Former 'Gifted Children' Explain What Went Wrong In Their Life
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

When I was heading into high school from middle my guidance counselor and my parents wanted me to enter into "gifted" classes because I was able to maintain a high GPA. They thought it would give me a head start for a great college and then prime me for the Presidency. I protested and negotiated signing up for merely "advanced" classes, God forbid I go with "regular" classes, or we all just get the same education. I have never regretted it.

My friends in the "gifted" arena were always stressed, could rarely attend a social event.

Education is what you put into it. Why drive a young student crazy? Redditor u/sangbum60090 was wondering how life ended up for those in the "brilliant" percent by asking.... Former "gifted children", what went wrong?

The Burnout....

burnt out GIF by Space Jam Giphy

High expectations from a young age, from everyone, leading to overworking, depression anxiety and burnout.


Don't Push....

For me the high expectations were combined with questionable parenting. My mom didn't really understand that you can't just push people you need them to buy in and you need to know how things work. My mom would yell at me for doing poorly in high school math but didn't understand that if I didn't have high school math I couldn't go into a business or engineering degree and now I'm messed because my BA & MA are useless.

Pushing your kids too hard is really crappy. Also, not meeting their basic emotional needs or giving them fun stuff to do will also mess with them.


In the 6th....

In sixth grade I started at a very prestigious school geared toward college prep. At my previous school I excelled with minimal effort, rarely got under 99% on any test or quiz or project. Sixth grade starts, and now I have 3+ hours of homework a night. Couple that with piano lessons (I didn't particularly enjoy them) once a week and extra curricular like sports and I had less free time as a sixth grader than I do now at 33 with a full time job 45 minute one way commute, and a three year old daughter.

It was absolutely insane and I cracked under the pressure. I managed to keep those high As all through sixth grade but then in seventh grade? Yeah I discovered that I could still get Bs and Cs and not really apply myself all that much. So I did that instead. My motivation was just non existent after that burnout. I simply didn't give a crap anymore about most schooling.

I still graduated and managed to mostly turn it around and have As and Bs by the end of high school but I never recovered the ability to give too much of a crap so that stuck with me to the present pretty much. I have certainly underachieved what people would have expected of me if they knew me in elementary school but meh.



student pass GIF by Juan Billy Giphy

I never learned how to work for my grades. Even now in college, I find it hard to sit down and do my work and I push everything to the last minute.

It turned even worse when my university turned all exams in school to longer exams at home with permitted use of books. I didn't open the book until the exam. Got an average grade but could have done much better had I just read and worked as I should (that said, the course expecting us to read 500 pages a week on average is just not realistic).


So Many Issues....

Sounds like a cop out, but to an extent I blame my mother. I'd come home having scored a 98/99 and her brand of "comedy" was to ask what happened to the other 1 or 2%. She loves me and didn't mean any harm by it, but after a while it wears on you. I started feeling like if I didn't try it wouldn't matter to me if I missed out on a few percentage points here or there anymore because I'd always have a legitimate excuse for myself.

That, plus mental health issues (anxiety and depression). I'm actually doing much better now and teach at University-level, but there's always that voice in the back of my head that tells me things are never quite good enough, and it bugs the crap out of me.

ETA: hey look, ma! I finally reached 100!



ADHD and child abuse.


God, this. I tested in the upper percentile early on, and I was put in advanced classes. I don't know what it's like now, but California had really good programs when I was a kid. However, I went undiagnosed for ADD as well. This, along with my parent's expectations meant I disappointed them more often than not.

And when my parents were disappointed, they expressed it physically... So my life devolved into depression, anxiety, and an inability to use what I had. It doesn't matter how much horsepower you have under the hood if you can't put it on the ground. It's taken me years to finally get myself into a position to make good on some of my early potential.



Mental illness and being poorly prepared for life, but I've gotten control of it. Now I'm a little behind in life but I'm back in college and have a 4.0. Sometimes we get derailed but it's never too late to try again.


Only to be Smarter....

Smart Think About It GIF by Friends Giphy

The same things that go wrong for most gifted kids: Gifted education doesn't deliver. I was head of every class I was in for the longest time, but giving the smart kid more of the same work doesn't teach them about being challenged.

Then when the board of education got involved because I broke the standardised test in third grade and the school was forced to skip me ahead, the principal rode me like a fairground pony and would call me to his office once a week and berate me for not instantly coming out on top of a class that was starting to challenge me two weeks into first term.

I still ended up in the school for smart kids, but the curriculum was no different to every other school, it was just a holding tank. The education system is designed for kids to learn at a specific pace. If you do it faster, if you do it slower, if you do it differently the system stops working pretty quickly.

EDIT: Well this blew up in a way I wasn't expecting. Hey, for those of you who want to read more about what happens to gifted kids as they grow up I recommend Gifted Grownups By Marylou Kelly Streznewsky (hella expensive for an ebook, but well worth it). This was the book that finally put all the intelligence into perspective for me, and made me realize that I was not only "smarter" I was also qualitatively different, and because of that, no matter where I am in life, giftedness is a lifelong thing.


"gifted and talented" 

Developed severe depression and didn't get help until after I had already failed pretty much all my classes for 3 years in a row and fallen behind, and then fell another year behind when I was in a long-term progress-based outpatient program getting treatment for my depression. Then, when I finally went back to school with my mental health in check, I had about a month of good grades and success before I started to develop major health problems.

I tried to finish via online schooling but couldn't keep up with the increased workload in online school while so sick so I ended up having to drop out.

And that's how I went from a "gifted and talented" kid to a high school dropout.


Early On....

life GIF Giphy

From a really early age i was considered a bright kid. Now when interacting with people in my daily life, it's generally understood that I come off as pretty smart, but i never had accomplishments that were consistent with that.

I never had something to show for it, but that doesn't necessarily suggest that my strengths weren't real. It just suggests that they didn't end up being as important as some might've guessed.

What went wrong, is that the world turned out to be a place, where there are very few chances for people to make a living running their mouth.


Bad Times



I developed mental problems because of brain damage from trying to bang myself in sixth grade and then I had failed several classes. Through high school and college I got better though, I had a 3.4 in HS and a 3.7 in college, 3.2 if we count the dropped classes as F's.


beyond test scores...

I was considered gifted in the sense that I always got great test scores, at times perfect, but that was when I was in an actual public school, I was moved to online schooling a year after Sandy Hook and my grades dropped significantly, I just couldn't learn as well as I used to, this might've been the cause of my depression or I just happened to be depressed on top of all the other bullcrap.


Now What?

Confused Jennifer Robertson GIF by CBC Giphy

Get a college degree! Cool i got one. Now what? No one ever talked to me about planning for goals after college and 7 years later I still don't know what I'm doing with my life.


the weird kid...

I started school a year early because I was considered "gifted." I remember having to take a special test so I could start school early and being afraid I would fail and disappoint my mom. By first grade, I was in gifted classes - teachers would remove us from our normal class or we'd miss out on recess and go to these extra classes.

The other kids picked on us. I wasn't as emotionally mature in the first place and I was physically tiny. The pressure to be expectational in the gifted class was extreme. In second grade, I had an emotional breakdown in gifted class that required my mom to come pick me up at school since I couldn't stop crying and hyperventilating.

I was removed from the gifted class after that.

I felt so embarrassed - first I was the weird kid none of the others liked and then I was the weird kid who melted down and wasn't good enough to stay in the gifted class.



Well, my family are poor as hell. I'm talking I didn't realize vegetables came in anything but cans until I moved out, and we never had enough to eat. I was also raised in a cult where education was seen as a bad thing, so I got a late start - even though I skipped a couple grades.

By my teenage years I was dealing with severely untreated mental illness, and was forced onto benzos to deal with "anxiety attacks." I started self-medicating, and by 15 was completely addicted.

I was cloistered away and not allowed any friends not specifically in my cult - which made things worse. I worked three jobs at 16, and my parents confiscated all the money. I also started at a local tech school around this time.

Between the side effects of the benzos, guilt over religion, and just general stress, I lost a scholarship I had applied for, and my main job. Barely made it through the rest of school.

Moved out after that, and have gotten better every year since, but it's a long freaking road.


The Burned...

I burned out in college; I was poorly taught due to teacher strikes and had a general poor time of it emotionally. As a result I didn't work quite as hard as I should have and didn't get the best grades. I got into my second choice university and realised that it was just the college and A-Level mindset.

That didn't suit me as well as the pressure of exams and, although I was heartbroken at the time, my then girlfriend breaking up with me significantly helped my development and I thrived at uni all the way through to my Masters degree.

Don't let being labelled as "gifted" distract you and don't let a style of learning that doesn't agree with you allow you to think you aren't clever.


It's just Life

Life got in the way, but otherwise nothing.

Like many, I learned late that hard work can be as important as raw talent, if not more so, but I had time to learn how to do that, catch-up, and achieve some great stuff.

I feel like I would still be doing well, even battling my own demons of ADHD and anxiety, if my parents hadn't gotten so sick and for such a long time. It just took too much time to take care of them, even with tons of hired help.

Sometimes, maybe even often, big things happen that derail your perfect life plans - your marriage falls apart, you have a special needs child, you get sick, you get a new president of an institute and they want to take work in another direction, etc.

Life goes on, nobody gets everything thing way and secretly think they deserve.


Ways to be social...

Focus was on academic success not social skills. Parents moved the family around a lot and so I changed schools many times. Being on the shy side made it difficult to make friends, and when I did we'd just move again and I'd lose those friends. In my teen years felt isolated and chronically depressed. My parents didn't understand I needed help with this and my father was anti psychiatrists.

Cue low self esteem, bumbling from one job to another, and gut wrenching loneliness. Took me till my late 20s to find some social confidence and a boyfriend. But still battling depression, been in therapy on and off for years and go through periods I am medicated for depression.


Ways to Cope

Stressed Over It GIF by HULU Giphy

I think many "gifted" children, speaking of American millennials, came from challenging circumstances. The intelligence and maturity that got them into "gifted" programs was probably often a manifestation of abnormal coping responses.



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