This discussion is born out of a comment raised about the definition of giftedness.
A particular commenter could not relate to all of my angst (and quite honestly, I don’t expect anyone to – these are my experiences and my feelings towards them), and it seemed that it was mostly because her view of giftedness varied from how I define it. She defines it in terms of “what you have to show for it”. Fair enough. In fact, many people feel that way. Only…it’s an incomplete view of giftedness.
I agree with Linda Silverman and the Gifted Development Center who redefines what giftedness really is (as I stated in the post regarding gifted women):
It’s time we took giftedness out of the closet and separated it entirely from the concept of achievement. It’s time we recognized it, valued it and nurtured it in our schools and our families. As a parent wrote in an issue of Understanding Our Gifted,
Every gift contains a danger. Whatever gift we have we are compelled to express. And if the expression of that gift is blocked, distorted, or merely allowed to languish, then the gift turns against us, and we suffer(Johnson, 1993, p. 15).
Because many people do not understand the gifted experience, those that have gifts are often unrecognized and the gifted individuals intensity (emotional, intellectual, psychomotor, sensual and/or imaginational) is either misunderstood or misdiagnosed as an illness to be medicated (add/adhd, bipolar,etc). There are many stories of adult individuals who don’t get the chance to use their abilities and don’t get the opportunities that would let them achieve great things in society (mothering, in fact, is a huge unrecognized contribution to society and still is to this very day). Many are told (by their own parents, family, teachers, bosses) that there is something wrong with them, so they have had the confidence crushed right out of them. If a modern school psychologist had the chance to evaluate Nikola Tesla way back in the 1800s and the things that went on in his mind (some pretty intense visual images), he most likely would have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and medicated – instead of going on to invent the alternating current model of electricity that we used to power our homes and businesses. At the same time, had Tesla not gone on to become an inventor, and instead have been medicated, he would have still been gifted (only not having anything to show for it).
However, that being said, coming from 28 years of achieving (16 years of school+12 years of laboratory work), I’m keenly aware I’m not achieving a whole lot right now (nothing in the past 5 years to add to a pretty extensive CV).
That’s where the angst comes from – being keenly aware of my own shortcomings as I mother of bright girls (one whom who is a highly sensitive and selectively mute child), and of being emotionally traumatized as a child and young adult by my family and that had a direct effect on parenting my own children for a while, and of being a woman not satisfied with just mothering and housework and attending to my husband’s intimate needs (even if I do benefit greatly from the last one).
It’s about having HIGH expectations for oneself (and others) and for having HIGH needs to express oneself and nurture one’s interests. It’s also about having difficulty being understood by your peers (whether we are talking about kids or adults). It’s a very isolating experience when bulk of the mothering friends only talk about chick flicks, and shopping, and clothes, and complain about how their husbands suck, and exchange ideas on how to get their kids to behave through complicated reward/punishment systems, or spanking, or time-outs (all of which I think don’t work in the long run and do not create healthy self-discipline). No one in my neck of the woods wants to talk about chemistry experiments, or the pros and cons of different mathematics curriculum used in different schools, or have a thrilling discussion with me about the biography of Tesla I’m reading (and quite honestly, I wouldn’t expect them to want to discuss the biography I’m reading).
Because of the differences in experience, giftedness ALSO affects relationships with others. There are many a highly gifted individuals who struggle with their personal relationships. Ask any highly gifted individual who is trying to date. It’s hard to find compatibility with others who are not gifted themselves. I got lucky because my husband is gifted as well. I would have a lot more problems with our marriage if we couldn’t relate to each other in a way that is meaningful for us.
Just ask me how many friends I might have that struggle with this very concept – of connecting with others on a deep meaningful level when the others in their lives only skim the surface.
This is why I have angst. I was never ID’d as gifted as a child, but that formal identification is irrelevant anyway (but I do have my old records and my CV to lend proof to it). But it goes an incredibly LONG way to explain why I feel the way I do about many things, from parenting intense children to needing to express myself through writing, to needing to feed my brain.
At any rate, I hate to sound like I’m picking on that person, but I had to clarify this because it greatly troubles me. Giftedness does NOT equal achievement but rather explains the different perception of the world around the gifted individual. Achievement does help the gifted individual feel deeply satisfied as he or she (generally) feels compelled to contribute his or her talents to the greater good.
Add to all of my own difficulties, I have at least two gifted girls, both of whom have high sensitivities (my third one is probably gifted too, but it’s too early to tell). I have had to understand their individual sensitivities and their intellectual needs (my first grader is reading 6th grade material and wanting to do third grade math). Because they are girls, I want to explore the concepts of incorporating my individual growth with my families’ needs. I don’t believe I need a job to do that, but I do need to cope with the lack of tangible achievement. I am raising some pretty amazing girls, but I can’t add that to my CV, unfortunately.
So, yeah. I get that I might sound like I have a lot of angst, and that’s because I do. I spend an inordinate amount of time in self-analysis and it is both exhilarating and exhausting at times. It’s just part of who I am.