An advantage and a disadvantage of being highly intelligent is that it is possible to learn almost everything and do it with excellence. Like adapting to other people’s expectations and becoming the one they wish. We are many who learned early how we would do to belong, who we would be to belong. In the family, at preschool, at school, at leisure and later among friends and at work.
Choosing to be someone that suits others may be because we get appreciation or other positive results from it. It may also be a coping strategy, a way to protect yourself from the pain of not belonging when you bring out your true colors. Find out more about coping in episode 21.
Protecting yourself from pain and seeking rewards in interaction with others is fully natural. But when it leads to losing ourselves, we pay a high price.
Well how do I do then?! If I lost myself? If I change roles like others change clothes and still do not feel like I belong?
Here are seven tips on how to do
1, Get to know yourself. Read about giftedness. Listen to and accept your feelings, thoughts and experiences. Find more about it in episode 13.
2, Find a context where you can meet recognition in other people’s eyes, where you can relax and not limit your choice of words, your thoughts or your intensities. A context where you can experience that you are okay as you are.
Finding the people you can be really close friend with can require a lot of work and take time. I believe it’s enough if there’s a handful of them in life.
But even before you find those close friends you need to feel you’re belonging. There is a lot of research showing how important fellowship is for our well-being (I learned that when I did section 19, about loneliness). As gifted, it’s easy to focus on what separates me from others, because it is often so obvious. Therefore, it becomes extra important to weigh up the feeling of alienation with a sense of belonging. The next two tips are about ways to … ..trick your own brain to believe that you are more attached than you are.
3, Sense of belonging through interests. Spending time on something you’re really interested in along with others who also have it as an interest, can be a way.
For me, different groups online have become that kind of fellowship. There I can immerse myself in specific areas, enjoy other people’s knowledge, share mine, and at the same time skip most stuff that I think are uninteresting in the groups. Outside the net you can find fellowship around sports, music, LARP, board games, volunteer work, outdoor activities and a lot more. It may be an advantage to choose a context that is as heterogeneous as possible, with great age spread, because it is likely to be more open to differences there.
4, Synchronize your body with other’s and your brain perceives that there is a bond between you. Join a choir, practice aikido, yoga or dance class, something where you do the same kind of things synchronously. Something where you and the others reflect each other’s movement pattern or do something in parallel. An advantage of that type of activity is that it doesn’t require as much social or intellectual exchange to function.
It doesn’t have to be people there who you want to talk to, you don’t have to be really interested in the activity and you can be quiet (not in a choir, obviously). The essence of the activity is that you can do it without hiding behind a mask while at the same time giving your brain a sense of belonging.
Even if you’re sitting in an arena and the “wave” goes around, the moment you get up and stretch your arms in the air, you get a sense of belonging. The brain is so easily affected of our behavior.
5, Expand your coping strategies. It has turned out we feel better if we have more and different coping strategies to switch between. So I, as often was a clown in school, might have felt good if I sometimes had been a teacher or maybe one with the wallpaper. See more about this in episode 21.
6, Note when you have been yourself, at any time during the day. Think through the day and consider if there were moments when you were without a mask. Write down when, what you did and if you were with someone. If you are lucky there is already someone close, in whose company you are feeling well. Maybe with an old aunt, a cousin, your coach, a teacher. Note often, if possible daily, and eventually you will clearly see in what context you can be yourself.
Are you involved in contexts that require you to wear a mask all the time? What do you get from that kind of belonging? Is it worth the price? Can you find contexts of belonging elsewhere that cost less? Think about it.
7, Give yourself confirmation that you are okay. This is a simple exercise that works – there is scientific proof of it! Cherish yourself, give yourself a hug and say loud “I like me as I am and I’m worth feeling well.” I usually start the day like that. Nobody hears or sees it. But my brain hears what I say and feel the hug. I meet with a “you’re okay” in my own eyes. Dare to try. So simple and you have everything to win!
Some of the tips give results faster, some require more persistent work and others are tips to return to time after time. Start with what seems easiest.
It is with yourself and in fellowship with others, you can find who you are behind the masks. It takes a lot of energy to protect yourself behind a mask. How plentiful power you will get when you don’t have to both hide yourself and running and looking for a lost you. Do you see how much fun and rewarding things you will gain energy to!
Oh what I hope you want to use the tips. Go for it!
More to read:
Linda Kreger Silverman, Särskilt begåvade barn (Gifted children). Chapter 5, especially page 167-172 (Swedish edition of Nature & Culture, 2016)
Here is a quote that clearly describes the process of losing yourself:
“When stock in stock of me is created in answer to the question Who do you want me to be today? the I must be me gets buried deeper in the unconscious mind and become a falling glow. For each year that goes, rewards in fulfilling the expectations of others will attract those gifted away from consciousness and contact with their own inner being.”
Katarina Gossip, Den sociala hjärnan (The Social Brain), Bromberg Book Publishing, 2013
Piercarlo Valdesolo, Harvard University, David DeSteno, Northeastern University, Synchrony and the Social Tuning of Compassion
Christopher Germer is a clinical psychologist and part-time lecturer at psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Article in Harvard Business Review.