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Discovering Giftedness (Part 1)

By Lily Jedynak, Ph.D. on May 12, 2024


Dr. Lily Jedynak is an exceptionally gifted multipotentialite. As a professional coach, she helps women flourish as they bring their gifts to the world. She holds six university degrees and is passionate about creativity as a writer, musician, and artist. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Find Dr. Lily on Substack today!



Discovering Giftedness (Part 1)


Sharing how the journey started and the joys and struggles along the way.



The beginning of my gifted journey unofficially began in 2019.


Thanks to the algorithms.


I was doing the kind of searches you do when you don’t know what you’re looking for. I’d an itch that needed scratching and a gnawing in the guts. I googled and impatiently waited for the planets to align while my cosmic waters churned.


Meanwhile, a dear friend was researching HSPs – Highly Sensitive Persons. She sent me a questionnaire which I dutifully completed. Then I went down the rabbit hole to update myself

on what I knew about HSPs. Many moons ago, I’d read Dr Elaine Aron’s seminal work, and it blew the roof of my head off.


While reconnecting with HSPs, Myers-Briggs was also growing in popularity, so I dived back into that space, and deeply connected with being an INFJ. I also plunged into Maslow and self-actualization again. I saw that YouTube had exploded with information.


How else was I helping the algorithms?


After attending comedian Hannah Gadsby’s show, Douglas (2019), I researched autism. I’d resonated with some of the ‘tendencies’ Hannah described. I delved into autism and girls and how they could fly under the radar in terms of identification. I booked myself into a psychological assessment but had to wait six months. While waiting I cooled on the idea and cancelled. In hindsight, I may have benefitted from the evaluation.


I continued to seek books on Amazon about self-development, psychology, philosophy, spirituality, and how to survive life. Looking at Amazon’s recommendations, three books eventually caught my eye: Living With Intensity by Susan Daniels and Michael M. Piechowski (2009), Bright Adults: Uniqueness and Belonging Across the Lifespan by Ellen D. Fiedler (2015), and Personality Shaping Through Positive Disintegration by Dr. Kazimierz Dabrowski (2015).


At this point, my intuition wasn’t just whispering sweet nothings to me about these books, they were playing Bach’s Hallelujah! chorus in high fidelity sound.


Of course, I purchased the books. Of course, I read them as if I was expiring from thirst in the desert. Of course, my hair stood on end.


To be honest, I didn’t quite devour Dabrowski’s book. I skimmed through and thought I’d return to it when I could gird my loins. I searched the Net for more digestible information about Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration.


At this point, I need to alert you to the fact that Dabrowski’s theory was a game changer for me in terms of understanding myself and my life. More about that in future blogs but please check out The Dabrowski Centre if you haven’t already.


As it turned out, the ‘algies’ had served me well. These three books made me feel ‘seen’ for the first time as a gifted person. It was revelatory, revolutionary and terrifying.


So, what did I do with this exciting information? I did what I always did. I highlighted and underlined and asterisked the books with my trusty pens, even dog-earned a bazillion pages, and felt deeply nourished for quite a while. Then I ever so quietly put the books on the bookshelves to gather dust.


Amen.


But not so fast!


Once that can of worms was opened, there was no going back. I literally had the wriggles. I felt a new kind of hope.


For the first time in my life, I entertained the idea that there was nothing wrong with me.


These books could explain why I’d felt so different from others all my life. For once I wasn’t being told that my differences needed fixing. Or that my intensities and sensitivities were

liabilities that had to be squashed. Or that my problems were related to my inability to conform to expectations.


This brought a great surge of relief. All this time I could have been gifted instead of flawed… but no. Surely not. I wasn’t an intellectual. Far from it. More like a dunce. I’d failed Maths in

High School. So there. Evidence of my averageness if ever there was one.


I grappled with the word ‘gifted’. It smacked of superiority. Having grown up in Australia where the Tall Poppy Syndrome was rife and having been bullied for years at school, I wasn’t about to stick my head above the crowd anytime soon. No sirree.


Nevertheless, I continued to wrestle with the whole gifted thang. Had I been too hasty in dismissing giftedness as a possibility What did it mean? Did it really change anything?


Finding out you’re gifted as an adult can sometimes lead to a grieving process. Some adults experience a strong sense of loss for things they never had. How different their lives could have been. This was the case for me from the get-go.


As there are supposedly seven stages of grief – they aren’t scientifically proven, but they have been embraced by many – I’ll apply the seven stages to my early days of entertaining the idea of being gifted… perhaps you can relate?


After the surprise discovery that I might be gifted, the news took a long time to sink in. I felt numb for a while. Disorientated. Apparently, this is not an uncommon response, so if that’s happened to you, too, then I see you!


Next came denial. It didn’t feel real to consider myself gifted. If it were true, why didn’t I find out earlier? I vacillated, ran hot and cold on the idea. I’d always flown under the radar to feel safe, to avoid extra pressure and towering expectations, to dodge the awful black stain of failure which, in my mind, meant death. If I was ‘outed’ as a gifted person, did I risk getting

my head chopped off? Would far too much be expected of me Was it better to be a disappointment, even if the only disappointed person was me?


I did some bargaining. I wanted to put things right. I was consumed by thoughts of, what if I am gifted? What now? What if I’d been identified as a child and was supported, resourced, encouraged without the bone-crushing pressure to perform? What if my life had turned out completely differently? What if I’d circumvented a whole lot of pain and struggle?


I felt as if I’d been betrayed somehow. Short-changed. All my life walking around blind. Why hadn’t someone removed the blindfold? My true potential had been stolen from me, but

who was the robber?


I felt the rumble of anger. A forbidden kind of anger. But without something or someone to direct my anger at, it was a storm in a teacup.


I didn’t exactly fall into a depression or perhaps I was already depressed? I did feel isolated. No-one to talk to. No-one who would understand. I even hesitated to talk to my husband who sometimes knew me better than I knew myself.


I thought if I told someone about it, they would laugh in my face.


Somewhere along the line I’d been shamed. Humiliated. I later learned that this was not an uncommon experience among the gifted.


I began to grieve for the gifted person I’d lost connection with somehow, somewhere, along the way. Was this a form of ambiguous loss? But hang on, was I really gifted? Self-doubt

conveniently short-circuited the overwhelm. The complicated feelings. Alienation. I pushed the complexity away. What was the point of crying over milk that hadn’t been spilt?


However, two years later, acceptance and hope eventually surfaced like a newly hatched chick. This was the longest stage and there were a few twists and turns and returns to previous stages. Much to tell you here.


I still don’t like the word, ‘gifted’ and I’m not alone. The term, ‘neurodivergent’, has been embraced by many. The gifted have different brains, different wiring. Every gifted person is different. It’s not about being better than anyone else. In some ways, it can be a challenge, even a burden, a ‘tragic gift’, as one endeavours to navigate the neuronormative world.


Gifted people are considered a minority in the population – ‘atypical’. Many gifted children and adults can feel disconnected from those around them.


In case you’re wondering how ‘giftedness’ is defined, there are a plethora of definitions. No definition is universally accepted, but here’s one I particularly like:


A gifted person is a quick and clever thinker, able to deal with complex matters. Autonomous, curious and passionate. A sensitive and emotionally rich individual, with great imagery,

living intensely. He or she [or they] enjoy being creative.


The Dutch Gifted Adults Foundation


Key characteristics that are usually associated with giftedness: intense, complex, bright, sensitive, creative, driven.


Gifted children and adults can be highly autonomous, highly intelligent, multifaceted, passionate and curious, creation-directed and highly sensitive. Their speed of understanding, their high level of abstraction, and their sense of humour are strongly evident.


I’ve come to understand that giftedness is a combination of different elements. It’s not just about high intelligence but about the overall picture. I discovered that there’s more to ‘giftedness’ than having a high IQ. In fact, an intelligence test is not a giftedness test. This is not to say that an IQ test isn’t relevant. I’ll share more about this in another blog.


Coming soon… I’ll write about my research and how I came to have a gifted assessment. I’ll also share how this qualitative assessment impacted me and supported the integration of

giftedness into my personal identity. I’ll mention other factors that also supported the integration. At some point, I’ll tell the story about how I came out of the gifted closet and blurted that I was gifted to friends at a dinner party.


And now it’s over to you… have you discovered you’re gifted? If so, how? And how did you go about integrating it into your identity or are you doing so now? What did you find most supportive in terms of fully embracing your giftedness?


Thank you so much for being here and if you know someone who might find this blog nourishing, then please share. Or you can find me on Substack: @drlilyjedynak


Lil X



PS Here are a couple of gifted definitions that I also like:


Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counselling in order for them to develop optimally.


The Columbus Group, 1991.


Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.


Annemarie Roeper (1982)


The above was expanded upon by Linda Silverman: The highly gifted have a different worldview.



Resources:


Highly Sensitive Person: https://hsperson.com




Dabrowski Centre: https://dabrowskicenter.org


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