A young client I worked with recently commented, “The schools won’t change, so I guess I will have too.” Thankfully, I am schooled in giftedness and I could assist in developing the understanding that one does not have to give up giftedness, as if it were possible to do so. Rather, the student and I could work together with the parents to find resources and advocates within the system. If our search proved unsuccessful within that learning environment, we would find other ways or environments which supported individual needs.
It was not until much later in life when I realized I was a gifted adult that I learned to honor self. I recall the elementary, middle, and high school years during which I felt isolated and different much of the time. It was only during special classes in middle and high school when I had the opportunity to create projects or engage in enrichment activities with a few others students that I felt “like myself.” Of course, in those days in the late fifties and early sixties, no one used the “G” word. Understanding giftedness is something I wish I knew back then.
Solitude vs Loneliness.
Growing up as a shy, introverted reader and thinker in a family with three brothers, I spent much time alone, pursuing my own interests. I relished the time I had to read several books a week. A member of a free range generation of children, there were days when I would leave our house early morning and not return except for lunch until evening. At times I joined my brothers or neighborhood children to play. However, often I would explore the woods and the creek behind our house, creating elaborate scenarios and stories with my imaginary friend, Beth.
Because of my introversion, I continued to spend time alone much of my childhood. As I grew older, society’s views were impressed on me in school and other social activities. I began to question my delight in being alone. The message conveyed by teachers and other adults was that to be happy, one must have a bevy of friends with which to spend every waking moment.
It was not until young adulthood when I realized my penchant for having just one or two close friends was perfectly acceptable. Furthermore, solitude was to be celebrated, especially since in my own life it fostered my creative productivity. Distinguishing solitude from loneliness is something I wish I knew back then.
Celebrate the Positives of Gifted Intensities.
Growing up an empath who felt physical pain when others suffered, along with all of the intensities that mark many gifted individuals – sensual, imaginational, intellectual, emotional, and psychomotor – it was a mystery to me why I overreacted to stimuli and others did not. As with my preference for solitude, I interpreted my intensities as something that was wrong with me rather than something right.
If I had it to live over again, I would have used the intensities to go deeper in my quest for both understanding of my world and others, as well as my self-understanding. When we celebrate the intensities of gifted children, rather than try to suppress them, we give them the freedom to feel deeply and to pursue their imaginational creativity. We affirm the intellectual imperative that drives their being and we do all we can to nurture it. Understanding and celebrating intensities are things I wish I knew back then.
Giftedness is a Lifelong Phenomenon.
When I first entered the field of research in giftedness the common belief at the time was that children were gifted in elementary and perhaps middle school. By high school or college at the latest, the phenomenon of giftedness waned and individuals previously identified as gifted blended with other age peers to be defined by the same high school, college, or career standards.
Now a gifted elder, looking back on a lifetime of giftedness, it is clear to me that we continue to grow and develop as gifted individuals throughout our lifetimes. As such, we may continue to feel isolated and different. Or, we can use self-understanding to carve a path defined by our Self alone as valuable. Giftedness as a lifelong phenomenon is something I wish I knew back then.
Constructs of Success.
From my vantage point of almost seventy-four years, there are so many other things I wish I knew back then I would love to express. Perhaps they can be shared in future blog posts. The last piece of this post of what I wish I knew earlier in my life are the constructs of success in gifted females which are detailed and explored in my book, Nurturing the Gifted Female. In brief these are:
- Voice – the development of the authentic expression of one’s perceptions of reality.
- Resilience – the ability to persevere in the face of adversity.
- Autonomy and Affiliation – the ability to flourish alone or in collaboration with others.
- Efficacy – the belief in the ability to accomplish our goals.
- Agency – the belief in the ability to act with purpose to impact society and the world.
I was a late bloomer in many ways. I earned a Ph.D. at the age of fifty-two, a Master’s in Clinical Psychology almost twenty years later, and began writing and publishing in my fifties. As a result of my research with gifted young women who were high school juniors and seniors, I discovered the constructs of success that would propel them into lives of creative productivity. I am certain that an understanding of my own giftedness and the opportunity to know and develop constructs of success at an earlier age are things I wish I know back then.
This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page June 2018 Blog Hop on “Things I Wish I Knew Back Then.” I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page for their inspiration, support, and suggestions over the decades. You can see blogs of others here.
Photo: Elliot Margolies: serious little girl. On flickr (creativecommons.org). (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)