When did you know you were different from other children? Is there a particular event that stands out?
I knew pretty early that I was different from other children. I believe I was about 3 to 4 years of age. My first friendships with children seem to be of most frustration. I remember trying to mingle more with their parents than my age peers. I also wanted to interact with children years older than me, mostly 4 years older, though they were too old and weren’t really interested in befriending a 4 year old. (I don’t blame them.) I don’t really have one particular event that stands out. But I do have a collection of memories that I have saved in my memory bank that stood out to me as being different from most.
When did you understand that it was giftedness that made you different?
I’m a late bloomer when it comes to the term, giftedness. I actually grew up thinking I was “dumb”. I have stealth dyslexia that wasn’t known till recently and this played a major part of why I felt, less than. It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I came across the term gifted, and that’s when I pieced parts of the puzzle together for myself, that it actually hit me that it was giftedness that made me different.
What are your primary areas of giftedness?
I would say I’m artistically inclined. Also writing seems to be a strong point, though I never followed through like I should have.
Did you ever try to downplay your giftedness? Why or why not?
When I first found out that all these years I wasn’t actually “less than” but 2e gifted, I had impostor syndrome. I was in denial and felt I wasn’t allowed to call myself gifted because I was never formally tested though the more I read, the more I knew I am. But beyond the past few years, prior to finding the term giftedness, I did, actually. I hid much of myself. Giftedness is more than academic acceleration, its also encompasses how you think, how you feel, how you process information, to sensitivities and over excitabilities… and I absolutely hid a lot of this to conform to being like my peers. It was hard. Instead of trying to fit in academically, because the stealth dyslexia made it hard to attain high grades in some areas, I focused more on my looks to try and fit in. I hid my sensitivities and over excitabilities and tried to appear as cool and natural as possible, knowing full well that I was hiding and putting on a mask.
Did your parents understand that you were gifted? How did they support you?
My parents never did understand the term gifted. They always taught us that everyone has special talents, but I was never tested for gifted because my 2e canceled out my academic giftedness. They knew I was smart and thought I was lazy and not living up to my potential while in school. They supported my creative side but that’s not the same as academics. There’s no pressure if you receive a C in art but there’s a lot of pressure if you receive a C in math.
Do you wish your parents had handled your giftedness in a different way?
Because of my unique situation, I don’t think they would have known how to handle me any differently. And at the time, giftedness wasn’t widely known like it is now. Especially, 2e gifted. I was an intense child. Very spirited and school didn’t like that. I felt the pressure from the school to conform to being an obedient and quiet child. I faked being sick a lot (this was in 2nd grade, mind you) and so my parents became in trouble by the school and the truancy officer and so they kicked the pressure on high. My mother had dyslexia herself and so she didn’t think she could homeschool then even though I wish I could have been homeschooled, starting in 2nd grade. I guess to fully answer your question, I wish my intensities and over-excitablilties would have been scaffolded instead of extinguished. I didn’t know how to handle them so I ended up acting out at home and became painfully quiet in school.
Was there a teacher or other adult who impacted your giftedness in a profound way?
I would say my mother. After years of hammering down, she realized that I had become someone other than myself. I went from being a leader to someone who was just floating through life. I became socially paralyzed, quiet and depressed. She singlehandedly pulled me out of this. She clung to me and gave me courage to become more myself. She encouraged me to take acting classes which helped to pull me out of my extreme social anxiety and she apologized for not seeing the damage being done sooner. Just by her act of recognizing this, and giving me the recognition I needed and yearned, it allowed me to blossom into a person with a purpose.
Was there a teacher or other adult who made your experience as a gifted girl more difficult?
I feel like almost every teacher made my experience more difficult, other than a handful of teachers. Most teachers found my intense personality and a natural born leader qualities a challenge when I was younger and I was quick to learn that these qualities weren’t wanted. Then as I grew older, and became more quiet, I learned that being too quiet wasn’t wanted either. Most adults let me know that nothing was good enough. That is what I found most difficult. Especially as a child who is a perfectionist and is already hard ones-self.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were in elementary school? Middle school? High school?
Honestly, from the beginning, I wish someone would have said, public school isn’t working, why don’t we try homeschooling. And, These sensitivities and OE’s are not silly nor are you weird but they are what could be potentially great traits to have if harnessed right and if taught how to work through them and cope, instead of ignore. Look at it as more as a superpower than an “ugly mole” of sorts.
What brings you the most joy as a gifted woman?
Honestly, I don’t even know if it has to do with being a woman, but just finding out about giftedness and learning how to better handle my daughter, and to not let her repeat what I lived through, that brings me most joy.
What brings you the most difficulty or pain as a gifted woman?
What brings me most pain as a gifted woman, is the lack of awareness of what gifted actually is. I feel it when I try and connect with other mothers. I see it when others show jealousy. Its disheartening. I wish the stigma of giftedness could be broken.
Do you or have you ever struggled with impostor syndrome? How do you effectively deal with it?
All my life. I was friends with really smart kids, but I was afraid to let them know my struggles in school in fear they would not be my friend because I was afraid they would have seen me as being less than and a fraud. As if I didn’t deserve their friendship because I was dumb. Every job I had I earned without a diploma. I often feared they would find out that I wasn’t worth the position I had. I was constantly afraid I was going to lose my job in fear that I wasn’t what they thought I was. It wasn’t until recently that I heard of impostor syndrome. Having confidence in and understanding myself has helped me effectively deal with it.
Does your faith impact how you view your giftedness as a woman? How?
I believe it does. It keeps me grounded and humbled. Also as a child growing up feeling lost, it was my faith in God that helped to carry me through. I feel if I didn’t have the faith I have, I could have gone down a dark scary path. But He kept me grounded and when I felt no one else loved me, I knew He did. And being a gifted woman, can be quite lonely. So having Him to lean on, has helped tremendously.
What would you tell women who have only understood they are gifted now as an adult?
Don’t be afraid to claim it. Even if you felt you were dumb all your life. Besides my faith, this has been one thing that has also helped to “set me free”. Connect. Connect with others through social media, in real life. It helps to find your tribe and to be able to form friendships or even become acquaintances with those in similar situations. It will help get over the shock and also help heal. Also read. Read as much as you can on the subject of giftedness. The more we educate ourselves, the more we can educate and help others.
How do your experiences as a gifted woman impact how you raise and educate your own gifted daughter?
The impact was significant enough to have made me decide to homeschool my daughter. I honestly don’t want her to struggle like I had. Or like many others have. I know I can’t keep her from all harm but I can change how her education will be. And I want it to be as rich as possible. I was so bored in school, I barely payed any attention. I don’t want her to experience the same level of numbness. Her creative nature is most of how she learns and expresses herself. And so to let her learn creatively is going to be my top priority.
What would you tell parents of gifted daughters?
Girls are really good at being chameleons and hiding their giftedness to fit in. Encourage her to be herself and advocate for them. Find what makes them tick and give them what they need to keep on ticking. If they are talented in the arts, allow them to pursue the arts and give that as much praise as those who would excel in mathematics. In the end, they as individuals matter more than their grades. Their emotional well being is just as important as their academics/performance, if not more. One day that girl will grow up to be a grown member of society. She will be contributing/ working in one form or another and so I believe scaffolding the child instead of hammering away to conformity is one way to help bring out self confidence and to become what SHE wants to be, not what others want her to be.
All the Posts In the Series
- Gifted/2e Women – A Series of Personal Stories
- Gifted, Depressed, and Embracing Individuality – Julia’s Story
- Giftedness, Loneliness, and Faith – Christy’s Story
- Gifted, Different, and Imposter Syndrome – Vanessa’s Story
- Gifted/2e, Stealth Dyslexia, and a Mother’s Support – Nicole’s Story
- Discovering Giftedness as an Adult – Mary’s Story
- Embracing Multipotentiality as a Gifted Adult – Heather’s Story