Is Being Gifted Really a Gift?


Audrey Mitchell

Is Being Gifted Really a Gift?
The definition of the word ‘gifted’ according to Google is “having exceptional talent or natural ability.” People think that they know the definition of gifted, but knowing the definition is not the same as seeing all of the effort that goes into earning it.
Many schools have gifted programs for students, where they are encouraged to learn things outside the scope of their grade level. People assume that gifted children have it easy and that they don’t have to work hard for the academic achievements they receive. However, the constant pressure from those around them creates stress and anxiety for students labeled as smart or overachieving.
Students that are told that they are smart or gifted often worry, according to Dr. Gail Post, that, “they will be exposed as ‘ungifted’ – impostors who cannot effortlessly excel and are not smart after all. Distorted thinking fuels anxiety and evokes feelings of shame, which pervades their sense of self.” These feelings can cause children to want to hide that part of themselves from the rest of the world or to develop the need to be perfect all the time, further perpetuating the cycle of mental illness concerns.
I was the kid that got labeled as ‘smart’ at an early age. I learned to talk, read, and write early, and I had a great memory. As I grew, I was put on the course for advanced classes and scored above average on almost everything. Then, when it came time to sign up for classes for high school, I decided that I didn’t really like science and didn’t want to stress myself out with a schedule full of all advanced classes. This was when I discovered the true weight of the expectations that rested on gifted children.
I had submitted my class request forms and was happily awaiting the end of my eighth-grade year when I got called to the counselor’s office. I came into the office and sat down, and the counselor told me that she wouldn’t let me take regular-level biology. With a GPA like mine, I would be throwing away a greater opportunity for my future. Her daughter had taken it, and it wasn’t hard, so she wouldn’t let me make a mistake like that. She changed it on my form and that was that.
These experiences, along with many others, made me realize that being gifted is not a gift. Instead of making school easier, it increased the pressure that others put on me and led to me feeling as if perfection had to be my normal standard. This type of stress isn’t healthy for any child, and it can make them feel lost and alone.
Due to the pressure of being gifted, many student’s mental health suffers. When students are struggling, so is their social life and relationships. Feeling trapped by expectations and alone, these kids tend to struggle keeping up with their courseloads and their friendships. When your intelligence and your GPA is prized above your friends and good mental health, gifted children tend to be more isolated and have less of a social life to buffer their academics. This leads to kids feeling even more ostracized and awkward in social situations and a lack of people to talk to about their struggles.
Instead of giving children potentially harmful labels, schools should focus on cultivating their student’s curiosity and creativity. When labels like gifted are not applied, children are allowed to be free and not feel like they have stepped into the Scarlet Letter with something written on their backs. This freedom can lead to a decrease in mental illness and an increase in happiness among students.