There are approximately 3 million to 5 million “gifted” students in the US, according to the National Association for Gifted Children.
Since these students are identified as exceptional learners from a young age, the label often becomes a part of their identity.
An accelerated education may set them on the path to a great college and career, but the expectations attached may also become a burden.
In the Reddit thread “Redditors who were labelled as ‘gifted’ children, do you think the label helped you, or harmed you?”, the conversation became an outlet for examples of the latter.
We gathered the top reasons why it can be horrible to grow up gifted.
1. From an early age, you believe it’s you against the world.
“You’re suddenly looking around at the world and realising that you’re supposed to have some crazy work ethic at everything because YOU’RE gifted and THEY aren’t. More is expected of YOU than THEM because of the big giant brain that YOU were given that THEY weren’t.
“See a pattern there? There’s this exclusivity complex there where it’s an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality.” — RaptarIsTheSh**
2. You develop a superiority complex.
“When you’ve been told all your life that you’re the smartest person in the room, you don’t take orders from others very well, especially those who you don’t find very bright (which, sadly, is most people).” — RaptarIsTheSh**
3. You become abrasive.
“Harmed me. Made me an arrogant self-righteous prick, because I was taught for years that my classmates and I were smarter than all the rest of the school. I’m still trying to undo all that.” — McHaven
4. You develop inflated expectations.
“Being labelled as gifted caused my parents to have inflated expectations of me, which I will never meet. I am quite happy with an undergraduate degree and career in business. My parents think I should be curing cancer while working on my 4th PhD.” — Inspector VII
5. You put too much pressure on yourself.
“School has always been the biggest trigger for my anxiety because I’m afraid of not doing well enough, and I never cut myself any slack. I also have other mental illness issues, and my preoccupation with marks expanded into believing my parents won’t love me if I don’t get the grades I think I should. The pressure comes entirely from within. They have always said as long as I try they will be proud, but I stress myself out anyway.” — Goram Doctor
6. Your competitiveness harms friendships.
“Even my best friends in school were also my fiercest competitors. You had to put school completely aside if you wanted to hang out, because you’d end up hating each other otherwise.” — indifferentwindmill
7. Your parents can be overbearing.
“My brother and sister were praised for mediocrity, getting extra allowance or other such gifts when they got Bs and Cs. If I brought back anything but top grades I didn’t get such treatment. I always thought it was stupid and unfair.” — shh_Im_a_Moose
8. Everyone expects more of you.
“I’ve had a genius-level IQ my whole life, and it’s caused my parents (mother in particular) to believe that I should be able to go whole semesters without ever getting a single exam question wrong. Every time I try to explain that that isn’t how intelligence works, I get told ‘that’s just an excuse, you’re smart.’ Genius does not equal perfection.” — JBtheBadguy
9. You’re always trying to get approval.
“I think the worst is the constant need for other people’s approval, and basing my entire self-worth on what others think. It’s led to tons of anxiety, because I can never fail at anything, or let other people down. It’s led to a bunch of self-destructive behaviours, where I’ll do things that I hate or that harm myself, just to please other people and gain their approval.” — BCSteve
10. You’re terrified of failure.
“The ease at which I excelled when I was younger made it hard when I DID struggle, as I was terrified of disappointing everyone. I still suffer from severe anxiety because, frankly, I never learned to fail. And I think that’s an important lesson for people to learn.” — Cheezit624
11. Others are jealous of you.
“I was always an overachiever, despite being told I was extra smarties, until I got to high school and I suddenly started caring what everyone else thought. In elementary school I got perfect grades. In high school, I stopped trying so damn hard, because everyone hated the kid with the perfect grades. I remember taking a bio test once, I think that was the swing point, where the closest grade to mine was a 78%, and I got a 96%, and everyone hated me.” — Justice_Man
12. You may be bullied.
“Precocious + bullied, that was probably the formula that made people think I needed the label, really. Adults, rather than dealing with said bullies, just reassured me I was special and that they’d be ‘bagging your groceries,’ etc. Ironically I only stopped waiting tables and working in supermarkets about two years ago.” — TM3Sb
13. It’s hard to stay positive.
“I found the hardest part of the expectations was staying positive. Top of the line grades were expected. If you got the best grades, you were doing what you were supposed to do. If you got less than stellar grades, you obviously just weren’t applying yourself. It’s hard to be positive when the only reactions are neutral and negative.” — Griddleman
14. It’s easy to feel isolated.
“The idea that I was smarter than everybody meant that I only trusted myself, listened to no one and would only accept advice when it made sense to me. I mostly used my gifted brain to do as little work as possible and I developed bad habits. I believed that I did not need to do well in school … because I could make up for it later.” — -sasnak-
15. If you’re not challenged, you become lazy.
“It would of been nice if they had separated us somehow so school was actually challenging, but once everyone in my life was telling me that I was brilliant rather than just my parents, I never did any work or paid attention in classes. … If I had some work ethic in school I think my life would have turned out loads differently. But as it was, because they knew I was so bright, I never had to do anything.” — kvellarcanum
16. There comes a point where you can’t coast any longer.
“I excelled in grade school without having to put in any effort. I would show up to finals, asking which exam we were taking that day, and get top scores. I never learned how to do homework or maintain any sort of work ethic, but I became very skilled at coasting through courses and bulls—ting on essay questions (writing what I speculated the teacher wanted to hear, and not something with actual substance). Once I hit university I couldn’t get away with not doing any work anymore, so I hit a wall that I’m still trying to overcome.” — Gifos
17. You develop a false sense of security.
“I was always put in ‘gifted’ programs up until grade six. While I learned a lot in those sessions that I would not have had the privilege to otherwise learn, I feel now it lulled me into a false sense of security of my perceived capabilities, and began to coast in school. It eventually caught up to me, and I still kick myself over letting myself get complacent.” — Coastty
18. Weaknesses become uncomfortably apparent.
“It put a lot of expectations on myself and made the things I was (and still am) weak at a huge deal. For example, I can’t spell or punctuate correctly even now.” — ByronicHero56
19. It’s hard to ditch the label as you grow older.
“I often feel like a huge failure and I can’t look at my transcript without crying. I still consider myself extremely intelligent and capable but I can’t push myself to do the work required to make straight A’s. Overall it’s forced me to set an unreasonably high standard for myself. I have considered myself in a three-year slump (I’m a junior in high school now), but I’m starting to accept that I’m just a B student.” — Blooopimafish
20. You aren’t necessarily “better” than anyone else.
“It harmed me in the sense that it made me think I was special when I wasn’t. I was considered ‘gifted’ in my small high school in my small hometown, but out in the rest of the world, I’m average at best.” — jamiesugah
This is an update of an article originally written by Mariana Simoes and Aimee Groth.
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