There is an insidiously destructive societal belief that gifted individuals shouldn’t struggle with anything, whether it’s:
- Employment, vocation or career,
- Relationships, platonic, romantic or professional,
- Health, or
The assumption is, “If you’re gifted, you’ve got the perfect life handed to you on a silver platter. You don’t need help or support, and above all, you have no right to complain that life is hard.”
Yet it is precisely because you are gifted that you struggle and experience your suffering far more acutely than any non-gifted person could ever fathom.
However, you, like the rest of us gifted, have probably unconsciously integrated this myth of “gifted ease” and as a result, guilt yourself far more than you let on to your non-gifted family and peers:
- “If I’m so good at A, B and C, why do I struggle and suffer so with X, Y and Z?”
- “Why is this so hard and painful for me and yet so easy and casual for other people in my life?”
Most importantly of all, you secretly wonder to yourself:
- “If I’m so intelligent, why do I have such a hard time understanding and helping myself? Why do I struggle so much?”
This is not a simple issue or question to answer because there are so many variables to consider.
However, I personally feel that a large part of the problem is because most gifted individuals are deprived of a relatable neuroculture during development into adulthood.
Human culture, dominated by neuromajority experience, perception and perspectives, defines and perpetuates a neuronormative status quo.
The way we consciously and unconsciously learn to understand and utilise our brain+mind is largely influenced—either enhanced or limited—by the perceived plausibility or implausibility beliefs of the societal culture we are immersed in.
All humans are born with a brain+mind, with no clue as to its potential or capabilities. Great or small, vast or few, it’s a jackpot mystery.
Yet human culture takes the brain+mind for granted.
Few proactively seek to learn how to more effectively and efficiently utilise, much less master, this master tool of ours. Most don’t even stop to think about how they know almost nothing about how their brain+mind works, or how they learned to utilise it.
It’s like having a computer without knowing its specifications, having no user manual and lacking any avenue for explicit instruction.
That is not usually a problem for the non-gifted neuromajority. Humanity is empowered by social learning. We pool and share collective experience. Who needs specifications or manuals when there is unconscious intra-neuro-osmosis?
Not so for neurominorities like the gifted, who comprise only about 5% of the human population.
Having a gifted brain+mind is like having a computer that runs on an alien operating system, with alien functions and capabilities, that no one else around you has.
The crux is no one outside of you can perceive or verify either its existence or your experience.
That, hurts the most.
The unintended and undesired isolation imposed by one’s unasked for difference, is singularly traumatising in its invisibility.
Social learning only helps if your brain+mind happens to be a “similar model” to the majority.
All learning necessitates feedback to verify the fidelity of data acquisition and efficacy of acquisition process. However, effective learning is predicated upon the accuracy and applicability of feedback content and context.
Few non-gifted individuals are able to provide such feedback for gifted individuals, for the simple fact that most of them are neurologically incapable of experiencing, and thus comprehending and empathising, gifted experience.
Social learning becomes not only ineffectual but downright traumatising when:
- Your brain+mind is not only rare, but quantitatively and qualitatively different—Functionally and experientially.
- Your family, peers, educators and superiors are mostly, if not all, non-gifted individuals who can scarcely conceive, much less practically comprehend, the neurocognitive contrast.
Regardless of where you were born, odds are you grew up immersed in a non-gifted neuromajority culture that either:
- Doesn’t recognise or acknowledge the existence of gifted experience, or
- Portrays inaccurate exaggerations or stereotypes of what neuromajority consider high intelligence to look, act, think and feel like in popular media.
All humans need realistically relevant and relatable role models, especially through childhood and teenhood. Deprivation of such has a severe impact on a person’s psychological development, mental health and well-being.
It’s how we figure out what’s uniquely “normal” and “right” for ourselves:
- Healthy boundaries and limits for self-care and self-respect,
- Inspiring or motivating goals to challenge us and aspire to for self-actualisation,
- Unique bits and bobs to help us create our distinctive personality and character.
Having relevant and relatable role models is an important part of social learning and too many gifted individuals grow up lacking such indirect yet crucial guidance from their social environment.
Thus, you struggle because neuromajority culture provides few accurate, much less practically helpful, role models or examples for gifted individuals to:
- Validate and affirm the reality of gifted experience.
- Form healthy and empowering identity and esteem,
- Recognise and understand the unique psychological and physiological self-care signals from the gifted brain+mind and body, and
- Develop an accurate understanding of the unique strengths and limitations, functions and capabilities of your gifted brain+mind.
I suppose the next question is, “What can I do about it?”
Well, as I mentioned at the start of the article, it’s not a simple issue or question to answer because there are so many variables to consider.
I think the most important thing to start with is to find the relevant and relatable social environment you need by joining gifted communities online.
Seek out and, most importantly, test out a variety of gifted communities online. You need to explore and experiment to find communities that you resonate with and are a good match to your values, personality, character, needs etc. You’re not going to get along with all gifted individuals or communities just because you’re gifted yourself.
I personally recommend InterGifted by Jennifer Harvey Sallin. It was recommended to me by another gifted individual I knew a while back and I’m so grateful that she did because the InterGifted communities have become a balm for my battered soul.
The next concurrent step would be to start observing yourself with fresh eyes.
It is a long and painstaking process to sort truth from trauma, especially when you have no idea how your truth looks, sounds or feels like and you’re so uncomfortably familiar with the bounds and expectations of neuronormative conformity.
I personally started by practicing a dispassionate observation of self-critical thoughts, and examining them for cause and origin. The self-critical thoughts that you can consciously pick up are like a trail of crumbs that you can trace back to their originating root cause belief. That’s how I began weeding out unhealthy patterns that were foisted upon me by neuromajority society.
The final concurrent step would be to start recognising, acknowledging and respecting your unique psychological and physiological signals, needs and boundaries.
Oooh, this is a tough one. Too many of us have been told our whole lives that our very real and valid needs are either exaggerations, imaginary or fictitious. So we assimilated these beliefs as truths and thus became either no longer aware of our needs, or have labelled our needs as problems to be solved.
(If you experience difficulties recognising these things in yourself, you may benefit from working with a gifted coach or mentor who can help you with the process. I will be creating a page listing coaches and mentors eventually but InterGifted’s Coaching for Gifted Adults is an excellent place to start!)
It was indescribably and simultaneously revelatory, liberating and validating for me when I learnt that my lifelong pattern of fatigue was similarly experienced by another profoundly gifted woman of my age.
That single and simple perspective shift freed me from decades of undeserved guilt, shame and self-hatred and unsurprising, my levels of motivation, productivity and well-being have slowly but steadily improved since. I still experience fatigue but am now more capable of managing its impacts because I am more accepting of its existence in my life as a natural part of who I am.
It may not be fatigue for you. It may be emotional sensitivity, or chronic boredom, or existential depression, or needing more sleep, or social frustration. It may be needing constant shifting challenges. It may be needing the right to feel intensely.
Whatever it is, start taking note and acknowledging what you experience. Check in with your community and share your struggles. You will most likely discover that you are not the only one and that alone can save your life sometimes.
I’m pretty new to this journey myself and yes, I still struggle everyday. But I find that the struggle stings just that little bit less now that I have found a home with my community.
I finally know that my struggle is real and valid and experienced by many in the community.
The way I see it, I’m a neurominority. It will always be a struggle. But at least I know now that I’m not alone, and I’m not “wrong” as a person or human being.
I hope that you, my fellow gifted peer, will be able to read this and know that you too are not alone and not “wrong”.
I invite you to share your experiences and feedback below.