by Zeanne M
Chances are, you’ve probably met someone who’s been labeled as “gifted/smart” in their early years of school. Or maybe you’re this person yourself. Despite their academic successes in the past, there’s a good chance that this same person is currently struggling, because they’re doubting themselves or their abilities. In other words, they’re experiencing gifted kid burnout.
The impacts of gifted kid burnout
The term “gifted kid burnout” isn’t actually an official term. It’s a term made recently by youth on the internet that have been considered “gifted” during their childhood. Specifically, the term describes the academic anxiety that they experience currently, due to the way that they were brought up in school.
Harmful perfectionism is a common theme associated with gifted kid burnout. From the beginning, children who are academically “advanced” compared to other students were immediately labelled as “smarter”. And school systems everywhere had praised them for it. As a result, a superiority complex was instilled into these kids early on. This is due to their constant success at being on top of the academic competition.
However, this constant drive for perfection can be incredibly damaging. As they continue their academic journey (and even aside from academics), the expectations that these students set for themselves are almost always too high for them to reach, which then crushes their confidence. The social-emotional difficulties that they experience make them question whether they were ever good enough in the first place.
Many of us have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in our lives, whether we’ve ever been considered “academically gifted” or not. For example, say that you’re a fantastic soccer player. Ever since elementary school, you’ve always been the best. In high school, you join the school team, and everyone’s better than you. Your motivation and confidence are crushed, and you begin to wonder if you were ever really good, or if it was just people’s opinions that had kept you driven.
The definition of imposter syndrome is the feeling of “inadequacy that persists despite evident success“. Despite the evidence, these “imposters” are constantly doubting themselves and feeling like they don’t deserve something, whether this may be admission into a university or a good grade on a test.
Dr. Valerie Young, an imposter syndrome expert from the University of Massachusetts, outlines several different imposter groups.
- The Perfectionist – People who get crushed by small mistakes, as they can’t live up to their astronomically high expectations.
- The Superwoman/Superman – People who have the need to “prove themselves”. They never take days off, and always put in those extra hours.
- The Natural Genius – People who immediately feel terrible when they don’t get something on the first try.
- The Soloist – People who hate criticism or feedback, because it makes them feel like they did a terrible job.
- The Expert – People who feel as if they will never know enough to be truly “qualified”.
How to overcome it
When imposter syndrome gets the best of you, it’s essential to keep a couple things in mind.
- No one can truly be “perfect”.
- Make your thoughts empowering, not demotivating.
- Conquer your fears once in a while, it keeps things exciting.
- Don’t rely on other’s opinions for your own happiness.
- You’ve worked so hard to get this far. Don’t forget about that!
I’m not going to lie, I’ve 100% been a victim of imposter syndrome. I myself was a part of a “gifted program” in elementary/middle school, and as a result, I’ve grown up with a superiority complex that was the root cause of the negative thoughts I sometimes experience today. And I know that a lot of kids my age can relate when I say that it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. Ever since I started high school, I’ve been surrounded by brilliant students and teachers. The main way that I’ve conquered my imposter syndrome is by realizing that there’s so much to learn from those that are “better” than you. It’s way more positive and beneficial to learn, rather than to compare.
If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, remember that a lot of other people are too. Talk to someone who feels the same, and trust me, you’ll find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone 🙂