5 Challenges All Gifted Adults Face

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.


Join the Discussion

2 Responses to “5 Challenges All Gifted Adults Face”

  1. Justin Pickering

    Hi Tina. I think this is the 2nd time I have “randomly” bumped into your writing online and loved it. I fall into this category. My giftedness almost killed me… literally. Alcoholic parents in childhood, bullied constantly in school for being different – despite high academic and athletic achievement – found solace from the conservative Boston suburbs in New Orleans.

    Thank God for scholarships, or I never would have gone to school. I speak 3 languages, have an IQ of 151, and have spent most of my life bouncing from place to place, job to job, and person to person. Now, I am happily married, expecting a daughter, and own a home as well as have a thriving business I started. What it took for me to get there was 100% clarity.

    I think that we gifted adults are blessed and cursed. If everyone’s mind is a house, then the average adult’s mind-home has a few bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, a yard, a basement, a living room, and an attic – standard fare. It’s nice. It’s cozy. It keeps the bad weather out. A gifted adult’s house has all that plus solaria, music conservatories, libraries, studies, ball rooms, chapels, larders, etc. This is not a metaphor about size. (I am smart and you are dumb…) No. It is a metaphor about diversity and depth.

    Someone who is gifted walks in and out of hundreds of rooms every single day to access their information – cultural references, movie quotes, songs, memories, etc. Someone on the average segment of the spectrum has 12 rooms to walk in and out of. The majority of people are living in 12 rooms… some less. LOL. This is a phenomenon that I believe makes it as hard for gifted adults to get on socially as kids. I am nearly 40. I have spent YEARS trying to fit in. Recently, I said “screw it”. I do NOT fit in. I am never going to fit in and, besides… what is so great about being just like everyone else anyways? It’s really not. Average in 2017 = mundane and boring. I searched for and found my own path and through my journey learned that this is what gifted adults need to do. There is no solace for us in the company of the vast majority.

    Instead, there are literally thousands of options for a consultant to run a work-from-home business of their own creation where gifted adults can use their knowledge storehouses to help and get paid well.

    I have done this myself. I built a business from zero and now am about to cross the 6 figure mark. I have two associates – my wife and my father. We work together on strategy. My father is retired and takes no income. He just likes helping and seeing his son succeed (after years of struggling).

    I think back to how I was told I had to get an “exciting and challenging” corporate job. (SCOFF). The only thing challenging about corporate America was dealing with the personality disorders of my coworkers, gossip, and co-dependent, cult-like, or bullying environments. The work was always a joke. I had my work finished in 1.5 hours. I had to learn to stretch it out so my boss would think I was “doing something”.

    If I were a betting man, I would say that by the end of my life, only half the people will be working for corporations. There is no more prestige in it. A corporate office is a cube farms dooming people to a life of digital slavery where you are whipped like a horse to earn $1000 more per month for “the good of the team.”

    To any thinking person, the business model favors only the rich. The peasants at the bottom punch the keys. The C-suite team pays themselves higher bonuses. Who wants to work in such an arrangement?

    Gifted (and average) people can see these dynamics with clarity but often do not know what to do to make things better for themselves, so I would advise those people to do what I did: DO NOT PARTICIPATE.

    Get up and turn in your 2 week notice… or just leave. Let’s be truthful. No one gives a crap. They can replace you in a second.

    You must be brave. You should give your talents to YOURSELF and YOUR FAMILY. Forget “them”. “They” did not understand you in high school, college, and they do not understand you in the workplace. They are NEVER going to welcome you into their social circles.

    So, turn inward. Focus all your creative talent on you. It is not selfish. It is SELF-PROTECTION. Ask yourself: “How can I create a life where I am earning good money and contributing to the betterment of the world?”

    These questions are not easy to answer if you want to get to a REAL answer and not just some self-help-ish, hippy fluff garbage response like “Eat. Pray. Love.”

    Finding out who you are is not guesswork and it is not for the faint of heart. Like I said – I figured out who I am and my journey almost killed me dead.

    Yesterday it was 74 degrees and sunny. I was sitting on my back porch with my laptop and a huge pitcher of iced tea with lemons in it. I spent 60 minutes recruiting a client that will earn my wife and I about $2000 for 5-10 hours of work. Once I was done, it was 8 AM. The rest of the world was leaving for work. I was in my shorts and T-shirt. I had another iced tea, stretched my arms wide, yawned, and scratched my stomach saying out loud “OK… I made 2 grand today…. what else do I do?”

    As it turned out, I poured mulch and refreshed my garden, made a nice lunch, ate outside listening to music, hopped in the jacuzzi at 3PM and had a cocktail and then took a nap.

    USE YOUR GIFTS, my friends, to make YOUR world better. Make YOURSELF happy.

    When you are happy, you are at peace and the world around you gets happier and more peaceful.

    I was outwardly focused for so long, thinking that “if only I can please them or show them the right way” that they would accept me.

    Sounds pathetic. I am almost 40 years old…. but all I wanted to do was help. Help starts with helping ourselves to be happy.

    I am going to be doing a podcast on how to liberate yourself from corporate life, from commutes, from long lines at grocery stores. I am so happy in life now that I want everyone else to feel it as well. I cannot keep this to myself. It’s not right.

    I want to show people how I created the life I just described above. Since I believe in financial accountability, I will charge a very modest fee – something like $2 per lesson or a monthly subscription of $15 or $20 with no obligations. I have not conceived of the price point yet. It will come to me. I want to make it equitable, but I want to make it worth my time as well to record all the podcast modules I have to record.

    There is a method to everything I am sharing here and I have distilled it down to its base elements, knowing fully how to transmit the information I received over more than 10 years of struggle, trial, error, failure, embarrassment, pain, and loss.

    Anyways, I like your writing and thought I would leave you a nice long post since it seems I keep running into you online Ms. Chen.

    Please feel free to contact me. Maybe there is a chance we can collaborate creatively. I very much hope to hear from you.

    Yours, Justin

    My email = [email protected]

  2. Amy Copeland

    I sound and seem a lot smarter than my friends, and I hate being late for things I say I will do. I’m very persistent on doing things. But there are something’s I fail with and it discourages me in going forward on my likes and wants.