Bright people are often very good at many things. This is a blessing and a curse. The problem I often see is that when a child is born with a talent, they often are expected to develop that talent. If a child is a piano prodigy or artist or brilliant mathematician, most people expect that the child should be playing in an orchestra, painting daily, or attending MIT. If the child feels pressured to do these things they are particularly good at, they can develop resentment or anxiety. They begin to detest their God-given talent. They may even develop shame that they are not utilizing their talents to extremes, maybe even unrealistic extremes.
How many times have they heard, “If I could play like that I would never stop!” Really? What if you just enjoyed playing music for fun? What if drawing was just a hobby you engaged in occasionally. What if you danced just for the joy of dancing? What if learning was not filled with the pressure of expectations of performance? Is it really OK to be a genius and not go to college because you love being a mechanic?
A very important lesson in life is to have talent and know what you really want to do. It might involve that talent; it might not. Who cares? If someone else cares, they are struggling with their own internal demons of jealousy or feeling their own shame and inadequacy. Gifted people need to be clever enough to not take on the energy of other people, no matter who they are.
This also applies to people who can never say no (you know who you are). Stay-at-home parents (I do not distinguish between men and women because I see the same struggles with stay-at-home dads as moms) often get caught in the volunteering trap. First, you volunteer to be a room parent in kindergarten to plan the class parties because who wouldn’t want to do that? Then in a couple years you are secretary of the PTO. Then you are running the concession stand at the high school, organizing fund raisers, sitting on the school board, and saying yes to every request that anyone makes of you. You don’t have time to cook dinners or care for yourself the way you would want or maybe once did. Those gifted people who are good “doers” can be exploited in systems like education. Given their desire to help and contribute they get caught up in feeling productive again, maybe like they did when they had a “real” job. There is prestige in some of these positions. There is external validation (very shiny).
Reality check, you aren’t getting paid. There is an energetic imbalance. Just because you can bake three dozen cookies over the weekend doesn’t mean you should. Maybe you need to rest, spend quality time with the TV, maybe you want to go to the movies with the kids, or maybe you need to just rest (yes, I know I repeated myself).
I am guilty of overdoing. It has cost me my health and joy. I had to learn the hard way. Go easy on yourself. Learn to check in with yourself and honestly find out if you want to say yes to something or not. You know the feeling. It is in your gut not your brain.
If you are a master with computers, you should not be at family holiday parties defragmenting your mom’s hard drive (or whatever people do today to fix PCs). This same scenario can happen at work. People can demand more of you than the value of your paycheck. There has to be equity in any relationship for you to feel good.
If your son has an amazing arm and can throw a baseball like a pro at the age of seven, be careful. Introducing our children to different activities is great. Do not watch for what they are good at, watch for what they love to do. If they have a great arm and absolutely love to play baseball, bonus!!! If they do not like to play baseball but they like it when you are happy and enthusiastic about their abilities, be aware. They are playing to please you and may even seem happy. As they mature, they will move away from that sport and you will be scratching your head saying, “What ever happened to baseball?” Pay attention to the light in their eyes. As a life coach I am trained to look for it. When someone’s eyes light up and their energy rises, I am all over it. Parents can do the same for their children. You can tell the difference between a child who plays because they love a game or because they are trying to please you.
My oldest son is a great piano player. He has decided that he will only play for himself. It soothes his anxiety. While family members beg him to play, he refuses (his brother is the same with his guitar). The family is put off by this and often say, “Doesn’t he understand that we enjoy hearing him play? We are not judging him?” They are missing the boat. Just because he plays the piano beautifully, who is to say it should be for the benefit of others? I am personally thrilled he continues to play at all because it makes him happy. Every now and then I can hear him play through a vent in the house and I enjoy it immensely and secretly wish he would play for others. Why do I wish that? Because I want to show off to my family that I actually have a kid who can do something impressive. I have an extended family full of high achievers. My children are highly challenged. So my reasons are selfish ones. I let those reasons go and enjoy that my son has a tool to help himself.
Just because you can paint like Monet, does not mean you should. You should only paint if it comes from your heart and brings you joy. If something brings you joy, you will naturally do it. If it is a daily struggle that brings you misery, let it go. Just because you can accomplish 47 tasks in a single day, does not mean you should. Just because you can make everyone else’s life easier, does not mean you should.
Live by choice.