Why calling someone ‘gifted’ can actually hurt them

I’m sure everyone has either had someone close to them be called ‘gifted’ or have been called ‘gifted’ themselves at some point in their lives. These very ‘gifted’ children can, later on, feel like failures when they reach their early college years. Now let me explain what a gifted child exactly is. A gifted child is a high achiever or has a more than average aptitude for academics. These are the children who are usually put in the advanced classes, gifted programs and praised for their intelligence and achievements.

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Only one in a hundred people are considered highly gifted, and a prodigy is rarer still. There are about 19 million gifted children in India.

Since they are praised from a young age, sometimes even called geniuses, they start feeling that everything is simple and can develop something of a superiority complex. Till about 10th grade, they feel very smart and feel confident in themselves, but as the study material starts getting harder and they don’t perform as well as they used to, the students start feeling like they’re not good enough. Gifted children have a higher than average/ high IQ, and thus, find tests and school level studies easy. By which I mean they can easily pass tests in school without studying much for it due to their high intellect and general knowledge. What this does is that whenever the gifted child is unable to do something well on the first try, it hurts their ego, they tend to easily give up on things and often develop self-esteem issues as they enter high school and college. Due to not having to study much during their earlier schooling years, they lack work ethic and self-discipline, which proves to be detrimental as they reach college.

Most others have a study routine or attend classes to hone their skills from an earlier time as compared to gifted children, and thus they have an idea of how to study and know what study pattern works best for them. In other words, they played the tutorial stage and started from level one. Gifted children, however, skip the tutorial stage and start from level 3 because it’s too easy for them. Thus, when they hit that block or wall, and realise that they have to start studying well with a schedule etc., they struggle to study because they had never done it properly before. 

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This, in return, starts lowering their self-esteem and they start questioning if they were ever gifted at all, and so the title of gifted becomes a burden. 

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When you’re not able to understand a topic or a question in school or while doing homework and suddenly the whole world comes crashing down due to the pressure and stress, and that little voice in the back of your head going: “You don’t even get this? What will people think of you if you’re not the smart kid who can easily pick up on anything?” 

Now I know that schools have a ‘no child left behind policy, but because everyone is learning at the same level, a kid that is faster than usual will struggle because everything becomes too easy for them. Someone slower will have access to resources like remedial classes etc. but in India at least, gifted programs are far and few. Take video games, for example, you play level one, you pass, you go to the next one. If you fail, you replay it till you pass, and then you go to the next one. In this way, video games match the pace of the player, but this is, for obvious reasons, not possible to do in schools.

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This usually causes a drop in academic performance which eventually leads them to feel ‘burnout’. I’ve seen so many posts on Reddit, playlists on Spotify and YouTube meant solely for all the ‘burnouts’ to share their feelings, or vent (in the comment section) and these playlists have thousands upon thousands of views. As much as we say, “Grades don’t matter that much!” they truly do and I believe we all know it deep inside, and that is what makes academic failure or not performing as well as you used to feel so terrible.

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Gifted people are highly praised from a young age and thus start having high expectations from themselves. For example, being the best in whatever field they work in or having the highest grades in the class. These expectations, coupled with those of others, eventually start weighing them down. The easiest way to deal with this is to simply lower your expectations. You used to score 95% and only score about 85% now? That’s ok, aim for 90% next time and it won’t feel so poor. Of course, this is easier said than done, and everyone’s method is different, but the bottom line is that you have to let go of your expectations. 

Our society has an obsession with being special, being unique and being better than others, but if everyone is special, then is anyone truly? As mean as it sounds, once you accept that you aren’t all that special and unique and are ordinary, life can become easier for you. And this applies even more to people who were called gifted as young children. It’s like finding peace if you will.

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Now I’m no gifted child, but I have been labelled as above average when it comes to academics. So whenever I got what is deemed an average grade, I felt terrible. However, I’ve slowly come to terms with the fact that its okay to not be the best every time, I’ve reduced the pressure on myself to function at full capacity for each test and most importantly, I’ve accepted that even if I don’t accomplish extraordinary feats all the time, all my little ordinary ones will eventually add up to become something extraordinary.

So that was, in short, what I think about gifted children, how it affects them based on what I’ve seen and felt, and of course, what I have heard from friends. I hope that helped provide some insight into the minds of gifted children

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I do not own any of the above images.

Published by Ria _

Hey! I'm a high school student from India writing a small blog about the various things I like or want to write about in general! Check out my blog at https://riaraje.com/

3 thoughts on “Why calling someone ‘gifted’ can actually hurt them

  1. You have wonderfully expressed difference between gifted & non gifted child & disadvantages of calling someone gifted , discounting person’s ability to handle the situation .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely right. Labelling the kids can be so detrimental for their own growth, never realised it. This really gives me a new perspective at looking at a person.

    Liked by 1 person

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