Main Image.

New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education's Blog

What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Authentically Gifted



“It’s always those pieces we’re so tempted to hide in the shadows that turn out to be our edge when we bring them out into the belong here, as does every part of you.” - Marianne Cantwell


Fitting in; it seems simple enough, but for gifted kids, this can be a loaded term. Even though “as children, gifted girls and gifted boys are more similar to each other than they each are to their non-gifted, same-gender counterparts”, they rarely have opportunities with like-minded peers to feel validated for who they are, aiding in healthy identify development as a gifted learner. As a result, it is not uncommon for gifted characteristics to be masked from an early age (think early childhood), in a bid to disguise qualities, abilities, and interests that may stand out as being obviously different from their age peers.


“Like any child, I needed to be accepted and loved in order to feel worthy of love. The only way my child self could imagine being loved, considering how others reacted to my too-muchness, was to dissect myself into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bits, keep the good, and fix the bad by deleting or overwriting those parts of me. I would learn how to be ‘right’ and ‘good’, then I would be wanted and loved. Right?” - Silver Huang

As gender roles become more central to identity development through adolescence, this difference in being is again exacerbated for many. “Highly gifted people tend towards a more androgynous style, and few of them act out gender role stereotypes,” meaning that preferences may not align with those expected as typical of their gender group. Douglas Eby describes an androgynous person as having high levels of both so-called masculine traits (e.g. independence, autonomy, dominance) and feminine traits (warmth, awareness of others' feelings, expressiveness). This way of being can add additional pressures for tweens and teens who are becoming even more aware of societal expectations of gender roles, determining who they are, and their fit amongst age peers. As Annette Revel Sheeley notes, “some teens have described emotional struggles that they have endured because they don't fit neatly into the gender norms of our culture.”


“The unnatural strain from what I was doing to try to force myself to fit in to be loved consumed me as I grew into my teens. The fact that no matter how hard I tried, it didn't work, caused me to start to develop a true sense of hatred for myself, and eventually even for humanity. I grew bitter, jaded, morose, cynical, aggressive and uncontrollable. By the time I was 18, I belligerently embraced the label of dysfunctional rebel I was typecast as.” - Silver Huang

Enter underachievement. In a bid to cope with gender identity pressures, gifted boys are known to turn to purposeful underachievement. “In contexts in which achievement is associated with nerdhood and weakness, underachievement becomes a way of asserting independence, strength, and masculinity.” This way, achievement, and gender are distanced, serving as a protective factor for identity within the young person’s learning space. Similarly, underachievement is common among gifted females after school leaving, with gender expectations impacting on what is perceived as being expected and acceptable.


“By the time gifted males and females have reached adulthood, the development of their talent has been profoundly shaped by their gender...“As educators, we can prevent these compromised dreams by helping both girls and boys to discover their own meaning of femininity and masculinity, and by helping both girls and boys to make their choices based on their most deeply held values. “ - Barbara Kerr


Gifted children, from early childhood onwards, need to know that having abilities, qualities and interests not typically associated with their gender group is perfectly okay, and furthermore, is common, yes “normal”, among gifted learners, children and young people like themselves, who perceive, feel, think and respond to the world with sensitivity, depth, complexity and intensity. Our tweens and teens need to hear that “androgyny is common among the gifted” so that they are able to make sense of their experiences and develop an identity which validates them for who they are in a holistic sense, as gifted individuals and members of gifted groups.


“Giftedness was the final and most crucial piece of my puzzle because my giftedness ... I came to the vivid realisation that I had never been ‘wrong’ as a person — I had simply been using ill-fitting social and cultural contexts of the non-gifted neuromajority to evaluate myself as compared to the norm. I’d been modelling myself after the wrong neurosocial tribe, turning to the wrong tribes for validation and affirmation, and judging everything about myself as ‘wrong’ using invalid social data and contexts. Instead of being ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’, I am just different — a member of a perfectly natural neurominority that is an expression of the natural diversity of the human species.” - Silver Huang

So how does the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education help our gifted youngsters who are in the process of forming perspectives on their identity? Through providing time with like-minded peers in their Small Poppies, MindPlus and Gifted Online programmes, along with opportunities to explore interests and develop qualities and abilities, and time dedicated to personal development and understanding oneself as a gifted learner. If this sounds like it could be of interest for you or a young person you know, please get in touch.


For now, I leave you with a sublime role-model for thriving through liminality.



To find out about opportunities to engage and stretch the minds of your gifted youngsters in the coming year, get in touch with the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education today, and ask about their specialist programmes, training and library services.


'What's the Story?' is a blog section which is written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Like our Facebook page to read and share 'What's the Story?' or to get in touch.


Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.


Image credits: Ballet Boy by Adria Garcia Sarceda sourced from Unsplash is licensed under CC 2.0 and has been modified.


Authentically gifted: Gender and Liminality

+ Text Size -
Original generation time 3.2032 seconds. Cache Loaded in: 0.0483 seconds.