Growing up Gifted: a personal story

posted in: Articles | 1

Following my interview with Jo last week, I’ve been getting a lot of requests to go deeper into the story of growing up gifted. Of the three words that perfectly describe a gifted person; intense, complex, and driven, my intensity has always been the biggest struggle. I have painful memories at the dinner table being told to talk less or at least talk slower. It was said with love, but it hurt, because of my burning desire to share an idea or thought.


I didn’t know how to calm my mind without exploring it.


Muffling that fire turned into a lingering fear that I’m too much for people. I’m afraid I decide too quickly, move forward too fast, and want to do too much. I’m afraid I exhaust people with my high standards and never-ending hunger for deep conversations and analyzing situations. My dad once told me I’m a fast-moving train, who doesn’t stop at stations to let people on board. At the time, I knew he was right, but I had no idea how to slow down. Now, I know how to slow down, but it’s an inauthentic attempt to be liked and accepted. After all these years I know very well how not to overwhelm people, but it doesn’t come naturally and it’s a daily struggle of holding myself back.


My drive was prominent, too. During high school, I got more and more frustrated every year by the terrible slowness of learning. The ineffectiveness and inefficiency was killing me. I remember thinking to myself, If only we could fit all these 6 years of high school in a couple of weeks of efficient teaching and be done with it, we could all be doing something useful with our time. And were I not so peace-loving and conflict-avoiding, I’d have had serious trouble with authority, for in my head I was questioning every order and every rule.


I was always looking for ways to improve things around me, until I grew tired of people who didn’t care as much about growth as I did.


I’d change plans constantly. If I’d tell you what I’ve been doing in the last couple of years, you’d think I had a bunch of dreams but either failed or didn’t follow up on them. In truth, however, I have followed my passions, and went along in every new direction they took me, even if that meant giving up old ones – which isn’t hard for me anyway, because my focus is somewhere else, so what’s the point of not burning that bridge?


Even my best friends called me impulsive, and didn’t think too highly of my ongoing switching of plans and going on adventures. Not knowing any better, I enforced the idea of me being impulsive and laughed it off. It actually took one of my best friends to tell me: “I think you’re not impulsive at all. I think you consider your options carefully and thoroughly, but you just do so incredibly quickly”. She was right, and I swore to never hide behind the term impulsive again.


With all the changes of heart and plans, there’s one thing that never ceases to fuel my fire: my passionate desire for personal growth. Everything I do has as final end goal that I grow from it in some way or another. This is so strongly innate to me, that for years I had no idea that for some people growth is not that important.


I mentioned in the interview that one of the challenges of being gifted is loneliness, and I think that’s mostly due to the third keyword: complexity. I don’t connect very well with people who lack a certain depth. If you think about how sharing [a thought, idea, feeling, image] with someone connects you to that person, it makes sense that I feel lonely sometimes, as I feel many of my thoughts and feelings are too complex to share. Being with other intense friends or meeting someone who’s willing to jump into a deep conversation right away is a true joy that always leaves me feeling energized, connected, and inspired.


The Chameleon
by Ellen Dove Fiedler
in: Living with Intensity


Sometimes you see me; then you don’t.
I know the tricks for blending in.
My color’s bright,
A glowing hue,
Changing with your point of view.

My awareness, truly keen,
Makes me be sure
I’m seldom seen
Unless, unless it’s safe for me-
Safe to be all I can be.

In surroundings where no threat
Causes me to fade and hide,
Filled with doubts
And deep despair,
Not quite belonging, anywhere.

If you will see me as I am
Then I can let you come inside,
Into a place
Where you can find
The treasures of my hidden mind.

I’ll share my secret world with you,
Tell you my dreams,
My thoughts, my plans.
And then, at last,
Perhaps I can
Know who it is I really am.

Besides these three keywords, being gifted shows itself in 5 areas: intellectual, imaginational, emotional, sensory, and psychomoter. Read more about it in the article What is Giftedness?. Next week I’ll write about how all of these 5 intensities can be either positive or negative, and how it’s all about getting to know yourself and finding the right balance.


One Response

  1. Steve Foster
    | Reply

    Another very brave sharing of your writing. It’s so true that characteristics of (highly) gifted people can lead to frustration and to what is even harder–loneliness. And yes, the genuine needs for depth of understanding and communication are so real. Gifted children have a special burden since they don’t yet have the experience or the tools to realize their own differences don’t make them a problem or a burden to others, but instead may become pathways to understanding. It’s so good to see how much growth you’ve undertaken consciously and with trying to be positive, especially about yourself.
    Thanks for sharing this with others.
    Take care,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.