Being gifted is a burden

Why do I keep pushing myself? 

You’ve figured out there’s something more to life than grades, says our elder. Make space for the other parts of your life.


Dear EWC

I am a gifted student. It used to be easy, constantly praised, levels above your classmates, feeling smart, feeling unique, feeling special, but nowadays it feels more like a burden that I carry on my shoulders. I feel weary but keep pushing through because the better that I do the more validation I receive. I work myself until I pass out, and for what? A gold star? A future that may never come to be no matter how hard I fight for it? Maybe I’m just a try hard. Maybe, I’m just the weird nerd kid. Maybe it looks like I have my life together; a plan, a bright future. Outwardly it all looks so grand, but on the inside I’m fighting to keep my head above water. In the past week there hasn’t been a night I haven’t gone to bed earlier than 1am, but I don’t have it in me to lay down my load. Because it is expected of me, because I am capable. But at the expense of my health and happiness. So how much further do I have to keep pushing before I finally feel like I’ve succeeded? And why do I have such a deep rooted desire for praise and validation?


Ketchman replies

Thank you for your message. I’ll try to help.

One of the eternal questions that humankind has been grappling with for thousands of years is that of the purpose of life. Here we are, endowed with (as far as we know) the most advanced intelligence of any species on earth, the ability to either destroy the planet or make it into an earthly paradise; and all to what purpose?

My own opinion is that each of us has to decide what our individual purpose is, and that purpose can, and will, change as we get older and gain more knowledge of the world. Not knowing one’s purpose can be frustrating and depressing. It’s what I’m guessing, based upon what you’ve related, may be at the root of your discontent. I think you may have figured out that there’s got to be something more – some better reward – for all those long hours of work than the praise of others or the confirmation that you are, indeed, the smartest person in the room. That’s got to be frustrating. It’s kind of like having a great tool and spending all your time polishing it but never using it for something other than as an object of admiration.

I think a good place to start is to use your abilities to begin enjoying the world. There’s nothing wrong – and a lot right – about deciding that, for a while, your purpose is to enjoy and appreciate all that the world has to offer you. The taste of a sweet crisp apple with, maybe, some soft and smelly cheese on the side (the cheese part might be an acquired taste). How it feels to get a hug from someone you like or love. The sight of clouds moving across a blue sky. The way certain pieces of music arouse waves of emotion. The intricate pattern of veins on a leaf. Recognizing and appreciating stuff like that is, I’m convinced, as, or more, important for one’s happiness than all the good grades and awards that academic achievement can offer. Those grades are important, in the short term, for getting into schools or programs you might want to enter but the satisfaction they provide is short lived. Loving and appreciating the world will serve you well for all your life.

Once you enter university or the world of work and careers, you’ll find that the grades and awards you received in high school will be only of passing interest to others and just a memory to you. On the other hand, your interest in and love for the world and life can endear you to others and make every day a new adventure. What I’m trying to say – and not doing it very well – is that there are other parts of life as important as school grades and it’s just as important to make space in your life for them, even if you have to cut out a bit of study time to make room for them. Regularly going to bed after 1am can be damaging to your health and, I suspect, is well past the point of diminishing returns as regards your next exam score.

In order to determine if you’ve “succeeded” you’ll need to determine exactly what are the endeavors you’re working to succeed in. Make sure they’re worthy of your time and energy. Spending time and energy proving you’re the smartest and best student in the school is, I think, unworthy of someone of your intelligence and drive. Better to take a small bit of that energy you’re burning in the early morning hours and turn it towards something that makes you feel happy. I don’t know what school grade you’re now in, but this might be a good time to give some thought about what you would like to do with your life. Sometimes just spending a few hours simply daydreaming or walking in a natural setting can bring some insights available no place else.

I hope I’ve been able to offer a useful perspective. I’m glad you’ve contacted us. Please use us again, anytime you’d like a bit of advice or second opinion on ‘most anything. We’ll always do our best for you and, if you like, you could always ask for me. Thank you for giving me a chance to assist.

Article #: 493594
Category: School

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