I Don’t Deserve This: Gifted Self-Doubt

I Don’t Deserve This: Gifted Self-Doubt

By Jennifer Kennedy

I have a confession to make: I don’t always feel good enough to call myself gifted.

I was identified as gifted as a child, but I never really felt like that label belonged to me at all. Other kids were smarter than me. Other kids did better in school than me. I knew I was smart, but I didn’t feel gifted.

When I got older, I knew I wasn’t gifted. I mean, though I flew through advanced and accelerated math classes for years, I struggled when I got to precalculus. I didn’t really feel like I understood it, and the B I got in the class showed that, right? So, despite my teacher telling me I should move on to calculus the next year, I took AP Statistics and aced it. I was good at statistics, and I wasn’t going into any math or science fields in college, so why bother trying?

In college, I started feeling more comfortable with my advanced intellectual ability. I started seeing that I was different than most of my classmates. Encouraging and supportive professors helped me understand that the work I was producing was far beyond what was asked of me.  I began believing that I might be gifted, after all.

So when I came across IEA, I jumped at the idea of advocating for kids like me. Then I started feeling again like I didn’t belong in that category. I looked at the descriptions of different courses available through the IEA Academy and was intimidated. I looked at the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship criteria and thought, “No way would I have gotten a 500 on any section of the SAT in 7th grade.” I listened to stories about the kids IEA served and was just in awe. I still wanted to join the team to work to provide programs and services for these amazing kids, but I thought I had no business saying that I was like them.

That was until I learned about the pieces beyond intellectual ability that make up a gifted kid.

As I started to read about the characteristics of a gifted child and started learning about overexcitabilities, I spent most of the time feeling an intense connection to these traits. I felt like I was getting to know myself as I was getting to know these kids, and I finally felt like certain things made sense. I felt less weird and more understood – because I am gifted. I may not understand the math and science that these kids discuss daily during IEA programs (my talents and interests lie primarily in languages), but I am like them. I think differently. I learn differently. I feel things differently.

In fact, it is common for gifted individuals to experience Imposter Syndrome, or “vague feelings of self-doubt, intellectual fraudulence and anxiety…. It makes them discount their success attributing it to luck, not real ability. Along with it comes the fear that anytime they could be found out” (Bhargava). This often happens when things come so naturally to a gifted child for so long that when they are not immediately good at something or don’t understand a concept right away, they are plagued by the idea that maybe they never were that intelligent in the first place.

Even now, as I continue in the supportive and nurturing environment that is IEA, the feeling of being an imposter in this group of bright minds pulls at me on occasion. Sometimes, for example, when the band of gifted advocates gets into a conversation in response to an article or blog post, I don’t feel good enough to chime in. These are brilliant people, experts in the field, parents of these brilliant young kids. What value can my little voice add? Then I remind myself: I do belong here. I do deserve a voice.

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1Comment
  • Katherine Peterson
    Posted at 08:35h, 10 December Reply

    Well said, Jennifer! You’ve articulated this way of being in the world so clearly, and I really appreciate the insight and courage it took to share your thinking. Being gifted is complicated! It’s also easily misunderstood by others, and not so surprisingly it’s also misunderstood by gifted individuals themselves. You make such good points, and I appreciate knowing as parent of a gifted children, and founder of a non-profit that supports parents and families in giftedness. Indeed you belong! I can’t encourage you enough to keep talking about this issue, advocating for yourself and others. We really need to understand, from your point of view, and others the importance of how giftedness manifests, it’s complexity, and what is needed for individual growth and mastery. Thank you for articulating your thoughts so others can understand!

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