When did you know you were different from other children? Is there a particular event that stands out?
I always knew I was different. I think the harshest realization was as a teen when the group of teens at our church made fun of me. I always thought it was for other reasons than being gifted. I was more interested in reading than boys or makeup, and I struggled with social cues. I was the stereotypical awkward, wince-inducing nerd.
When did you understand that it was giftedness that made you different?
Not until I was an adult with my own gifted children. In fact, when I was doing research trying to understand my kids’ needs, I started seeing things that resonated with my own personality and sensitivities. I didn’t fully admit that I was gifted until two things happened: I read Paula Prober’s book Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, and a new scientific study came out linking intelligence level to the maternal DNA instead of paternal. Until then I had blamed my husband for my son’s giftedness.
I’m something of a conundrum: I excel at writing, I’m logical and intellectual, but I’m highly creative. If I had to list just one thing it would be creative, because that covers my art, my writing, and everything that matters most to me.
Did you ever try to downplay your giftedness? Why or why not?
I never thought I was gifted, I just thought I was smart. I always downplayed that because in the authoritarian religious setting that I grew up in, smart women were dangerous. Uppity. My extra sensitivities were laughed at, and I internalized a lot instead of sharing it because ridicule is incredibly withering to a creative. Because I’m an introvert anyway, it wasn’t a hard thing for me to simply shut down and not share what I was thinking or feeling with anyone.
Did your parents understand that you were gifted? How did they support you?
You have to understand that I come from an incredibly dysfunctional family. No, my parents didn’t understand gifted at all. They still don’t. They knew I was smart, that was about it. Because I was homeschooled there was no school system in place to identify gifted, but they did meet me at my level and push me, challenge me to excel academically. The artistic/creative side of me was completely unsupported and ignored. It wasn’t until college that I found the creative outlet that I needed and became an artist.
Do you wish your parents had handled your giftedness in a different way?
I often wish that much of my childhood had been handled differently. I think my personality as a gifted female was completely squashed and molded to fit societal norms. In the time and place that I grew up, being overemotional or sensitive was considered weird or undesirable.
Was there a teacher or other adult who impacted your giftedness in a profound way?
My mother was my primary teacher, and she made one huge decision that greatly influenced me. She saw that I struggled with handwriting, so she assigned a course of typewriting when I was a teenager. That made such a profound difference in today’s digital age. I can express myself at the speed I think, and actually read it later (unlike my handwriting!)
One other adult that impacted me greatly was a school teacher who taught a homeschool co-op class on Biology. I think he was the first adult who realized my abilities and wanted me to succeed – and his approval meant a lot to me.
Was there a teacher or other adult who made your experience as a gifted girl more difficult?
My chemistry teacher in a different co-op made my life difficult. I don’t do chemistry well unless I understand the underlying “why” and she didn’t take kindly to being asked questions. She probably did more to turn me away from science than anyone else.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were in elementary school? Middle school? High school?
That I wasn’t weird or stupid. That it was ok to be curious and creative. That I didn’t have to be perfect at everything, or go headlong into depression because I knew I was capable of so much but I couldn’t seem to do anything that people valued.
What brings you the most joy as a gifted woman?
My art. There’s this wonderful singing moment when the print starts to surface in the developer and you feel like you’ve just given birth to something beautiful. It’s like magic, and I’m the magician making it happen. It’s an incredibly powerful thing.
What brings you the most difficulty or pain as a gifted woman?
My sensitivities. I hate having to worry about always having sunglasses on, or if walking past the perfume counter at the mall will give me a migraine.
I still struggle with being dismissed because I’m “overly sensitive.” Our society places a low value on women’s intelligence anyway, and when I do things like ‘cry when I get angry’ people assume I’m not smart.
Do you or have you ever struggled with impostor syndrome? How do you effectively deal with it?
I deal with imposter syndrome every day. I’m not good enough, smart enough, or creative enough. Someone will find out and I will be humiliated in front of the world. Even as a child and teenager I’ve struggled with it. Not being able to label it made it even worse!
I deal with it by smacking down that little voice in my head with facts. I am who I am, and I’m proud of it. I’ve worked hard to get to this point, and while there will always be people who are better than I am, I’m pretty darn good at certain things. I admit that I can always learn more and I can always do better, but that doesn’t cancel out my abilities.
Honestly, that’s something that came with age and maturity. Learning to accept who I am and love who I am without worrying so much about others judging me has been a very hard road.
Does your faith impact how you view your giftedness as a woman? How?
I am a Christian despite my background, not because of it. In truth, my giftedness probably caused that: I’m too logical to accept that there is no God despite rejecting the rotting trappings of religion that I dealt with as a child. These days my giftedness leads me to reject some things about organized religion, but not the presence of God. My faith is deep but my patience is thin with humanity.
What would you tell women who have only understood they are gifted now as an adult?
You’re not weird. You’re not overly sensitive (well, maybe you are, but not in a negative way.) You are special and unique, and it’s ok to embrace that! Don’t be afraid to wear that label with pride – you earned it.
How do your experiences as a gifted woman impact how you raise and educate your own gifted daughter?
I’m certainly much more tolerant and accepting of the drama and melodramatics that she produces. I understand that she’s her own unique person, and I will never tell her that she’s over-reacting. I will support her, give her every opportunity her brothers have, and I will never tell her that she’s not good enough. I don’t want her to experience the heartbreak and rejection that I did as a child.
What would you tell parents of gifted daughters?
Love them for who they are, even if you don’t understand them. Don’t treat them differently than you would a son – if they love science, then encourage that! If they want to learn how to change a tire, that’s a great life skill. Don’t let your expectations limit what she can do.