Gifted Teen Offers Personal Perspective on What It’s Like to Be Gifted

Gifted teen Sophia D. shared her insights with the Parent, Family & Community Network on giftedness and offers advice to adults on how to best serve gifted youth.

What's it like to be a gifted child in today's world?

The harsh reality for any gifted child to accept is that eventually, they won't be a gifted child anymore. Obviously, they will have to become adults at some point, and by then their peers will have developed their own skills as well. Even if they're still good at what they do, they won't be exceptional anymore, but they may still set exceptional expectations for themselves. For myself personally, things in school were usually too easy, so I could wait until the last minute to do what I needed to do, and still make a "perfect" product. However, this has led to bad habits of procrastination, as well as high expectations for myself to be perfect, which can be immensely stressful.

What advice do you have for teachers, parents, and coaches on what you need as a gifted child?

For most children, it would be nice to not be reminded of their "giftedness" all the time. Adults most often use it either to comfort or set expectations, and even if they mean well, it can come across as suffocating. Much like with celebrities or breakout stars who become famous for a singular talent, it can feel to the child as if they're being boiled down to just their unique qualities, rather than being seen for the whole person that they are.

What type of support are you currently receiving to be successful? Where do you need more help and support?

The best support comes out of empathy, so most often [I receive support from] other gifted students. With their understanding, they can also provide motivation and academic help when they take the same classes. I feel that gifted students must learn to support and motivate themselves, for many of the reasons mentioned above. As for more support, I think that it's harder for gifted students to socialize, again for the aforementioned reasons. Also, as with students who may have a learning disability, like ADHD or dyslexia, schools in general need to do better in accommodating different learning styles. 

What's important to you? What do you think about most often?

As stated above, many of my classes in school aren't that difficult for me on an intellectual level. I don't need to study as much for the information in my classes. This leads to a lower work ethic, however that doesn't work when I actually need to do things, such as in [special] projects. For me, even though I don't care about some of my classes, I feel guilty when I don't do assignments, but I'm just not motivated to do them. As a result, procrastination weighs on me often, so even though it's not important to me value-wise, it's important in the sense that it has a large presence in my life. 

As for things I think about often, it's hard to boil down…but some thoughts I like to entertain are things like the paradox of the beginning of time, what it means to exist as a conscious being, death, and the psyche of other people around me, as well as my own psyche. Another thing that pervades into my mind often are my own shortcomings, which, as with most negative things, the human mind likes to obsess over. One of the favorite thoughts of my mind is nitpicking myself, though I am trying to restrict it.

What advice would you give to world leaders of today?

Life is not a game to be won. You will die eventually, and everything you've amassed, even your legacy, won't matter, because you'll be too dead to care about it. So don't worry about trying to gain the most influence or the best reputation: You have been given a massive responsibility to be a leader and take care of your people, so think carefully and do what's best for the most people. Additionally, it's hard for anyone to swallow their pride, but different sides and different voices exist for a reason, and there may be some that differ from your own. Listen to every one of them, and think carefully about which ones have merit, and reject them only if you truly believe they have no reason, and not that they simply wound your own pride.

What do you need/what have you received/what do you still need/what's important to you?

Everyone needs the basic physical essentials to survive, and I'm fortunate enough to live in a household with parents with relatively steady income, so that's not an issue for me. I also receive lots of love from the people around me. One thing I feel that I still need though is more action from those around me, because even though I'm loved by my peers, I often feel that I do far more for other people than what I get back.

This is actually a culmination of many of the struggles I've faced as a gifted child: Many people come to me for help because they know that I'm capable of helping them and, because of my perfectionism, I want to help and do far more work because I can't bear to see an imperfect product. Although much of this is my own doing, people have come to rely on me because they know I will perform, but I wish that sometimes people would also return the favor. 

Currently, what's important to me is just having friends that understand me and have the same sense of humor.

Sophia D., Age 16

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of NAGC