure, I’ve written about it here and here. ) Thank you to the above commenters and to all of you for your insights and emotions. Much love to you!

And thank you to all of you who now have book 3 Saving Your Rainforest Mind: A Guided Journal for the Curious, Creative, Smart, & Sensitive. If you would write a review on Amazon, I’d be thrilled. It can be short and imperfect! A photo of you and the book would be kind of amazing. A video on social media? A sample of an entry? So many creative possibilities! Thank you. And if you still don’t have the book, then, click here to order from Bookshop or go to your independent bookstore or Amazon.

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.

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