I personally like to keep my awareness, definitions, and knowledge of giftedness fluid, robust, and evolving. This allows me to have an identity as a gifted person that is not absolute, constraining, or preventing me from wondering about myself as gifted.
People wonder about their giftedness. And they do continuously question the validity of being gifted. In the late nineties, I published my work on the Gifted Identity Formation Model1 (GIFM, now known as The Fit) in part to address these issues. The Model allows gifted people and those working with the gifted to navigate the process of forming a healthy gifted identity and feeling your humanity.
Validation is one of the four constructs I outline in the process of forming an identity. Being valid in your giftedness equates to knowing your gifted nature, which includes your biological, neurological, developmental attributes, and more—all the attributes and uniqueness that come along with this variance in human nature. Yes, giftedness is a variance in human nature; it is not a romantic construct about being some kind of virtuoso. And if you don’t know yourself as a gifted being with a variance in your human nature, then you are more vulnerable to limiting your ability to activate your potential. I also believe you are more vulnerable in terms of activating disturbances in your life because your needs won’t be met.
Knowing your giftedness should not entail separating yourself from others because of your difference in nature. (This explains why putting so much emphasis on differentiation without integration can be unproductive and harmful at times.) Knowing the self from the perspective of giftedness should enhance your connection with humanity. This process of wonder should conclude not just with a differentiation view but with a sense of integration of the self—and hopefully more wonder. In addition, the validation will ultimately enable others to assist in the activation of your potential and meeting your needs.
Many people think that to be gifted, it must be validated by some external source of authority. No, actually this is not how it works. You ultimately determine, through your own discernments, if you are valid as a gifted person. And if you think that there are a lot of people out there who wonder if they are gifted when in reality, they are not—this is a rare occurrence. Anyone who seriously questions their validity as gifted most likely is gifted. A more common example is a story like that of Yolanda, who struggles with validation. In the fourth grade, Yolanda was given an IQ test and scored two points below the arbitrary cutoff score. Which, by the way, was a higher cutoff than in most districts because of budget constraints. So of course, Yolanda spent the rest of her life feeling invalid as a gifted person, even though she developed a great deal of her potential and has a successful career. The problem occurs for Yolanda in that she limits her self-expression at times and will not push herself further. Why? Because she doesn’t believe she has the potential. She lives out an identity that was externally validated by a test in the fourth grade.
Sadly, this method of validation occurs in most school districts. In the GIFM or The Fit as I now call it, validation for one’s giftedness needs to be discerned by many systems that impact, interface, and interact with our identity formation. The Model has a core list of seventeen systems (Self, Family, Development, Race, Psychological, Neurophysiological, to name a few) but is not limited to those seventeen. Because in reality, our identities are forming continuously in relationship to many variables. In order for Yolanda to further activate her potential and meet her needs, she requires far more information and a better process to discern her giftedness. A true “wondering,” if I may. Her validation cannot be dependent on one system nor an arbitrary cutoff from that system.
As in Yolanda’s case, discerning one’s giftedness with our current methods and descriptions of giftedness can be challenging, and here is why: there are many factions and organizations that have varying interpretations of giftedness. The more common ones would be: the field of gifted education, the Mensa organization, the new neurodiversity view on gifted, the actual field of intelligence and the brain, and the twice-exceptional view. The developmental perspective which would include: the Dabrowski view and the asynchronous development view, the social emotional support group’s version, and the psychometric group of testing professionals. Then we have the socioeconomic determination of what giftedness is and the elitist, false meritocracy view. There is an additional problem where many of these groups throw around IQ score numbers and never identify which tests they are citing. In general, the WISC and the Stanford Binet have different scoring numbers. Then you have the groups that use a definitive—yet in my opinion arbitrary—cutoff number, with no margin for test error. I won’t go on.
So, when you or the parent of a gifted child wonders and begins the quest to validate giftedness, you are thrust into a cadre of varying perspectives, descriptions, and definitive cutoffs. I am not suggesting that most of these positions are necessarily wrong or absolutely correct. Each perspective has some relative and some absolute value in how you discern giftedness. What I suggest would be to consider as many of these positions as possible, similar to way The Fit Model does, by evaluating, aggregating, and discerning the information as it pertains to your awareness of self, experience, and a host of systems and viewpoints. Too many times, particularly when one is feeling disenfranchised, you may adapt too readily and assimilate one perspective or group’s view in an almost cult-like fashion. That certainly stops the wonder. Also, for me that would be contraindicated, considering giftedness in its very nature embodies complexity and variance from the norm and not inhumanity.
I personally like to keep my awareness, definitions, and knowledge of giftedness fluid, robust, and evolving. This allows me to have an identity as a gifted person that is not absolute, constraining, or preventing me from wondering about myself as gifted. I discern my own validation as gifted and ultimately, I am able to activate my potential through that validation. And perhaps, if you look to your wonder for understanding giftedness from the traditional definition of “wonder”— both the noun and the verb—you may find a far better awareness of yourself as a valid gifted human being.
(Find out more at The Center for Identity Potential.)
1. A.S. Mahoney, “In Search of the Gifted Identity: From Abstract Concept to Workable Counseling Constructs,” Roeper Review 20, no. 3 (Jan 2010): 222-226. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02783199809553895