A few years ago I found out about synesthesia and yet another piece of the strange way I viewed the world started to make sense. The short explanation is that it’s a neurological phenomenon that causes the senses to get mixed up in some way. So, someone who has it might smell lemons when they hear a particular piece of music. Or see numbers or letters as each having their own color. For me personally, I had always felt like each letter of the alphabet (and numbers too) had a specific gender. I knew that it wasn’t something I had invented with my imagination. It was just the way things were for me.
I was super excited about my discovery. Not only did it help me understand the way my mind worked, but it was a fascinating subject overall. The creative possibilities that it opened up blew me away.
Then I shared my findings with my group of friends at the time, and their first response was to laugh at me. I was puzzled and hurt. When I tried to forge on with the topic anyway, they started to poke fun at me with sarcastic comments. They basically said that they doubted this was real, and if such a thing did exist then I was probably imagining that it had anything to do with me. When I told them how I felt like the number 2 was most definitely male, and that I could see him and could describe his personality, they rolled their eyes and laughed some more.
I went home that night feeling completely defeated. But it turned into a victory, because that night was a turning point. From that day forward, I decided it was time to make some new friends.
My big epiphany didn’t come solely from that one experience. It was the fact that I had been having similar experiences to that one for years. I had always been made fun of—by friends and strangers alike—for my odd interests and eccentric personality. But it was the friends making fun of me that really stung.
The truth was that my brain always got me in trouble. My brain wanted to read huge difficult books and talk about them with anyone would listen. My brain wanted to make dark and twisted jokes that most audiences didn’t get. My brain wanted to spend hours writing and learning for no foreseeable goal and instead just for fun.
Some people told me I was a nerd. Some said that I liked to use “million dollar words.” And others (most of all my friends) let me know that I was just plain weird.
What also really sucked was that even though I was a nerd and I knew I was a nerd, my nerdy tendencies didn’t veer toward the mathematical/scientific/mechanical side. So the one area of nerdom that was becoming more enthusiastically accepted in society, due to the rise of computers, didn’t feel like it was a fit for me either.
It wasn’t until I started researching psychology and personality theory that I happened across information about the gifted population. I almost cried when I read the descriptions. This was me all over. It didn’t matter that I hated math (a point I had always assumed categorized me as “dumb”). And it didn’t matter that I didn’t do well with logic either. Not all gifted people are gifted in the same way. Just because our society values engineering and hard science over art and literature doesn’t mean that one set of gifts is more valuable than another.
However, even though we may have different kinds of gifts, people in the gifted population share the same personality traits. See if any of these apply to you:
An insatiable thirst for knowledge (whether through reading, listening, watching, or interacting)
Talent for creative association of ideas (writing a poem about building a car out of fruit salad, for example)
A constant need for mental challenge
Relentless pursuit of personal growth/self-actualization as a driving force in life
High anxiety/high sensitivity/high motor activity
This is just a small sampling of the list of traits that indicate a gifted mind, but if you’re a writer, you probably already see yourself in this short list. For me, the real a-ha! moment came when I realized that so many other creative people out there probably felt like I did. Like they were just plain weird. Strange. A nerd. “Eccentric” if the person was being generous, indulging us in our quirks. And all of those labels hurt. They shut us down and made us feel small and defective. It was yet another reason for us to try to go about life being as invisible as possible.
But when I found out what I was, what I really was—highly intelligent, highly creative, and highly empathetic—I began to soar. Everything changed. I dropped my old friends and made new ones. People who loved my twisted sense of humor and were reading huge difficult books of their own. People who were actually interested in reading my writing. People who made me feel like I could stand tall and crack my heart wide open.
If you’re a writer, an INFJ or INFP…if you’re an Idealist personality, or an empath or Highly Sensitive…if you’re an artist, an intellectual, a philosopher, or a believer…you’ve probably felt this way too. Everything is changing now, for all of us. We’re finding out what we are and we’re finding the other people out there who have been through similar experiences and get it.
If you’re interested in learning more about the experience of being gifted, and a writer, and feeling like an alien, I have a whole chapter on it (called “You’re Not Weird, You’re Gifted”) in The INFJ Writer. There are also chapters on dealing with self-doubt, low self-esteem, and perfectionism.
If you know you’re creative, but you’ve spent way too much time in the past feeling like something must be wrong with you, reading The INFJ Writer can definitely help you see that you’re not defective. It’s just that your purpose is to find and create beauty in the most unlikely of places. Pick up a copy and take the first step toward your own big epiphany.