7 tips for you who lost yourself

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!

See you!
Vera

 

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
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/52853b8ae4b0a6c35d3f8e9d/t/528d25dae4b059766439b87e/1384981978770/synchrony-and-the-social-tuning-of-compassion.pdf

Christopher Germer is a clinical psychologist and part-time lecturer at psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Article in Harvard Business Review.
https://hbr.org/2017/01/to-recover-from-failure-try-some-self-compassion

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Are you hiding your intelligence?

“Just be yourself, and all will be fine.” Have you heard that? I have, and I know that it’s not entirely true. Whilst it is true.

Are you yourself? Do you stand firmly and confident in who you are? Or have you lost yourself? As gifted, you may have been treated with extremely different attitudes, either overwhelmingly positive or very negative. And it may have made your self-esteem fragile.

I’ll explain why.

To become a me in interaction with others
In order to have a good interaction with others, we must have met a glance in the eyes of others who say, “You are okay and we understand each other.” We have this need with us from the start. Think about small children and how often they say “Look! Look here mama! Look daddy! Look!” and for the child to be satisfied and able to continue, a look, gesture or word requires confirmation that the parent is seeing, and that it is okay. In this way we check with our environment to know what a good behavior is. Eventually, we will have a sense of what is accepted and not, a sense of whether we are okay or not.

The necessary interaction between children and their caregivers can be described in different ways. Within psychology, this has been described, inter alia, in the theory of attachment. And neuroscience explain how the brain works in the creation of our self, how the interaction with others affects the brain and what in the brain that makes us need to interact with others. These are different ways to explain, which leads to roughly the same conclusion:

To feel good as a human, you and I need to have others around us who show that we are okay and that we understand each other.

Not being okay hurts
To hear how bad or how strange you are, or to hear how amazing you are but without being met with the understanding from the other, do not lead to a mutual “you are okay and we understand each other.” And when your nearest and dearest do not confirm you and that you are okay, it hurts. One way to reduce what hurts is to protect yourself behind a mask, a role. Do you recognize yourself in any of the following roles? And in what context do you use them?

Picture at a clown

Teacher sitting beside a student

Picture of Florence Nightingale helping patients

A student sitting alone in the hallway

Picture of young person in shackles

Picture of colorful wallpaper

With a mask no one can see who you really are and you reduce the risk of getting glances telling you that something is wrong with you. A role will give that confirmation in the eyes of others that you need. The painful thing is that you know that it’s not your true self who gets the confirmation, but anyhow it hurts less. It is a kind of coping strategy.

Coping is a term used when it comes to people’s handling of crises and a definition is as follows:

“Coping means an attempt to reduce physical and mental pain that is associated with negative life events. Successful coping reduces the pain.” *1

Protecting yourself with a mask is a kind of coping strategy. Which coping strategies you use depend largely on which ones worked to reduce your pain as a kid.

Giftedness and coping
In the book How the Gifted Brain Learns, there is a section on Social Coping. There, the authors refer to studies which shows that what coping strategies gifted choose, vary with age and with socioeconomic background. Among other things, it is more common for older adolescents to try to hide their high intelligence. By, for example, stop opting for “nerdy” interests or underperforming to appear more normal. Below is an excerpt from the section on Social Coping. Read it!

Lost yourself?
If you hide yourself for a long time, you eventually find it hard to find yourself. The masks grows stuck and become you. You lose parts of who you are. Do not know what you are anymore.

I know what I’m talking about because I lost myself among all my roles. But when I met people who I recognized myself in, and eventually dared to be entirely myself with, I began to find the fine person I am. It has taken time, but I was there. Similarly, you are also there, behind your masks.

Being able to use coping strategies in different contexts is constructive. It is good being able to wear masks for protection on certain occasions. The important thing is that you find the context you can be yourself in. Where you can belong in an obvious way and where you can be you. Just be yourself. Completely. And how to find such contexts I’ll talk about in the next episode.

Take care!
Vera

 

References:

* 1 Barbro Lennéer Axelson, Förluster, om sorg och livsomställning (Lost, About Sorrow and Change of Life), page 75.

In chapter 4 the author briefly addresses theoretical perspectives on attachment theory and coping theory, pages 64-77.

Linda Kreger Silverman, Särskilt begåvade barn (Gifted children). Chapter 5, especially page 167-172 (Swedish edition of Nature & Kultur, 2016)

From the book How the Gifted Brain learns. The chapter is written by Maureen Neihart and Vivien S. Huan.

”Gifted adolescents tend to employ coping strategies that are quite different from their non-gifted peers. Much of the work on social coping has been done by Tracy Cross, Laurence Coleman, Mary Ann Swiatek, and their colleagues. Some gifted adolescents involve themselves highly in extracurricular activities in school, underachieve, or exhibit negative behaviors in order to be perceived differently by others. Others engage in behaviors aimed at denying or hiding their high ability and distance themselves from the stereotype of the gifted group.

Some gifted adolescents cope by helping others or by cultivating relationships with adults, while others seek out-of-school talent development opportunities, avoid special programs for the gifted in school, hide their high ability, or deliberately underachieve in order to cope. Engaging in conforming and avoidance behaviors to devalue conventional popularity and focusing on the importance of peer acceptance are also used. Deliberate attempts to highly involve themselves in activities that are unrelated to their being gifted are also made.”

“A common, though not universal, finding regarding gifted adolescents is that many struggle to manage the need to belong with their need to achieve, especially females, African Americans, Latinos, and those from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds. Over time, these tensions appear to corrode their aspirations and self-concepts. In effort to minimize or avoid these conflicts, gifted adolescents may deny their talent, lower their aspirations, or underachieve.”

“Several writers have suggested that making these assumptions explicit, normalizing the tension as a societal phenomenon, and openly discussing the hidden costs of success help students manage such tensions and stay the course of upward achievement.”

With this excerpt, I just want to show that it is common for gifted to use coping strategies and what strategies they use may differ from strategies others use. As you can see in the last paragraph, it can help resonate back and forth about what you win and lose on different coping strategies. And I will talk about that later on.

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