The term gifted is usually associated with children and prodigies — from those whip-smart young kids who are ahead of the pack academically, musically, artistically, or athletically; to those who are savants at their single crafts. But adults can be gifted, too — often without realizing it.
In fact, many gifted adults who become entrepreneurs face a slew of predictable challenges because of their giftedness. When ignored, these challenges can lead to relationship disasters, mental health struggles, addiction or worse. When giftedness is identified and nurtured, those same traits of restlessness, multipotentiality, speed, and mastery turn gifted adults into brilliant, globe-trotting, world-changing entrepreneurs and leaders. Here are five signs you might be a gifted adult:
1. You Had a Very Painful Experience in School.
Most schools are not designed for the gifted student, socially or academically. You might have gotten straight As or okay grades because you were so bored that you couldn’t be bothered with straight As. Socially, you might have been a loner who thought a lot but never said much, or a troublemaker everyone thought was on her way to juvie (because the class was too slow and you were too bored). Either way, you were probably bullied; students and faculty both made you feel like you didn’t fit in. And you didn’t: You were more creative, more curious, more observant, and more intelligent than everyone else. But you were probably ostracised for being too smart or criticised for being a know-it-all. So you shrunk and disappeared or overcompensated to show the world what you were truly made of. Your painful high school experience shows that your mind works differently: bigger, better, faster. Embrace that! You were meant to stand out, not blend in.
2. People Say You’re Intense.
Being intense is actually a result of sensitivity: Gifted people perceive and feel things much more than others, and it affects your work. There’s an intensity and speed to the way you approach life that others can’t understand — and it scares them because they can’t keep up. But it’s that same intensity that makes you a massive success. Perhaps, as a gifted adult, you have a heightened palette, enabling you to become a high-end chef or sommelier. Or you might have an increased sense of empathy, leading you to become an intuitive healer. Spring clean your life of people who shut down your intensity. If you associate with people who honor and share your intensity, you can channel it into a standout entrepreneurial career.
3. You’re a Perfectionist.
This isn’t your garden variety perfectionism, where the towels need to be folded just so;
gifted adults have a deep need for order and beauty. It’s a strong belief in your ideals. If you don’t reign in your perfectionism, however, it can take over your life and suck you into an OCD trap that does not serve the world. Therapy can help you sort through those issues and strike a balance among work, leisure, quality of work, and quality of play. But don’t turn off the perfectionism entirely. This is the type of perfectionism that creates tearful symphonies, the Pyramids of Giza, or the iPhone. Find a way to tame and conduct, not crush, your perfectionism, as you would conduct a symphony.
4. You Move From Job to Job.
As adults, we’re expected to choose one set of skills and cultivate those skills over the course of a career. But gifted adults often have several careers because they have multiple talents, multiple passions, and multiple skills. You’re also more prone to have existential crises — even beyond the typical mid- and quarter-life crises. Maybe a career path doesn’t fulfill you anymore after six months, when most people would reach that point after six years. So you’re constantly wondering, “What’s next?” and switching gears. To the rest of the world that can be nauseating, but to you it’s exhilarating. And to the corporate world, this looks flakey, unfocused, and unreliable. Ignore the conventional wisdom — if you’re gifted, you need to pursue your passion and skills wherever they lead you. Honor your shifting passions, and your next success will never be far away; ignore it and you can suffer from chronic depression, anxiety, unhealthy addictions, or worse.
5. You Move From Relationship to Relationship.
Gifted adults often have multiple serial relationships, because they quickly outgrow their partners. Case in point: I once attended a transformational retreat. About a year afterward, many of the women who were at the retreat got divorced. When I talked with them privately, I learned that they’d outgrown their husbands. These women were growing, and their spouses were not. Gifted adults are always growing, intellectually and emotionally, and fast. A spouse or partner might be a good companion for one stage of your life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be compatible forever. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a relationship behind when you’ve outgrown it — that leaves you open to a partner who will support you in reaching your full potential in the next stage, and vice versa.
Sadly, not everyone was identified as a gifted child or nurtured in a gifted program. I’m sure the majority of gifted adults don’t even know they’re gifted. They just know that they’re “odd balls,” black sheeps, weird, crazy, and don’t belong. Well, I’m here to embrace you and to welcome you home, because in our group of overachievers, we are all gifted adults.
Tina Chen is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.