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  • Christy A. George, LMFT

Nurturing Positive Self-Identity, Mental Well-being and Resilience in Gifted Teens and Young Adults

golden egg, egg shells, strengths

As the mother of a gifted teen, and a mental health professional, working with gifted teens and young adults, I have witnessed the overwhelming pressures they face. The expectation to be extraordinary, find their passion, make a difference and map ourt their future can lead to a deep existential crisis, anxiety, and depression. On top of all of this, many are influenced by unrealistic ideals portrayed on social media that further errode self esteem, cause confusion and create feelings of hopelessness.

The Weight of Expectations

Most teens and young adults, but especially the gifted ones, often find themselves burdened by the weight of immense expectations, even if they are not high achieving. Our society tells us it isn't enough to be ordinary, and if you are exceptionally bright, tallented and intelligent, the expectatinos are even greater. I can't tell you how many times over the years, I have heard the phrase, "if you pursue your passion, you'll never work a day in your life." If'soften told to children and teens. While, this is a nice sentiment, it creates undue pressure to find a passion, as well as an unrealistic expectation that if you do, everything will be easy. Many gifted teens and young adults are left feeling lost and inadequate because they haven't discovered an interest or strength worthy of calling a "passion", or their passion is not mainstream, or not valued by our culture. When this happens, people often feel hopeless and worry they won't be able to find their path in life, or aren't finding it fast enough.

While the pressure to be extraordinary, can lead to a deep existential crisis and feelings of anxiety and inadequacy you can help your gifted loved ones by establishing realistic expectations that build resilience and promote a positive sense of self. Encourage them to:

  • Embrace a growth mindset: Help them understand that their abilities and talents are not fixed, and can be developed through further effort and perseverance. Emphasize that growth and progress are more important than achieving perfection. This is expecially true for gifted people who learn quickly. Their sense of self is often tied to their ability to pick things up fast, and any struggle can trigger an existential crisis.

  • Set achievable goals: Encourage them to set realistic goals that are aligned with their interests and abilities. Breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps can provide a sense of accomplishment and build confidence along the way.

  • Celebrate their efforts: Shift the focus from solely outcomes to the effort and dedication put into their pursuits. By recognizing and celebrating their hard work and resilience, they can develop a positive sense of self based on their perseverance and commitment. This shift in mindset can also lead to greater long term, life satisfaction as it teach them to value the process and not just leap from accomplishment to accomplishment, or become downtroden if things don't work out as they had hoped.

Embracing Authenticity and Self-Discovery

Embracing authenticity involves finding others who share similar interests and passions, even if they are older mentors or role models. Encourage gifted teens and young adults to:

  • Seek out mentorship: Encourage them to find mentors or role models who share their interests or talents. These mentors can offer guidance, support, and insights based on their own experiences, helping gifted adolescents navigate their own path of self-discovery. If they are not able to find appropriate mentors on their own, offer help and guidance in a kind and encouraging way.

  • Engage in communities or clubs: Encourage them to join communities or clubs where they can connect with like-minded people who share their interests. This can provide a sense of belonging, support, and opportunities for growth through shared experiences and collaborative learning.

  • Explore diverse interests: Encourage them to explore a wide range of interests and passions. By doing so, they can expand their awareness and connect with others who may have different perspectives and insights. Embracing a diverse range of interests can foster personal growth and allow for meaningful connections with a variety of people. This is also a way to reduce the lonliness gifted people often feel.

Cultivating Resilience and Embracing Challenges

Cultivating resilience involves accepting the challenges of transition, learning, and uncertainty without feeling like a failure. This can be surprisingly difficult when you believe you should already have everything figured out. Some ideas for gifted teens and young adults that will help them embrace these challenges and see them as opportunities for growth are:

  • Adopting a growth mindset: Encourage them to view challenges as stepping stones to growth and learning. Help them understand that setbacks and failures are natural parts of any journey and can provide valuable lessons and opportunities for improvement.

  • Practice self-compassion: Remind them to be kind to themselves during difficult times. Encourage them to treat themselves with the same compassion and understanding they would extend to a close friend. Remind them that mistakes and setbacks do not define their worth or potential.

  • Seek support: Encourage them to seek support from trusted individuals, such as friends, family, or mentors, when facing challenges. Having a strong support system can provide encouragement, guidance, and a sense of reassurance during difficult times.

  • Reflect and learn: Encourage them to reflect on their experiences and extract lessons from both successes and failures. By viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and personal development, they can cultivate resilience and adaptability in the face of uncertainty.

Nurturing positive self-identity and mental well-being in gifted teens and young adults involves establishing realistic expectations, embracing authenticity through mentorship and community, and cultivating resilience to embrace challenges and growth. Encourage them to keep going even when things are hard or don't meet their expectations, reminding them that their journey is unique and filled with valuable opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth.

I also want to share a heartfelt message with any gifted teens or young adults who may be reading this. Remember that your journey is unique, and it's okay to feel overwhelmed or uncertain at times. Embracing your authentic self and nurturing your mental well-being are lifelong processes that require patience, self-compassion, and support.

Seeking support is not a sign of weakness but a courageous act of self-care. Reach out to trusted individuals who can provide guidance, understanding, and encouragement along the way. Surround yourself with a community that celebrates your strengths, passions, and individuality. Together, we can create a space where you can thrive, grow, and truly be yourself.

Embrace the challenges and setbacks as opportunities for learning and personal growth. Remember that it's not about achieving perfection or meeting external expectations, but about finding joy, fulfillment, and purpose in your own unique journey.

Believe in your resilience, your talents, and your ability to make a positive impact on the world. Even when the road ahead feels uncertain or difficult, trust that you have the inner strength and potential to overcome obstacles and create a life that is true to who you are.

You are deserving of love, acceptance, and understanding. Embrace your authentic self, embrace the journey, and always remember that you have a valuable place in this world.

Metamorphisis, zen, well being, wellness

About the Author:

Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner practicing in San Diego, California. She has over 15 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.


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