Why being gifted is more like being an artist than a calculator

There was a line in the occupational therapy paper about gifted people that said that like artists, they seem to perform best under unusual situations, they are sensitive, etc.

I think that contains a huge kernel of discovery about understanding giftedness and how to cope with it.

We are thinking about it all wrong.

How we see giftedness:

Makes life easier, can do things above your age, should mean that you should be able to do anything you put your mind to!! (including cope with any difficulties you have from being gifted)

Consequences of seeing it this way:

We neglect the gifted (even though they might be considered high-functioning autism spectrum), we do not accommodate them at jobs, they basically go without any formal support, widespread career underachievement.

Oh, and then people of lesser intelligence laugh and congratulate themselves about how “being smart isn’t necessary for success” and Malcolm Gladwell can write about how the highly gifted lack the skills for success. Hahaha, those highly gifted, trying to shame us, well we can do just as well as they can. Everyone’s gifted, don’t you know! ahhaha

We basically shoot gifted people in the foot and then congratulate themsevlves on out-achieving them. Great job folks, I wonder what society is losing from that.

Why this view is not true:

The  way you can tell this is not the case is that gifted people simply struggle.

If we were simply better at figuring out anything, including how to work with less gifted people, then all CEOs would be gifted, all gifted people would make a lot of money and have great relationships and drive nice cars, and we wouldn’t be here reading a blog called “Too Gifted.”

How Giftedness Actually Is

It is much more like being an artist.

In practice, to me, it feels like having a narrower, more specific window one has to be in in order to feel good, almost like the narrow window astronauts have to fly into in order to re-enter the atmosphere (not too high or too low an angle). That window might mean needing to work in particular ways, at particular levels of challenge, in particular environments.

We give it up for artists that sometimes they need to act a little weird and be different and have their particular needs for creation. Can we do the same for gifted people?

Revise my vision

I started this blog thinking it would be about how gifted people are simply too gifted not to be able to figure out their problems. Like, get with it folks; if we are so smart, how are we letting any of this hold us back? We need to find algorithms for conquering the social skills problem and march on to world domination.

This would be furthering the idea of gifted people as pluri-competent, and able to bootstrap themselves out of their problems. (the idea that the gifted are better at all things, including getting over the things they are bad at.) This would reinforce the incorrect stereotype.

But now I am seeing it more as the following –

We are highly sensitive and particular and unusual. Somewhere in there, we have sparks of observation, creativity, vision, intuition, or sheer informational power, that we can leverage against what otherwise seems like a drifting wave taking us away from our goals of integration and wholeness and feeling appreciated and known and safe.

We might need very specific environments in order to succeed. Small things can throw us off. But the reward is great – if we get lined up in the right environment, we can do wonderful things.

Old vs New Paradigm

Old: Gifted people are just better at everything, so if they have problems at work, they should just be able to figure it out. Shouldn’t I know better than to work against my best interest? I should just learn how to get along with everyone else.

New: In many cases, work is a challenge and threat to gifted people, since it demands more or less mind melding with people with very different minds. No wonder that people find it challenging!

There are many different approaches, from laying low to conflict to adaptation.Those that seem to work well in the long run could involve staying oneself, advocating for the work environment conducive to one’s best work, seeking careers that match one’s mind abilities, working with similar people, working solo, etc.

The main goal is to find challenges that are enjoyable and feasible, rather than those where you hit your head against a wall as a square peg in a round hole. One’s work habits and preferences can factor into the work one seeks. In the best cases, giftd people can be top performers who contribute to the GDP and innovation in the country.

New: As a gifted person seeking work, I am aware of the potential for conflict and tension at a level lthat I didn’t experience as much in school where I was more autonomous. I will see this as an invitation, not to become like everyone else, but to simultaneously grow my skills in my own way so that I can build my span of abilities so I can handle these things better (test out social abilities, which might involve personal hacks), as well as to be smart about creating opportunities where I will be valued and my differences will help me do more, rather than where I will be punished. I have special differences that can be really great or really unhelpful depending on the circumstances.


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