Understanding Very, Very Smart People

Being smart is really hard.

There may be people with high IQs who have an easy time in life; relationships are simple, work and school are a breeze, and they long ago addressed the existentialist questions that some of us might carry with us until the very end. I wish them well, and what follows is not about them.

In my practice, I have been able to observe and experience how the world treats young adults with superior intelligence. At times it can be pretty heartbreaking, and these are a few things that I wish I could tell all gifted young adults (as well as the people in their lives).

You’re not allowed to talk about it.

This is the message that brilliant people receive from the world. Because much of the world sees intelligence as a good thing, talking about it seems braggadocios, which is incredibly problematic. People with high IQs are outliers, and outliers are often a more difficult fit in many respects because the world is not made for them. You are different enough for it to be potentially problematic, but you are not allowed to acknowledge how you are different because to do so would be self-aggrandizing. Be more like everyone else, but don’t you dare address how you are different. Bright people who have internalized this message may go far out of their way not to talk about a fundamental difference that often contributes to difficulties in a number of areas.

Learning how and when to acknowledge your own intelligence instead of sidestepping the subject can be incredibly important, and sometimes this means learning how to talk about it tactfully. One of my favorite quotes happens to be on tact: “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” -Winston S. Churchill [attributed but disputed]. Learning to talk about how you are different without turning people off may mean that your needs actually start getting met…

Trying is a skill.

If you’re so smart, why aren’t work and school easy all of the time? If you have had a lifetime of being able to intuit your way through school or work, it also means that you have a lifetime of not cultivating the skill of trying. Some gifted teens and adults get to high school, college, or sometimes the workplace, and all of a sudden a completely undeveloped skill set relating to trying is required of them, and nobody is telling them that that is what is going on.

So how do you learn how to try? I recommend finding something that is low-stakes (meaning that it is not going to affect your grades or your work life) and that does not come to you easily. For many, such activities may include learning a new language, mastering a musical instrument, martial arts, team sports, or visual arts. Now that you have found something to try at, commit a significant portion of your week to it. Cultivating a new skill takes time, and the skill of trying is no different.

People can’t tell how sensitive you are.

A common trait amongst the gifted is that the outward expression of emotional states can be more subtle than in the rest of the population. You can be feeling things very deeply without anyone knowing, and that can be a painful and isolating experience. I wish that I could tell every gifted person that people are not missing you intentionally, and you are not alone. This tendency is relatively common, but very rarely talked about.

One way to attack this potentially painful dynamic is to tell people what you are feeling. You might be surprised at how effective verbally disclosing your emotional state can be. Habitually saying things like “I know that I don’t always show it, but I’m super happy right now” can be a total game-changer in some cases.

Existential crises happen a lot earlier, bigger, and more often.

For many gifted people, looking at a lamppost is a different experience than it is for the rest of the world. They do not just see a lamppost. They see an imagined history of how the materials that comprise the post were sourced, manufactured, and installed. They see the way that the lamp is connected to a power grid like a cell in a greater organism of a city and how they fit into that system. Imagine then, for a moment, what it must be like for such a person to turn their attention to their existence and what it means to be human.

The world is ready for angsty teenagers. The brooding 15 –year-old is a cinematic trope for a reason. People are less prepared for 6-year-olds in the midst of an existential crisis befitting a 40-year-old. Not only does it not fit the script, but it may be contributing to depression for decades to come.

Finding meaning is important. I recommend reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Thoughtfully explore how you make meaning in the realms of interpersonal relationships, how you spend your time, and what you enjoy doing/feel called to do.

The rest of the world isn’t going to change.

Learning to do well with people or with organizations (school, work, etc.) that are a less than optimal fit can be amazingly important, and you may as well figure out how to do this sooner rather than later. This idea comes up a lot when I talk to people about they way they fit in (or don’t…) at work or school. While finding optimal fit can be very important, learning how to work well with people who are different from you can be important too. For many people whose minds make them statistical outliers, learning to do this early in life has the potential to save a lot of discomfort.

To this end, there have been times that I have literally told someone that the most important thing that they might learn in high school may involve finding a healthy way to deal with people who have more power than them, but less intelligence.

Stop trying to do things their way.

One of the most agonizing things that I get to witness is the conflation of means with ends. Well-intentioned bosses, teachers, family members, and friends are often generous with advice when you have difficulty. The unfortunate reality is that following their advice does not guarantee that you will be able to overcome the obstacle before you.

I am sorry to say that there does not seem to be a one-size-fits-all answer. I have noticed a trend, however, that many of the gifted people that I work with have an easier time when they are able to learn things as a system and not as a series of steps or isolated facts. In other words, understanding how things fit together as a system is often a more helpful goal than memorizing a list.

While this blog post may be of some help to those who know or who work with people with very high IQs, the real intended audience is adults who are too smart for their own good. While there is a seemingly inexhaustible list of topics that one could cover in such an article, I have intentionally picked the ones that I think have the most clinical utility and may receive less attention than they should.

Awareness changes relationship, and it is my hope that awareness of a few of the ideas presented here makes life easier for someone. It is unlikely that the world is going to change anytime soon, but changing the way that you relate to it may yield a more comfortable fit.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment.
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454 thoughts on “Understanding Very, Very Smart People”

  1. Can you explain a bit more ‘6-year-olds in the midst of an existential crisis befitting a 40-year-old’? Are they thinking about their mortality, their purpose? Thanks, I really enjoyed this post.

    1. I have seen both.

      If I am remembering correctly, Dr. Linda Silverman and a number of other scholars and researchers have observed that highly gifted children have an awareness and understanding of mortality at a much younger age than might be expected (some suggest that you can use the age at which a child understands mortality as a crude tool to approximate intelligence). Imagine then, for a moment, what it must be like for a child young enough to lack any significant autonomy and who relies on their parents for literally everything to understand that their parents are going to die in a way similar to how an adult might, but with the emotions of a young child. This can be an example of the asynchronous development experienced by many gifted children.

      In terms of purpose, I have seen school-aged children struggle with what the point of school is, and with the frustration of lacking agency in their lives (after all, what 8-year-old is really calling the shots in their life?).

      Gifted children often possess a heightened sense of justice, and seeing and understanding injustice in the world and not being able to do anything about it can lead to some of the meaning-making questions that one might not usually expect until later in life.

      I could probably write a whole blog post just on your question….

      Does that help at all? Or bring up other questions?

      Thanks very much for reading.

        1. My six year old came into our room every night crying because he had gotten down a Bible and read the book of Revelation and was inconsolable with the thought that the world would someday end. He extrapolated that thought to the people he knew, all the people he would ever know, and all the people he would never know, as well as animals and inanimate objects. He was absolutely distraught and could not move past it. It was awful. Even months later, it would come back to him and he would restart the grieving process. He could understand things that were way beyond his ability to process emotionally.

          1. Consult with a professional counselor — at his school or independent–for support. It sounds like your child is a highly emotional person who could benefit from strategies for dealing with emotional issues of life.

            Intelligence can make life ectra challenging! There are ways to make it not so difficult.

          2. This must be coming from a religious family and the child has been raised with the firm belief that the Bible is the word of God and is true. And Revelation is a very scary book, even for an adult, if one accepts it as the truth. Our older son at about the same age got ahold of ‘The Tell-tale Heart’, and slowly walked into our bedroom and said “That Tell-tale Heart is a pretty scary story”. Which it is. He recovered from this within a day, because he knew it was just a story. But he didn’t read much Poe for a while. Although it may be a slow process, I don’t think this child needs professional counseling. A kind and comforting family will see him through. If the parents truly believe the Bible to be the word of God, they need to explain their beliefs to their son in a reassuring way. I have no idea how one would do that.

          3. The only thing I can say to this delicate situation is perhaps to introduce your child to Buddhism. Many modern Buddhism centers around the world have free child care with teaching. They do not directly address comparative religions, but so many related topics to
            Revelations. He must have been devastated, I was when I read it. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to gain precious benefits. I believe Buddha himself had feelings like your son…. In order to UNDERSTAND SUFFERING…
            KADAMPA MEDITATION CENTERS. A great lineage and Mahayanan Guru.

          4. I would recommend interpreting the whole Bible, and especially Revelation, as a metaphor – this is what happens in our personal lives, we grow and mature and leave behind things of the past – in a way, our world comes to an end. If we diligently work on ourselves, the outside world as a whole does not need to come to an end. And we will be in a position to help others whose “world” is ending, as we have had the same experience. This is not about literal death and destruction as much as it is about our path of personal growth – not always “fun,” but deep and rewarding.

          5. Tell him that when we die, we all die alone. Everything wth a beginning must end. This includes you and me, all that is mortal, and all of humanity as well. It’s not something to be sad about, it is what makes our one, beautiful life so very precious. What is important is not that the world will someday end, but that you had the gift of living in it. This is my answer, at least.

          6. Well, my comment might be out of place as I am 46 and have no kids, but I had the same happen to me when I was 6. I would sit on my grandmother’s lap and read passages out of the Bible that she instructed me to read, as she knew it was not a child’s book by any means. Well, curiosity got the better of me, and I did have a very good understanding of words even as a child, so I read the entire King James version of the Bible from cover to cover, twice. Yes, some things scared me, some things I did not fully understand until after puberty. By the time I was 9 I came to a stark conclusion, people are wicked, God is just and true. Those who do what God says are rewarded, those who do not are punished. He has already dwelled into Revelations and it’s prophecies and beasts. Let him read it from cover to cover.

          7. I insisted on learning to read when I was 3. I don’t remember not being able to read like I don’t remember not being able to walk or talk.
            I was also raised Catholic. And just was diagnosed at 38 with Asperger’s. IQ average 130. Which made me very literal. Also very unpopular with the nun teachers before I was basically kicked out.
            And I was molested. And I couldn’t tell because the Bible says I should be stoned. That I was now completely worthless to my dad…
            There’s definitely a such thing as kids not being able to completely grasp concepts.
            Other things:
            -The only thing worse than a person who won’t admit they’re wrong is them after proving it. Especially teachers. Extra especially nuns when you’re in like first grade… Just sayin.
            -Prepare to constantly be told you’re making people feel dumb. It’s somehow your fault for sure. The correct response is definitely not “maybe you are…

          8. You don’t have to read the Bible to worry about the Apocalypse. I was probably around five when I saw a science show on TV talking about how there would be another Ice Age, and we’d all be covered in ice and so on. For me, at that age, I was really scared because it meant my family and everyone I knew would die. That they had been talking about thousands of years in the future didn’t really register. Fact can sometimes be scarier than fiction. Thanks for the sleepless nights and nightmares, Vetenskapens Värld!

          9. Quick thought for Monica – Perhaps drawing your child’s attention to the parts of Revelation that talk about there being a new heaven and a new earth, or even the new Jerusalem, would help. If he understands this saying that, after destroying evil in the world, God makes a new world/city etc. in which all people come to live (and creatures and objects too), then this the restoration of all things to life and health would be immensely comforting to your son. Especially if you go with an Augustinian understanding of evil/sin where no person or created thing is purely evil; rather, evil is like a parasite that grows on people, societies, etc. God purges the world of evil to make a heaven on earth were all may thrive (there will be no more tears, etc.). This is actually how the book of Revelation was often interpreted before the literalist turn in the 19th century, so if your family is Christian you don’t have to worry about it being something foreign to the faith.

          10. This is just one example of the pain that can result from teaching that one thing, anything, is absolute truth. When that’s taught from day 1, there is no room for shifting perspective, truly creative thought, and a sense of human collaboration, nor is there the emotional space for any self-generated identity. That’s not to say whatever that one thing is isn’t true, but if it is, it wouldn’t require the often hampering, if not damaging, assertion.

          11. This made me think of something my daughter said when she was 2 years old, well before we realized she was gifted. Out of the blue one day, she said, “Mommy, one day all the people that are here will be gone and there will be all new people.”

          12. When I was a child (slightly older than your child), I went through the sort of crisis that the author talks about. There was a lot of focus on the possibility of nuclear war, and it affected me deeply. I found it very despairing to learn about the short-sighted and self-serving aspects of our society and its leaders. I got lost in drugs and spent 25 years as a heroin addict.
            My life started changing after I started reading the books of Lee Strobel and Nancy Pearcey, and investigating the strong historical and intellectual basis for Christianity, and how Christianity has shaped western society. Looking back, I wish I had been told as a child that God had blessed me with special gifts, and that I had a responsibility to nurture those gifts to serve God, and through serving Him, serve others.
            Those books might be a bit heavy for young kids, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not very hard to fall into despair given the state of the world, and that I have found a lot more hope in the Christian message than I found in a secular worldview.

          13. I used to think this way because I was taught, at an early age, that the Bible was the truth and reality. It wasn’t until high school, when I had a class called “The Search for God” where I actually lost Him. The class taught me of the early civilizations where the stories of the Bible came from. I became aware of the fact the Bible was put together from multiple sources and stories and some were ignored and some made the cut. I came out of that class an atheist with an understanding that the stories of all religions were stories to teach us morality and such. It was a relief actually to be able to drop that inescapable fear of the apocalypse from an unknown being. Of course my grandmother believed I would find my way back to God but I have not. What I have found over the years is the ability to understand the world around me and to teach my child to always ask questions.

          14. This saddens me. Wish that I could sit and talk with your boy. Cognitively intelligent children, as the originator of this thread points out, face the challenge of holding more, or deeper, perspectives but without the emotional maturity to help integrate the experience. This can be hugely traumatic and actually affect his development in a negative way. His system will find ways to offset this, which can mean his mind finds ways to ‘wall off’ emotions, leading him to later appear as lacking empathy. When in fact the opposite is true. And that can make healthy relationships challenging. It could also affect his learning capacity (while still being a smart individual) because there is an ontological relationship between cognitive and emotional intelligences.

            Here’s a rule of thumb… just because a kid can “get it” doesn’t mean he should see it or read it. Occupy his time with wonder. And let him know that the Bible is one of a few sacred texts in the world and that interpretation of the book rests on our levels of awareness of people and our meaning making frames. This is why there are so many different interpretations of the same passages. Let him know that some day he will understand the scriptures in a different way. And do let him know that energy does not ever die. Consciousness merely transitions. And consciousness is an intelligence within energy.

          15. I experienced this as a young child as well. I grew up reading the Bible, and I can recall going through a phase where the thought of living eternally in heaven was terrifying.

            “What will we do?” “Won’t we run out of things to do?” “We will be so bored living forever.”

            My Mom attempted to find Bible verses to console me, but I stayed awake many nights trying to plan out my eternity so that I wouldn’t get bored. I was 6 years old.

            I now feel that the most important thing we can teach our children is how to sit with difficult thoughts and feelings instead of attempting to explain them away and find “solutions” to our children’s problems.

            Although our children will probably want us to “fix” the difficult feelings that come with such lofty, deeply existential thoughts, I would refrain from trying because we simply cannot. I believe that teaching things like breathing and relaxation techniques to help them cope with the physiological response to such thoughts can help them more effectively in the long run.

            Also, conversations like, “what is a thought?” and “what is a feeling?” or “where do I feel my feelings in my body?” can be very empowering and comforting.

            Hope that helps 🙂


          16. I hear you on that. My parents had the same issues with me and my siblings. But back in the 1960s, there was no therapy for that, so we had to figure out most of that on our own (and our parents, too). Maybe that’s why all three of us siblings are atheists today – it’s a lot easier to accept death in a universe that doesn’t care about you than a universe with a God who loves you and wants only the best for you.

          17. I remember that even now 60 years later. They were important questions. i remember telling my mom she couldn’t prove things and that there were constant contradictions. Her answer startled me as I expected she, being my mom, could fix all the contradictions and fears running around in my mind. She quite calmly said, “no, I can’t. It is your job in life to study and find the answers that right for you.”

            I was 8. For some reason, the words my job and my answers took away the ruminating angst and set me on a life long course of learning. They gave me permission to think for myself, to ask hard questions, and to evaluate the answers I found I found.

            I did find that many feel uneasy when faced with questions from a much younger person. They must either blow you off with some distraction or take the time to try to validate you and look inside for their own thoughts for you. I learned quite quickly who could be asked hard questions and who was frightened by them.

            The “Big Picture” approach freed me from the narrow thoughts of others as it provided me with a way see the whole along with the pieces that make up the whole.

        2. Our family was already mostly vegetarian (sometimes ate fish). At 4, my middle child asked whether fish were animals, and then became SO sad about the fact that anyone would eat them, too. He’s now 10 and never eaten any meat or fish. For him, this was a deep, conscience-driven issue even at that early age. Meanwhile, my now 8-year-old has been fascinated with death and dying from early on. At 5, he asked me whether I was alive when Picasso was. Not being a history buff, I said I didn’t think so. He responded, “Yes you were, Mom. You were 4 when he died.” (He knew Picasso’s death date and my birth date.) Sometimes the existential stuff becomes really weighty for them, and sometimes it’s just a much greater awareness of the world around them and their place in it vis-a-vis others. Regardless, these are conversations they can’t have with 99% of their peers, who just stare at them like they’re crazy.

          1. I remember going through the same process at that age but then including the whole plants and invertebrates and fruit into the system. Are carrots alive? How many beings am I killing by eating this meal? Where does bread come from? Is eating bread as bad as abortion? Is my cat bad because he needs to eat meat? and on and on my head spun for days. In the end I came out with a deep acceptance of the natural laws and the ecosystem and our role in it

            Thank you for this article.

          2. Perhaps one could teach plants are alive too and guide him through the grief, such is the nature of life.
            Vanity of a higher morality is really misplaced, even though vegetarianism is a more sustainable choice

          3. This made me laugh because of remembering myself, I know that I have memories that are very adult processing-wise going back to 18 months (other people have figured out my age for me based on my description of events and location). Your son was most likely thinking that HE was aware at age 4 (now 5), so why wouldn’t YOU have been?

          4. I really relate to this. I felt so alienated when I was young because my thoughts were deep and I suppose “creepy” to other kids. It is a death we sensitives experience. What should be thought of as a gift those voices and tendencies in us get silenced by ourselves or others. It is the price I paid to have friends. I became good at indifference. It took two very special children of my own to realize the injustice in shutting off that part of myself. I had to find it again and “FEEL” deeply again. I don’t see “extrasensory”, highly intelligent, “sensitive”, or our autistic nature as something we should supress. I believe these are the qualities of a greater human existence, one that wants a more harmonious and tolerant world.

          5. Your kids are cool! Study up on your history, then they can turn to you for intelligent conversation when their peers stare blankly. 🙂

        3. At seven my son read th Harry Potter series and when the dementors entered the picture so did the concept of souls. He spent many nights debating the idea of their possible existence and why people might invent them if indeed the don’t exist. That is what I believe the author was describing.

          1. Yes, she was, and she deals with your question most directly in the last book, in the conversation between Harry and Dumbledore at King’s Cross (many puns and references intended). If you’ve read the books, you’ll understand me.

          2. JK Rowling has stated in interviews that dementors were her metaphor for depression. As a 38 year old woman who loves Harry Potter and has firsthand experience with depression, the kind where I’ll be medicated for the rest of my life, these vile creatures do indeed make a real illustrative point for explaining depression to the non-depressed.

            Those who aren’t clinically depressed can indeed be struck with feelings of intense sadness or despair, but it doesn’t linger. Eat some chocolate, and you bounce back fairly quickly. But for those who have had terrible things happen, who have past experience with inescapable despair…it doesn’t just go away, even though something like chocolate can be something of a balm for a little while. Depression does suck away your soul. It robs you of everything you are, your true self.

            And existential despair, which could have been a trap your son fell into when pondering the existence of souls, is just as real as experiential despair. Both can lead to depression, though some of us are more at risk of it than others.

      1. Oh Bingo. I remember thinking just like this back when I was a young child. I had siblings like me – and my parents dealt with it by always discussing things in a very matter of fact and adult way. We had no problem understanding. It did use to confuse us when our friends didn’t get it though. And I remember having adult thoughts and thought processes well beyond my years. Didn’t share most of those with my parents because I thought it might freak them out, much less being able to share such things with my friends. I compensated by reading everything I could get my hands on – which was why I was reading high school and college material when I was 8 and 9 years old. Used to confuse the heck out of school and public librarians (I used to have to bring notes from my parents explaining to let me have access to the adult book section.) Good thing my mom believed in books and had an extensive library. I comfortably read childrens’ books right along side of adult books. I am pretty sure that is what kept me sane while growing up and waiting for everyone else to catch up.

        1. Similar to our son my step-son. His caring father noticed similar behavior and He was finally tested gifted. Before that he was having issues in school from boredom, finally gained a free pass to library when he finished class, tests etc. He is a Dr of Radiology today and can probably understand everything as you explained… Thanks

        2. “I am pretty sure that is what kept me sane while growing up and waiting for everyone else to catch up.” Yes. this. Mine was exacerbated by having a nearly photographic memory. I could ‘see’ and organize information I had already seen in front of me like charts in the ‘air’ of my mind’s eye. Of course, only when I was really interested in something and tuned in. And it was weird, so I tried not to do it unless I WAS really interested in as subject enough to do it. I made notebooks full of diagrams for new languages, biodome systems, electronic structures… of course none of it was truly informed enough to work but.. I was trying. My librarian was actually distressed when she finally gave me access to the ‘upstairs’… she followed me around and checked every book I was reading. I read architecutre, Ancient Egypt, biographies, plant and animal identification manuals, philosophy… I had to fight like crazy to keep hold of several science fiction books she didn’t think appropriate. We didn’t have many books at home. My father wasn’t in the picture and most of this I got from him. I found that out when I was an older teen. We are like mirror images except for gender…

        3. I sure can relate to this. Ran through every book in the school (1 to 8) library, the book mobile, my house (including my Dad’s college books ), the teacher’s books by 6th grade. Even ones that I didn’t care for. Found out that I could order books from the main library, but was furious when I was told that many were considered inappropriate for my age. Had to wait for weekends my mom could take me to the main library. She would also pick up an encyclopedia serial as it came out at the grocery store and I would read it cover to cover. I remember feeling that I was an adult at age 10, but still considered a child. I didn’t forget things that happened or read and had trouble understanding why other people forget. That still happens and I have to keep reminding myself. Developed my own meditation at age 10 and later found out that there was such a thing called Chakras. It gave me a lot of incite though in raising my own gifted daughters and now their children. Also helped in marriage to a likewise gifted man. The not talking about it is the worst. I still don’t know what to say when people say you are so smart.

          1. You can say, “Thanks.”
            My therapist once said “You’re very intelligent,” like that was new to me. I said, “I know.”

        4. Bingo for me, too. However, I was not in sync with the family that adopted me. I identify with observing things as a system or pattern, where as others were not. I was raised by Catholics – I read the bible at age 6-7, and rejected much of what it said. I couldn’t relate to my peers, either. I think another added hurdle is gender. There was a fair about of torment over being a girl who was smart, but not socially popular. This included my own family. Hypocrisy is still a hot button with me. It spurred me to be a voracious reader. My vocabulary often annoyed others. The bit about being too literal resonates. For a long time a sibling was forever pulling my leg.

        5. Oh, Lilly! I can relate to your awful experience at the library. I remember having near meltdowns wanting the next book on my list from an author, and requesting said books from the school librarian. I remember well their response after looking it up. A disappointed and concerned nodding followed by a very dismissive “This is not a children’s book! You should not be reading this.” I felt so heartbroken and confused. We couldn’t afford to buy it, and they wouldn’t borrow it for our school from the public library for me. So I was only allowed to read books specifically targeted towards me as an audience. I felt so betrayed!

          Also, I remember my first existential crisis in the bathtub when I was 4! My Mom was very nice in that instance and realized what was going on and just laughed while I freaked out. “4 is a little young! But OK, this is normal, it’s just an existential crisis”…. 🙂 I thought that was normal…..

        6. You remind me that when school was out the only library access I had was to the bookmobile once a week. By age 10 I had the librarian convinced that I selected my mother’s reading materials because she lent me her library card so i could check out 7 books from the adult section and 7 books from the junior section. I still wonder if they believed me or just went along with it.

      2. Very interesting about understanding death. At 2 1/2 my daughter fully understood and then became obsessed with death (due to our favorite neighbor who had cancer and an old stray cat that she loved passing in a 2 month time frame.) People said “she doesn’t understand what death is” but I knew. I see so many of my gifted “quirks” in her and hope I can give her some of the coping skill I have plus some.

      3. As i remember i had this Crysis around 4-5 years i was crying couple of days when i understand that when my mom will ldid it will be forever and i know that i canT do anything about it … then i frayed even more cos i loved life so much then for my brain trying understand infinity …eternyty ..that was a time after death what i need to W8 until i come back to world .In a moment when i was bathing my mmlm come to me cos i was crying again and she asked me whats going on so I sad her ..and when she took me out from water i decided to never die … I mean we live in age where tech and science can longer our life exponentially and i belive at the end of my life we will have technology what can download “spirit” of man in to machine or droid or humanoid or in to pC and … This was aprox 25 years ago …And when i see your development i just need cross the fingers and belive ..I think all ppl areoun 25 and younger will achive immortality …

      4. I’d just like to say heartfelt thanks for this post, especially the comment about 6 year olds with an existential crisis. Being a mother of such a child makes an outlier of me as well as him. It’s hard to talk about, hard to find help that doesn’t involve people admonishing me for not putting him in therapy sooner, on meds etc. Even just seeing the words you wrote, seeing my son reflected on your page, makes me feel less alone in this journey of supporting him. Happy to have found your page.

        1. Mary,
          You should look into an organization called SENG (sengifted.org) Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted. It was a lifeline for my son, now in his 20’s, in getting through those isolating, lonely years. Good luck and remember to enjoy the ride, as our kids are mostly fantastic and invigorating and only a little bit challenging!

          1. I took part in a six-week SENG group. I found it problematic because they were trying to fit all of the HG kids into a box that worked for them. I have two HG kids and they are completely different people from each other. Imagine how much different they are from someone who shares no DNA with them. They don’t fit into any category other than they are really, really smart.

          2. I am not particularly familiar with their groups. I know more about the literature that support, etc. It’s disappointing that the group was not more helpful.

          3. Mary,
            I would encourage you to check out the Davidson institute for talent development. Their web site has a huge amount of information on the pg child and very good family counseling resources for qualifying youth.

        2. Your son is lucky to have a Mother like you. And remember, there are all sorts of special intelligence and many of them are not measured on the IQ scale. Maybe you are an outlier on the Mom scale!

        3. I echo this thanks. Now, can you help me reconcile the schism between knowing none of this really matters, even though I am wildly anxious that the task at hand is successful, that it is important to me and others? Still haven’t figured that out in 25 years…

      5. I wish someone had told me many of these things when I was an older teen and floundering – the thing about trying describes my experience in college precisely.

        1. Yes, the “trying thing” caught me too. Now, at 55, I feel that I need to learn this skill. So I’m going through the comments, see what people have tried (pun intended). How did you learn to try, to fail and get up and keep going?

          1. Ton, for me it’s been about developing my curiousity around nescience- that which I don’t know because it’s been impossible for me to know due to never being exposed to that information. I found that I had a freeze response in learning situations that was created when I went to school- the issue of always having to get things ‘right’ the way that THEY saw them as ‘right’ (my body still gets tense in the presence of multiple choice questions because I can generally make them *all* right in one way or another, 😀 ). This atmosphere of stifling restriction of my mind in school created a kink in my ability to self regulate on a bodily level, which would manifest as blankness, shutting down, dissociation and all other kinds of blocks.

            I’ve been involved in nervous system regulation for a few years now and it’s transforming this block in a profound way- the work of Peter Levine, Stephen Porges, Liz Coch and many others has been incredibly useful for me in dissolving these learning blocks by showing me how to regulate my nervous system response in a deep way. You might find something of interest there.

      6. This is my child. At 2, I changed her daycare and she said that her former teacher was a better teacher. She would never say that her current teacher was a bad teacher, she just said that she wanted to go back to the other school because her teacher there was a good teacher and provided support for her argument. She also know every planet and 2-3 facts about it but that was not enough. She needed to make the model, understand where each planet and how far was it from earth. At 3, she was questioning mortality and wanting to know my plans for her if something happened to me. She has resolved that people become feelings(energy?) when they die and we call them ancestors.

        By 4 until now, she questions the meaning and value of school. We compromise with a hybrid homeschooling model where I teach her from 3-6pm each day. We also found another school who is willing to work with her academic level and her social level.

        1. I was lucky enough to be in honors classes from 7th to 12th grade. I think I would’ve gone nuts without that! Most people there were like me, or at least recognized who I was.

      7. I’d be interested in your take on what happens when a high IQ child is raised by parents with average / low IQs. Particularly when mental illness and abuse are involved.

          1. Naturally. I suppose I should have been a bit more clear about what I was looking for. – Not so much generalizations (I don’t imagine that would be possible), of course, but an example or two – perhaps from case study or your own practice. Or, if you’d prefer, maybe point me in the direction where I might find some credible reports.

            Cheers in advance.

        1. My mother was learning disabled, but ‘functional’. I didn’t find that out until I was about 11 and I was helping her balance her checkbook and read some bits out of the newspaper to understand what they meant. She tried to support me, but mostly she was scared. My father and her had divorced when I was seven – somehow they had struggled through up till then but it just wasn’t working anymore. I hardly saw him for the next ten years… He once tried to get custody of me but my mother’s fear was palpable throughout the entire house and when he came to ask me I curled into a ball and said I couldn’t because she would be mad at me and it would be worse. He told me when I was an older teen that she was a wonderful mother but she couldn’t begin to understand things he needed to do and she kept holding him back from doing them from various fears or worries. I really wish he had been in my life because I am the mirror image of him. I always felt alone in the world as a child – at ten years old I read philosophy and mythology and the ‘changeling’ myths were something I focused on deeply, as well as past lives etc. I thought maybe I was from another world, or maybe I was the one with the problems because I could never turn my brain OFF or get enough to satisfy it.

        2. You end up with a child who develops emotional independence at an early age because she realizes that her parent(s) do not understand her and their treatment of her is wrong.
          As an adult, interpersonal relationships are difficult because you never learned emotional dependence and trust. You know these things are necessary for a healthy relationship, but the conditioning from years of abuse and emotional distance is difficult to overcome.

      8. I remember lying awake in bed at night wondering how to survive during or after nuclear conflagration. I was 7 years old. I also remember depriving myself of some enjoyable experiences because of my concern for the feelings of others who may not be able to share those experiences. I was always working on “normalizing” myself while simultaneously trying to improve myself. It was a less than optimal way to grow up when the more typical pressures of family and social dynamics that were beyond my control (that used to piss me off!) were added.

        Additionally, taking a global approach to learning has been translated into project-based learning, and PBL changed the way I go about acquiring new skills. I was fortunate enough to be the director of a PBL high school for a few years until conformity was thrust upon the school by No Child Left Behind. Instead, this adult just left 🙂

        Thank you for your post, Sam.

      9. I remember at 6 getting in trouble in class for not paying attention to someone struggling to take their turns to read a book I had finished quickly when it was introduced.
        Instead, at 6 I used to sit and ponder what made me who I was, and the fact it felt like my existence was a separate thing from my physical being.
        When I tried to talk about it and ask about my thoughts I got strange looks which made me stop asking. The same happened when I was told in Sunday school that G-d was everywhere and I asked if that meant he was in all objects, or the space between them. I was told “oh, I never thought about that” and shut down.

      10. I had a very scary moment when I was about 8 or 9, and I was thinking about infinity. It was…staggeringly overwhelming. And I couldn’t explain it in a way that anyone understood. I tried not to think about it too much for a few years, mostly because obviously I was missing something important if no one else found infinity at all a disturbing concept.

        I don’t tell anyone much about my thoughts on God either, because I was met with confusion and anger at my “blasphemous” conception of Him as a child.

        I found the “learn a system, not facts or steps” comment very personally relevant. I need to understand a system before I feel comfortable with it. I hate working within a small, discrete black box of information.

        1. Yes!

          I had the existential question when I was in elementary school and when I asked my mother, she told me about sex. It was interesting information, but didn’t address my question.

          And, the big picture thing, systems. I feel so much better knowing the system and how my work sits in it.

          And the trying thing. Oh boy. Still an issue.

        2. Yes! At age 5 I was asking questions in Sunday school that had only the answer “faith”, and that did not gee-haw with me. I was always anxious and loved the praise I’d get in school for answering questions and soon learned that although teachers appreciated my questions, the other students did not. I learned to stiffle many questions and look up the answers on my own. I was thought to be sweet, intelligent and crazy in high school. I still have adaptation issues in the word. And I am looking for a good therapist on the Sunny side of Louisville, Ky. I.e. S. IN.

        3. I once had a nightmare as a young kid. I woke up screaming “there is no highest number” and was inconsolable. Apparently, in my sleep, I had been counting, trying to get to the highest number and was terrified when I realized it didn’t exist.

          I’m 45 now, and I finally understand why I (in my first year of college) started painting. At the time, the only words I had for it were “Because I’m bad at it. It’s comforting to be bad at painting.” Even my friends thought I had lost my mind. But it was how I was learning to *try*. Thank you to the author for that insight. (I now find it hilarious when people tell me they envy my skill with a paintbrush or pencils. Like, friend, you have NO idea.) My thing that I am bad at now is making music. When I’m 65, I’ll need something else to be bad at.

          1. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the advice on being bad at something so you can remember to try. I wrote it down. I think I’ll try that.

      11. YES to all in the article above!!!! I specifically want to comment about the fear of death in very young children. My child has high anxiety and AS, and became terrified of death at age 4. Everything I could find on dealing with anxiety was about some kind of desensitization, but you CAN’T do that for death. Basically, everyone normal in our society just decides not to think about it because it’s too overwhelming and depressing. Therapy wasn’t that much help for her because they focused on the “cycle of life”, “that’s the way things are”, “it’s natural”, and “don’t think about it so much.”

        On top of this, though we didn’t tell her any of the scary parts of Christianity; she found a DK Children’s Bible written for 12-year-olds at a friend’s house and read it when she was 5. What a disaster that was! Thank goodness we found a wonderful Congregational minister who sort of “translated” the Bible into a modern context of ideas so she wasn’t terrified of being struck by lightening for being a terrible person all the time, or going to Hell if she wasn’t perfect, or that everyone who didn’t believe in the correct religion was going to Hell. I completely identify with Monica below, and can assure anyone that some of these kids are completely capable of understanding the sort of existential questions like “Why are we here?”, “What is the point of life?”, and “What happens after death?” that a German philosophy major would dwell on!

        I went through many ideas trying to help her, and finally I found the following:


        It helped a lot, as did the “People and animals, and even events, live on in our memories” idea. On Memorial Day each year we bring out pictures of our cats who have passed and remind ourselves of the fun stories we have about them. She’s still scared, but she doesn’t obsess about death all the time now. Thanks so much for writing the above article.

      12. At 6 years old I felt I was in a box forcefully kept away from the world. At 7 years old I argued with my teacher at my second vacation bible school about the inconsistencies or inaccuracies of the other denomination the previous week. Also at 7 years old was a logic problem involving driving to church and speed… my response was that they could simply decide not to go. That was not an option, I was told. At 8 years old I wanted to quit school, it felt so unnatural, and the teacher so emotionally brutal if a student (usually me) that just didn’t “get” that verbal instructions and lack of context of assignments didn’t make sense. At 10 years old I would cry for hours because I felt so much pain (injustice) in the world. I’ll argue the basis of some questions are not simply ill-written, and made assumptions that had not right to be made. I’ve no idea of what I might score on an IQ test, although there were a number of things in this article that resonated, such as needing to learn things in webs or systems. Anything out of context is a struggle to remember, so I didn’t do so well in many subjects in school unless it was the arts or literature, history and psychology. Because of my personal experiences as an adult, I tried to determine why I didn’t fit in, came up with different answers… what I came up with was that I am a visual web/systems thinker that finds connections between, what most would find disparate topics. I find that two of my three children fall into this category, too, in different subject matter. My daughter says that she, her brother, and I are neurodiverse.

      13. “I could probably write a whole blog post just on your question….”
        Please do, Mr. Kohlenburg!
        I was worrying about things that perhaps most people never bother with, when I was just starting grade school. Feeling so, so deeply, too…

      14. My mom has told me about a conversation we had in the fall of my kindergarten year. I was observing a fallen leaf decaying in a puddle and I asked her if death was like this for people. If we decayed in the same way and how old people had to be when they died. I was wondering how soon the Principle Mr. Welsonbach would die, because he seemed pretty old (he was gaunt and bald). She said I was obsessed with mortality for a time. Age 5.

      15. I remember having a very difficult time at the ages of five and nine. I’d seen something on television about Africa (back in the ’70s) and the phrase “most children don’t live past the age of five” somehow got into my head as they died at the age of five. So there was a great relief when I turned six, but also great anxiety when my little brother turned five. I don’t remember of I’d KNOWN anyone that had died at the time, but I certainly had a very clear understanding at that age of the impermanence of the universe and the things in it, and how hard it was to engage with change and loss. I already thought of stability as precious but knew that, as a child, I was utterly powerless to have an effect on the world.

      16. Yah this was me as a kid, and the article overall. It didn’t make my messed up childhood any easier. Now I’m a pretty messed up, chronically severely depressed adult pushing 40 and it is way too late to undo this kind of damage (I won’t address my other unfixable issues that linger even after years of therapy. )

      17. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic; I found them to be accurate and relevant to my many years of experience working to meet the myriad needs of intellectually gifted kids. I was reminded of a time when Amy, one of my seventh graders, was showing up for class looking more and more distraught….bags under her eyes, etc. Finally, I took her aside to ask if I could help by listening to something that might be on her mind. Steeling myself to hear “my mom has cancer” or something similarly devastating to a kid her age, instead, she broke into actual sobs and said “I can’t sleep at night worrying about the destruction of our planet’s rainforests.”

      18. My once brilliant and gifted son has been beaten up so often for being different that the brain damage has lowered his IQ. But somehow I don’t think that will make his life easier…
        grieving that lost gift to the world.

      19. Thank you so much, Samuel. My experience of this at about age 5 was understanding the unfairness of the world. That a powerful person could make a mistake and make an un-powerful person fix it. I understood gender discrimination at this age in a way that went beyond noticing lots of pink in the girls section of a store… to the limitations of activities, accomplishments, and successes simply based in gender.

        Thanks for this great article.

      20. Thanks for the great post.

        I’ll never forget the day my 3 year old son asked my mother (in the oncology ward) if she was going to die (‘Yes, darling, I am’), and the months ensuing her death… We couldn’t send him back to preschool for quite some time…

      21. What’s really hard is growing up gifted but never getting the attention, support, and creative challenges you need to blossom. Being expected to act just like the average people around you and being put down for being perceptive, intuitive, and observant deeply affects your identity. Others often find that combination scary and so they try to subdue or diminish you, criticize and never give encouragement. An ignored gifted person learns to blend in, which leads to feeling invisible and unknown in any real sense by family and friends. It can be a deeply lonely life.

      22. I am almost moved to tears. This describes my childhood, leading to the adult I have become. My parents are also brilliant and I think that helped them to understand me. This helps me to see in black and white how my choices may have formed.

      23. I was seven or eight when I first read the old prayer with the line “If I should die before I wake.” There were a lot of nights when I lay in the bed terrified that I might die in my sleep.

        1. This was our nightly bedtime prayer and at age 3 or 4, I couldn’t sleep from fear of it. I thought shadows on the wall came from Jesus, creeping in to get me and take me away before morning. No wonder I turned into a night owl.

      24. I’m a spry 59 yr old grandma. My 5 yr old gifted grandson very matter of factly asked me the other day if he could “have your scrapbooks when you die?” I of course answered yes, just as matter of factly. I was that 5 year old child myself and couldn’t stand when adults wouldn’t acknowledge things which to me were so obvious.

      25. When I was 6, my best friend died. She was probably in her 90s. It was horrific to me. My mother just told me. I had no way to process that information.
        I lost my grandmother at 11 and great-aunt 6 months later. That started my first major depression.

      26. Just that, lack of agency, the point of school, life as a disappointment, the struggle to meet others expectations on how a 6 year old should be, that and more made my 6 year old (gifted) say to me that: If this is life, then I don’t want to exist anymore. He is now 12 and luckily after 4 schools and lots of trauma’s, he found this teachter who sees him and made him grow by asking What do YOU want to learn. And that is the key. Thanks for your post and support by writing it!

      27. Is there anywhere I can read more about this? I certainly felt the lack of agency in my life as a child. Distress and helplessness. It’s as if your article was written for me personally.

          1. Please write more! As a not so young adult, this has resonated so deeply and helped articulate things I’ve never been able to express verbally. Especially for girls, the subject seems to be taboo. It has taken a long time to find a space safe enough to acknowledge that I might be one of those “really smart” peopke and talk about how lonely it feels.

      28. Yes, you hit the nail on the head with this post (I am one of those outliers). I understood mortality at a young age but, for various reasons, it didn’t bother me as much as it (I suppose) should have. My existential crises were more along the lines of endless frustration with not having agency, as you say. I was really not happy being a kid, not because I didn’t like to play and daydream and do normal kid things, but because it seemed adults so often thwarted my plans or didn’t take me seriously or expected me to do what they said for totally arbitrary reasons that made no sense to me. I even felt like I couldn’t entirely trust my parents – not because they didn’t try to be supportive but because I was aware that I had needs they couldn’t meet. I knew it wasn’t their fault, and I didn’t blame myself either – it was just a difficult situation. So I tried not to take it out on anyone, but it was a lot of anger to bottle up and not have any clear target for it.

        “…finding a healthy way to deal with people who have more power than them, but less intelligence.” Yeah. I don’t think I’ve really succeeded in doing that. I’m not sure it’s possible. 🙂 The trouble is when I can see that someone with power is about to do something stupid, and that it’s going to have bad consequences for me or someone I care about, it makes me feel scared and isolated, and why wouldn’t it? It happens less than it used to now, at least in my immediate circle, because I have some really intelligent, caring friends. So I guess my “healthy way” is to mostly avoid people who really wear me out that way. 🙂

        Anyway thanks for the article – could definitely relate to it!

      29. Yes, this! Conscience of mortality combined with the helplessness of being three, exacerbated empathy and sense of justice, and deadly frustration over lack of agency! All these, I get the full throttle of them from my son every day.

        Some have it a lot earlier than 6. I have an eight year old who had this existential crisis at the age of 3.5. He spent at least 6 months uncosnsolably crying almost every single night discussing the future death of each of his loved ones and the emotionally overwhelming impossibility of saving them from this inevitable fate.
        He was unable to sleep until the age of about 5 and a half, because the nature of existence troubled him way too much.

        By six he was obsessed with the topic and already had about middle school knowledge about the creation of the universe, the beginning of life as well as human anatomy.

        He’s now into marine animal behaviour, genetics and viruses, so we watch a lot of medical and marine biology documentaries.

        He is so far from fitting into how the school system and society works for his age group that despite his mind- that never ceases to amaze me- and the scientific knowledge of a (studious) high schooler, he is behind his grade elevel in essential things like literacy because he is not properly guided in the system and I’m unable to give it my full time, which is tragic. Society should adapt to all needs, we pay taxes to school everyone, not just the lowest common denominator!

      30. Holy wow. You just described me — and my son — so well it’s uncanny. (Yes, I was/am gifted — actually twice exceptional, which opened a whole other can of worms.) I’m also married to a gifted/twice exceptional man, and my son started demonstrating the same existential crisis moments I did at a similar age. For me, it was around 5, and his has been late 5 and into 6. He just turned 7. As soon as I started to see it, I knew instantly what he was going through and what he was in for, and I’ve been doing what I can based on my experience to address it. I have seen discussions of this before, so this did not surprise me so much to read here. But what you said about a “heightened sense of justice” did surprise me because I had not seen discussion of that before in reference to giftedness. That heightened sense is almost debilitating in me sometimes — my husband frequently comments when I’m trying to manage anxiety that I’m incapable of doing nothing/ignoring when I see injustice. (This has gotten me in trouble more times than I can count and had some interesting repercussions when I taught high school in a public school.) My son is similar, and it’s been a challenge to balance what he can and should know and how soon while also nurturing that sense in a positive way.

        I would love to see an entire post dedicated to those observations, in one post or separate ones, about an early comprehension of mortality (and recommended secular coping mechanisms) and particularly about a heightened sense of justice.

        1. Yes, I would like to see more on coping mechanisms re early comprehension of mortality and a heightened sense of justice. My gifted 6 year old cannot bear injustice of any sort, not only for situations regarding injustice to herself but also injustice for others. She has been intensely this way since very early, age 3. When her teacher “punishes” the entire class (i.e. no recess/playtime for everyone) for the actions of one or a few “misbehaving” kids, she is outraged at the injustice suffered by the other well-behaving students. She sobs/struggles for days when this happens, not so much for the loss of recess but for the crises of the injustice of it all. She talks about judges and juries and what happens if they make errors. She observes and struggles with the fact that girls are not represented as often as boys in stories, movies, and the same with brown people even though there are more of them in the world than white people. Why? she wants to know is the world organized this way. At 5 she saw a graveyard and this spurred months of contemplation and anxiety of when we would all die, how we would all die, for what reason do we all die.
          We are not religious, but when she saw a painting in the Met depicting Jesus w thorns and Mary distraught she was transfixed and talked for months about what was happening and why he was suffering if he’d done nothing wrong. Whenever candy or some treat is handed out in a group she is checking to make sure everyone gets their share, especially the little ones.
          Schools do not understand how to deal with this heightened sensitivity. If she feels something unjust is happening and the adults don’t correct it she refuses to participate, withdraws, will not work with the group. They think this behavior is anti-social, needs to be corrected and that she needs to be “brought back in” to group activities, but for her what first must be corrected is the injustice. If that correction happens then she will participate. If not, she’ll sit it out. The problem is that the adults don’t always see the injustice as she perceives it and they’re mystified and want to punish/correct her behavior. Talk about frustration.

      31. Thank you for writing this article. It touched so much on so many things that I never feel comfortable talking about.
        In regards to young children and the depth and breadth of their scope of thought, I have an example. When my oldest son was 5 we would go for walks around a local beach park occasionally. He would get so distraught about seeing trash here and there and try to clean it all up because he was concerned about the damage it would do as it decomposed into the soil and water table, or got blown into the ocean to fill the bellies of unwary birds and fish. He didn’t understand how it was that people weren’t concerned about the effects the chemicals in the materials would have inevitably. It distressed him deeply, and made him feel a sense of responsibility to try to rectify it.
        Yes, at 5.
        He was already reading novels and couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t read the signs saying, “Don’t Pollute!”
        We have since navigated those waters. (I’ve had to stop myself from listing a hundred other examples) Now we are at the precipice of High School and things have settled some. We have learned together how to “feed the monster” (questions, curiosity, and educational materials specifically appropriate for him) and wend the way through social situations. My concern now is that I see that he has found a group of friends, and in order to continue to be with them he has deliberately thrown away an amazing scholastic opportunity. He was isolated by his differences in his younger years, then we moved to a new area and he made friends (and an effort not to stand out as much). I am happy for the friendship, but worried that he feels like he needs to diminish himself in order to keep them.

      32. Oh yeah, this was me. I can remember my mom taking my older sister to guitar lessons when I was 5 or 6 and I would freak out every time because, what if that was the last time I would ever see her? Being a young kid in the late 70s and early 80s I also had recurring nightmares about nuclear war. What if everyone I knew suddenly died? What if I didn’t?

        It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s that I finally found a counselor who could relate to me and taught me how to interact well with “normal” people in a way that’s still healthy for me. It’s made a world of difference since. It’s uncomfortable but the world isn’t going to bend to my needs So I needed to learn how to operate within those rules at work and in society. I have my routines, my sanctuary, and friends like me and having those things is the balance.

      33. I am a member of Mensa, but was completely unaware of being intellectually in ‘the top percent’ until I was 40, so that was a long stretch of wondering why I felt different and even inferior a lot of the time! The references to early childhood interest me, although they seem to be disregarded by the argumentative mob who have posted.
        At about 4 years I was fully aware of the inevitability of death in humans and animals. My father was of grandfather age. When I asked my mother her age she replied (out of god knows what coyness) “Oh, I’m eighty”. “But don’t people die at that age?” She sniggered and refused to reply.
        So I spent several years of my childhood expecting her to die at any minute, resulting in sleeplessness and a general sense of dread – which still lurks around.

        1. I had a somewhat similar experience, with my parents also being of grandparent age – see comment below. But my mom was embarrassed at having had a kid at her age, so for *years* I never knew how old my mother actually was. She even refused to put her birth year on the school registration forms.

          I’m sorry your mother’s flippant remark caused you such pain.

      34. I am the last of 6 kids — my parents had me at the ages of 46 and 49. By the time she had #6, my mom was distant and neglectful, and my dad was the only real parent I had. When I was around 5 or 6, I had an experience where someone called my beloved dad my grandpa.

        I had been aware that he was older than other kid’s parents, but had not connected his age with his mortality until that moment. But what I knew about grandparents was that they DIED. I cried and cried.

        I’m not sure I could verbalize what the problem was, and I’m not sure I ever discussed it with my dad in later life. But I had been aware for a long, long time that I would lose my dad sooner than most people. He died when I was only 31 — my oldest sibling was 48.

        I also have a brother who says my memory of this is entirely wrong…

      35. To expand on that comment a bit: my existentialist crisis (calling it that in hindsight) came at age 7 or 8. I saw a documentary of the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that triggered questions about the inherent evil in mankind, the relativity of “good” vs “bad” and how pop culture created a one-sided storyline… It also made me doubt my own (very strong) sence of justice, and the potential bias of that, and doubt the point of life if people were able to bestow such horrors upon eachother…

        After that, it took some time to enjoy playing football with friends again, tbh.

      36. I am a living example to the accuracy of this well thought out article. Too many M’s/Illians are thrown under the bus in our culture…. for being different and misunderstood … Thank you for writing this …. shared!

      37. What you relate is absolutely true. I am in unfortunate possession of a very high IQ (99%ile) and am now 67 years old. One of my early memories was when I realized that living things I loved would die (perpetuated by the death of a family cat). I was hysterical, cried uncontrollably for more than a day. I was about four at the time. I learned not long after that to not let anyone know my thoughts or feelings about anything. That was the result of being abused, physically and emotionally for years; being told I was stupid and worthless. I didn’t accept my intelligence until I was in my early thirties.

      38. Mine’s 160+ sd 15 (indeterminate) and I hate being around people and nothing ever seems fair. I can also do things other people can do and am treated worse socially, given less credit, and understand things others don’t.

      39. It is interesting to notice how many female respondents you have.
        I am an extremely HiQ male Aspie, but so far some people have professed that Aspergers Syndrome and autism should be at least five times more prevalent with boys than with girls. The main reason is that females are more clever and prone to conceal their condition. I suspect that this bias is prevalent in other neurologic deviation including HiQ.

      40. Before he was 7 years old, my son questioned the world’s economic injustices, why some cultures embrace arranged marriage, and whether or not plant life has feelings that we don’t understand because plants/trees don’t express themselves like animals.
        These are deep philosophical questions, and they kept him up at night!
        Meanwhile, his teacher was frustrated that he couldn’t be bothered to complete her cut and paste spelling words week after week.

    2. I remember bawling at age 6-7 for a night because I realized that since dinosaurs went extinct and are no longer around, the same will happen to me, and then questioning the meaning of existence if we all die eventually and become nothing more than some old bones in the ground. I put it aside for a bit, but didn’t truly intellectually come to terms with my own mortality until high school or so. While I think I have learned most of the lessons presented here by now (as a 28 year old), it is great to read that these are normal experiences for us and the recommendations to deal with them.

    3. Yes. I have memories of these thoughts / questions as young as 4. It was confusing to learn that others my age (or even decades older) were not having the same questions about life, existence, and purpose.

    4. Not sure if I’m qualified to answer, but I remember having existential crises of sorts from an early age: questioning the intent and design of religion as a 6-year old, when I was 8, hypothesizing that the obvious (even cliched) life endeavor is helping alleviate major social problems (at the time for me it was a cure for AIDS, cancer and global warming), wondering about the nature of reality all the time…

      1. I also recognize that many gifted people also have a deep vein of compassion and altruism. For me, one of the hardest life lessons has been that not everyone cares for other people, animals, and our living earth the way I have for as long as I can remember.

        1. Lauren, yes, that hit a nail. That was a very hard thing for me growing up. I empathized with the smallest insect but my contemporaries didn’t in the least, instead they mocked me and my empathy. They also mocked my sophisticated vocabulary that they couldn’t understand, and my care for environmental issues in general.

    5. I have seen four-year-olds convinced they will die alone because their first choice of future mate rejected them. I have seen five-year-olds cry ALL NIGHT because they realize that their parents will die someday. I have known six-year-olds who wrestled for months with the question, “If God is love, why couldn’t God make my daddy stay and love me?” I have seen seven-year-olds whose internal pain (you know those emotions that are hidden?) have them talking of suicide (fortunately, at that age they usually can’t plan to ACT on it effectively, due to a lack of life experience). I have seen 8-year-olds become obsessed with slavery, unsure how one group of humans could EVER do that to another group of humans. I’ve known people who were DONE with faith of any kind when their first grade Sunday school teacher, faced with a challenge to the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement (they don’t use those words to name the idea, but they challenge it) are told they’re too young to understand. Really, the general term “existential crisis” is about as narrowed down as one can get.

      1. “I’ve known people who were DONE with faith of any kind when their first grade Sunday school teacher, faced with a challenge to the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement (they don’t use those words to name the idea, but they challenge it) are told they’re too young to understand. ”

        That was literally me. I was six and I needed somebody to talk me through the questions I had as if I were a serious theology student. Not many Sunday school teachers are ready to go there.

      2. Very bright kids are especially good at noticing inconsistencies that other kids just gloss over like the “God is love, but my Daddy left us.” Or if God is love than why did my neighbor get shot and killed? They notice when things don’t line up between what they are told about the world, and what they actually observe the world to be.

    6. 6 year olds definitely contemplate their mortality, their place in the universe etc. its what landed me in counseling in the first grade( i got depressed about the environment and feared cosmic events like black holes and stars forming etc) they found I had been reading my parents copy of cosmos in the bathroom….?

    7. Yes, we did. I’m 36 now, and I can still remember the things I thought about when I was in first grade. Adults didn’t understand, and the other kids had no idea. It was incredibly lonely.

        1. My parents did not understand my questions or try to give me resolution. Upon graduation from high school at the age of 16, I was accepted with a scholarship at St. Lawrence University and MIT on a 3/2 program. My parents refused to let me go there and insisted on a state school where I could live at home. At 75 it is still lonely for me. I’m still trying to “fit it.”

    8. My son has experienced both. He comforted a friend at her fathers funeral when he was 3. At 2.5, the psychologist told us that kids his age just don’t exhibit the emotions he was displaying. At 7, he had a week long meltdown because no jobs that offer 401k would hire him at his age and he didn’t know how he was going to start working on his retirement if he couldn’t get a job. He is 10 now and doing small jobs and investing it. He plans to make a big investment into real estate before he is 18. He also once had a panic attack because he wanted to travel the world and make a change every where he went but he was freaking out that he wouldn’t be able to learn all of the languages. There are so many things that come up that seem minor, but they cause him anxiety for weeks.

    9. I remember as a nine year old having major meltdowns because I was very aware of and sensitive to cold war politics (this was the late 70s early 80s). I was scared and angry, particularly because I felt politicians were not behaving any better than the bullies on the playground and they were *adults* who should have *known better* because they were in a position of power and authority and should be qualified for such a position. Along with that was anger and confusion about the level of rancor directed at “commies” who I viewed as citizens much like me and my family and therefore subject to the whims and decisions of the people in authority just like we are. My relationship with authority figures has been a little difficult my whole life because of that very early disillusionment with “leaders.”

    10. I’ve been there. I was 5 or 6 when I came to the conclusion that there were 4 terrible possibilities to existence. I know I was actually 5 because I remember where this realization hit me. It was in bed in a bedroom that we moved from by the time I was 7.

      1) you died and just ceased to exist in which case everything you were was gone, my life would have been erased.
      2) you lived forever in which case everything would eventually become boring and dreary
      3) you lived forever and forgot enough to keep from getting bored, but then you would become part never changing rerun that fooled you into believing that you were doing something new and progressing.
      4) you would keep memory and live eternally but god would make you feel ok with that. Then god would have killed some important aspect of your free will and awareness. Essentially god would have killed you and replaced you with a happy zombie.

    11. Looking back on my youth, I remember my personal crisis when I was about 8. I had read a book about Encyclopedia Brown (a kid who read the whole encyclopedia) so I read the whole set of Encyclopedia Britannica when I was 8. When I got to the universe section in one of the last books, I realized just how small and insignificant we were in the big scheme of things. It had scared and depressed me so I then looked up the top 5 religious texts (such as the Abrahamic religions, Confucius, Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American beliefs – I am part Yupik) to help me figure out how to deal with the overwhelming dread that I felt at the time. I finally went on the tallest hill near my house and prayed for several hours a week while I tried picturing all the particles in the universe. I had figured there were about 10^90 particles. So I pictured 10 items then put it in an array of 10×10 items then 10x10x10 cube of items (for 1000) then I kept building it up from there for 30 iterations until I could imagine all 10^90 particles. At which point I just let all the particles go random directions. At that point I finally had a feeling of being connected with the whole universe and if I could imagine all the particles then it was possible that others could picture me also. I opened my eyes from my prayer and contempation and seen a coyote that was just sitting there about 30 yards away just watching me. That night I had a dream that I was floating in space with all this random stuff around me. I realized that I couldn’t change the whole universe, but I could change and modify the things within my reach. For some reason, that helped relive all my fear and dread that I had. As an 8-year old, there wasn’t anyone I could really talk to about it that would understand what I was thinking. But the peace that I found during that experience kept me content through many things that came later in life.

      1. This line was so beautiful:
        “… if I could imagine all the particles then it was possible that others could picture me also. ”

        I wish I had gotten there at a younger age. I felt so disconnected from such a young age. A school psychologist told my parents that even though I had taught myself to read prior to kindergarten, I couldn’t skip into first grade because I was “socially retarded.” Basically, I just wasn’t interested in playing with the other kids because I couldn’t relate to them.

        In later years, I vascillated between wondering if they were all artificial because they didn’t think or feel what I did, and wondering if I was an artificial creation because I didn’t value or feel what they did. At that point, seeing my own shadow connected to my feet one day moved me to tears, because I finally realized that I had a ‘real’ impact on the world, even if it was just to provide shade to insects.

        My “imaginary friends” and I had discussions about the relationship between time and space, which wasn’t something I could discuss with peers.

        I also remember deciding that intelligent alien life must not exist, because if they did, SURELY they would have realized I didn’t belong here, and they would have come to bring me home by then.

        It is nice to feel so much more comfortable in my own skin today. At 51, I have a career I’d never have imagined in my wildest dreams, and I have found my ‘tribe’ of people I can relate to. Even dealing with those I don’t necessarily relate to has become much easier over the years. But it took some work.

    12. When I was four I watched an episode of Cosmos and burst into tears because the vastness of the universe was such that I could never hope to understand even a tenth of it in my lifetime.

      When I was six I started reading child and developmental psychology textbooks because I had decided that there must be something dreadfully wrong with me: kids my own age made no sense, and adults treated me very strangely.

      I was pushing thirty before I concluded that the problem was not a severe defect of brain chemistry. My childhood, however, was not a happy one. I spent way too much time thinking and worrying about things which were far beyond the ken of most children.

    13. Hi Nico. This comment is coming from my own personal experience.

      For me, and it was indeed around the age of 5, I was very aware that my time was limited. Worse yet, I also realized that no one could explain to me what happened AFTER we die. Knowing that the older people in my life couldn’t explain this, when usually they gave me answers to most my questions, was terrifying. Even at 21, it still can give me an uneasy feeling every now and then.

      Hope that clears it up.


    14. My 9 year old often struggles with questions like “Why are we alive?” and “what is life for?” and “Isn’t there something we are supposed to do in our lives and how can I be good at it?” I answer as best as I can, with the Girl Scout Law; “Always leave a place better than you found it” and advise her to be mindful of the experiences of other people. The other day we were driving and she expressed that everyone has different experiences in their lives, and that we have to honor that and understand that their life has taught them things they might not ever change their mind about. So for my smart kid, it’s not about her mortality, it’s about her purpose and learning to live in a world filled with people who might not understand their own experience, either from their lack of a wider perspective, or from the trauma of their experiences.

    15. One of my sons had an existential crisis at 4 1/2, when his brother’s friend died at age 8 of cystic fibrosis. ” Why did Tommy die?…Everybody dies? Daddy will die? You will die? But not Tyler! Tyler will die? And me?……I will die?”

    16. My son thought all those things. He started considering death as a thing that might be preferable to life’s meaningless existence. He had no comfort in life having a purpose and found the idea of a higher power as illigical.

    17. around 4/5 i couldn’t sleep and i would get sick to my stomach because i was trying to grasp the concept of eternity.

      at 3 i felt hatred for the first time – being a religious kid i immediately after felt that god wouldn’t want me to hate this person and i wrestled with how to reconcile the overwhelming emotion with the understanding i had.

    18. When my son was 5, he went through a phase when he would cry inconsolably at bedtime over his fear of dying, or even worse, the realization that his parents could die before he did.

    19. When I was a toddler – I think the first time it happened I was 1 or 2 – I often used to think to myself, “Outer space can’t be infinite, right? But if it ends, what’s past the edge, and how far does that go? But it doesn’t make sense that there would be a bunch of layers, because those could go on forever, too… so space IS infinite? But how can something just go on forever?” I would sit in my high-chair and stare at the ugly 70s wallpaper in the kitchen of the house I grew up in and just struggle over those thoughts and try to find an answer that didn’t make me uncomfortable. That cycle of thoughts came up in my mind at least once a month for several years. That’s how the existential-crisis stuff manifested itself for me as a kid. (And it had a big impact on the rest of my life – I’m a cosmologist now.)

    20. @Nico – when I was 9, I became sure that if I didn’t have my entire life planned out, I would die before I could make a great contribution to society, and if I wasn’t supposed to make a great contribution to society, then I must surely die. I decided to become an oncologist.

      Spoiler alert – I am not a doctor. I am a law school dropout. Multiple crises later, I am just trying to be happy with myself.

    21. I tried to contemplate living for eternity in heaven as a very young child. I would spend hours trying to wrap my head around the idea of there never being an end until it was too much. My parents say this started at age three.

    22. I was contemplating the extinction of humanity and most of the biosphere before I had pubic hair. Imagine trying to relate to my peers. Fun times.

    23. My mother tells a story about me as a 6-7 year old… I had heard about Skylab, the US weather sattellite which was in a decaying orbit. Now, I was a 6-7 year old… but I started tracking the hell out of that satellite, even to the point of following the news and trying to predict where it might land on Earth. I was SURE I was somehow at risk if being killed by falling debris! It eventually landed in the Pacific Ocean (mind you, this was before the internet became readily accessible, in 1978-1979…) but my mother has told this story a few times and when I hear it now, as an adult, it does not seem plausible that the youth mentioned was myself at that age. That’s my example.

    24. One example used to explain this to me was world hunger and a very young child’s inability to feed the world. That, coupled with the emotional development of a six year old.

      1. Mine would often ask, “How can people go to sleep at night knowing that there are people going to bed hungry every day?” She really feels it and desperately wants to help everyone.

    25. Hi Nico, it was precisely 6-years old for me, I was in first grade and some high-school kids had come in to help teach us “how to read” and the one in our little huddle of 4-5 kids was being really sweet and trying to help. Of course, I’d been reading already, and the things she was saying were not actually helpful to me, and suddenly I was overwhelmed by a very strong emotion and had no idea what it was or why it was happening. By the time I was 14 I had a word for it: nausea, in the sense that Sartre used it. I was having an existential crisis at age six. I thought, “What is the point? This is hopeless and pointless, and life is just unworkable a priori. I can’t be a part of this.” These were feelings, not words in my head, so it’s not that I was thinking those thoughts, but I am trying to convey in adult words what I was feeling then. It was a profound and depressing “moment” – though it went on for some time, that has stayed with me ever since. I have also repeatedly felt something more like shame at how easy (some) things are for me, when everyone else struggled (in school; and also felt ashamed that other things are incredibly hard for me, that seem easy for others. Shame profound enough that for several days as a freshman in college I couldn’t leave my room.

    26. My daughter discussed her mortality and life’s purpose at 3 y/o and had a full existential crisis at 7 y/0. My younger daughter was the same but by 4 y/0 was going through something similar to what her sister went through at 7 y/0 she now regularly questions mortality and purpose… now the younger one struggles with friends who just don’t see things/life the way she does. She has disengaged from school at 7 y/0 because she doesn’t trust that teachers can teach her… she says they don’t understand she is different and her brain works differently… struggles after struggles in our little family ❤️

    27. My son when he was three used to have long conversations with me… “what happens when we die “”why do you eat animals “” do animals go to heaven? “Do people eat dogs ?we don’t eat dogs because we don’t eat friends. mummy if my friends parents died would you adopt him and let him live with us ? who would I live with you if you died mummy ?when I’m older I want to have every job and look after my family and invent new things that never existed like dragons. If I created dragons would people look after them ? would it make people be nicer if they knew something that was more powerful than them or would the people be really even more mean to the Dragons ? – all of that in one conversation

    28. Yes. My father talks about the time when I was seven and asked him to explain “infinity” and I was anxious and obsessed with time, endings, and death for days. I kept looking up information in books and asking more questions, and was bothered by people’s nonchalance to what I perceived as a huge implication.

    29. My own 6-year-old existential crisis had to do with religion. I walked myself to church every Sunday (my parents were not religious at all) looking for a deeper meaning in life. Every night, as I tried to fall asleep, I begged some higher being to help me be a good person. With the help of an enlightened Methodist minister, I discovered that Christianity wasn’t for me. The logic just wasn’t there.

    30. My experience here. When I was six, I was concerned about my very existence. I felt invisible, and thought my non-existence was a real possibility. My corollary, then, was that I needed to craft my persona in a way that kept me safe. If I was invisible, then how I _pushed_ myself into existence was up to me. Context: Twilight Zone while mom worked nights, first grade and Dr. Seuss, unsafe home environment. That’s why my 6-year-old self was worried about.

    31. I don’t think it’s in the same way an adult does. When I was 6-7 I realised there was no one I could count on except myself and that my mother didn’t know everything. From there I no longer felt I had anyone who could help me with life, school etc and it left me feeling very alone from a young age. Those feelings developed with age and led to depression age suicidal ideation before I hit my teens. Problems with this have continued into adulthood because when you learn to take care of yourself emotionally/mentally from that young you don’t know when to ask for help. If you have a child you think is in that position it might help to have them in gifted schools and classes from as young as possible but you also need to make sure they learn to try. That part of the article resonated as it’s a skill in learning for the first time in my 30’s and the process is causing great distress while my work suffers. Good luck!

    32. Mortality, purpose, yes, but even bigger things.

      I was into astronomy and had to deal at a very young age with understanding the sun would one day expand out to where Earth is now. Our planet would be baked, the oceans evaporated, no life left on our planet. Our species might end there. If not, if we travelled off world and expanded across the galaxy, there was the cosmos itself to think about. There were a few possible scenarios. At the time, people thought The Big Crunch was a possibility (the expansion of the universe stops, gravity takes over, and once again there is a lone singularity with all the mass and energy of the universe– which might expand again, restarting the universe), but there was also the Heat Death of the universe (stars burn out, things are dispersed and cold and there is no longer energy for life). More recently, the Big Rip has been proposed, where the expansion of the universe increases and protons are ripped apart.
      None of these scenarios is a universe where humans can survive. So… there I was, a little kid, coming to terms with an eventual future where Beethoven is played no more, The Hobbit is no longer read, and everything about us is forgotten. Eventually, whatever life is in the universe would be no more.

    33. When i was in 3 rd grade i spent the summer out in the bushes in my front yard trying to determine free will compared to shakespears the worlds a stage and we are all players and god has prepared a path for us and guides every motion. I made myself do things i never did. Just to weigh the differences and how they felt. Family and neighbors thought i was crazy.

    34. I can tell you from having been one: it’s just that I noticed *everything*. If my mom had the news on while she was making dinner, I watched it, and all the reports of crimes and wars and unrest that I knew as a 4 or 5 or 6 or 7-year-old that I could not handle freaked me out big-time. We tend to be very aware of our own major limitations (like a 5-year-old knows he’s actually 5, with knobby knees and little muscles and can’t reach the cabinets without a chair; normal kids might think they can be Batman). So when we hear about adult problems, we look at our own capabilities and get stressed out. Often as little kids we don’t yet know about all the infrastructure in place that are supposed to prevent these bad things–we still have childish innocence in that way–but we do know that whatever it was, it failed, and we’re pipsqueaks with little power.

      And so we freak.

      My pediatrician told my parents I was “hyper because of sugar” and told them not to let me have Pepsi. I was two and had already taught myself to read. If it was really Pepsi that caused it, why not serve it in daycares? And a prescription allergy drug at age 8 made me so anxious I couldn’t sleep because it turned back on what I’d learned to turn off.

      This is just one of several common experiences to very, very smart people. I tell people it’s like the Harry Potter world: some people are just born with it, and it’s just another thing, like having red hair or large ears. It’s something else you have to learn to deal with that’s different than other people.

    35. At 6 years old, I was reading at a collegiate level, an MRI scan of my brain showed it to be no different than a fully developed adult brain approximately age 30 or so. I taught myself how to read when I was 3, becuase I hated not knowing where we were on road trups, and my parents would only tell me “On the road”. Between 6-10, I got severely depressed, because I was bullied for reading books, not only by other children, but by adults who told me that I couldn’t possibly understand the books I was reading. When I would explain the books to them, it was obvious I had “memorized someone else’s explanation”. When I would turn in school workbooks within 2 weeks of getting them at the beginning of school, I was once expelled for cheating. Got suspended once by my English teacher in 5ty grade for telling another student he looked “pensive”(it means thoughtful). This led me to hiding my intelligence to the point that in high school, I was a solid grade c student, and my teachers thought that was the best I could do, which led me to nearly getting expelled when I took the SATs, because I got nearly a perfect score. Basically, I realized at a very young age that people want to be smart, and hate anyone who is smarter than they are.

      1. “people want to be smart, and hate anyone who is smarter than they are.”
        Biggest problem I have is that I was this kid in a family of people that prides itself on being smart, including my mom. Adults who are invested in their identity as “smart” don’t like a 6YO who is figuring out things they didn’t, being TOO creative (?!), etc.

    36. Being both extremely smart and also an eldest child has been a big factor in my life. I was adopted by two people who had been youngest-children. My adoptive parents aren’t dumb, my father was rather smart and my mother still is. But as youngest-children and bullies they did not have any idea what my life or perspective were like. When I was six they started referring to me as “little old man.” When I was bullied they were confounded as to why I didn’t fight back, even though they brooked absolutely no resistance, talkback, or even dirty looks from their kids. I was in my 30s before I realized they’d trained me to submit to their bullying, then didn’t understand why I submitted to everyone else’s too.
      While my father was smart he was not as smart as me, and he came to resent it. It’s not like I taunted him with it or something, but when he became angry the “you think you’re SO smart” would get tossed around.

    37. -Hi Nico.

      I clearly remember debating myself on the question of determinism and free will for weeks, only at that time I was 9-10 and didn’t have the vocabulary to express it in these words.
      finally I came to a point where I figured that even if life is deterministic, the ‘free will’ frame of thought is the only way to actually achieve any chance of defying it, and that made me ever sadder as I realized that not only that life can be considered deterministic, it is deterministic to the extent that even my thoughts about free will are only an effect of this determinism.
      I was depressed for months.

    38. For my husband, it was hitting 5 and realizing he wanted to be done with this childhood stuff — and wished he were 20.

      While he swears it’s not true, I think this is why he keeps getting annoyed when the kids act like, well, kids.

    39. I was one of those ‘6-yo’ . I was reading ‘real’ books by the time I was four. My peers didn’t understand me, as I talked like the Teacher. When I was 7, in 2nd grade, I was trying understand emotions and emotional attachments; and how to deal with them. Needless to say, that didn’t go over well with any of the kids in my class. I learned then that discussing ‘feelings’ with a room full of 8-yo kids was a waste of time.
      I was the youngest kid in the class, and I was the tallest, and I needed to wear glasses. By the time I was in 4th grade, I had read every single book in the school’s library.
      Books, and the stories in them, were much easier to deal with than my peers.
      Science and Math courses up through High School were almost fun, but I could never get the Teachers to get down into the nitty-gritty of the whys and hows of things. Was told that I could check out books from the Library; from the School and the local Public Library. So I did. I borrowed and read 10-12 books a week, every week. Back then, in the 1960s, my School felt that it was important for children to homework every day; 30 minutes to an hour of it from each teacher in each course. Minimum of 3 hours of homework per day. Plus, at least 30 minutes a day, seven days a week, practicing on my musical instrument; met with a music tutor one hour a week (didn’t count as ‘practicing’ either).
      Graduated High School at 17 1/2. Started College four days later. Graduated just after I turned 19.
      Starting at age 14, on my birthday, I volunteered with our local Ambulance/Rescue service. Every Monday night for the first year, then I switched to Friday night (could work an hour longer). Many of the folks I worked with were prior military and I really learned a lot about Life from spending my time with them. They actually treated me as though I were their equal. I also had a part-time job, working for my Uncle in his Dry-Cleaning business. Sweeping, cleaning restrooms, sorting hangers; I enjoyed that time with him and grandfather. Every single Saturday morning from age 13 onwards.

      I still have trouble interacting with male peers, just don’t have the same interests. Except for one; he was my ‘mentor’ at a company I ‘temp’ed with, and we became good friends. We see each other about once a year, for a week. Neither of us has to say anything, we just seem to flow, working together toward a common task. He does stuff I can’t, and I do stuff he can’t. But then, he was diagnosed as Asperger. Me? Never got a diagnosis. Well, actually, that’s incorrect; when I was in 6th and 7th grades, my Teachers and our School District’s psycho-babblists want to place me in ‘Special Ed’ school and my mother refused to go along with it. It wasn’t that I was acting out, not at all; it was just that I was always bored in my classes. And the teachers weren’t happy when my mother suggested that they should try to present me with challenges and extra work, to make me try harder. I was 16 when something ‘clicked’ in me, and everything fell into place scholastically. I learned Gregg shorthand, and then wrote those notes in a mirrored fashion. My grandparents gave me their College books which included Plane and Solid Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, and other fun books. My Grandfather, who hadn’t quite graduated 8th grade (due to Family needs on the Farm), said he didn’t them because if he needed to do any ‘ciphering’, he could just use a pencil and paper.

      I hope this helps folks concerning those 40-year-old adults in a 6-year-old’s body.

    40. This is the story of my life! I’ve had friends tell me I need to dumb myself down. I’m too much. I would love to not always feels awkward or weird for wanting to talk about subjects outside of sex, Trump, and hip hop. Being like this makes me feel like I’m living a cursed life.
      I don’t believe I have this superior intelligence, more so than a curious and eager mind that loves to learn and share. Every day feels like a Charlie Brown, UGH! moment.

    41. I was probably about 8 when a song that asked “Why am I here in this big old world?” sent me into a bit of a tizzy because I could not figure out the answer. That was 50 years ago and I remember the experience keenly. I also dealt with the fact that my sibling’s exceptional athletic ability was lauded and rewarded while my intelligence was rarely discussed outside a small family circle. I am a well adjusted adult (although death still seems like a hideous waste of experience to me) but it wasn’t always easy getting here.

    42. I questioned the meaning of life starting around the age of 7-8 and became very depressed at a young age. Everyone that I talked to pretty much was amazed at how much of an adult concern each was. I’m still mature for my age and have worries of a 40 year old. It’s kind of hard to explain, but pretty much it’s when a young child faces their midlife crisis as a child. I’m 13 and still have questions about life that haven’t even crossed the minds of my peers or adults around me.

    43. Sometimes, yes. They’re thinking about life and death. What will happen to them when they die. Who will take care of them when their parents die. In my 6 year old’s case, when she was 5 she told me she didn’t want to have children because she was afraid she wouldn’t know how to take care of them. In my case as a child, I worried about war and cancer and didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t thinking the same.

    44. Hi. Saw this comment and just had to reply. Since the age of about 3 or 4, I’ve been suffering from panic attacks from dealing with my own mortality and thoughts about the afterlife and the very nature of things that are infinite. I nearly threw myself out of a car at the age of 10 or 11 from one of these panic attacks and to this day have trouble discussing things like space exploration, the death of the sun, and theology.

      At the age of five, I was struggling with the concept of destiny and trying to reconcile that with the religious teachings I’d had about an all powerful God. Did I have free will or was everything predetermined? And if God was omniscient, did it matter what I tried to do?

      At the age of 6 or 7, I attempted suicide because of the overwhelming confusion of the world around me and the lack of mentors I had that understood me or could explain things to me. I got standard kid responses to everything and it pushed me to a very dark place.

      I suffered in school because I refused to do homework as there was never a sufficient explanation given for why it was necessary. “It’s practice for the test.” So if I ace the tests, why should I have to do the homework? “That’s not the point?” Then what is?

      I’m 36 now (still dealing with regular panic attacks) and still struggling to cope with some of the issues brought up in the article and I know I’ll start to ramble if I’m not already rambling should I continue.

    45. My son is 10 and he is constantly plagued with the question of why he is here, what is his purpose in life, if he’s so miserable all the time than what’s the point. He regularly wonders how and if he’s going to be any benefit to the world. It’s very much an identity and existential crisis. I have to remind him all the time that he’s only a kid, and he needs to enjoy being a kid and worry about the rest later.
      Hope that helps

    46. That happened to me… and so nice to have the experience remarked on here.

      I think I was around 9.
      The thing that was confounding was that, although I was suddenly in touch with a profound sense of my own — and everyone’s — mortality, my parents were not. This was incredibly demoralizing. My upbringing and protection was in the hands of people who, in some fundamental way, just did not “get” it. There was a devastating sense of aloneness.

      Another thing like that that I think affected me was the Cold War. I lived my adolescence with the ever-present idea that my life, and all life on the planet, could be obliterated at any instant. I think I made different decisions as a result. Clearly long-term planning was out, and living life to its fullest in the moment was preferred.

    47. When I was 4 I killed an ant in my kitchen sink. I tried to bring it back, but that of course proved fruitless. It was my first experience of death. My parents tried to soothe me with the usual comforting platitudes. I didn’t buy it. I realized that I was smarter than both of them. That was rough.
      I went to bed that night, afraid of what that meant. Within a few minutes I began to ask myself what exactly it was that I was afraid of. Death, ok. Bit what was that? The discontinuation of life, ok, I got that, bit that wasn’t quite the rub. I was afraid of what might be lost in that. My experience, my perspective. My self. But what was that, exactly. Then I asked myself a question that damn near broke my world in two. How exactly Jas it come to pass that I am here, living this experience? Mathew was born, but why is it that that individual should correspond to this experience? How am I me? I sat there in my bed, and deconstructed the notion of identity. And if I couldn’t know of or trust in my experience or knowledge of myseof, how could I trust in experience or knowledge of anything at all? I developed a mistrust of the very idea epistemology, and by extension, ontology. I ended up staying up all that night, and many another night thereafter.

      Something like that, I think..

    48. in my case i would lie awake at night (as an eight year old) concerned about nuclear winter and greenhouse emissions. my own incipient mortality was not the issue, a larger sense of worry was.

      Just ask the child what the worry is, do not tell them “don’t worry”. Empathise instead

    49. So that part especially registered with me. A brief story:

      I vividly remember telling my mom how despondent I was with tears in my eyes that the sun was going to eventually swell up once it hit helium fusion and burn the earth to atoms as we orbit inside it…
      her response was “well don’t worry, we won’t be around when that happens” and I responded
      “You may not, but at the rate medical technology is improving, I might be!!”
      I. was. 4…

    50. I had an existential crisis at age 8. It was a reflection of two discernable, emotional events which occurred in quick succession. First, my parents had a daughter, Catherine Amber, who died at feor days of age from a congenital heart defect. I was kept isolated from the facts and treated like a child, but it was an object lesson in how grief can change your parent’s relationship and and their parenting style in an instant. Secondly, I realized most of the literature I had read up to that point as a child would lose my interest over there long term as my tastes matured. I previewed the nostalgia I would have for my childhood and why.

      It took several weeks for me to get past these events and through the evolution of my relationship with my parents and the intellectual culture they were unintentionally leading me towards at the time.

    51. I can jump in a bit on this one … this isn’t exactly an existential crisis, but it’s an example of a very young person worrying about things that don’t faze most folks till they are bona fide adults. My (bright, quirky, and likely high-functioning autistic) son started worrying at age 5 about how he would support his future family someday … what job he should get, and how he would be a good husband and father. And we’re in a good and happy family. (We have our issues, sure, but we all talk them through and work things out. And spell them out, so he understands.) Anyway, that’s a nonreligious example of weighty worries kids live with. We homeschool (one way to scaffold his special needs) so he sees the single-income model, and we have had to talk over the years to show him that there are other models for family income. He’s better about it now, but it’s still a worry. He’s in high school now.

      I could give lots more examples, but that one has always stuck with me, since he was so young and so worried. People thought it was ‘cute’ … I could’ve smacked them.

    52. My son started to fear death since two year old. It got worse when he reached 7 and 8 years old. Now he’s 12 and he learns how distract himself from the ultimate question for most of his day time.
      Beginning from early school years he refuses to answer any questions about his future career, as deciding on one career deprives him the opportunity of doing others, also thinking of that always reminds him that he has a limited lifespan and can only do a limited number of things.
      I tried my best to explain and comfort, but did not change much.

    53. We’re well past this point now, but my oldest really hit the “we are all mortal” thing at three years old when some perennials died back for the winter. He noted that the plant had died and I mentioned that it had died for the winter but would come back in the spring, we started talking about the difference between annuals and perennials, and he just…made that leap from “the plant died” to “OMG, my parents are going to die someday and I’m going to die someday.” I mentioned his concerns to his preschool teacher before dropping him off just in case he decided to go on about it there, and she pooh-poohed it. He spent every night for six months asking for reassurances I couldn’t fully give, deciding that we live on in stories, and asking for his bedtime stories to be stories about relatives he’d never met who’d died before he was born. He insisted on preserving some of his own legacy because, well, he could die at any moment and we’d need to be sure to remember him.

      The same kid, at six years old, went on a tear about his classmates ripping the wings off ground bees during outdoor free play. Because bees are important pollinators, the cruel acts of thoughtless kids towards insects were, to him, a threat to our very food supply and thus our survival. Without consulting me, he arranged a meeting with the principal of the school and tried to convince the principal to expel the group of first graders involved. When that didn’t work, he commandeered a month’s worth of show and tells with researched presentations about the importance of bees in our ecosystem and the various threats bees face from outside pressures — not just cruel kids, but things like colony collapse disorder.

      These are only a couple of examples from him. Somehow (I still don’t quite know how), he managed to survive these sorts of things socially. My youngest is less persistent in some ways, but had similar issues with contemplating the impending collapse of the universe when he was in Kindergarten.

      So yes, these kids see how things fit together, make real leaps, and try to cope with it given limited world experience and the emotional tools available to children their age. It’s not a great fit.

    54. This is only my experience, of course, but at 4, I intermittently cried for days because I realized that my parents and I would die, and also that I had missed the chance of knowing all of the family and important people who went before me and that I would miss knowing all who would come after me. I felt cheated. I can tell you where I was sitting and the song that was playing the moment I had this realization, even the quality of the light streaming through the window. From that moment on, there has been a different sense of time in my mind, and I often visualize people and events on that timeline, or “dial in” to one area of time to zoom in and see what else was happening or looked like during that time. The realization was quite depressing, and I felt so alone because the rest of the world carried on as usual that week; I thought I must surely be in possession of a realization that no one else yet had.

    1. Actually, it was. Just not widely spread.
      I was identified as “gifted” back in the early 70s. Much of this was fundamental to the early underpinnings of G&T education. Even though they didn’t have it when I was in grade school, they had it 4 years later when my husband was.
      The thing is – there are still vast swathes of society today that want to deny it exists at all. Reference point #1 in this post…

        1. In the ’60’s when I was growing up, I and others were deemed “Mentally Gifted Minors.” This enabled us not to pursue the regular curriculum in depth, but rather attend classes on Saturdays to learn more. We HATED it. We were smart, but we weren’t foolish enough to go along with that nonsense. In our adult lives, we sometimes find ourselves burdened with additional responsibilities, tasks, expectations, etc., because we are “so good at it.” I have come to call that phenomenon DEATH BY COMPLIMENT…

          1. I remember this one too. I was told that one day a week I had the option of going to another school to get additional work, which I’d have to complete during the week. You can guess I said ‘No.’

      1. I was identified as gifted in 2nd grade in 1977. I had all of these emotions and issues, along with teachers who didn’t understand (except for my gifted class teacher), and parents who were a bit too self-absorbed to properly guide me (I believe they were gifted, too). I have struggled my whole life with fitting in and dealing with people who don’t understand the struggles we face. I’m not sure having the knowledge equals people actually using it or caring.

      2. LOL, I was identified as “gifted” in the 80’s and they put me in the same classroom with the kids with down syndrome and autism. My school was woefully unprepared for dealing with students outside of the norms that weren’t either mentally handicapped (I apologize if this term isn’t appropriate) or disruptive, disciplinary issues. I read all my books at the beginning of the year, aced every test, was never able to focus enough to complete homework and as such I failed every year at which point I still passed into the next grade by placement testing into it. Later, not being used to “doing the work” as you said, intuiting everything wasn’t always an option, I finally ended up getting my GED. At this point in life my intelligence is more of a source of anxiety and depression than anything useful, and without meaning to I often seem pushy, ill tempered and argumentative. At 43 I’m still trying to figure out how to use it to my advantage or at least a niche in society where I can finally have some peace.

        1. For whatever it’s worth, Chris, I make the usefulness of my intelligence be my own entertainment. I find lots around that’s funny. I give my mind its freedom in that I can think any thought, any phrase, any word without it offending me. I just look for what I believe is true and go from there. I’m careful for the most part with what I say, but I can think anything. That creates lots of extra humor, and gives me an enjoyable activity instead of being depressed. Being 420 friendly is another way to use (waste) that intelligence you have, if that works for you.

        2. Scouting! There’s a place for every possible quirky hobby or interest in Scouting! (The number of hobbies I’ve gotten away with learning just because “It’s so I can teach my Scouts!” has been quite impressive, LOL.) The Boy Scouts have a very wide merit badge program … see if there are topics you like and are even remotely qualified in, and then volunteer to be a merit badge counselor. Or hook up with local Girl Scout troops, who have harder times finding mentors for specific topics because the badges are a little wonkier in the way they are arranged. (I work with both groups.) You don’t have to have kids in the programs to participate, just pass a background check and be willing to play along and have fun and follow basic safety rules. Geniuses welcome. 🙂

    2. 1992 was the year the term “asynchronous development” was first used and an article written by Martha Morelock was published, using the example of “Jenny,” a 4 yr old having an existential crisis about death. Before that, in 1982 Guiding the Gifted Child included the information that gifted kids often suffer from existential depression. Leta Hollingworth wrote about the subject in the 30’s.

  2. I’m fifty one now, and I too am a little annoyed with you for not having written this maybe forty years ago.

    But thanks for writing it, just the same. 😉

    Some troubling times in my childhood (and perhaps, as you suggest is possible, some lingering effects) make more sense in light of the way you’ve described the situation. I never thought of it as an “existential crisis”, really, but it’s rather fitting and makes sense.

    And it was an inherently divisive subject, to boot. No person of faith wants to hear “You know this is ridiculous, right?” about their religion, and I suppose it’s worse when coming from a child. At first, I was sure it was like santa clause or a snipe hunt. I felt sure the adults knew it wasn’t real, and were lying about it for some reason. So, it wasn’t just “You know this is ridiculous, right?” but also kind of “Come on… I know. I -know- already. There’s no point in continuing to pretend.”

    This led to some… Interesting conversations and future relationships. My mom was good. She’d just smile and tell me I was her little Vulcan child. Grandparents, not so much.

    But, the fights and yelling weren’t anywhere near as… Well, terrifying. It was flat out terrifying once it finally sunk in that they actually believed it. I’ve described it as being six, eight, ten years old, and suddenly realizing -you- are the adult. But you have no power. No control. Your existence is completely in the hands of people who ask favors of an invisible man that logically cannot exist.

      1. I am guessing that that was about Honor’s own experience as it was pertinent to the article put in a way that may have fallen short of diplomatic. I would strongly prefer that comments stay relevant to the article. Thanks.

        1. Right. I apologize if it was taken as a “swipe” – but whether or not god exists isn’t / wasn’t my intended subject. A little kid terrified because the adults are behaving irrationally and won’t discuss it in a calm and meaningful way is.

          I remember trying to come up with answers myself – like, if god ‘created’ the animals, obviously he used evolution as a tool to do that. But these just weren’t discussions anyone was willing to have.

          If parents have a super-intelligent kid and they want them to embrace things that may not be completely logically based, I think they need to take more time to discuss them, or even find someone who can discuss them on that level. There are some very smart theologians and apologists out there, and finding a way to introduce or incorporate those ideas might help.

          But just saying “because I said so” in matters where the child can spot obvious logical contradictions isn’t a path to anything good.

          1. Honor, my experience both as a gifted child in a very religious family and as a religious educator runs in accord with yours. After considerable discussion with many other gifted children-turned adults, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to kill any potential for faith of a gifted child is to try to avoid discussing the difficult questions.

            I had two rigorously theologically trained parents, one of whom actually “got” me in many ways. SHE was a full-time Christian educator, and regularly butted heads with parents who expected her NOT to answer children’s questions in a way that allowed room for doubt. If a child or youth came to her and said, “I don’t think the Bible is really exactly what God said,” she would say, “I don’t think so either.” Then she would launch into a complex explanation (in vocabulary appropriate to the child’s use of language) about different types of literature, authorship versus editorship, translation and meaning shift over time, cultural context, etc.
            If someone said they thought their child was too young to understand Communion, she would ask them to explain Communion and watch them snatch at remembered catechistic points until they realized that THEY didn’t really UNDERSTAND it, they just knew in their gut and from their experience that it was useful to their ability to function somehow. Then she would suggest that, if their child, who probably had even fewer words to explain WHY it was meaningful, but felt it strongly enough to ask, perhaps they didn’t WANT to stand between their child and the work God might be trying to do in their child’s life through Communion. (This scenario was not an issue for me, but I had an existential crisis at age 3 or 4 when I was denied Communion, and she dealt with it in a way which was comforting, explained the views of the couple I sat with, explained that my spiritual needs as I experienced and was expressing them were more important than those people’s beliefs, and helped me make a plan for the future so I would NOT feel excluded.)
            She had discussions with children as young as second and third grades (not many, but a few) in which the central question was, “If the story is not factually correct, but it brings up truths and ideas which help the person reading it become a better person, is it worth studying?”
            She has told me that one of her proudest moments was when she sat me down (I think I was 10 or 11) before allowing me to go to a VBS at a nearby church with my friends, and carefully and awkwardly explained that that church might teach some ideas that she didn’t want me to think I had to agree with, that it probably would be very rude to argue with the teacher DURING the program, but that I could certainly discuss them with her if I were uncomfortable with those ideas. She tells me that she knew she didn’t have to worry when my response was, “That’s OK, Mom. I don’t believe half the stuff you do, anyway.”

            My point, I guess, is that I completely understand turning away from religion at an early age because adults aren’t willing to even entertain the hard questions. I am sorry it happened to someone who was so obviously existentially gifted and who, therefore, probably has the potential to make great changes in the hidebound and often toxic baggage of a few millennia of religious dogma and observance. But it is not a “swipe” at Christianity to point out these failings in the educational disciplines of Christian adults or in the attitude many of those adults have about the nature of faith education and nurturing.

            In fact, by pointing this out, I firmly believe that Honor is contributing in a vital way to God’s work of re-creating the church to bring about the kingdom of heaven (which, btw, is described more in Matthew than in The Revelation, in case there is any confusion). And that a conscious or easily-recognizable “relationship with Christ” is not remotely necessary for this work. And that God is fully capable of blessing Honor eternally without such a definable relationship, if God is God, despite whatever limited human theology her family may have been taught. And that all of that is OK. And I believe these things because of my own decades of existential struggle, and recognize that I benefit from participation in a faith community only because I was fortunate enough to have mentors who actually addressed my hard questions with the seriousness they deserved.

      2. I had a very similar experience growing up as the gifted child of fervent Catholic parents who placed me in a Catholic school system. I found the notion of a mysterious being whose existence lies beyond reason or proof to be profoundly absurd and that the adults around me were in thrall to this system of thinking was terrifying and alienating.

        1. I actually was happier in Catholic school. Being a Catholic was the one thing throughout my life I could cling to that gave me a sense of ‘belonging’. I finally had SOMETHING in common with my classmates. There were many times over the years I was simply playing lip service to the theology – so I took a scholarly approach to it instead. Memorizing facts about saints and Church history impressed the nuns. Since I got no approval at home from an abusive mother- I was very eager to please a female role model.

      3. Yes, really. My son’s life became immeasurably easier once he dropped Christianity and felt free to pursue the meaning of life and beyond as his own intense intelligence suited him. For him, that led to Paganism-still religion, and still, in my opinion, bunk, but religion free from the norms of most of the modern American sensibilities. Perhaps someday he’ll drop superstition entirely but for now, I’m glad he left the major religions in the dustheap where they belong.

    1. Testify. Been there. Got kicked out of Sunday school for pointing out contradictions, got thrown out of math classes for pointing out errors. Oddly, I got to coast an English class after proving I understood grammar better than my teacher.
      I really wish I could have heard all this forty years ago, too.

      1. It would have had to be sixty years ago for me. I didn’t question the idea of God so much (unknowable–what’s to question?). But the day before my first holy communion Sr. Emily told us about St Tarcissus, who was beaten to death by Roman soldiers as he carried the host to Christians about to be eaten by ions. Wasn’t it great that he died before he got old enough to commit sins? I couldn’t see myself a part of this religion, so I started my first confession, “BLess me, father. My family is Catholic but I’m not. I can’t make my first communion.” He suggested that communion itself might strengthen my faith. What I heard was, “It’s OK if you just fake it until you get out of Dodge.”

        1. Same here. Very religious family. Very religious country. Very stressful childhood with hours of discussions about my supposedly low morality because I questioned stuff. Problem was I read the whole uncensored bible before 10. Some stuff in the early books where god genocides whole populations just because gave me nightmares for weeks.

  3. “tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell and convincing them they will enjoy the trip”…. how to re-focus less-intellgent people, aim them is a direction, convince them to run really fast where you pointed them to run….this is a highly intelligent person who figure out “the game” …how to mobilize the the worker bees…

    1. I think perhaps a better understanding of ‘tact’ as it’s described here would be “the ability to demonstrate your intellect without making those around you feel stupid.”

      Childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood were rough for me as a smart girl, because when people (especially men) were confronted with my intellect, they got defensive over what they thought it meant about *them*. It doesn’t mean anything about them, but people can’t help but compare themselves. And when people feel less than someone else, whether they are or not, they get mean. They get especially mean if they are smart boys who wanted to date you because they thought you were smart enough to impress their friends but not smart enough to show them up, and only one of those is true.

      Full disclosure: it probably didn’t help very much that long exposure to people treating me as inherently less intelligent because I was a girl inclined me to rub my brains in people’s faces. But it did really make social and professional situations difficult, and I decided in my early 20s that I had to figure out some way to stop putting people off before I even started.

      So I learned to say “Oh, I’ve studied this,” or “Oh, this is a particular interest of mine,” to soften the fact that I’d just answered a question they found really difficult, instead of “Well, it’s really easy if you just think about it.” Over time they just came to accept that I’d studied an awful lot of things and that I had an awful lot of particular interests, and usually after several months there was this, “you’re just…really smart, aren’t you?” moment. I’d nod and say, “Yeah, pretty much,” and it would be a lot less awkward because they already knew me.

      1. Excellent points and explanation, thanks. I think that this is related to the idea of tact that I was describing. Other parts of the tact idea include, for example, figuring out how to talk to a teacher when course work is not going smoothly in a way that is honest, solution-oriented, and does not come off as either arrogant or defensive.

        1. As a year 6 student I would routinely spot spelling mistakes in my teacher’s lists on the board for us to learn. I already knew all the words so my friend and I were allowed to find my own new words in the dictionary to learn. But seeing others being taught the wrong thing really bothered me. To try to save my teacher’s dignity (i wasn’t this tactful with my peers at this age As I usually respected my teachers more then I did them) I would take the dictionary with me to prove I was right, and speak to him in private afterwards . He was good about it and would thank me and correct the spellings. But I felt a weird mixture of pride and embarrassment whenever this happened. Now I have the same mix of feelings when I proof-read my bosses’ written work and find errors. Dealing respectfully with people who are less intelligent but have more power is still a challenge for me as an adult. Maybe one day I will be a boss and this won’t happen so often ….

          1. If your boss is asking you to proof-read his writing probably means that he understands that you are better at it than he is. Which may be a sign of respect.

          2. In my other comment I forgot to include this – proof reading your boss’s writing says nothing about intelligence. It says something about grammar and spelling.

          3. I wish I had been this tactful in high school when my AP English teacher spelled a word incorrectly. I pulled out the dictionary, turned to the word, raised my hand, and when she called on me told her the correct spelling. I spent the rest of that class in the counselor’s office and never did get along with that teacher.

          4. I had a situation like this come up during a school spelling bee. This one was for grades 7-12 and was the qualifier for county, then state. (Different one than the ones that go to National.) A group of us high schoolers walked down to the middle school building (a teacher there was hosting) to see which middle schoolers were competing this year, and I was being my cocky self expecting to win. (To be fair, so did my friends … they were using it as a get-out-of-class pass … I’d been winning since 5th grade anyway.) Anyway, all went as usual (and I promise I was being nice) till this one 7th grade girl stumbled over a word. The teacher pronounced it, re-pronounced it on request, the girl hesitated, and then she spelled what she heard. Which was … wrong. Because? The teacher had mispronounced the word. (The word was perforate, not exactly a hard one, but she was sure it was ‘pre’ for ate.) I’d been watching closely, and I could tell the girl had hesitated because she was pretty sure what word was being called out, but the mis-read had her mistrust her own judgment. So she was eliminated. I may be a snob about winning, but I can’t stand to see injustices, so I finally raised my hand and got the judge’s attention and informed her that she’d said the word wrong. She insisted she hadn’t, I insisted she had, and it went back and forth until she threatened to kick me out of the competition if I kept it up. Not once did she agree to look it up in the dictionary to prove her point. I declined to be kicked out because I really did intend to win the competition, but, oh, I was steaming mad about the whole thing. That kid deserved better. At least she got to see the argument and to know that she might have been right after all. (For what it was worth, I think that was the year I made it all the way to first place in State; take that, cranky teacher! I guess I’m still working on tact…)

      2. That is an excellent strategy because I do have a lot of particular interest and things I’ve picked up over time. It is hard to know how introduce that information into a conversation without it being didactic sounding.

      3. These are some really good suggestions regarding tact. I know tact is important. How is much more difficult for me. Usually, I just shut up, which can be hard when you see how things are going to go off the rails and then they do. Why is it that the most forceful people are sometimes the most clueless, as well?

  4. So on-point, all of it. I was almost always grouped with other kids on the same path, so my memory of primary and middle school was largely fun, but it unintentionally isolated me away from knowing how to relate to other types. I chalked up my brother’s interactions to being largely about rivalry (dismissive), but I distinctly remember a birthday I went to of a friend in 7th(?) grade, and being utterly confused that she was confused by what I was saying.It was kind of my wake up call about figuring out how to relate – all those points you cited about relationships and people who are (quite) different. Of course I lacked the language framework to identify it, but it all felt exactly this way.

    Thanks for this – it brought me back to times I thought I’d forgotten. Felt good reading all of this.

  5. Could you recommend any resources for parents of these children? It would be great to help my self-proclaimed Nihilist 9 year-old! I am just learning these things for myself, but it would have been great to have had guidance as a child. Thanks for this!

    1. My personal recommendation is to supply books for whatever interest they have at the moment (which can vary frequently). My mother was fairly poor, but she would take me to the library and let me check-out whatever books interested me. My paternal grandmother (a former teacher, and former chemist) sent me college level books, as early as 4 years old, on whatever topic I had an interest in (astronomy, physics, Latin, anything). Like any language, you quickly adjust to understanding college level English with exposure. For kids who want to learn about something, it really helps when a book gives all the details instead of the frustrating stories, euphemisms, beating around the bush, and very superficial coverage that lower-level books tend to do.

      Pushing a topic that the kid isn’t interested in should be avoided — it tends to result in resistance. However, you can supply helpful tools (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.), and books the kid is not currently interested in, and put them in a bookshelf where s/he spends lots of time (for me, it was my bedroom), without the expectation that they will immediately use them. You can often find many of these real cheap from library book sales, steep discounts at book stores, garage sales, and even eBay or Craigslist. Eventually they may use them, or just browse on occasion and find a new interest from them, or they may not, but they will be immediately available should a whim cause them to dig into them.

    2. Actually, Harold Kushner wrote a book about talking to your child(ren) about God. We are not Jewish, but I had already discovered his wise writings and found his works very helpful in raising two super-bright children, both with issues of differences (beyond their giftedness.) Our daughter benefited from Kushner’s best-known book _When Bad Things Happen to Good People_ when she received yet another problem diagnosis (this on top of various birth defects and a disabling surgical injury during infancy.)

    3. Honestly, as far as learning goes, my parents used Kahn Academy with me. I was homeschooled until 5th grade because my reading and math was so far advanced that the schools didn’t have the resources to handle me. Kahn Academy is a website that progresses through concepts and lessons like branches on a tree, so that you can go back and forth along concepts and see how things are connected. It covers math basic addition to Calculus, and has amazing science and history sections. I think theyre even adding langauges. But that’s just how my parents were able to teach me, while supplementin in other reading resources from their personal library.

  6. I’m not sure if my IQ is high enough to fall into the level of “genius,” but I was born with a near-eidetic memory and taught myself to read by age three. School was so easy as to be boring — all the way through college, where I never had to study, thanks to my total recall of the material after one exposure to it.

    However, I was also diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease during childhood, and I did suffer several existential crises during my childhood as I was faced with my own mortality. My highly religious family never considered sending me to any sort of psychotherapist, so I had to make do with preachers who were less intelligent than my eight-year-old self. I learned early on that speaking out about my total lack of belief in a deity only resulted in further alienation from everyone around me, and things became worse when I reached puberty and realized I was gay. There was literally no one I could find who had any sort of understanding about what I was experiencing.

    Several decades of therapy later, I’m much more comfortable in my own skin, but I find I still “dumb myself down” almost all the time. Even people who know me well get freaked out when I can recall every detail of something that happened years ago, or when I can quote something written or spoken word-for-word. I just hide it most of the time. I’m not sure I’ll ever get past that. Even in my job, which requires me to translate four different languages to English, I find myself pretending like I need to look up things, when I really don’t need assistance translating anything. I just hate questions like, “Can you really understand all those languages?”

    I just want people to see me as “normal,” and I know of no other way to accomplish that.

    1. Thanks very much.

      It may be worth noting that I included the idea of IQ because this is not a scholarly work. I used it because most people know what it represents, and it meant that I did not have to define the word “gifted”. IQ itself is increasingly dismissed by many in gifted education, and there are highly gifted people who have never scored high on an IQ test.

    2. My younger half-brother sounds a lot like you, breed7, down to the job (but he works in machine learning). We are differently intelligent, and have very different challenges, but we *do* have challenges well described both in Samuel’s essay and in the experiences you have shared, that our other two siblings do not.

      I would address your closing comment as one of those lucky individuals who’ve already commented above, who was recognized as gifted in the mid/late 1970s. Most people – average, by definition, and in the majority – are not going to see us as normal. Even the ones who recognize our talents or our “gifts” are not always allies. The key to keeping your self-esteem and finding purpose is to associate with other people who are not that kind of normal, either. They are out there. It’s like coming home, when you do. A home from which you are better able to venture forth into an indifferent if not hostile environment, on a regular basis, but equipped to survive. I emigrated to another country with a new culture and language as a young adult. I find many parallels between my multiple other ways of being in the minority, and being in the minority because of my intelligence.

      Thank you, Samuel, for reminding us that the world is a rich and diverse place and that we also have our place in it – luckily that much is not up for a democratic vote determined by a plurality. It can feel that way, though, when we remain isolated.

  7. Well written. This is entirely consistent with my experience. I was once described as 12 going on 42, not because I was in an existential crisis, but because I was helping an adult through one. My girlfriend told her mother I was highly intelligent and her accusation, after I confirmed it, was that I couldn’t be that smart or I’d be rich by now. My response was, “No, intelligence doesn’t correlate to ambition.”

      1. I have developed a suspicion that this may be due to the increased humanitarian logic that comes with systems thinking, and the often increased self-confidence in being nearly off-the-charts intelligent. I think the combination may lead to intelligent people feeling less of a need to directly compete, practice less self-promotion, and spend more time helping others because it seems like they need it and it feels like the right thing to do when you have the privilege of extra gifts.
        After a recent period of severe existential crisis, I decided that rather than entirely giving up on a hopeless world, I’d instead see how far I could get if I just gave up all those well-considered feelings and principles and focused my efforts entirely on attainment of wealth.
        So far, it’s coming out about like playing chess against a dog — you can win, but the dog will never give you the satisfaction of conceding, because it doesn’t even recognize there’s a game. It’s also very easy to win and therefore pretty boring.
        This year alone, I’ve quadrupled my income, scored an extra 8-weeks of fully-paid summer break, and got a very expensive health problem completely cured. The number of inbound requests for side contracts I’m getting has doubled, as has the prestige of the work requested and the size of the checks attached.
        All I really had to do was quit caring about being sensitive to the needs of people and companies who were not at all sensitive to mine. Recognizing them properly as competitors and not collaborators is what makes this game too easy. I started saying “No” more often, and sticking to it. I started making up excuses for not doing things, making people wait unneccessarily, (just long enough that they cede control), voluntelling people to do stuff, unabashedly exploiting all the loopholes, and taking up the maximum amount of space rather than the least.
        It didn’t take very long for this to get boring, but at least sometime in the future, with plenty of money, I can choose larger and more worthy challenges.

        1. Perhaps your next existential and career challenge would be to discover a way of balancing positive ethics and being true to your core values with pursuing financial success? That is my personal current challenge…

  8. Hi Sam:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am a 57-year-old woman. My parents assumed that my high IQ (They were told, “Never let her know how smart she is”) meant that I didn’t need any parenting. You can imagine how well that turned out. I continually run into problems at work and in social situations when I share my thoughts. Insecure people get intimidated and make assumptions about my motives, so I get hurt a lot. This is particularly painful when it comes from women I thought were my friends.

    1. Oh boy. I remember in junior high, an equally smart friend found out that if you ask a counselor what your IQ is, they have to tell you. So we did. And the admin freaked out. I think eventually we had to go get our parents’ permission in order to get the information (really confirmation) that we were officially genius level.

      To this day I can’t imagine how they thought that maybe we didn’t know we were smart. But they were afraid of us knowing just HOW smart. I don’t know if they thought we’d brag about it to the other kids — but why? They all already knew we were the smartest kids, too.

      I’ve often thought since then that intelligence is the true social currency — the one you can’t artificially enhance. Money, appearance, being “popular” — all those can be manipulated, but not intelligence. All the kid know from grade 1 who the smartest kids are! And being a smart female has its own particular hazards, as you obviously know. Everything has its ups and downs, but a lot of people cannot see the “down” side to being super smart. Sucks to be us sometimes. 🙁

  9. I had never even considered that realizing your own mortality while being a child was not the normal experience. I remember clearly the whole event, I happened to catch a scene of a soap opera in the TV in which an old person was dying, and it hit me like a truck. I clearly remember thinking “when i’m old, everyone else will have been old before me, so everyone else will die and then I will also die just for being old”. My mom caught me crying and after she asked me why i was crying my response was “because when we are old we all die” to which she just scoffed at and then left me to cry alone. All acompanying realizations came at once, how you eventually have to watch everyone older than you die, how it simply is not possible to do all things because you age with time, and you can’t stop growing old, how everyone ever is forced to settle, because they eventually grow too old to continue existing to try new things, how if you make a mistake, and you never correct it, you will never be able to take it back because time just moved on. Maybe it sounds stupid that “you can’t do all things”, but at the time, the concepts that life is finite and “things” as a group which I can’t experience in it’s entirety, were completely new. When I was with other kids I figured everyone must have gone through the same and since it’s (apparently) a stupid realization that everyone has, they don’t talk about it so they don’t get mocked, the way you would get mocked for realizing you have feet at the end of your legs. In the present day, I do struggle with understanding why I can’t just do the same soul crushing work everyone seems fine with wasting their existence on. As it says in the article, things just kind of come intuitively, and after that I used to lose interest rather quickly because I never gave importance to repeating a task to which i know the outcome. Studying design changed that a bit, since I realized the importance of pattern recognition and building muscle memory, but I still grow tired quickly of doing things that I can somewhat tell that are ultimately pointless (for example, when working as a graphic designer and having my performance measured stricktly in results, following the office schedule when the sales dept is closed and no work can possibly come in, was beyond frustrating). I’ll give it a try to develop the skill of trying. Thanks for the article.

    1. I understand your feelings completely. I remember as a child realizing that I would only grow older and never younger, along the same lines as the feelings you had, and it was devastating. I don’t think most other kids think about things like that. I have a gifted child now and I talk with her through those same feelings. Some of the questions she asks about the one life we get to live here on earth really trigger my own existential despair!

      1. I completely agree – one existential crisis does not prevent the next! But it does help you speak gently and understandingly with younger people confronting their first realizations.

        Samuel’s recommendation to “thoughtfully explore how you make meaning in the realms of interpersonal relationships, how you spend your time, and what you enjoy doing/feel called to do”, and to read the Frankl book, are both good.

  10. My gifted 4-year-old and I had a tearful conversation on the way to preschool one morning about why we only get one life to live, why time only moves in one directly and we only get older and never younger, why we can never go back and relive past times even though they were good, etc. It was intense.

  11. The trying thing is absolutely spot-on. I breezed through my education up until the third year of college, second semester calculus and organic chemistry, and suddenly I found something I couldn’t do — because I had no concept whatsoever of studying. I hit such a wall that I ended up dropping out. Thankfully I am largely without ambition. I don’t know that learning languages or music helped at all, because I did both those things starting very young, along with dance.

    So many other relatable points. It took me a ridiculously long time to work out how to describe what I was feeling, or even that I had feelings. (“Vulcan child” strikes again.) I still have difficulty with it from time to time. Alexithymia? Maybe.

    1. What your describing is exactly when many people come to my practice. That’s the exact sort of situation that is often our starting point.

    2. For me it was Anatomy & Physiology. I had no idea I actually needed to read the books. Oh dear. After a while, I purposefully quit going to classes and dropped out. Everyone else was so confused. I remember telling my parents that I wanted everyone to know that I wasn’t okay and that I could fail. And that because I could fail I was actually going to eventually be okay. I don’t think my mom understands that to this day.

      I have also been referred to as a Vulcan many times, and when you are a woman, it makes life difficult.

  12. Thank you so much for this. I’m 60 now. I was the only one in my family like this and was a girl to boot. The family considered me somewhat of a freak and some, like my mother were even afraid of me. I was punished for reading “too much” and had to sneak to go to the library, or read under the covers in the middle of the night with a stolen flashlight. I was told over and over again that “no one likes a girl that is too smart”.

    School was not much better. They kept on skipping me grades and putting me back grades, not really knowing what to do with a 6 year old that read and comprehended at a high school level. Making friends was impossible as I was a freak to kids as well as teachers. Bullying? I could write a book. My “difference” stood out like a sore thumb. Luckily I had a few teachers who identified “the problem” and loved upping the educational ante with me. That was a fun relief, but also secret, because I would have been made even more of a target with the other kids and some of the teachers.

    Because of all of this by the time I got out of HS I was not a fit for any kind of “normal” job but did successfully merge into the arts. It wasn’t really until adulthood that I met anyone that was openly like me. Most everyone kept it hidden back then for exactly the reasons you mention.

    Years of therapy later, I gave birth to a son who was very highly “gifted”. Because of my early experiences I was able to somewhat help him navigate and negotiate his way through school. It was rough, but he did (barely) get through. Once out of HS he flourished, earned multiple degrees in science and physics and is now working as a nanophysicist…… Which seems to be one of the few acceptable paths allowed in order for people to be openly acknowledged and accepted as someone who is very smart.

    1. Resonates pretty hard. I am a 33 year old woman, and definitely got the: “but who’s going to take someone like you [for a wife]” treatment growing up (mostly from my mother and assorted aunts), was bullied through middle school, and really only stopped *constantly* feeling lonely when I became a freshman at Harvard. Eventually I learned the rules to navigate the social environment without intimidating people too much, though it certainly doesn’t come naturally and I envy the people who have the status that allows them to just leave the conversation when they feel bored (apparently Elon Musk does that, based on his biography). Well, at least I am a successful and happy scientist, so can’t really complain about the outcome 🙂

  13. I distinctly remember lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, but trying to imagine what it must be like to be dead — to not exist. I would freak myself out and get upset…. I was less than nine years old. Does that count? (I suspect it does.) What you wrote about hitting road blocks when something requires sustained effort rings true for me. In the tenth grade (around 1970) I was upset that I was only getting grades in the high eighties and low nineties on my biology quizzes. I knew that I knew the material, and enjoyed it. I sent my mother to ask the teacher why I wasn’t getting higher grades. He sent her back with the textbook used by the high honors bio class (experimentally, not all bright kids were put into that group, alas). From that point on, I got high nineties and perfect scores on my tests. I got a 95 on the statewide exam. And because of the time period and the particular school, no one stopped and said, “Hey — let’s see if this girl might become a scientist.” As one psychologist asked me, much later, “How does it feel to know you’ve been misunderstood your entire life?”

    1. Ellie, I did exactly the same thing – lie in bed at night and imagine what it would be like to be dead; to have the whole of history continue on above ground, without me knowing a thing. And it terrified me. I was only 5 or 6 years old at the time…

  14. Boy, I wish you were in Texas so I can pay you for therapy. I can’t tell you the number of people who refuse to believe that my panic attacks started in elementary school, mostly related to a nihilistic understanding that someday I would cease to exist.

  15. Thanks for this post! The tip about expressing yourself emotionally resonated with me. I’m a very emotional person — on the inside. It took me a long time to realize that people couldn’t magically sense my feelings. I’ve also been told that I can seem too calm and level headed when others are very upset, and that aloofness can seem like I’m judging others, which is far from true.

    I would add to the lack of emotional reaction that complex emotional reactions also can be challenging for folks around me to understand. I don’t know if anyone else can relate to this, but for me a big personal challenge is my ability to see the good and bad of most situations. So my reactions to things tend to be nuanced and sometimes can seem confusing or contradictory to folks who tend to see the glass as half full or half empty. (What’s in the glass? Where did it come from? Who gave me this glass? Why doesn’t that person even have a glass?) Yay, the hellacious rabbit hole of the overthinking mind!

    1. I can relate! What you said describes me as well – seeing things as not black or white but a dozen shades of grey, feeling deeply but also feeling multiple and changing emotions simultaneously as I’m processing it all internally and then not knowing which to display outwardly, or not displaying anything and then seeming uncaring.

  16. I am not one of these super bright, but most of my friends are it seems. I always admired really bright people. It is unfair to apply the term “gifted” to this particular group though. Everyone has gifts and talents that manifest in very different ways when given the opportunity to be explored.
    There’s also a kind of sadness that I read in these comments/stories that do not seem to allow for “wonder” (which to me is synonymous with wisdom — as portrayed in Biblical wisdom literature — Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Jonah, some Psalms and parts of Job). Is there a grappling with believing in something larger than one’s self (when you already know that you are so much brighter than almost everyone else)? Considering human limits has made a big difference in my ability to cope at times ~ and then deciphering for myself what belongs in a Divine domain. Not all things are given for humanity to comprehend in our (blessedly) limited lifespans. Some things are too “high” for me, at least, to attain. I find wonder in the tiniest, most intricate, exquisite seashells.

    1. Perhaps ‘gifted’ is not an ideal word, but it IS the appropriate one – like autism, or neurotypical, ‘gifted’ is a diagnosis that describes something about how your brain works. Your response is very common, and I think that is why the author has chosen to describe ‘high IQ’ instead. It’s quantifiable, and does not seem to push people’s buttons in the same way. Not all gifted people are atheist, just like not all people of average intelligence are atheist. But the gifted child’s questioning of faith needs to be taken seriously, and they ideally need access to a gifted adult who’s able to relate to the questions and answer honestly. It’s no surprise to me that many gifted children dismiss God as being in the same category as fairy tales when they are not given access to more sophisticated perspectives. And even then, they may not choose faith. The ability to wonder is very much a trait of the gifted, but in lots of ways I think it gets held inside because other people don’t understand. That does inspire sadness. There’s a lot of sadness, loneliness, and misunderstanding that comes with being outside the mainstream.

      1. Great reply. Particularly about the possibility of giving gifted children access to more complex philosophical thought and knowledge about multiple religious traditions, and about the ability to wonder. I have not myself ever developed faith in any sentient higher powers, but I certainly have a well-developed sense of daily wonder about the complexity and potential of life and being. This is why I became a professional biologist.

        However, being widely read in some religious traditions, these extremely influential cultural underpinnings for societies around the world, has helped me be empathetic about other people’s frameworks in ways that are not always available to people without that kind of background – be they believers or not. It has also enabled friendships with theologians and other people who are firm believers. Some of whom are very gifted themselves, although many of my fellow scientists treat these thinkers and seekers with what I consider to be greatly misplaced scorn.

  17. Thank you so much for writing this. Every word of it really hit home with me, but “trying is a skill,” was particularly poignant. It took me far too long to figure that out on my own, and by the time I did, I had no idea how to incorporate it into my life. I still struggle with it every day; with many of the things you discuss here. I wish I’d had someone around to tell me these things and help me through them when I was younger. Whether or not I’m able to embrace these lessons now, it’s wonderful to know that there’s someone out there who understands and is working to help other gifted people learn to handle the unique challenges with which they’re faced.

    1. Never too old to learn!
      I didn’t hit the ‘have to seriously study’ part till halfway through college (except for cramming for science vocabulary tests in high school), but my friend and I had enough hobbies that required skill and ‘trying’ that I think it helped us in ways we didn’t realize … we were really into things like origami and secret codes and magic tricks and learning sign language … all sorts of atypical things that still are handy to have even as mature (ha!) adults. As an adult I’ve added other skills … I’m a klutz by nature but have taken up tae kwon do, and it has been GREAT for me, challenges all my weaknesses in one tidy sport. I’ve learned woodcarving. (Still learning, but I rarely need bandaids these days, LOL.) I took up archery so I could teach my Scouts. All sorts of cool stuff. I even worked my way through my fear of fire to learn some campfire cooking techniques. All those required a LOT of trying, and mistakes, and trying again. My daughter and I even picked up knitting, briefly, and that was fun too. The origami skill from back in school came in handy when our neighborhood civic association decided to fold 1,000 paper cranes for a Peace project … my kids and I volunteered to help, and ended up doing as much teaching as we did folding. It was awesome. So you never know what hobbies will be handy, and the learning process helps with the next project you tackle learning. Go for it! (Whatever your choice of IT might be.) Never too old. If you’ve ever wanted to be a writer, try National Novel Writing Month in November … lots of crazy writers trying to learn the writing habit, great support. There’s a group for everybody and every interest, thanks to the internet. You can do it!

      1. Yes, the “trying thing” caught me too. Now, at 55, I feel that I need to learn this skill. So I’m going through the comments, see what people have tried (pun intended). You started relatively early on “trying” new stuff that your life didn’t “depend” upon. Sounds like a good strategy. Thank you.

  18. One of the ways I’ve found to get around the “don’t talk about it” piece is to look for ways to help people, in ways they want to be helped, solving problems. That last bit is important. If you are the person who knows ways to help get a job done, you’ll have an easier time that being the person who knows stuff better than everyone else. I think of it as embedding knowing in doing, whenever humanly possible. And keep your gaze on the problem and the solution, more than on the people around you—this makes it less about you and more about “us” working on a problem. And that’s sometimes hard to frame in situations like school where everything is framed as measuring and judging how people think.

    1. That’s a great strategy, and has been adopted by many people.

      Some people who have found that to be an easy way to relate to people end up working on how do I relate to people in a less conditional manner as part of what they push for in further growth and development.

      Thanks very much for adding that insight.

  19. This pretty much describes my life. I fit into the far right edge of the little red circle. I’ve always been the outlier. People sometimes think I’m on the autistic spectrum, but I’m not, because I’m an outlier. I was severely bullied as a kid, for several years, because of being the smartest kid in the room most of the time.

    The point you make about feeling pressure to conform and not stick out and be more “normal,” as it were, was very much my school life. Of course, much more recently in life, when I decided to “come out” as clever, I got crap for that, too. The emotional scars from being bullied are still there, although I use them as fuel for anti-bullying activism, as much as I can. But I learned at a very young age that I could not trust authority figures to take care of me, or stop the bullying; they were pretty clueless. To this day, I have a lot of difficulty trusting people, especially people in positions of authority.

    The other point that I really resonate with is the point about having a subtle affect. That’s really true. I learned some years ago to be very verbal about what I was thinking and feeling, because otherwise people really didn’t have a clue. Being introverted only added to that, of course. (The reverse is not true. I am so good at observing body language and affect that I can almost always tell what someone is thinking or feeling. It freaks people out.)

    1. Your words resonate… Thanks for telling part of your story, and I hope that awareness and understanding make your path forward a pleasant one.

  20. Thanks for writing such compassionate thoughts! I wish I could have talked with you when I was growing up! I always heard, “You think too much!” in response to my existential crises. I thought about suicide from the age of eight onward, until I started to heal from all the insensitivity. And, perhaps I was too sensitive, as my father often said. I understand better now and hope I am able to share some of that with others. Keep on shining your light!

  21. Sam,

    I’m actually bawling my eyes out reading this. Not only does it describe me perfectly as a gifted adult, but I have the double whammy (or perhaps triple whammy) of being intellectually gifted with a severe form of OCD AND processing issues which are pretty much classic gifted learning disabled (my doctor suspects ADHD). I’ve had to use my intellectual giftedness to overcome both of the latter, often working ahead of the research literature (it affects completing and submitting written work). And I can’t talk about ANY of them because of prejudice from normals.

    The giftedness and the anxiety (and potential LD) stuff interact with each other in ways that are difficult to express and even more difficult to live with. I see students with far less ability not having their right to be there questioned, I feel alienated by both extreme ability and the disability, and the sensitivity is such that it completely throws me off balance for days, weeks, months. So now instead of just coping with an assignment, and an extension, and a bunch of gifted and anxiety related things all having a party in my brain, I have to cope with that.

    I can do the acting as if I fit in thing, but I know that I really don’t. People don’t want to see the real me, who is far more deep, complex, sensitive, and problematic than they could deal with. Existential crisis is a regular happening…..only all people ever tell me is that I overthink things, or I’m too sensitive…..why don’t I stop being that way. Currently, I’ve been bawling my eyes out over a patronising remark made to me by the academic dean and to most people they wouldn’t even understand why that is so devastating to me.

    Dealing with people who are less smart and in a position of power – probably 95% of my existence.
    I wish I had an answer to that one.

    The anxiety disorder is a stigma, but I think that the giftedness is a much bigger one. Giftedness is the last, great dirty word.

    1. The 2e subset within the gifted population can have a particularly hard time.

      I hope that you are able to find strategies that make things easier, and that the awareness that you seem to have surrounding these issues is something that you can use to your benefit.

      Thanks for reading.

      1. I’m also 2e, and I had a hard time as well. To complicate matters further, I was often sick until about 2nd grade (and off and on for a bit after that). I had pneumonia six times when I was three, and I sometimes wonder if I would have started reading earlier were it not for that challenge. I didn’t have to spend the night in a hospital or anything, but I’m sure being sick and asthma attacks didn’t help. I started reading around kindergarten or first grade, which was pretty normal at the time for kids in my area.

        Because of the 2e, I did not experience the problem with “trying” in the same way you described here. I tried, and I struggled. I sometimes got bored in regular classes because I wasn’t identified, and that made it harder to keep up than it would have been otherwise. My struggle was more with thinking I was “lazy” as a result of the ADHD and executive dysfunction problems. I was disengaged and zoned out for more time than I care to admit, which also makes me second-guess the giftedness that was identified in college. (ADHD was diagnosed in high school.) Depression can also certainly dampen one’s curiosity and love for learning in a deeply concerning way that hits right at the core for exceptional people.

        Also, as another reader commented, there really wasn’t that much information out there a few years ago for 2e adults, at least not well-researched information from reliable sources.

    2. Not sure if I’m gifted, but a lot of the article & people’s comments resonate with me. Fortunately I grew up with highly intelligent parents in an area with many highly intelligent & educated people, and I always had a great close friend to help me navigate life. But I still had to hide how smart I was, especially as a girl (’50s-’70s). I have ADHD too. I find that Tai chi & yoga are great ways to feel better. It’s meditation that has order, movement and change that helps calm and strengthen the body & mind. As one teacher said, “It’s called a PRACTICE, not perfection.” I find it helps me stop the “chattering monkey” brain, focus & get some calming spiritual centering. And yes, it’s a constant challenge to calm thoughts and stay focused on your breathing, but you DO get better at it over time. And you learn to access that calmness away from class/practice. Look for a good teacher who will correct your poses, give guidance and reminders, and provide encouragement. Once you get the hang of things you can move on to DVDs or practice on your own. Not sure if it’s my dance background (helped me process lots of emotion) or intelligence, but the concept of “breathing into your toes” or “exhaling negativity” was an easier concept for me. It’s a great thing to “try.”

  22. This is tremendously helpful. My darling child became aware of her mortality the evening of her fourth birthday. Upon realising that she had aged, she spent the night asking about death. It took nine months for her to get it out of her system. We had three months of relative peace…until the evening of her fifth birthday. So, can you be ever so kind and help me a little? Are there resources to help me parent through this? It is not depression or even anxiety, but, as you can guess, everything with this child is intense, even her curiosity and concern. Secondly, any estimation on her IQ? She is not emotionally ready for an IQ test. Thank you for this article; thank you so much!

    1. Awareness of one’s mortality can be a powerful form of inspiration to both life a meaningful, fearless life and to take risks regularly. When you analyze Shogun-era Japan, it was part of the vitality of the culture to remember just how impermanent life actually was. During that era, Japanese samurai and other warriors always carried a long and short sword. The short sword had just one purpose: ending one’s own life, if a failure or dishonorable action had occurred. That constant awareness of life’s impermanence is one of the reasons Japanese try to do everything in an excellent way- the bushido. Also, very different from our own American / Western European culture: in Japan, the buddhism in the shinto/buddhism symbiotic faith that most Japanese have causes them to see life as a revolving door. There, the ending of one’s own life was not necessarily perceived as a bad thing, but rather an honorable deed in a purposeful life. It’s not the western way, and for people who do not believe in buddhism, the outcome could be the unnecessary termination of an irreplaceable life. As is said in Namibia, when a man dies a library burns down. So, maybe an acute awareness of the shortness and impermanence of life is a constant reminder to “pull out the stops” and live life to the fullest, while doing your very best. That’s how I perceive it. I savor life because I fully understand that it is impermanent.

  23. I always felt like an outsider. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, I always ended up being rejected and bullied in a way or another. I could never understand why people were so mean. I was always under the impression that I wasn’t able to understand people. I was analysing every situation, always trying to fix the problem but never could.

    Childhood have been a nightmare. But now I realise that it was more the other way around. People didn’t umderstand me, we weren’t thinking about the same things didn’t have the same reflexions. When I was talking about stuff that was making a lot of sense to me, I just looked weird for the other kids.

    Fortunately, things tend to change as we grow up and “fitting in” gets easier in a way but there is always a little something that makes it hard to find fulfilling and meaningful relationships.

    I have two children and both are performing pretty well at school. But I suspect my daughter to be a little more like me on this. She seems so sad all the time, her teachers are talking about it to me. When I talk to her she says that she feels lonely and bored. She is a nice little girl and she is trying to fit in (she engages conversations, initiates plays, she has better social skills that I had at her age) but she always end up eating her lunch alone or playing alone.

    I suspect her to be a little brighter than many of her classmates. Even if she feels lonely, she already knows that some relationships aren’t goog for her. She will cut some friends (or at least keep a distance) because they are immature, too excited or boring. But then, she feels lonelier…

    I don’t really know what to do. I don’t think she is being bullied as much as I was. (But still a little by 1 girl who is obviously less smart than she is).

    She is intense, she thinks a lot about many things. Her papy died when she was 4 yo and it has been really hard to deal with her for me and her grand mother about it. She always wanted to talk about him, see videos of him… like if she was feeling guilty of letting him go.

    She is 11 yo now. I am scared that she might fall into depression and it is sad to see her like this because she is such a great kid. I tell her that she is in some of the hardest years at school but that things get way better after that. That she is a wonderful person and that if she stays the way she is, she will be able to do whatever she wants in the future.

    I read the article, I ll keep it in mind to help her but I am open to hear whatever tricks anybody has to give me to help her!

    1. Thanks very much.

      Many of the underachievers I have worked with are also perfectionists. And they’re perfectionists that don’t even think of themselves as perfectionists.

      Their idea of what successfully completing something is so far from the minimum required, that they end up cursing themselves with impossible standards without even knowing it. Any chance that that sounds familiar?

      1. HA! Just the thought i was looking for. 🙂 As a ceramic artist and painter i have been having a crisis… ?why make another bowl? . Trying my darndest to kick myself into gear. I had forgotten how being a perfectionist subconsiously just drops me into such a tizzy of not starting, not trying ,because it will be ‘just another piece’ instead of a masterpiece. Thanks for a really good article with good solutions.

  24. I like this article. I wished for my children to be normal. Being quite bright in academic pursuits can be exhilarating. At a party not so much. Continuing to learn throughout your life and watching the gap widen between you and your friends and significant others is not fun. Understanding information on the surface, the implicit and explicit meanings, the realted and possible outcomes before the speaker has finished his thought then waiting for other people to make the connections before you speak is a learned skill. As is learning to speak slowly, tell less information than you know, and not provide logical solutions because you don’t want to talk all the time. Gifted people think faster and process information so much more quickly that learning to wait on others is a skill. The best skill a gifted person can learn is to be quiet. At least then you don’t scare away your friends

      1. This may not work for everyone.. I was constantly told to be quiet and wait for everyone, and as a result even though I had “friends”, I never felt I could actually relate to them in any way that was meaningful for me. I feel that the best thing a gifted and naturally high energy and extroverted person can do is to find other similar people with whom to have that lightspeed communication, or at least who wouldn’t be scared of it. (It’s possible! I married one of them. And built a group of friends that is ridiculously intense even by Silicon Valley standards). And also find a job where this way of thinking and the energy and enthusiasm that comes with it will be valued.

  25. So much of all of this. School too easy, never learned to study, never fitting in… yeah. My parents subscribed to the don’t-tell-him-his-scores strategy, and I don’t think anybody realized the social challenges of being outside the Window of Comprehension for most people. So many years of trying to fit in when that was never going to happen.

    “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” Because it doesn’t work that way.

    I was fortunate to be a participant in a summer gifted program in the ’70s, where we got to spend time with our real peers. It was a great experience, and I am very happy to be back in touch with some of those friends. But it was only decades later that I learned that the program existed because we were considered “at risk” students. It makes so much sense now.

  26. I am literally in tears right now. Never have I related to so many people in such a short period of time as while reading this and the comments.
    I’m 66 years old and still haven’t decided what to be when I “grow up”. With no real direction growing up, I’ve absorbed everything to come my way and still have no direction.
    Thankfully, I have a couple of friends that accept my differences and family that loves me regardless of how I do or do not relate to them. My husband is absolutely in love with the fact I can discuss most anything that comes up and has taught me the art of cryptic humor!

    1. Reading about your tears is deeply moving. I’m tearing up a bit myself thinking about them. If I ever decide what I’m going to be when I grow up, I’ll let you know what that experience is like.


  27. Do you feel that Viktor Frankl adequately addressed humanity’s need to hold predators accountable for their behavior?

    What is the point of “feeling better,” when psychopaths are controlling your environment?

    What steps can humanity take, to allow the sensitive, empathic, and intelligent minority to gain authority?

    Also, what steps can such people take to finally free humanity from the plague of psychopathic predation we’ve been experiencing for thousands of years?

    1. I think the book says what it says, and doesn’t say what it doesn’t.

      What’s the point of feeling better? Feeling better is its own point. That’s the whole point. It is a study in relationship and control that illustrates what you can do when you can’t do anything.

      In terms of your other questions, they are beyond the scope of this blog post; but some suggest that improving individual relationships affects culture, and that creating catalysts for developmental maturity can affect a society.

      I’m going to treat your last questions as rhetorical, and simply say that the intersection of genetics, experience, and chance yield a variety of behaviors.

  28. This is fascinating and enlightening. As the 132-ish IQ mom of an M.D., and wife of a Ph.D. scientist, this explained a lot of their difficulties to me. Especially the one about having to learn in high school (in my son’s case, elementary school) to deal with people with more power and less intelligence than yourself.

  29. I experienced this when in kindergarten my son realized that he may not see some of his friends/ peers the following year as they were attending different grade schools. His anxiety confused his classmates and teacher alike

    1. I hope that he gets the resources and support that he needs. That fact that you’re on the internet reading up on things that might help him in the long run seems like a pretty good sign. Lucky kid!

  30. For children thinking about DEATH precociously, I got some good advice. Read many stories to them about transformation – tadpoles becoming frogs, caterpillars becoming butterflies. We become soil that feeds the grass and trees. Even fairy tales like the frog prince and Cinderella have transformation stories. Also for outliers, my autistic son said stories like the ugly duckling and Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer and Dumbo made him feel like outliers have worth.

    1. Where to begin? I have just learned that it is not “normal” to be terrified of death from the age of 5. Thank you for that. I guess everything follows from there. “Nobody likes a smart alec”. “He’s a very sensitive child”. “You’ve always got your head in a book”. Assuming that everybody knew what i was thinking/feeling because I empathised, understood and met people’s needs instinctively. Confused when people close to me acted as if they didn’t know what I was thinking and feeling, so they obviously did not care about me. Thinking that any strong display of emotion was evidence of mental illness, (really!). Any attempt to verbalize my feelings was somehow selfish.
      Learned to appear not to believe I was particularly clever and being intensely uncomfortable when it was remarked upon. Told I’m “self-centred” and that I live inside my head…still not sure what that means.
      Rarely aware of my body as anything but a support system for my brain.
      Lateral thinker with little patience for stepwise progress. Everything is analysed constantly; ask me a question and you may subsequently get a different answer to the same question because I do not retain the answer, but consider the question anew each time, thus incorporating any new knowledge/understanding gained in the interim. Deliberately naive to the extent of allowing people to manipulate me, because it doesn’t count if I am aware of, and analysing, it as it happens.
      Educationally a bored under-achiever but rocketed through the ranks in the military either doing the work of two or demonstrating skills that placed me in control of people I was technically subordinate to. The structure and long-term security of the military life was my salvation, even if I understood the system so well, I knew where i could bend it yet stay out of trouble.
      A dilletante of the highest order, learning a new skill to competence; if something did not come readily, obsessing to the exclusion of all else until I “got” it, then growing bored and leaping to a new challenge. Self-taught in most things, to the embarrassing extent of understanding systems holistically before attending technical classes where I knew (and understood) more than the instructor. (I eventually learned to not be disruptive and to wait until the room had emptied before attempting to educate the educator, but resentful that my classmates were thereby not getting the complete picture. This was not always received graciously, to my frustration).
      Being enough of an outlier in the miltary to be allowed to break the rules or set my own agenda because I achieved things or solved problems nobody else could understand, by having the holistic view and figuring out the “why’s” to reach the “how’s”.
      Outwardly unemotional (my first wife called me “her robot”), but with all vulnerable feelings hidden yet crippling. Learned never to get excited about anything because disappointment would be crushing.
      Diagnosed bi-polar II in my early forties which threw a lot of things into perspective.
      Extremely frustrated and anxious dealing with bosses that understand and know less than they think they do, whilst also confused why somebody with less understanding of the job than I do is acceptable, whereas all I am aware of are my shortcomings due to all the things that I don’t know.
      Always making the perfect the enemy of the good – the final example of which was working around the clock for three months on an analysis of corrupt data to achieve the “least wrong” solution, not letting go until a deadline was forced upon me, but continuing thereafter to refine and refine in my head to no purpose.
      That last was my undoing, burning me out at the age of 62.

      I could go on. There’s so much.

      That lamp post thing. When it happens I am completely overwhelmed and paralysed by the immensity of it, as it seems to unfold to infinity. A friend once told me that if that happened to him, he would not need drugs. I assured him that the drugs were a better bet, not least because they would wear off.
      One question though. From a very early age I had “abstract” dreams – undefined shifting multi-level shapes in primary colours that terrified me to my core to the extent that I would sit the rest of the night with the light on for fear of going back to sleep to experience them again. Nobody has ever said they experienced such things and could not grasp the sheer terror they invoked. I grew out of them in my early teens and now they only occur as a portent of an illness about to present itself, and are not nearly as terrifying. Have you come across such a thing?

      1. I really enjoyed reading your reply. I can relate to a lot. A regret of mine was not entering the military.

        I had two dreams. I can picture them now, with s very distant sense of fear. As a child they were terrifying. No distinguishable shapes and I couldn’t describe them.
        I’ve never heard anyone else say something about this before.

      2. My daughter (5) sometimes has bright color dreams that frighten her. When I was a kid I would have a particular dream right before nearly every time I got a stomach bug (thankfully this wasn’t very often). I would know I was going to be sick while I was in my dream but also knew there was no way to stop it, and it was indeed terrifying. My dream wasn’t bright primary colors, but earthy tones, a moving scene of imperfect oval shaped particles traveling through many narrow curving pathways acting kind of like gears with constant movement that could have been random but in my dream seemed entirely predictable. I was so glad when these dreams stopped when I was a teenager.

          1. I am not sure – it could be random, but yes, her parents are smart, and my daughter is smart and also emotionally sensitive, has been empathetic from probably age 2. Very aware of her own emotions also, and has expressed to me that each day she feels sadness, which we have talked about being totally okay, and we are talking about what she is thinking about that might be related to this feeling. When I was young, I remember having intense feelings of worry about world issues that I had no control over. I really identify with the calm/even exterior presentation described in the article while my sensitive, personal side is reserved for very few people. I continued to have a hard time not taking any poor luck/disappointment personally until I was an adult and had kids. At that point, I had to just figure it out (about time)! I also identified with not having been challenged much before this (longtime slacker, actually attended very few classes in college even though I went to a fantastic small school- this is one of my regrets actually, what a waste). The time that I felt I fit in most growing up was attending a summer gifted program with peers where we all took a college course over 3 weeks and lived in a dorm (these were all kids ages 12-15). It was amazing… 🙂 I am happy that as an adult one has more freedom to move to find friends/partners who understand, and I do have a great life, but I am one of those (age 40) who is still deciding what to be when I grow up…

  31. I could see, early on, that our son, particularly, would be happier as an adult vs. as a child. His gifted sister, extroverted and very verbal, also struggled, but her ability to express her emotions and ‘get it all out there’ allowed us to discuss things. Our gifted son, different in his strengths and weaknesses, was introverted and less eager to encounter novel situations and people. They are both now accomplished adults with rewarding friendships, jobs they love, and many interests. I loved raising them, but Wow, was it ever difficult!

  32. Thank you for a thought-provoking article. I recognize these issues in many people I know or have known, both children and adults. Personally, I think that I was saved from much of this by virtue of coming from a highly intelligent family. Having been through these things, my parents and extended family members were equipped to help me deal with them. I did have a problem with managing institutional idiocy when I was in school, but experience has taught me to pick my battles and I’ve handled that well later in life. (I’ve stopped trying to carpet the world; I carpet the rooms I can control and put on slippers anywhere else.)

    The one of these issues that I still struggle with is being able to talk about being highly intelligent to or in front of anyone who is not. I’ve never found a way to do so without feeling immodest and uncomfortable. Oddly, I really don’t know where that comes from, because with my family, it’s a common discussion. Any suggestions on how to handle that gracefully are welcome.

  33. Thank you for the insightful essay. I will be following up by reading the Frankl’s book myself.

    Myself, I was flagged as gifted in 1st grade, roughly 1980. Fortunately, my school district had a program for gifted students (I believe I was in one of the pilot classes). A lot of the observations that you made ring true – sensitivity, learning by understanding a system (memorizing dates in history was terrible for me, but understanding how one event led to another worked), not to mention seeing so much more in things, and also having a very strong sense of justice.

    There are a couple other items you didn’t mention that are worth touching on in my experience:

    1. Jumping steps in explanations. I do this a lot. Sometimes it seems obvious to you how the steps fit together. However to others, they don’t get how you reached your conclusions. And even when I spell things out, I still sometimes jump over things. Learning to know your audience and how far to break things down is a very important skill. And one that I still struggle with to this day.

    2. Boredom
    Particularly in school. If a class isn’t challenging a gifted student they will often get bored. And when this happens, you’ve lost them. Classes that don’t challenge gifted students aren’t really educating them. I liken it to having to play Candyland every day, hours on end, when you’re more than capable of playing chess against a good player. This is true of jobs as well as school though. Make sure that you pick something that is a challenge. And if it isn’t, find a job that is. You’ll be a happier person.

    3. Looking out for the next generation. I’ve had some pretty ugly arguments with people about the importance of gifted programs in the schools. For many, they see it as a place to cut budgets, not understanding how important it is to have these programs to serve and challenge gifted students. I’ve also struggled with the school administrators who really don’t understand. And it’s frustrating, as I can see how much further gifted people can reach, if they’re sufficiently challenged.

    All in all, a good essay, and many good observations in the comments.

  34. I have always considered those at the right tail of the curve to be just as disabled in their own way as those at the left tail of the curve. I was lucky enough when I was 13 (although I didn’t think so at the time) to be moved to a different country. So while I was learning to get along in the new culture I was also learning to get along with my new classmates, something I had not learned in the previous 13 years. For many months they could not tell how smart I was and by the time they could tell I was much better at hiding it. When my own children came along I made deliberate efforts to teach them how to assimilate beginning in preschool.

  35. I’m somewhere east of that little green bar way off to the right side of the graph.

    “You read too much! You’re too sensitive! You think too much!” —I finally decided this is not my native planet. I’m still waiting for my real people to come get me. They’re probably headed this way right now. As soon as they finish one more book.

    One thing I’d do from about the age of 8 was write letters to friends and family — long thoughtful ones (once wrote a 52-page letter to my brother, and 10 to 15 pages to aunts and cousins wasn’t uncommon) filled with observations and jokes and narrative — but I almost never got a letter back. I naturally assumed those people didn’t care about me as much as I cared about them. Eventually a light bulb went off over my head: The reason I never got letters back was because THEY COULDN’T DO WHAT I COULD DO. After that, it was okay. Well, mostly okay — realizing that did make me feel alone.

    It also troubled me that nobody in my family VALUED the stuff I could do. Say it’s a reading contest in the 6th grade, and you win a prize for reading twice as many books as the next nearest competitor, but when you take it home you hear “Oh, that’s nice. Hand me the potato masher in that drawer, there.”

    I’m glad you said that bit about not being able to talk about it. It STILL irritates me that intelligence is some sort of huge threat to people. It also still offends me that so much time and trouble is allotted to the needs of the “dumb” kids, so little to the smart ones. “You’re smart, you’ll be fine. I’ll just be over here showing Bobby how not to eat the paste or gouge his eyes out with scissors.”

    Worse, if you’re smart, you’re expected to make allowances when problems arise with less intelligent classmates. Happened to me more than once that I’d get into some sort of tiff with a schoolmate, and a teacher or counselor would tell me, essentially, “You’re able to see what’s happening, so it’s up to you to head off these situations.” I never said anything, but I often thought “Wait, I have to pay the higher price because I’m the GOOD one?”

    I’m seeing a niche for a book “How To Be The Smart Kid — Survive and Thrive in a World Full of Brutish Wankers.” (This is tongue-in-cheek, but you get the idea.)

  36. Wow. Wow. I struggle in so many work situations with people baffled how I do the things I do. The cycle is amazement (and monickers like “human encyclopedia”) and there’s a novelty to being able to remember and recall most everything you’ve ever learned. Then, when the novelty wears off, immediate superiors choose to be threatened as they learn you’re considerably smarter than they are- even the bright ones. When you show a genius level ability to organize data and strategy with simplicity and clarity- because you just can- well, that’s when you move way up or get taken out. I’ve struggled with immediate seniors fearing my abilities- despite my very outward, overt, repetitive, sincere declarations that I am committed to helping the team and my boss shine. More of a burden than blessing. 🙁 I hide my intelligence until it accidentally reveals itself.

  37. The hardest thing about growing up clever, in retrospect, was that adults couldn’t tell when I was bs-ing. There were plenty of times where I didn’t know something, but I wanted to talk anyway, so I’d make something plausible up and say it (to answer a question, or just to make conversation), only to find out it was correct.
    It happened at such a rate that I began to worry that I might actually be a deity, which was actually more concerning than exciting as a prospect for my 9 year old self, since I hadn’t kept careful track of everything I had ever made up in this manner, and I was worried about what a contradiction might do. Of course, I didn’t tell anybody at the time because I knew that would sound nutty, but it wasn’t until I started doing maths seriously in my teens that the feeling really faded. Maths is a great subject for breaking a bs-ing habit.

    1. Same here, for a time around 10-11 I considered the possibility of being a telepath or being somehow connected to the knowledge center of the universe (was reading buddishm texts at that time). Luckily I never thought of the deity thing. Worrying about the responsability and the work to come would have destroyed me.

      Having rigorous scientific tests that disproved the telepath things helped.

  38. Samuel Kohlenberg – excellent, concise and useful article.

    I learnt to play “dumb” and “be quite” from a very young age.

    Really struggled to finally realize and make peace with the absolute real truth, that ” The rest of the world isn’t going to change.” It’s such (simple) common sense but my gifted brain just wouldn’t accept it.

    Now, I know that we have to use our gifted brain to adapt to the majority population for some time and devote the remaining time on completing tasks that we enjoy.

    Identify the triggers that initiate stress – avoid them or tailor a slow measured response.

    Sleep as much as you can

    Accept the fact that God never wanted us to believe in “ignorance is bliss” even though it is!

    Enjoy life… Inspite of the majority, by learning new tasks, every hour, every day…. No matter what!

    Thank you very very much for an awesome article!

  39. I’ve read the comments and it makes me profoundly sad to see so many talking about the need to conform, to fit in, to hide your true selves. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. Maybe that’s one of the great issues facing humanity going forward – making room for everyone and making everyone count. Tapping into this vast pool of talent, gifts and intelligence to advance mankind.

  40. Everything you’ve said in the article resonates.

    In addition to the challenges inherent in a being a girl with a 145-160 measured IQ, I also came from a broken home with my mother constantly moving us in search of a better job/better way of life. The moves were beneficial in the respect that I learned coping mechanisms for meeting new people and redefining myself to merge with my new environments. However, the negative originated from my mother leaving behind any support network — I became the adult surrogate, supporting her emotionally and maintaining a household at the early age of seven. Regrettably, my mother was also an alcoholic which led to my feeling responsible for her safety and well being.

    In reviewing your readers’ comments, I think maybe the added responsibility helped in some way because my premier authority figure, my mother, treated me as an adult in many scenarios. Although, I know that the situation has inherent flaws, principally being that I never had a childhood.

    I wonder how to reconcile the need to intellectualize with gifted children on a level beyond their peers while still incorporating a sense of whimsy and the joy of childhood into their activities and development.

    In reference to your article, I encountered the challenges in college from not knowing how to just intuit my way through things. I had no study skills and suffered additionally from what I dubbed Perfectionist Procrastination. Although I overcame those obstacles, I never really learned process management — if I can’t complete a project fairly quickly, I can’t reason through how best to break down the component tasks into discrete units and attack them independently.

    All that babbling aside, I loved your article, tearing up at the prospect of being understood and having a community of like-minded peers; while reading the comments, I decided Royce, Heather, and I should all be BFFs!

    Plus, keep me in mind as well should you relocate to Texas, Lol.

  41. I’m pretty high on the standard IQ tests. When I was in the second grade, my parents gave me a science book for Christmas. So as I’m reading the chapter on Our Friend the Sun, I read where when the Sun begins to exhaust its hydrogen supply (for fusion into helium + energy) it will become a red giant star and expand to the size of the present orbit of Mars. I knew that Mars orbit was farther out from the sun that Earth, and realized that everyone and everything on our lovely planet would be incinerated. I ran crying to my parents demanding to know what was being done about this impending disaster.

    I believe that qualifies as an early “existential moment”. 😉

  42. I haven’t read through the 166 previous comments, so I don’t know if someone has already brought this up (apologies if so), but I would have liked to see something mentioned of the seemingly paradoxical tendency for exceptional people to experience impostor syndrome. It’s related to a lot of points you brought up (those deep ruminations we can’t tell anyone about, lack of experience with trying/failing), but also in my experience happens when academia or elite workplaces end up creating an artificially high concentration of outliers — suddenly a lot of people who have spent their lives being peerless are thrown in with other very intelligent and talented people. Those people (gasp!) might have skills and knacks that you don’t! Have you been deluding yourself all this time that you’re super-smart? How can you belong in the same room as someone who can do X difficult thing without breaking a sweat when X took you months and made you cry because it was the first thing you ever had to do that didn’t come easily to you?? Yep, that’s a thing.

    1. I was thinking about writing an article on that. If you look at Dunning–Kruger as a continuum, or as an equation, this is the other side of it.

  43. Thank you for this article. Balancing the idea of “gifts-that-must-not-be-named” with gifts that must not be squandered is challenging. Acculturation of girls to be especially modest and compliant compounds the cognitive dissonance. And the questions, the quests to understand the infinite puzzles of living in society never end. Only recently, for what I deem my “second life,” did I commit consciously to pushing back against the disrespect of less-qualified individuals and asserting what I know more assertively. No one would call me a shrinking violet, but many would gladly trample the gardens where I grow. Thankfully, I have found others who appreciate the importance of people with inquiring minds and creative perspectives.

  44. When I was 10, on holiday at my grandparents’ house with my family, I was reading 6 to 8 books a day sometimes. My mom made sure to get me to a library once a week, which helped a lot in terms of her budget, but I am sure she struggled to continue to relate to me. To this day, I rarely mention my ease of reading and assimilation to others because I know it is most likely to alienate them, even sometimes my brighter friends- so I can offer that as a specific example of my self-censoring. I also am frequently hyperaware of small elements of body language, facial expression, and tone of voice as well as word choice. Sometimes when I know something is ‘off’- that someone is lying to me, hiding something, or focussing on things that they are not consciously acknowledging, I feel as though I am in an ethical quandary- does my extra knowledge of their lie or their deception or their hidden issues mean that I have the right to act on that knowledge, when the persons in question seem to assume their thoughts are hidden? In therapy, I have managed to trust a few therapists enough to reveal my education and perception, with mixed results. Some therapists- the ones that I believe I have had the most success working with- remain ‘themselves’, authentically, and that integrity lets me continue to build trust. Others have panicked and attempted to ‘hide’ in an opaque therapist persona, usually poorly, and that has not fostered trust for me.

  45. Wow, it is so enlightening for me to read this (now 62); describing so much of my life experiences that I never saw in this context. Very comforting to see so much of this within a ‘normal’ framework for someone who is gifted. I had no idea, and no one around me had any sense of this to provide support for me.

  46. Thank you so much for the article. I’m reluctant to comment but I feel I must tell you how much this resonated with so many aspects of my life. I have never fit in, anywhere. In College I studied Music, History, Psychology (Majors). I finally got an additional degree in digital electronics so I could actually get a job. My hobbies have ranged from Anthropology to (most recently) Quantum Physics and Metaphysics. Of course, I dare not share much of this. Interpersonal relations are nearly non-existent, and when encountered, don’t last long. Thank you for giving me a new perspective and some possible tools. It looks like there’s a book I need to read.

  47. Thanks for writing this (decades too late of course). I also found much of the comment thread fascinating. So much of it all hit home – The college struggles because I had not developed skills at studying/trying. The tact challenges demonstrating knowledge without coming off as arrogant and impatient because I had already processed multiple solutions/scenarios as the questions were barely finished. The fact that the emotional depth is real, but not perhaps as readily apparent.

    Many of these issues never really go away. Some of us develop skills to help manage them better, but for me life continually provides regular learning/practice opportunities. The one I consistently have had the most difficulty with is “finding a healthy way to deal with people who have more power than them, but less intelligence”. Would have been life changing to have been introduced to this pitfall in an effective non-confrontational way at a much younger age. Learning some coping tools then would have been an extra bonus. These I gained through life’s hard-knocks and still work at every day.

    Thanks again for sharing this – I am inspired to do better for my intelligent pre-teen children.

  48. Having a high IQ, coupled with the disaster that was my childhood, has been misery for me every second of my adult life. I wish I could blend in and be a thoughtless, happy little worker bee with a spouse and 2.4 kids and a mountain of debt that keeps me shackled to a soul-crushing desk job until I’m 65 like everyone else, but I’d forever be faking it, and that seems even more miserable.

  49. Oh, one thing I think is an issue for clever girls especially: getting told by everybody that you’re so lucky to be clever and you should definitely have a high flying career. Once I hit puberty and started thinking more concretely about what I wanted to do with my life, I found myself butting heads regularly with people who didn’t understand how I could have the capacity for hard, complex work, but prefer the idea of having kids and finding a partner to support me.

    The number of times I was told I would be ‘wasting my life/talents’ was astonishing, given how polite adults were about my other interests. But being a >160 IQ girl who wants a bunch of babies and a modest life is apparently anathema to every working woman around. It felt very much like when other teenagers tried to persuade me to smoke – really ineffectual, but kind of insulting. Often, I would pretend to be interested in a career when talking to strangers, just to keep them off my back.

    It still annoys me no end that people think my one genius life is worth more spent working myself to death for cash/fame than spent producing more geniuses and equipping them properly for the world.

    1. Very interesting — how times change. My experience in another generation was the opposite: society taught me that smart girls should hide their abilities, because nothing mattered except wife/mother skills. My schools had no support systems for smart kids at all, let alone smart girls; the emphasis was all on athletics, which in pre-Title IX days meant all boys. A better world would encourage people, regardless of gender identification, to do the thing they are best at, and happiest at doing. I hope you have been able to pursue the things that are important to you, whatever those are.

  50. I don’t leave comments on the internet – I just DON’T. However, this paragraph literally just changed my life, and how I think about myself:

    “If you’re so smart, why aren’t work and school easy all of the time? If you have had a lifetime of being able to intuit your way through school or work, it also means that you have a lifetime of not cultivating the skill of trying. Some gifted teens and adults get to high school, college, or sometimes the workplace, and all of a sudden a completely undeveloped skill set relating to trying is required of them, and nobody is telling them that that is what is going on.”

    THANK YOU. Thank you for helping me to understand why it’s too easy to give up because I can’t figure something out immediately. I just thought I was weak.

  51. Your article focuses on high IQ. I have experienced this kind of awkwardness as a person with high social and emotional intelligence – while my IQ is high it is not outstanding. I wonder what your thoughts are around other sorts of intelligence and how they affect people?

    1. IQ is a tool with limited utility. Had this been a scholarly work, I probably would not have used the term at all. The only reason that I used the term was so that I didn’t get weighed down by defining terms. There are people who hare highly intellectually gifted who will never score high on an IQ test.

    1. It’s amazing. I was sitting down to start another article, and I still don’t want to reference my own intelligence because I’ve been trained not to. Isn’t it amazing…

  52. «People with high IQs are outliers, and outliers are often a more difficult fit in many respects because the world is not made for them.»

    I’ve often said that if IQ and height were directly correlated then people might understand that an IQ of 160 is like being 6′ 9″ tall (99.997 percentile in each case): the world doesn’t fit and you see / reach things other people can’t.

    “The highest reported standard score for most IQ tests is IQ 160, approximately the 99.997th percentile” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_IQ_society

    Put in 6′ 8″ and get 99.997 percentile as the result at —

        1. For the sake of the simile, I just say “The average shoe size for American males is 10.5. Some people have larger feet, some people have smaller feet, and then, there are some who wear size 16. A size 16 foot does not fit well in a size 10.5 shoe.”

  53. Thank you for this rather interesting read. Surprisingly, there are things in this article that can hit an intelligent person almost like the “I coulda had a V” commercial. Reading the paragraph about seeing things not just as a thing, but as their history coming into being, their interconnectedness, even possible futures for those objects, I had always thought EVERYONE could see that in the things around them. Seeing that as a connection to seeing how WE fit together never actually clicked. I think in part because interpersonal relationships has always been problematic to me.

  54. When I was very young, maybe 4 or 5, I started to contemplate my place in the universe, and seeing how infinitely small I was in comparison to how infinitely large the universe is was both exhilarating and terrifying. I knew instinctively not to talk about these experiences because nobody else ever talked about them, and besides, I didn’t have the words to adequately describe them. To myself, I called it “the I am me.”
    When I was in third grade I was placed in a special ed classroom because I was obviously different and they didn’t know what to do with me. I clearly didn’t fit there either, so I was returned to the regular classroom.
    School was horrible.
    When I was 13 I was tested for the gifted program. I did not pass, and was devastated. I became convinced there was something wrong with me, because I was certainly not like the other kids.
    Many years later my mom sent me some old papers and among them was my gifted test result and recommendation from the psychiatrist who had administered the test. It turns out that academically I more than qualified for the gifted program, but my self esteem was so woefully low, he thought I would do better in a regular classroom where I could learn some social skills. Nobody told me why I had not passed the test, so I assumed I must be very stupid. Thus my self esteem plunged still further, and I slumped in the back of the classroom and gave up, accepting the bullying and harassment as my due for being the class idiot.
    Now I have an absolutely brilliant 5 year old son, and I fear for him. I don’t want him to have to go through what I did in school. He experienced his first existential crisis (that I know of) at the age of 3 when we took him to the cemetery to put flowers on his great grandfather’s grave on Memorial Day. He subsequently obsessed over death for almost a year. He will be 6 in July and he was eligible to start kindergarten last year, but I held him back mainly because his social skills needed some polishing –but I keep second guessing that decision, fearing he will get bored in kindergarten now, repeating lessons he has known since he was 2. I have considered homeschooling, but frankly it would be a hardship for me, and also I would like him to experience the regular world, as he will need to learn to live in it! I just don’t want it to be as painful to him as it was to me. I don’t want it to break him, as it did me.

    1. Your concern makes sense, and I wish you the best of luck. Fortunately, your child has at least one important thing that you did not have access to when you were growing up: you as a parent.

  55. thank you for explaining me to me – at 66, I am still healing from being repressed, oppressed, depressed as a child because I was one who saw beyond the forest – they tried to beat it out of me – they didn’t – I left my past behind and am living up to my potential now surrounded by many like minds 🙂

  56. This is very insightful, I needed this article to affirm my belief that indeed I am gifted and possess something that most of society do not. From a very young age my view of life and everything going on was different to others and much more broad and deep. I can look at something from numerous angles and get a more ‘clear ‘ picture. And like this article affirms I have always been a loner /outsider /introvert. People don’t take too kindly to those who go against the grain (by default). We can’t help it,this is who I am. Love me or hate me. But it gets lonely and really frustrating at times. It’s not easy but I would rather be true to myself than conform and live a lie. I’m proud to be a gifted intellectual/empath even if it means no one gives me credit or if I’m not celebrated. It gives me an added advantage no one is aware of. My own super power:) Thank you for writing this article, you make us gifted individuals feel like we not alone instilling hope and renewed faith that all is not lost. We can still live fulfilling lives. Namaste ?

  57. At 68 years old I still struggle, and always will. Never thought I would last this long, but there have been enough people along the way that helped me survive. It is a rarity to find someone to really connect with, but when that connection happens, it’s magic!

  58. “Trying is a skill.” I like that. Since I retired from electrical engineering/ missile engineer, I find myself surrounded by “normal” people. They try me every day.

    I can also relate to not being able to talk about. I definitely hide my credentials in most situations. Even when around intellectuals, I hide. If someone starts asking about colleges, I know that if I answer Carnegie Mellon and Harvard that I will seem braggadocios. It’s so much easier to just be silent. I usually just mention the small HBCU where I got my start, but I don’t mention that I was 9-years old when I started. Unless it is to my advantage to do so, I rarely share my intelligence with the world. Life has taught me that revealing my capabilities usually does me more harm than good.

    1. Reading your comment reminded me of the idea of “tall poppy syndrome”. While the USA seems to affirm intelligence as a virtue on one hand, I wonder if it is covertly one of the more punitive tall poppy cultures.

  59. Great piece. I found childhood brutal in many ways. It was very hard to be happy. As an adult it is hard to be happy.

    1) BEST ADVICE I DIDN’T GET: “Don’t do it their way.” I have an orthogonal frame of reference: everything is easy. So I teach myself. I teach myself at my own rate. And usually one subject at a time. I work more slowly but grasp at far deeper depth. Everyone else is wasting my time. And all the great teachers are available in the great books in the library. The rest are very poor substitutes.

    2) BEST ADVICE I DID GET: “We are a tiny minority. It’s their world, not ours. Help them navigate it. But don’t expect them to change, or it to change.”

    3) BEST ADVICE I GAVE MYSELF: “Love others like they are children. Enjoy them. Do not try to control them or improve them. Let them learn about the world. If they ask, help them ‘just enough’. As a general rule try to compliment or help everyone you meet – in their way, not what you want to in your way. They will like you back for it.”

    4) MOTIVATION: “Women”. I’m a competitor. I like women, good food, money, time-to-think, and power to do what I wish. So I had to learn those ‘ordinary’ skills. I had to ‘learn to try’ not in intellectual but social matters. And it paid off. I think this is a better direction for the hyper intelligent to pursue than additional mastery of additional fields of little potential return. It’s in the mastery of the ordinary that most of us find our only substantive challenge, and one that produces the most substantial rewards. The lost potential in the very smart is caused by their free riding on intellectual matters and never solving the most important one.

  60. Great article, you are right on target about many people with high IQ’s seeming to have a lack of tact and/or a lack of a verbal filter. It has taken me until I’m nearly fifty years old to figure out that I need to pause when I’m talking, look at my audience, think about what I’m about to say, and question (and I *just* learned this from someone else, so can’t take credit for it myself):

    Do I need to say what I’m about to say?
    Do I need to say it at that moment?
    Do I need to say it to that particular person?
    And what is my intent in sharing what I’m about to say?

    I still mess up a LOT, I still get into arguments, and I still get misunderstood a LOT. But I’m seeing a reduction in the drama in my life, maybe just a weensie bit.

  61. Nothing in the academic realm was ever much of a challenge for me. I’ve struggled to fit-in ever since I left my gifted high school in 1987. Interestingly, one of the few people who “get” me is my non-academic jock husband who grew up on a ball field. Somehow, we connect in a way that neither of us quite understand. We have a very bright, but pretty well-rounded son, a wonderful mix of my nerdiness and my husband’s outgoing self-confidence.

  62. It has never occurred to me, until reading this post, that other children did not have ” deep” thoughts like the ones described here. I have always felt like I don’t quite fit in, but didn’t know why. Thanks for the insight.

  63. I am dumbstruck: this is my life in a blog entry. A’s were so easy: why could my elementary classmates not also get them? Why couldn’t they spell any better? Why were their language skills so persistently weak? As an adult, why are my work colleagues so inept, with such tiny vocabularies and poor software skills? If I act like them, I come across as condescending, and I have to hold myself back. If I act like myself, and perhaps read at my own speed a document we all receive in a meeting, I’m being arrogant and show-offy. I can’t win, so I retreat, and let the middle of the curve rule. I hid my GPA, my GREs, academic awards, all in a failed effort to blend in. Everything is exacerbated by my having spatial sequence synesthesia, which gives me extra organizational abilities and extra abilities in languages, memorization, and music — but I NEVER mention that, I’m plenty nonstandard as it is. I often wonder how many other high achievers have this same condition.

  64. As a gifted person, I found this article extremely validating on areas that I’ve been working out for myself. One thing I’d like to add is that the more I an authentic to my sense of self and embrace my talents, the more effortlessly I can see, and acknowledge the gifts and talents of others. My community of peers constantly expands as I get more inclusive of self and others.

    “but you are not allowed to acknowledge how you are different because to do so would be self-aggrandizing.”

    There is a constant tendency of others to promote self-limitation rather then well-regulation. If I am well regulated, then the tact and gifts both can fully express. If I am limited of self by the pressure of others, then I am more likely to experience frustration and slide into the very thing that is not me. This make proper boundaries much harder to maintain.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  65. Thank you so much for this. Parenting highly gifted children takes everything one has and even then it’s not always enough. This article is a wonderful help that I am sending to all of the adults in my kids’ lives.

    I would love to read anything you can direct me to or put together on helping highly gifted children develop perseverance. Knowing this was my Achilles heel, I’ve asked my children to try things they express interest in but can’t instantly master. No matter how much one of my children (just turned nine) enjoys the activity, or how many times she has pushed through a wall and been excited in the past about pushing through, if she hits a wall there is still a meltdown followed by a (temporary or permanent) refusal to engage the activity anymore. I am trying multiple strategies that keep at the forefront the fact that she is still a child. This does not apply to school (mostly because school isn’t challenging. She admits she’s bored most of the time. She has skipped a grade and has expressed a desire to skip another). This only happens with things like piano. In her words: “When you master what you’re working on you don’t win. It just gets harder!”

    Again, thank you so much.

  66. “While this blog post may be of some help to those who know or who work with people with very high IQs, the real intended audience is adults who are too smart for their own good.”

    It’s good to know I’m in the right place! I usually read these articles and blogs about gifted children with my youngest daughter in mind, but this one was pointing straight at me. Thank you for this discussion, not only for validating my personal struggles, but also for the reminder to better prepare my daughter to face these same challenges in her life.

  67. While exploring options for our daughter I toured a local gifted school. Standing in the hallway the director pointed out some of the kids and told me about the ones who were completing bachelor’s degrees at age 12 and finishing master’s degrees by 13 or 14. Their mission is to not commit brilliant kids to a lifetime of never trying. They let them skip entire subjects and focus on whatever subject interests them, giving them the opportunity to work up to their level of potential. If they miss something useful (spelling, history, or basic concepts such as telling time), they will pick it up later within the context of whatever subject they happen to be studying.

    While I was there a 12 year old boy with rock star hair entered the office hyperventilating from another one of his frequent anxiety attacks. The director gave him a Rolaids tablet for his heartburn. I watched as he tried to calm himself amid a fight-or-flight rush of adrenaline inflicted by his own mind. The fear in his face showed that he sees a darker reality far beyond my own comprehension.

    Ignorance is bliss.

  68. At 8 or so years old, my family was watching a Western on TV one night. The Indians were probably outside — couldn’t quite be sure — and they might attack at any moment. The few people in the little house would be slaughtered if they did. Tension was high.

    Back then, if a movie became uncomfortably intense, I would think “It’s just a movie. It’s just a movie.” That would reduce the intensity to a comfortable or enjoyable level.

    This time, I left the room, and thought,”It’s just a movie. They aren’t going to die.” And then I realized that all the actors in the movie would, yes, eventually die. So would the dog in the movie. And I thought to the actors, “Why are you doing this? [acting in this show]. You’re just going to die. So what’s the point?”

    1. I can’t watch violent movies any more. I had to walk out of “Fargo” when the toll booth worker was shot. All I could think about was that he had a family, who would be getting a phone call… ugh.

  69. Thank you! You helped me so much today!

    My sister’s first grade daughter just tested as gifted. In conversations with her related to the revelation of her child’s gifts (not a revelation to some of us ;), I realized that because I have been masking my ‘abilities’ with her for so long she felt the need to question me when I mentioned my IQ being similar to her daughter’s. It was a strange experience. She is correct, I have no idea what one of those tests says about my actual IQ as a number. I was simply trying to relate and give her a comparison. I was tested the first chance they allowed for such things in my school district (3rd grade). One of the qualifying factors was an IQ test, but I never knew the actual results. I simply knew that they began pulling me out once a week for a GT program. (Wonderful experience btw!) How was I to explain to her that it wasn’t a number as opposed to a set of characteristics, tendencies, and abilities and even a little more besides that? Her response caused a huge impostor syndrome moment (well, several moments strung out over weeks) for me.

    Anyway that was not too long ago, and then today I read your blog post and almost all of the comments and then I even made comments to those comments. (I RARELY comment on the internet). It’s not that I didn’t know the traits you describe; it’s that I had forgotten they do indeed describe something essential about me, and you said them with style and succinctness. It really hit me. Tears are still burning the backs of my eyes. That’s a big deal because I am a bit of a Vulcan. Anyway, I came to the conclusion: if I am not in the ‘high IQ’ crowd, I am indeed an excellent impostor. Ha!

    She, of course, does not really understand, and much of that is my fault. I sent her your article maybe to validate myself a bit if truth be told but also for her and especially for her daughter.

    Again, thank you.

    1. As most of the other responders say, Thank You for writing this blog. My only critical comment would be my wish that this had been written and accessible to my mother and father 45yrs ago. It may have changed many things in my life.
      Stacia’s comment above mentions that she considers herself “a bit of a Vulcan”. This struck home to me more strongly than the vast majority of the of the comments as I idolized Mr Spock from the age of 4yrs on. The syndication of Star Trek the Original Series began in 1972 and my mother loved the series. I related so strongly to Spock’s obvious extremely high intelligence, confusion and difficulty with the illogical and emotional humans he had to deal with as well as his loneliness that I spent close to 20yrs emulating him as closely as I could. About 10yrs ago I had a conversation with my mother about my difficulties as a child during which she exclaimed how difficult it was for her when I would just stare at her with an “empty face” whether she was trying to help or angry and screaming at me.
      I spent 25yrs on disability due to major chronic depression and other severe diagnoses that ranged from schizophrenia to borderline personality disorder to schizo affective disorder. I had a genetic test about 3 months ago and found out that over 90% of the medications I been prescribed during this period had extreme adverse effects for me. They were given to me at very high doses over long periods of time, mostly because they were being used as chemical restraints. It turned out that they had either greatly exacerbated or directly caused the psychosis and many other symptoms that resulted in me spending a total of almost 5yrs as an inpatient in psychiatric hospitals. 2 of those hospitalizations were longterm stays of over 1yr. Additionally I spent a 2yr period being given ECT (shock treatment). After having over 100 shock treatments in that 2yr period it took me over 10yrs to recover mental function well enough that I could live independently again.
      Much of this may have been avoided had there been more awareness of the difficulties faced by highly gifted persons. Of course, the genetic testing, which has only become cost effective for wide use in the past year and a half, would also have made an extreme difference in my path. At this point, were I given a chance to go back in time to change things, I doubt that I would choose to do so.
      About 8yrs ago I suddenly woke up from the haze I had been living in and decided that if I were to truly find the peace I desired more than anything else I would need to stop taking all of the medications. I did so, against medical advice and despite my families efforts to make me continue taking them and am now a contributing member of society. I have a fulltime job and found and bought my house 2yrs ago. One of the most important things that I did was to take the test for Mensa. Because I had almost failed out of high school and my lengthy history in and out of psych hospitals I did not believe that I was very smart. Passing the test and joining Mensa gave me access to so much information, groups and interacting with other people who had the same or similar issues that I believe every parent with a gifted child should contact Mensa.
      Apologies for the book, LOL. Thank you for the blog.

  70. “If you have had a lifetime of being able to intuit your way through school or work, it also means that you have a lifetime of not cultivating the skill of trying.”

    OMG TRUTH. It’s very common to suffer from “imposter syndrome” when you’re smart too, because if something isn’t immediately 100% easy for you, then you feel like you’re just a faker fooling everyone. And I know I struggle with self doubt when something is hard or not intuitive feeling like an instant failure.

    I think smart kids grow up thinking they have to be instantly smart at EVERYTHING and if they’re not, they suck; they’re a failure; they are worthless. It’s such a tough balance to strive for accepting that while many [most] things might come easy, not everything will – AND THAT’S OK. (At 40, I still have to remind myself of this on a regular basis.)

  71. Great article! I couldn’t get through all of the comments to see if this had been brought up, but in matters of unrecognized giftedness in children (like children from unstable homes and poverty), can there be an issue of learned helplessness? When you speak of agency, powerlessness and injustice are not only emotional crises but very real exhibitions of daily life. How do these children, alienated within their families and communities, find support as adults?

  72. We need to hang out with other smart people. In 1995, I attended the annual Intertel conference (top 1% IQ qualification), and it was unlike any experience before or since. Mensa was having its annual meeting at the same time, same hotel. So pretty much everyone you met was pretty much as smart as you. And it was astonishing. I learned that I hadn’t really been bad at conveying ideas. It was just that it usually took so many words. For three days, I was in rooms with people who knew what I was talking about, what I meant. And when they conveyed their ideas, I didn’t have to say them back to be sure I got what they meant. I understood that matriculating in everyday society was just going to be what it always had been: a bit sloggish, and somewhat alienating. I still feel like a foreigner in Walmart, but now I know there are other people like me.

  73. Thank you so much for this post. The feeling of relief at being understood is incredible.

    When I was 5, I realized that one of my uncles suffered from mental illness (bipolar disorder, and he was in one of his “off meds because I’m all better and don’t need them” phases but was acting in ways that were definitely it normal), and became obsessed with the idea that I might be mentally ill and not know it. Lying in bed one night, I came to an “I think, therefore I am” conclusion: since I perceived a difference between “normal” and “mentally ill”, and could recognize that certain actions and ways of behaving were not normal, I must not be mentally ill, because mentally ill people don’t recognize their abnormal behaviors as abnormal.

    I’ve suffered from insomnia the entirety of life that I can remember, and I recognize the same traits in my oldest child. He often complains to me that he “doesn’t know how to fall asleep” and that he “can’t just lie her and think about nothing” and I am at a loss to instruct him, because I don’t know how to shut my brain off so I can sleep either.

    I’ll be putting several of your suggestions into practice for both of us. Thank you again.

  74. Thank you for “people can’t tell how sensitive you are.” My daughter had the wherewithal to tell me that she doesn’t know how to express gratitude when surprised by a gift, or how to express remorse when she finds she has done something wrong. She said, “I don’t know how to make my face look when I am feeling those feelings.” All along I thought she was being either rude or defiant (neither of which are like her). Now I know better – I can better interpret what’s going on and can help her communicate those feelings. I was totally awed by her self-awareness and courage in telling me where she felt the disconnect.

  75. I understand the intent behind the assertion that “the rest of the world won’t change,” but I think it treads on some dangerously hopeless ground, and really isn’t perfectly accurate. The world, or rather, humanity, does change. Of all the people who would provide the most benefit in understanding how it does, super-bright and sensitive kids are equipped to have the most substantial impact, and can if we as adults position them to do so. Granted, the feedback loop is non-existent, or perhaps too-confusingly delayed. This, I think, is the point of that paragraph. However, taking a tack of resignation, and encouraging kids to do the same probably isn’t something this article wants to do.

  76. Great article! I’d like to add one point that is often overlooked: Gifted children often exhibit differential development. They aren’t miniature adults. Often people believe that gifted children don’t need any help because they are smart. However, just because someone is ahead in math, doesn’t mean they are ahead in organization or social development. In fact, more often then not, gifted students lag behind their peers in at least one area of development. Gifted students are often not “A students” because they are disorganized, bored, or have trouble controlling their focus.

    1. I think you are talking about asynchronous development which is written about quite often. It was alluded to in this article by way of mentioning that someone can be behaving as a 40-year-old and a 6-year-old at the same time.

  77. This hit home for me in several ways. I related it to my own difficult life from my first memory. Then, my brother, who was what you called 2e who committed suicide at age 55. And my own children who are ALL square pegs and intensely emotional and intelligent, creative and gifted. Six of them; years ahead of their peers. Medication is very helpful in some cases, counselling too and sometimes both. But yours is a great explanation of the kind of life I see my own 17 year old youngest child struggling through right now. Thank you for this! She copes with black humour and a lot of venting. I keep a close eye on her and we talk about lots and I listen more than talk. Very creative and intelligent people need caregivers who love them and nourish them, something I never had. so I have been determined to give that to my own kids.

  78. Excellent post, Sam! Sadly, in the approximately 100 years since the unusual needs of super bright people began to be taken into account, the world has not managed to come around to the view that it is important. Many, even in the “gifted field” (educators) are busy even now denying both asynchronous development and the “Over-excitabilities” Dabrowski found, while parents (most often being super bright themselves) resonate fully with both and continue to struggle with meeting the needs these differences create. Glad that you’re out there helping!

  79. Anybody who’s an outlier is marooned on the island with the Lord of the Flies, constantly looking over their shoulder for the kid with the stick

  80. I raised my kids telling them “You’re always going to be smarter than everyone else around you. That’s a privilege and an obligation. You don’t get to be an arrogant jerk, you are here to help make life better for people around you. But neither must you suffer the indignities of the less-gifted. Do things your way, if they can’t handle it forget them.”

  81. Thank you so much! I’ll be sharing this with my 13yo son. He was suicidal at the age of 8 and still experiences bouts of extreme depression. I think this will help him realize that he’s not alone.

  82. First article on the subject that is accurate, as far as I am concerned. For those asking about 6 year old existential crises vs a 40 year old, yes, at six I became an athiest despite my community, out of reason, and not anger, I became terrified of both the concept of infinity and finality, I recoiled in horror of the concept of my viscera and delicateness in physical form, I thought I invented entire philosophies I later wouldn’t read about until college, figured out the wrongess of thinking in strict duality, saw my parents as flawed, simple humans that we all are, and began a lifelong quest to find someone who can teach me what I couldn’t teach myself. I was 6. Six. I also have vivid, confirmed memories going back to two years old, and I remember dissecting them for mental contrast between the ages of six and eight so I could ‘learn from my own mistakes before I got to old to change.’ That’s the ballpark sentiment I believe the author is trying to convey.

  83. Thank you for this article. It validated many things I have become aware of with age. Not learning how to “try” in particular. Some of the posts have touched on being raised by parents that are not intelligent and/or mentally ill.
    My father was killed in an industrial accident in a foreign country when I was 8. Shortly after his death I was given my first IQ test. I remember being questioned on the answer I got wrong. A picture of a horse and a cat were side by side. The question was which had the longer tail? I told them it was a “trick” question. Everyone knows a horse has the longer tail. But if you looked at the pictures, the cat picture actually had the longer tail. You just needed to “straighten” the cat’s tail in your mind to see it was longer than the picture of the horse’s tail. At age 9 I scored a perfect score on the “vocabulary” section of a standardized achievement test. I was ranked equivalent to ninth month of junior year in high school. This was so unusual people, I assume from the testing company, arrived at my school to interview me. I thought I was being accused of cheating!
    My mother was consulted and it was recommended to advance me by three grades. She refused. I think this might have gone differently if my father was still alive. Mother always bragged on the intelligence of her sons. Never me. She often said in my presence, “I always wanted a dark skinned brown eyed daughter.” I looked just like my father, auburn hair and green eyes. I was in a small, two grades in each classroom, country school. Luckily the principal’s wife took notice and she developed a “gifted” program for me. I believe she saved my life. But not without cost. I was labeled “teacher’s pet” by my peers.
    At age 67 I have come to understand my mother was a malignant narcissist. I was her “scapegoat” and she blamed me for my father’s death. My father was a “pipeliner”. He quit his company because I had attended 17 schools in the first grade. The economy was not good at that time so he took a temporary job in South America. He was killed 12 days before he was to return home. So his death was my fault.
    She remarried a man who was a sociopath at the very least, probably type II bipolar or possibly a borderline personality. I and my gifted brothers were subjected to verbal, emotional, physical abuse and financial exploitation. My youngest brother has often said, “The scars from physical abuse fade, the emotional scars never do.” When he remarked that I threatened my mother (we were adults by then) I asked, “What do I do that threatens her?” He replied, “It is not what you do. It is who you are.”
    Gas lighting was their preferred method of control. One of my major struggles as an adult has been to know my perceptions are real and that I do not live in a “fantasy world”.
    By age 15 I was the adult in the household. I managed everything groceries, meal prep, housecleaning, child care for younger half sister etc. Yet I was told daily, “You couldn’t find your head if it wasn’t attached to your shoulders.” After testing in my junior year of high school, I was called to the counselor’s office. I was told your scores on this test are not reflected in your grades. I was in honors classes. I told the counselor I did not have time to do homework because of my responsibilities and duties at home. That was it. Nothing was done to help or advise me. To this day it is almost impossible to ask for help. When you learn at an early age there is no help for you, you learn it is less painful to never ask.
    The mercurial mood changes of my step-father meant “hypervigilance” was necessary for survival. I today am very adept at reading people’s micro expressions and body language.
    Malignant narcissists don’t change, ever! At age 35 I decided to let go of my abusive history. I sat my mother down intending to tell her, “It’s okay. I know you were doing the best you could.” It went like this. Mother, “That never happened.” “Yes Mama it did.” “It wasn’t as bad as that.” “Yes Mama it was.” Then through clenched teeth she spat at me, “And you deserved everything you got!” I never tried again. Today I am able to say “I did not love my mother” instead of “I don’t like her, but I love her because she is my mother.”
    We do what we learn to do. I learned to survive in a deeply dysfunctional home. At age 20 I “broke jail” by getting married. Jail break because I saw no other way out. I had taken a semester off and returned home. During this time I learned Mama had stolen my trust fund and continued to illegally draw my Social Security check. I returned to my summer job at $1.30/hr minimum wage. I was trying to save so I could return to school. Every payday I was hit up for money to buy groceries and pay utilities.
    I married someone who had the worst traits of my parents. Overtly abusive like my step-father and emotionally unavailable like my mother. My mother’s and my husband’s love was earned and I was just never quite good enough to earn that love. Today age 67 and widowed for 25 years, I have internalized their negative messages. I no longer need to hear their constant criticism. I constantly self-criticize. Procrastination is still a huge issue. It is hard to accept that procrastination is actually based in perfectionism and not proof that I am inherently flawed. Diagnosed with PTSD 25 years ago, I have recently learned of the “new” diagnosis “complex PTSD”. Fits me and my brother’s to a T.
    I apologize for rambling. I just needed to let this out!

    1. Oh my stars. SO many similarities, although my situation did not end up as bad as yours.
      Auburn hair and green eyes. Smart girl.
      N mother and being the scapegoat. I believe my siblings blame me (as they were trained to do) for our mother losing custody of “her” children in our parents’ divorce (we younger three got to vote on it (!) and best 2 out of three got custody. As the youngest, I was the tiebreaker.)
      My sister, as the oldest, was parentified by our mother. My MIL was also, by HER alcoholic mother.
      Hard to ask for help, because when you needed it, help wasn’t there.
      I’ve learned to say, “My mother did not love me.” I am lucky that my father did. I am so sorry that yours died so early in your life.
      I threatened the shit out of my MIL, just by existing (and by us choosing not to have kids) so she rejected me, forced her husband to do the same, and tried to work on my husband too. Three more relationships blighted by one toxic person.

      I have been working on processing all of this for the past 5 years. I sincerely hope that with your new diagnosis, you can find some peace and happiness.

  84. I think the worst feeling is having a parent or close friend express the view, “But you’re so smart! You could do anything! You’re just wasting it all on what you are doing with your life. I always thought you’d be a . Are you just going to spend the rest of your life like you are now?”

    Yes, I tested ridiculously high on everything thrown at me since I started my education. I tested into the top 10 percent of Jr High class comprehension levels when I started Kindergarten, but due to wanting to keep me on a similar social level to my peers I only advanced one grade level. I was still treated as “different”.

    I was always the smart kid, even after a Traumatic Brain Injury when I was 10. However that caused me to have my thoughts process somewhat differently. Though I kept the smarts, the way my brain worked changed. As an adult I developed a seizure disorder which prevents me from doing many things like driving, working many jobs due to increased injury chances that a company’s insurance would rather avoid, spending an extended period of time in high stress situations, etc. I have anxiety and panic attacks on top of this that will escalate to seizures at times.

    I still get asked why I don’t just go back to school and become a psychologist or an actuary or something else similar on the pay scale. At this point in my life I CAN’T. I’ve always loved reading and writing, I have some books I’m working on and in the meantime I do some editing work from home. It’s not glorious from an outside perspective, but I love it and I am good at it. Being constantly reminded that I’m a disappointment based on expectations set on me as a child really stings.

    I’m watching my niece go through the same thing as she grows up. I make sure to be there for her and spend time talking to her on her level and encouraging her in all she does. I don’t want the same pains to fall upon her if she doesn’t go on to be a surgeon or one of the other high paying and highly respected careers she has thought of pursuing.

  85. “I have noticed a trend, however, that many of the gifted people that I work with have an easier time when they are able to learn things as a system and not as a series of steps or isolated facts.”

    I’m 42 years old and it took this to see what’s been in front of my face the whole time.

  86. Yup. I clock in at 145. I totally agree it’s difficult fitting into this world, especially being told “Don’t be so smart” when I was a child. I do see things as vast systems, and get frustrated when I can’t approach problems systemically. I think you have developed unusual insight into “us” – kudos. I think the best advice here is to “stop trying to do things their way.” Good luck and best wishes to you and your very smart clients.

  87. I’ve lied my entire life. Not the kind of lie that covers up some evil deed. It’s even worse. Because whenever I solved a problem using intuition, I lied. I said things like, “I remember seeing that done someplace,” or, “Somebody showed me how to do that,” or, “I read about that in [pick your publication].”

    Yes, alleging a third party DID lend an air of credibility beyond the it-seemed-like-the-way-to-do-it explanation. And it meant I never had to go into lengthy explanations that likely wouldn’t mean anything to the listener, anyway. But it also meant I never really took credit for inventing a solution. Ever. And here’s the sad part:

    I still do that.

  88. Thanks for the helpful article! I also had existential angst from mid primary school, and a persistent pervasive sense of seeing the world differently from peers and never quite fitting in. A psychologist once told me “your intelligence is isolating” which explained a lot and proved a helpful reference point. Realising I was smarter (in an academic sense) than my mother was a painful and disorientating experience for me when I was about 17. You’re right – we’re not allowed to talk about it, it’s taboo and in poor taste, which is sort of fair enough but also brings difficulty.

  89. Thanks for the article. It helps in understanding myself better. My army technical score was 140 when joining the service in the mid to late 60’s.

  90. I am 54, with two sisters: an older and a younger.
    My sisters had countess pets over our mutual childhoods, while I had only 2: a tortoise and a cat.
    I knew VERY early on that I could enjoy ALL KINDS of pets without being responsible for their care!
    And I remember the little room where I was tested in elementary school, and the kinds of questions that were asked.
    In 6th grade I remember going to a separate class and studying the Renaissance period.
    The older I got, the more I became NOT the smartest person in the room.
    I did experience misogyny in the workplace, which harmed my self-esteem, but I found a much better place to work.
    Today, I know that I am smart, but definitely NOT the smartest!

  91. This article resonated so deeply with me, both remembering a deeply painful childhood where I was too smart and odd to fit in, and now as a mother. I hope you write more on it. I’m taking a copy home to my 24-year-old son, who is still suffering from painful existential questions that began when he was 8. Super-smart kids suffer mental torment and wonder why others aren’t experiencing life the same way.

  92. Better to be in the 3rd standard deviation to the right than the opposite side. There’s always that realization to help put things into perspective.

  93. I’m in Mensa so was prepared to some extent for the excellent brain that came with my son. I was unprepared for the call from his principal requesting I come in for a conference. Seems like my 6-year old son had convinced a couple of classrooms to march on the principal’s office with a set of demands. My son spoke for them all and DEMANDED that the teachers quit “…withholding knowledge and information relevant to the (students) and the world…” He DEMANDED that teachers should cease dumbing down lessons and teach interesting and helpful information. This boy grew mentally exponentially… is socially very charming but emotionally is less capable. He has no mental mediator when it comes to love and hate.
    What I’ve learned is that almost all high IQ folks never quite fit into ‘normal’ society and their wonderful brain will have less social development in some segment of that word. Boredom may even get them in trouble and impatience with being ahead of folks all the time leads to frustration and anger. .

  94. Good article. Too many comments on how religion can help you, thats just nonsense, one trying to outdo the other. The simple fact is you do not fit in and cannot ‘go with the flow’. I was not popular as a child and lived on the fringes of society. The best thing that happened to me was military training and that put me in touch with my leadership and influencing skills. I don’t have many close friends but those that are will tell me when my thought processes outpace everyone elses and they will bring me back to the point. What has helped me further is identifying young people who have great skills and potential but need the guidance and tolerance to help them deal with either the directional help or the inter personal skill help to get them where they should be. Very satisfying I might add. I still abhor incompetence and laziness and have been told I am a curmudgeon. Educational institutions at the primary stage rarely identify those that can take leaps and bounds and many get out of the system. Many of these that opt out become entrepeneurs and thank heavens we have those. I have become a great negotiator through learning how to read personality styles and what buttons to push and which not to
    Enjoyed the article.
    Thank you…. I’m 64 years old now and am still a loner in many aspects.

  95. I can really relate. Thank goodness for my mother who pulled me aside when I was lamenting about being misunderstood. She drew a picture of the IQ bell curve and said this is everbody (pointing to the inside of the bell and this is you (marking a spot on the line far away from the bell). My IQ is 136 and I can see now that I was resented. I feel being female made it more difficult.
    The biggest frustration in my life right now is my boss who constantly asks me for health advice (my field of study) without ever compensating me for my time. She manages me by passive and not so passive aggression because she does not know what she is doing. She knows I am smarter then her and thinks she has to put me down to maintain her power.
    I actually thought I would be valued. It actually turns a lot of people off. I was just accepted this morning into Grad school, I figure I will fit in better and eventually make more money…
    In some ways I was lucky because my family submerged me in Hinduism from an early age. It is a very soothing religion for the most part.

  96. Can you explain more about ‘learn a system, not steps or facts’? I’m the NT parent of a 5 year old Aspie & Gifted daughter, who is incredibly articulate about the struggles she faces, which is a huge blessing.
    She’s just started to understand that she doesn’t understand people intuitively, (and yet she is almost supernatural in her ability to read people and judge character). This dichotomy is really getting to her, and I’m wondering if the system idea might help?

    1. Sure. Here’s a more practical way to use that idea: it seems that most topics have at lease a few good videos explaining how they work on youtube. Learning how neurons depolarize? Go to youtube, watch a few videos about it so that the idea as a whole can be seen, and then go back and fill in the details from the book.

      I understand that the application that I outlined has little to nothing to do with your question, but my guess is that you will be able to find a way to use the idea.

  97. “Trying is a skill.” Whoa – that describes me to a “T”. It took until I was in graduate school, my SECOND pass in my mid-40s, to figure that out. tl;dr version: I pick up lots of things easily. The drawback to that is, if I DON’T get it easily, I give up. I still struggle with that today as I near my 60th year.

  98. My parents raised me to have confidence in myself and my abilities. I strongly believe that insecurities are the Achilles heel of any high IQ child or adult. If they are raised in such a way that allows them to embrace their differences, they will be a lot happier. And once you have confidence in yourself, bullies don’t exist, an existential crisis turns into a giant middle finger, and you know your limits, so you try to improve yourself. Confidence is a solution to most of the aforementioned problems. I know this not just from personal experience, but from spending time with other outliers, both secure and insecure.

  99. Wow, this so describes my difficult childhood. Reading all the responses from people like myself felt so good. It is rare that I connect in a meaningful way with most people, but I feel like I could sit down and have great conversation with any of the respondents to this post.
    Thank you for writing this, I am going to save it and reread it from time to time.

  100. Samuel, with the “trying thing” you had me.

    Now, at 55, I feel that I still need to learn this skill. So I was going through the comments, see what people have tried (pun intended). This is what I came up with, also from my own mind:

    1. Learning skills that were not essential for me at the moment. Which means: not too much pressure on failing.
    2. Remembering that through the years of course I’ve learned a few things that way. I’m thinking now of buying and financing a house for myself (just trying how to figure all that out); be someone’s representative in official situation (just trying to pose as someone who is confident and has some authority); and so on. It’s valuable now, to look back at these memories and understand what I learned by just trying.
    3. Understand that “failure” and its opposite “success” are mainly socially defined constructs. So, when I’m aware of that, I can just as well forget the concept of “failure”, and adopt the concept of “unexpected outcome”. Meanwhile soothing both the perfectionist and the imposter with this.
    4. Create art (in my case: writing and music), for it has no definite “right” according to some norm – there is only my own satisfaction with the artistic outcome, and I can playfully rework the piece till I’m happy with it, meanwhile learning a few skills by trying…

    Please let me know when you’ve written that article, Samuel. I already feel it coming, and may it be just as stunningly insightful as this one. Or you know what: just TRY and “fail” and publish it anyway 😉

  101. Man, you really nailed everything. They mistreat me and I’m talented in pretty much anything I set my mind too as well as physically but I keep to myself because of the way the society is.

    You really nailed it that you can’t talk about it (it works against you), you can’t change it, the existential thing, trying to do things their own way. I’m learning to speak 30+ languages and within > 1 year I’m ahead of them in basically all of them and do everything on my own and never seem to be seen for the person I am. What I realized is it isn’t my fault it’s because other people are ignorant and lack understanding. I thought I could change it for so many frigging years.

    1. I basically try not to talk to people now and was depressed and chain smoking like nonstop putting off my dreams and always wondered why I didn’t get the relationships I deserved. It was like talking to a computer for frigging 10 years. I thought they were all going to be there for me.

  102. I basically have this lifetime syllabus that they can’t comprehend. It’s like 20 PHDs and they act like I’m a nobody. I can also use the information better.

  103. Also because I’m over 30 and I’m basically a lifetime homeschool student they act like it’s not functional but it’s only because I’m different and they can’t communicate with me or I don’t have what they want. It’s pretty much like the majority of my relations with “them” would involve social or material aspects which really tainted my view.

    1. Sorry for all the posts it’s a bad habit from messenger, Facebook, text. The disagreement matrix. That’s how it works. There’s no real right or wrong or absolute so they can use their own opinions, experiences, relativities to just cycle out your message, meaning, “bridge”. You get what I’m saying man? I’m basically “alone”.

  104. The person’s ability, personality, talent etc. also has nothing to do with any sort of system like possible degree, sponsorship in sports, etc. The person is an “outlier”. It should have been a positive thing but it seems like it isn’t half the time. Half full/half empty I think that’s where all the disorders such as bipolar etc. stem from these roots.

  105. I was aware of death at age 4, before I could make perfect sentences, right before my mother sent me to school.
    When I was 10 years old, I deeply questioned a religious belief that anyone not knowing our religion would go to hell. I saw it as unfair and keept arguing until the nun called the principal, to try to calm my questioning and insisting. Their answer was not satisfying to me. I learned to shut my mouth.
    I was always rejected because of my difference, even in my own family, even if some were having the same IQ as me. With a test, at 18 years old, I got 145, but Mensa doesn’t recognize this test…

  106. Had my share of existential crises; I’m not very, very smart though. On the other hand what is smart? Intelligence? Sensitivity? Resilience? Is being smart the same as being wise? In my experience, people who suffered, struggled and managed to survive become sort of streetwise (‘smart after the fact’). I think that’s what you talk about in your article when you talk about ‘cultivating the skill of trying’? Yes, it’s great when you float through life with not a care in the world (as if that has ever happened to anyone!?) but it’s best to face some demons along the way. In hindsight, my crises we’re the best thing the happened to me. And yes, like Einstein said: ‘play is the highest form of research’…also when it comes to the meaning of life. Finally, As a non-native speaker of the English language I realy enjoy expanding my vocabulary; thanks for ‘braggadocios’ !

  107. Fantastically crafted and critical insights, Fancy Sam. Of particular poignancy to me was the should-be-obvious-but-never-really-crossed-my-mind point regarding Trying. As someone who did exactly as you mentioned – “intuit”ing/coasting through school, jobs, and social interactions where physical violence was a threat, I was woefully unprepared, surprised, angry, and depressed when I couldn’t just “do” or know something with minimal effort. I still struggle with this and though I have improved via a long history of therapy, reading/research, and observing, your succinct and pointed note on this subject twisted the lens in a way that makes the retrospective picture – as well as clarity for my own goals about learning new things – a lot more direct and simple.
    More important, there are four gifted children in my life with whom I interact regularly and undoubtedly influence. Being able to impart this concept – “trying is hard” – at an early age and explain the best I can that not everything will be easy, and in particular when [as often happens to these young people] they adapt a very independent, at times painfully-if-proudly solitary interface system with The World, understanding how, and from whom, to ask for help or ‘confess’ struggling with a skill, problem, subject, or project – and that it’s Okay, and Normal, even when one is Extraordinary, to Not Be Effortlessly and Instantly Good at Everything – is a fantastic opportunity; this article made it possible.
    [speaking of not being good at things, this minor essay consists of only six sentences, the last of which should responsibly be carved into at least four reasonable sentences alone]

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