The Curious Contradictions and Conundrums in the Lives of the Gifted

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Platitudes. Quick fixes. Small talk. Rigid beliefs. All make you cringe. Right? Complexity, ambiguity, paradox, depth, creativity, and mystery are your favorite foods. Without them, you starve. You get cranky and sad. You feel lost. You may even start to question your reality because you see most people around you eating those platitudes with gusto. But to you, they taste like, well, cardboard.

But what about the complex contradictions and paradoxes you experience in your life on a daily basis? How do you manage those?

I’ve gathered a few examples below. Which ones are familiar to you? What others might you add to the list?

The List of Contradictions and Conundrums

~ Your ability to see how all things are connected contributes to your uncanny ability to overcomplicate simple things. And yet, are any things really simple?

~ You are the smarter, more accomplished person but your colleagues get the credit because they follow the rules and color inside the lines.

~ You received high scores on SATs and achievement tests but struggled with true-false and multiple choice tests often. You could see how there was more than one answer or how all or none of the choices might be correct depending on the circumstances. On occasion, you figured out what the test designer wanted and surprised yourself with a high score.

~ You were known as the smart kid but you did not complete assignments or homework so your grades were not high. Teachers and parents told you how easy the work was, how you ought to be able to complete it quickly, but the rote learning and memorization was meaningless, so you refused to do it. On the other hand, you may have been known as the smart kid and felt the pressure to maintain that reputation. So, you always made sure you got the highest grades. But underneath it all, you felt like an impostor and kept raising the bar.

~ You are fast at thinking of new ideas and ways they are connected to other ideas and yet you are slow at implementing those ideas or turning them into reality.

~ Some people see you as quite logical and even cold-hearted but you actually are deeply sensitive, empathetic, and emotional.

~ You were told how smart you are for years and yet it took you seven years to finish college because you changed majors five times.

~ The very high expectations and the pressures you impose on yourself often paralyze you so you never feel satisfied with what you accomplish.

~ Some people will be in awe of your abilities one moment and the next moment they will be threatened by your skills and jealous of you.

~ You contribute the most creative ideas in your workplace and are not looking for attention or accolades and, yet, when people steal your ideas and get the credit, you want to strangle them.

~ You are a fast learner but a slow reader and a deep, careful, meticulous writer.

~ You are 2e or twice exceptional so you are gifted with additional complications such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia.

~ Your ability to see nuance, multiple degrees of complexity, and all the colors is often misinterpreted and judged by others who only see black and white.

~ You have deep compassion for human beings and yet you often feel impatient and angry when those humans don’t have the capacity to see what you see or know what you know.

~ In your awareness of other people’s needs, you think carefully before you speak, and yet, they still feel hurt or confused when you share your thoughts or feelings.

~ You want to do so much good in the world but you can’t find appropriate collaborators or community so you fall into despair and lose your motivation.

~ You can easily know a lot about many things but you are also aware of how much you don’t know.

~ You love learning, reading, and dating astrophysicists and yet you often forget to tie your shoes and can’t find your keys.

Knowing you are not alone in experiencing these conundrums may make them easier to accept and understand and just might give you more permission to reject the simple cardboard platitudes, to embrace your rainforest-y reality, and to, well, relish your tasty conundrums. With gusto.


To my bloggEEs: What other curious contradictory conundrums do you experience? Which ones are particularly annoying or fascinating? Thank you for being here. Your comments add so much and who knows when I will feature your comment in the next post or presentation?!? (You know who you are.) Do you have my new journal yet? I am waiting not-so-patiently for your reviews on Amazon. Thank you!

And, just last week, I had the honor of being part of Susan Cain‘s newsletter. If you didn’t see it, here is the link!

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.

19 responses to “The Curious Contradictions and Conundrums in the Lives of the Gifted”

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  1. E Avatar

    Here’s the one that’s eating me alive right now: realizing the health impact of smoking/drinking/sugar/fat/too much of this/nothing of that/… but the addiction being too large, and the ego, fearful of changing the behavior, yells the loudest and wins the inner debate every time.

    1. pprober Avatar

      That’s a tough one for a lot of people, E, not just RFMs. Right? Thanks for sharing.

    2. itssue42 Avatar

      Don’t know if it will help, but when I was in that state, 15 years ago now, I finally (just barely) got the courage to walk into a ballroom dance studio at 236 lbs (double an intelligent weight), eating an entire plate of cookies on a regular basis, etc etc. That very scary step into something I had always thought would be fun and engaging for both mind and body was the beginning of a whole new me. I didn’t lose my self-hatred or my perfectionism or all the other “imperfect” annoying habits BUT I started taking care of myself, 1 tiny step at a time. Lessons were generally at night, when I normally gorped out on food, or vodka, so instead I was learning to dance. I had my perfectionist self cheering me on then to be a better dancer so my ego was motivated to not abuse my body so much. Over the course of 2 years, I got down to the 125 muscled pounds I am today. …. all because I submerged my fear just long enough to walk in a door and ask if I could take a lesson, even though I was fat….(and inside thinking… ugly, slow, uncoordinated, unworthy etc etc etc)
      My addiction to dancing gives me mental, physical, spiritual and social satisfaction and engagement and keeps me sane, and motivated.

      Maybe… there is something you are really curious about, or always wanted to try, or just wondered what it’s like….that might help replace habits that our whirring minds know are trapping us but we can’t escape from? I think we often have to distract parts of ourselves, so that the other parts can accomplish something positive while we’re not looking. 😀

      1. pprober Avatar

        So much courage, Sue! Thank you.

  2. Nicole Warner Avatar
    Nicole Warner

    What’s aggravating:
    “~ You are fast at thinking of new ideas and ways they are connected to other ideas and yet you are slow at implementing those ideas or turning them into reality.”
    This is one thing which, I think, has made me so impatient with creating new things. Being able to think all the way through something, a three-month project for example, and thinking through it at lightning speed, but then being ‘trapped’ by earth time and often having to check tiny checkboxes on a flat, boring computer screen, whilst typing on a flat, boring keyboard. UGH! Gimme a pen with a textured barrel and my awesome, large, paper notebook!

    And yes, platitudes taste like cardboard. They sound that dull, too!

    What’s fascinating:
    What IS fascinating, however, is being able to explain to my clients now that the books we use and the standardized tests they take for their language proficiency tests are mundane, run-of-the-mill topics because they need to be for the wide variety of people who take them. Whereas our lessons and classes are finely seasoned, sometimes spicy, sometimes sweet like tropical fruit, and they are practically a buffet of German learning.

    “~ Some people will be in awe of your abilities one moment and the next moment they will be threatened by your skills and jealous of you.”
    This is fascinating in a darker way, because this tells you very quickly who is kind and compassionate enough to be allowed in your life and who you can keep at arm’s length, or potentially even further away. It’s sad that we must protect ourselves so often, however finding another RFM who then invests enough in me and I in her to become a close, personal friend? That’s a treasure!

    Thanks, Paula! My clients, colleagues, and friends truly appreciate your descriptions of and support for our RFMs.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Love these examples, Nicole. And I so appreciate your sharing my writing with your people.

      1. Nicole Warner Avatar
        Nicole Warner

        Oh gosh, I don’t think I ever shared it with you, so here is my new second tagline:

        German learning for Germanophiles, Austrophiles, Swissophiles, book lovers, (over)thinkers, word collectors, geeks, knowledge seekers, and (recovering) perfectionists.

        And on the homepage there is an entire list of characteristics my clients and I exhibit, and when they read it, they all laugh and then say, “That’s me! That’s us!” And then they laugh some more.

        This summer I also bought your first book for my brother, who read a small section and said, “Yep! That’s definitely me!” 😀

  3. Clignett Avatar

    The thing I’m currently butting heads with is moving again (ah, yes, again!) to another apartment. How to explain to people why is something that I can’t figure out why it’s so hard to understand.

    The reason is quite simple for me: I’m not happy here, the layout is wrong, the air is wrong (ventilation), there is no sunlight that flows in my living area, no sunlight on my balcony and no roof or option to create something of a roof over my balcony. My plants are rotting in the rain! Aaarrrggghh!!! That hurts!!

    Airconditioning (split unit) is not allowed, just one mono bloc in one bedroom. Where I don’t need it..
    I just can’t seem to find myself here.
    The space is good, the environment and location are good, also for Indie.
    The easiest thing is to move within the building to another apartment where the layout and light and all the other things are right for us. Unfortunately I made the decision just a few weeks too late, the perfect apartment was already sold (I even checked with the realtor who sold it if there was any possibility that the sell was going to fall through, and if so, I’d be very interested.. no joy..).
    So now I’m going through all my stuff again to sort it out and sell/throw away/give away again. And wait for another apartment to go for sale which is good for me (and my wallet 🙈).

    Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that it’s apparently very hard for people to understand why move again. “You’ve only been there for just over a year, give it more time”. “Why would you move? I’d love to be able to buy your apartment!”. “I wouldn’t do it if I were you, it’s such a hassle and expensive!”. (Ehm.. you’re not me, I’d be thinking, wouldn’t say it of course, I’m not so bold and brave..).

    So it’s both intuitive and logical for me, although I know how big a struggle it will be again. But I just need a home, not just a house or a roof over my head. I need a place where I can feel safe, warm, cosy and snuggle up when the world gets too overwhelming again. And that’s not here, unfortunately.

    Maybe a bit “off topic” at first glance, but if you think it through, it’s still a conundrum and a contradiction in my mind, literally. I can see the good, but I can also see the bad. And the very bad. And then there’s my gut telling me that I have to go..
    The last couple of months were a big inner struggle, including sleepless nights and conversations with myself about the different reactions I heard from people when I finally made the decision.. especially the ones who didn’t understand and I couldn’t make them understand. Anger, hurt, frustration, everything passed through me while I was supposed to be sleeping. And when I finally slept, tortured by nightmares, really nice.. not!
    It’s so easy to say to oneself “let it go!”, but to actually do it.. that’s a whole different thing!

    As this is the one big thing on my mind right now, I’m sorry to say that I can’t think of any other conundrums, although I probably have plenty 🤣.

    1. pprober Avatar

      I can see how that one would take all of your mental/emotional space right now, Clignett! I wonder if some of it is your RFM sensitivity and how much you are affected by your environment.

      1. Clignett Avatar

        Probably most of it is my RFM sensitivity, but also probably combined with the 3e “extra’s”..

        The environment around the apartment complex is quite peaceful, although they are starting to tear down some old buildings (mostly old offices to convert into apartments as well). The noise of that is not too bad at the moment, and what they will (might) be building is nice too (but way too expensive for me 🙈😅).

        It’s just something about this place, also combined with all the negativity when we first moved here (twice burglared, everywhere water was available I encountered leakages, sabotaged by the old owner, bathroom incomplete (stolen by previous owner), all those things didn’t really set me at ease. I now even have an alarm system installed and several cameras around the apartment (shhhh… also not allowed, but no one really sees them 🫣😅).

        So location wise it’s good, but the apartment itself has had a negative impact on me from the start. And now with everything else that I can’t do to make it better (ventilation, roof, etc), it’s just too much for my sensitivities.

  4. Nancy Graham Avatar
    Nancy Graham

    Here is one I constantly deal with: being able to “get” that something is just not going to work out, but not being successfully explain to others the why.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Is that because the way you “get” it is intuitive? With intuition, we often know something but don’t know how we know! Thanks for sharing, Nancy.

      1. Nancy Graham Avatar
        Nancy Graham

        Yes, that could be intuitive, as I am very intuitive. But, I also believe/feel that sometimes my brain gathers info and does some kind of internal calculation, then spits out the result. I don’t know all the steps, but I can feel it happening. Much like a computer evaluating something, I will just know that it is going to go wrong.

  5. Georgia Patrick Avatar
    Georgia Patrick

    Great blog, Paula. I’ll figure a way to feature this and the new journal in some articles I’m writing this week. Yes… saw your journal featured in Susan Cain’s newsletter. She’s experienced a lot of wonderful success lately to push her into even higher orbits. It was another gifted adult who had me take a second look at Susan. All I saw at first was an author writing to introverts and that seemed too categorized for all of the rainforest. Her latest book turned on the magic for me.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, Georgia, that would be great if you would spread the word about my journal! (Thanks again for the review on Amazon!) Yes, Susan’s book Bittersweet really is “magic.”

  6. Kevin O Avatar
    Kevin O

    Thank you for your awesome recognition of our unique conundrums! One that I continually struggle with is being hyper-aware, and knowledgeable about the limitations of our sense making capabilities, and the variances between different humans. I expend huge amounts of (wasted?) energy trying to enlighten others to how that affects and effects our reality, all the while knowing that it’s a paradoxical conundrum! Those who are incapable of processing with that meta understanding, without the ability to see sense making from outside the limits of their own experience will NEVER be able to understand the very thing I am trying to enlighten them about, BECAUSE of those very same limitations!

    It’s like trying to enlighten a person blinded from birth about the experience of RED. I sooo want them to be able to experience it with me, but, alas, it just can’t happen.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Yup. Great example, Kevin. I think many RFMs don’t realize others don’t have similar capacity to see/hear/feel/intuit, etc. So the RFMs don’t understand why people don’t get what they’re trying to communicate.

      1. Sheep’s Wool Avatar
        Sheep’s Wool

        Paula, do you think this might be part of the reason for some jealousy?
        I mean, the fact that we intuit things out of the air, out of sensation, out of felt sense and forward projection (it’s a bit like creativity and just feels right) but our interlocutor just feels we are being impertinent, taking a liberty, and gives off part disdain and a ‘who do you think you are?’ vibe?
        I’ve intuited some jealousy from a person in my life though I’m not a skyrocketing successful person (that’s OK – it can come ; ) )
        I guess some of the things I do like being able to empathise well with others or maybe give certain opinions seem baffling and perhaps a bit threatening to this person because they are not natural skills for them.
        I’m normally the last to talk myself up but I think it has been valuable for me to recognise the above because it allows me to exercise compassion for all parties (instead of stewing in discomfort and feeling a bit upset) and gives me permission to keep a bit of a distance. I feel an emotional distance is necessary for me in a case like this.
        P.S. I feel very seen by your blog post especially in my liking for complexity and irritation at quick fixes and platitudes. I’m doing a little dance in satisfaction.

        1. pprober Avatar

          Yes, I do think there can be jealousy. And emotional distance can be necessary with some people for sure. I will join you in your dance! 🙂

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