Being gifted isn’t always easy. If any of the challenges listed below sound like your life, don’t worry—there are plenty of things you can do to cope. We’ve listed some ideas below. As always, be sure to talk to an adult you trust who can help you work through these issues when you have them. Most adults have lived through these same challenges. They understand what you’re going through and can help.
Are you afraid to do something because you might make a mistake doing it? Some gifted students are perfectionists who believe they are supposed to know it all and be it all: make perfect grades, be model citizens, set and reach ambitious goals. But perfectionism can work against you. It can make you too hard on yourself, or cause you to waste time on getting unimportant tasks perfect, when more important tasks await you. If you think that the desire to do everything perfectly is keeping you from taking risks or having fun, here are some tips to help:
- Learn to laugh at your mistakes. It puts them in perspective. It might help to ask yourself what your dad would do if he got a few homework problems wrong, or what your mom would do if she broke her pencil at work. Would they lock themselves in a room and cry, or throw their shoes against the wall? Probably not! They’d shrug it off and keep going.
- Read a biography. Some of the most successful people in history have made some of the biggest mistakes. They not only lived through them, they used their mistakes as an opportunity to improve. See how a few famous people handled their failures, then go to your library and find some interesting biographies to read through for the mistakes that leaders and influencers have made over time. You’ll see: you can learn a lot from them.
- Practice letting yourself make a mistake. Go to a friend’s house and pronounce a word incorrectly. Put your shoes on the wrong feet or your shorts on backwards. Give a wrong answer next time you play trivia with your family and see what happens—you’ll still be having tons of fun.
- Start noticing how other people deal with mistakes. Pay attention to the people around you and in the news. What do your parents, relatives, teachers, coaches, adult friends, or public figures do when they make mistakes? You’ll discover that no one is perfect—and what matters most is how we deal with our mistakes. The happiest and most successful people tend to acknowledge their mistakes, fix any problems they may have caused, learn from them, and then move on.
Making good friends
Do you yearn to have more friends? Everybody does better when they have true peers—friends with similar academic abilities and social interests. A good friend’s enthusiasm can spur you on to greater achievement, leadership, and creativity or even inspire you to reach for higher goals!
Finding a true peer can be difficult if you are a gifted student. This is because your academic abilities and interests may not always match with a lot of other kids your age. So the key to finding a peer might be to locate programs that encourage mixed-age grouping so that you can interact with children of various ages and interests. For example, in rural areas, 4-H, scouting, faith-based groups, book clubs, chess clubs, and music programs are good bets. In more populated areas, you may also find academic or creative clubs and teams you can join. Volunteer programs at museums, hospitals, and businesses are also good places to start.
Programs especially designed for gifted children may also be helpful, like summer or weekend camps for gifted children or early entrance college programs. Organizations like Duke TIP, CTY, or the Davidson Institute for Talent Development are all good programs for kids just like you. With the help of an adult, search for a club, activity, or camp that interests you, and be on the lookout for potential friends! Once you find someone you think fits the bill, introduce yourself and ask them friendly questions. Here are some questions you can ask to get a conversation started:
- What made you sign up for this program?
- What do you think of the instructor?
- Where do you go to school?
- How much homework do you usually get each day there?
- What’s your favorite subject in school?
- What do you like to do when you’re not studying?
- Who are your top three favorite bands (or movies)?
Remember: you’re trying to find common ground, not compete to be the smartest—so try and stay away from questions like test scores and grades until you get to know them better. Be sure to tell them about yourself in return: conversations should be a two-way street!
Gifted kids can become the target of bullies for all sorts of reasons: maybe they know all the answers to questions asked in class or like to spend their free time on academics. They aren’t doing anything wrong, and they certainly do not deserve to be bullied, but they become victims of bullying anyway.
If this has happened to you, there are things you can do if it happens again. Start by trying to understand why bullies act the way they do. One reason is that most bullies are insecure: they don’t want other people to notice they are afraid or don’t like themselves, so they act mean and tough on the surface. Smart kids may make bullies feel stupid, even if they aren’t, causing bullies to take it out on the smart kids. Other bullies want attention, or think that they can make other kids admire them by being mean to their classmates. Some bullies may be imitating someone in their own family who bullies them.
There are lots of reasons why people become bullies. Understanding why might help you realize it’s not your fault you’re being bullied: in other words, it’s them, not you. Besides, while it’s almost impossible to control other people, you can control yourself and how you react to others.
What do you do when a bully comes after you? It’s most effective to walk away and pretend you don’t care. Here are some things you can say to someone bullying you as you walk away:
“You know, I really couldn’t care less what you think.”
“Frankly, that’s my best quality!”
“I didn’t realize I was supposed to be perfect in your eyes.”
All of these comments work because they take the fun out of bullying for the bully.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself that what a bully thinks of you doesn’t really matter. You have friends, teachers, and family who love, appreciate, and support you.
That’s what matters most.
Telling an adult about the bully is also very important. Be sure to tell an adult: how long the bullying has been going on, what exactly the bully is saying, is the bully intimidating any other children, and whether or not it happens when you are in a group or alone.
For more resources on the challenges of being gifted, please visit the Gifted Today blog.
Dealing with Anxiety
Does a piano recital sound like fun to you, or does it sound like torture? If you’re gripped by anxiety when taking the stage (or taking a test), think about this: the goal in coping with anxiety is not to eliminate it, but to make it work for you!
Managing anxiety requires practice. Learning to breathe properly is the first step: deep, controlled breathing maintains the right balance of oxygen in the bloodstream and will help you keep your anxiety in check. Try putting one hand on your chest and one hand beneath your belly button and breathe deeply. If you’re breathing properly, your bottom hand should move out more than your top hand.
Learning to relax is the second step to harnessing anxiety. Your body cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time, so relaxation is a good antidote to fear. Try progressive relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing major muscle groups. Ball your hands into fists for five seconds, then slowly open them for ten. Next, try tightening the muscles in your legs and feet for five seconds and let go. Try this technique for every major part of the body. Once mastered, it’s possible to relax the body in less than a minute! If you can learn how to calm yourself, you can make the most of your abilities.