How Do We Begin to Talk about the “Gifted Lifetime”? And Why Should We Care?

What about the gifted lifetime and gifted grownups


This post is part of a blog hop, Gifted GrownUps, hosted by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF), a non-profit for which I serve on the board of directors. My first and second books are GHF Press projects. For those of you who are first-time visitors, note that my current research involves the impact of bullying upon gifted/2e kids and their families.

A blog hop about gifted adults. Hoo boy. Talk about a call-to-action, one that makes me squirm in my chair.

It’s hard enough to talk about “giftedness” in kids online and in person–with all the protestations that “all kids are gifted”*–and misunderstandings about how giftedness isn’t just about IQ tests but also overexcitabilities and twice-exceptionality (except, of course, in people who don’t have OEs and aren’t 2e).

Gifted adults. The great, largely unexplored topic.

I feel at times that those of us in the gifted advocacy community stumble more often than we run with the topic of the gifted lifetime. Because that’s the point of talking about gifted adults, isn’t it? To stop pretending that being “gifted” is a blessing/curse that sorts itself out at 18.

It’s a gifted lifetime that many of us are living long after pull-out programs disappear.


Why do we need to talk about the "gifted lifetime"?

There are gifted people right now at all points along the lifespan coming to terms with their differences. There’s life in college and just after where the expectation that “the cream of the crop students” would find real, true friends in college falls flat. Because the profoundly gifted kids are still different.  There are mild to moderately gifted folk at mid-life, trying to figure out why they still don’t “fit” the mold of business person or soccer mom comfortably. There are couples trying to balance conflicting socio-emotional and sensory needs in the context of long-term relationships. There are men and women who experience their giftedness alongside a strong religious faith and have few outlets to discuss their journeys. There are gifted men and women in nursing homes who struggle to find intelligent, meaningful conversation while their bodies break down and their roommates go senile.

There are gifted parents working through issues of their own kids and parents while struggling to overcome past bullying. And don’t even get me started on relational aggression against bright people in the workplace in an age defined in part by anti-intellectualism. (Several of these stories have come to me via privately email in relation to my research about bullying,  and it is painful to read.)

Where and how do we begin with that discussion about gifted adults beyond our inner circles without sounding like, well, pompous jackasses? And what value is there in raising relevant questions?

Who needs to be aware of the gifted lifetime? Why? What are the ramifications  of that awareness for everything from interpersonal relationships to health care to on-the-job performance? Doctors, counselors, bosses, ministers, nurses, neighbors, coaches–what will it help them to know about it? What about gifted kids and teens who maybe need our grown-up stories to see that, to riff on a near-cliche, “it gets better”?

Should gifted grownups just “suck it up” and assume that current hit television shows like Scorpion and Big Bang Theory that lean heavily on stereotypes about giftedness and twice-exceptionality are enough?

I have my thoughts–and I’m inspired by this round up of articles as well as the recent writings of people like Paula Prober, Jade Rivera and Sara Yamtich, and Emilie Wapnick (founder of Puttylike**), but today I’m more keen on hearing your ideas.

Drop me a comment.

Tell me what you think.

How do we begin to talk about the gifted lifetime in fruitful ways that benefit a maximum number of people?


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"What about the 'gifted lifetime'?" A stop at as part of the GHF Blog Hop

More GHF Blog Hop Posts on Gifted Adults (October 2014)


*For the record: all kids people have gifts, all children are gifts, but, no, not everyone is “gifted.” That’s a diagnosis, not a meant-to-marginalize-others catchphrase.

**Puttylike is dedicated to multipotentialites and while it’s not explicit or univeral, the connection to adult giftedness, for me, is direct and personal. I’ve just always identified as a “flexible generalist.”


  1. This topic makes me so happy. And have definite opinions (that stretched into their own blog post), but here’s my bullet points from the end that respond to your specific question (let’s see if the formatting works…):

    Provide a vocabulary. Tie it to everyday living.

    I think the best way to start this conversation is to include people and give them a context for this “otherness” they’ve felt much of their lives.

    Let people identify themselves– and believe them.

    Yes, some will be wannabes, but as long as we manage the competition/one-upping side of things they will either benefit by association, or drop out on their own.

    Validate– agree that there are good things and commiserate with the disappointing stuff.

    My first two years investigating this topic I had this imaginary conversation in my head: “So you just figured out you’re gifted, huh?” “Yup.” “Just now? Are you sure you don’t need a second opinion?”

    Provide models (alternatives to the TV-reinforced stereotypes) of successful gifted-lifetimes.
    Brainstorm how to become those models

    My primary motivation for trying to convince my fellow church members about giftedness was that nearly all our children were gifted. I felt we had a unique opportunity as a close-knit, gifted population to raise our children in a way that might inoculate them against the shame or embarrassment we received for our eagerness or “over-achieving.”

    All of which that continued into adulthood, by the way…

    Create a culture of mutual creation rather than comparison.

    I keep harping on this angle, but I think it’s crazy-important: we are all so different from one another (along with having things in common) that if we are going to make progress in any meaningful way it will not be through propping ourselves up via the battered bodies of lesser mortals.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts–and your response post! I like what you said about “mutual creation” and would like to know more about what you’re thinking of in tangible terms. 😉

  2. This left me misty eyed. Thinking of the old in nursing homes looking to connect. My empathetic side is getting the best of me. Beautifully written Pamela. I remember sitting with my great grandfather for hours talking with him and listening to him about everything and anything because he just wanted to have a deep and meaningful conversation. Im now in this same boat with my father in law. But I LOVE and cherish these conversations. Some of the best stories are those told by loved ones with great imaginations.

    Thank you for this wonderful heartfelt post.

  3. Such a wonderful, insightful post about the long confusing path so many gifted people face. They constantly feel like outsiders with no road map. In my work as a psychologist, I often have to describe how many of my clients’ experiences fit within a gifted framework. Then, it seems, a light bulb goes off. It’s as if they have finally found an explanation for why, even as an adult, they continue to struggle with so many differences. The more information out there, like your blog post, the more people will start to understand WHY they feel so different.

    • Jokingly, sometimes I wonder where did we come? So many people from all walks of life feeling so disconnected from the norms of society craving meaningful conversations and connections with like minded individuals. .. ever wonder if there is some sort of genetic link?

  4. Why should we care (about discussing gifted lifetimes)? It seems simple – because developing a community of gifted individuals that can help each other puzzle out how and why they’re different can be a life-saver, literally and figuratively, at any and all stages of life. The desire and need to connect with like-minded others never goes away. The feeling of being different from the majority of people never goes away. The challenges of overexcitabilities never really disappear. Gifted doesn’t go away…and, as we all know, being gifted doesn’t guarantee happiness or success at any stage of life.

    I am thrilled to be discovering blogs about giftedness -especially giftedness in adults – on the web. It really helps me reclaim my passions, which I have spent a lifetime trying to tone down so that I could try to fit in.

    How to start the discussion about giftedness throughout life? It’s been started here and I, for one, am so very thankful. Will others misunderstand what’s being said? Yup. Will they misunderstand the need for such a discussion? Absolutely. Hopefully that won’t stop folks from chiming in, though.

  5. “And don’t even get me started on relational aggression against bright people in the workplace in an age defined in part by anti-intellectualism.” Yes, so true. Gifted advocacy seems to focus on gifted children, and we sometimes forget that the difficult journey continues. Workplace bullying is just one horrid example that the journey does indeed continue. I can’t wait to get my hands on your new book!

  6. I’ve thought on this for a few days. Background: I am bipolar II. My psychiatrist for the last 7ish years when he first met me looked at me thoughtfully and asked “you do know you’re extremely intelligent?”. I didn’t know how to respond to that. My father is bipolar, traditional, and blows me away with his intelligence (even now with advanced dementia). So I think the 2E is what I would most likely to associate to myself. That being said, I “appear normal” b/c of my treatment, taking my meds every day and paying attention to my moods. What would I tell the world to consider? I’m still not sure. One of my pet peeves is people branding other people as bipolar b/c they act differently or maybe better said that they talk/label without knowing the true meaning of what they are labeling/saying. Is education enough? Even if we were to educate widely successfully that doesn’t mean that people would always understand – b/c here I am walking around looking/acting “normal”. So would they give me consideration if they didn’t know my diagnosis?
    Now you see why I’ve been thinking about this for a few days! LOL!

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