Reddit recent asked its readers, “[for those] labelled as gifted children, do you think the label harmed you, or helped you?” It sparked a big discussion, highlighting some real drawbacks to growing up gifted.
Tumblr founder and high school dropout David Karp — who just sold his company to Yahoo for $1 billion — even once said in an interview, “there’s a lot that I feel like I missed out on. Just a whole lot of normal, social, childhood kind of stuff that I definitely missed out on.”
However, there are plenty of positives to growing up uniquely gifted. Being at the top of your class opens doors and gives you confidence that can last a lifetime. One Reddit user even said, “surprisingly enough, it helped me socially.”
After highlighting all the reasons why it’s horrible growing up gifted, we’re now presenting the best parts of having an above-average IQ.
We’ve edited some excerpts for clarity.
'I think there is a value in being labelled gifted though. If there is a good gifted program (which a lot of them don't seem to be. I was lucky) it can identify the students who really do need the extra challenge. But identifying them as gifted and not doing anything about it probably isn't good.'
'Looking back, it honestly probably would have been worse if I had not been put into the gifted program. I had one friend in 1st grade, and none in 2nd. Once I got into 3rd grade and the gifted program, I suddenly was able to find people who would actually be my friend. I started actually participating in class (without being that 'know-it-all') and just generally did much better socially.'
'I took it the other way and used it as motivation, as something to live up to. I've been 'gifted' since fourth grade, went to special side programs, and always enrolled in enriched or AP courses ... My three siblings were all gifted too, three out of four of us becoming valedictorians of our high school classes; that's another standard here too. I graduated from an Ivy League last year but I still don't know what I want a career in, but I think that's me and not from the label.'
'As an only child of two high-achieving academics, I grew up always feeling like I could excel in whatever I was doing. I was a decent musician, a better athlete, and an excellent student. While there was undoubtedly some stress from the label ... I feel that the label ultimately benefitted me.'
'I think that people underestimate the value of the people you learn with. The environment of my gifted classes was one where genuine enthusiasm towards the subject matter was rewarded, at least a lot more than in regular classes. Not to mention that since I wasn't the smartest kid in the classroom when I went to my gifted classes, I felt more pressure to try and keep up, since I couldn't just coast through it like I usually did.'
'It's strange to me to see all these people saying it hindered them. I held myself to a higher standard because I felt that I was being held to a higher standard. I just graduated yesterday with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I've already had two interviews and have another one tomorrow. I definitely think the 'label' aided my success.'
'I was raised in a single-parent, middle class family as an only child and I was alone the vast majority of the time. I was labelled as gifted in elementary school and on, and I felt like it really benefited me. It gave me the support and confidence to know that I was capable and worthy of achievement, which in turn gave me the motivation to seek out that achievement even in the absence of external motivators like parental involvement ... I always had school to escape in and excel at.'
'It seems like this is one of those situations that works best when viewed in hindsight. Yeah, being surrounded by nerds and challenged by maths problems when your 8-year-old self feels like going outside is viewed as punishment -- but looking back 20 years later, I just feel like the whole experience overall taught me some unique skills for my age group.'
'Once a week, we 'nerds' got shipped to another school for one day of 'enrichment' study ... We were allowed to identify a topic we wanted to research, formulate a thesis statement, spend a month researching the topic, and then present our findings to our class and teacher. This meant that by the time we were in junior high, we had a lot of experience with researching, writing and presenting in an academic environment (this really set me up for success in high school and college) ... I have to give a lot of credit to the teachers for facilitating this and allowing us so much intellectual freedom at such a young age -- it kept us interested in school and learning.'
'High points include non-standard studies and a lot of flexibility for independent study. We didn't take a history class, but we analysed current news stories and media in general for accuracy and bias. We didn't take a science class, but we learned scientific principles and how they apply to everyday life. We didn't take English, but every year we attended major productions of the symphony, ballet, play, and musicals ... I learned how to write an argumentative essay when I was 10. ... And that tendency towards analysis of the world around me has stuck, and I really enjoy that part of my worldview.'
'I was never told outright, 'you're gifted, talented and smart,' but I knew teachers expected more from me than the rest of the kids. I liked knowing teachers challenged me and I honestly loved the work. It carried over into college. So many of my peers were skipping class, drinking or doing drugs copiously and then they would inevitably be the ones complaining come finals. It all comes down to one thing, self discipline. I learned that way back in third grade.'
'In my personal experience, the amount of people who seek out my help because I am considered 'intelligent' really improved my self confidence. Not only does it feel good to be recognised, but the sheer joy I get from assisting others and watching them improve is something I wouldn't trade for the world.'
'Being told -- and more importantly, knowing -- that I am brilliant from the earliest childhood has given me an unshakeable self-confidence that has carried me through many tough situations. For example, even though I arrived in the USA without speaking a word of English as a teenager, none of the attempted bullying at school or the inevitable adjustment difficulties made even the slightest dent on my absolute certainty that I will emerge gloating over all my inferiors.'
'I think it did more help than harm in my case. I was forced to work independently (aka with little teacher guidance) very early on, which I think was a really valuable skill to have in University. Because of this, we were taught more and at a quicker pace. Not only was I able to learn more material than my 'regular' peers, but I gained the ability to learn new things very quick, again, another helpful life/university skill.'
'I was labelled as 'gifted' at about six years old. It meant that I had, at the time, a reading age of 11 or 12. I think being told that I was more 'advanced' than my peers definitely made me more determined to succeed, combined with an ever-so-slightly pushy parent. My parents, due to my label, sacrificed a lot to send me to private school, using the term 'gifted' as justification (I've also received scholarships and bursaries). Combined with many of my teachers' praise regarding my intelligence and drive, the result is an offer to study at Oxford, which I never foresaw even three years ago.'
'Surprisingly enough, it helped me socially. I guarantee I'd have a crazy superiority complex without it. Back in elementary school, the GT director explained to my parents and me that with most people, it takes about seven repetitions to learn something. With me, it's one or two. After that, I realised I needed to stop treating people like crap when they didn't just get something. People are NOT supposed to 'just get it' like I felt I did. Since then I've been nicer and much more patient, because I know I'm the strange one in the situation.'
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