Highly Sensitive People

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Activity Forums General Discussion What does it mean to be “gifted”?

  • What does it mean to be “gifted”?

    Posted by Laura on 11/28/2023 at 10:18 am

    Hi everyone,

    I was just wondering what exactly “gifted” means, as I’m a little confused about this. Would someone be willing to clarify this for me please, as it’s quite a broad term which has more than one connotation. Talented, empathic maybe in this context? Great with particular areas, the list goes on.

    All the best,


    Sunny replied 7 months, 3 weeks ago 4 Members · 5 Replies
  • 5 Replies
  • John

    11/28/2023 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Laura, great question. Here’s my perspective on the word. Please read the whole post as it covers a few different approaches.

    Over the past 50 years at least, the term “gifted” and “gifted and talented” has referred to people that have an IQ in the top 2%. In the U.S. at least, children are screened at a young age to determine whether or not they ought to be placed in a special program for high IQ children. These K-5 programs offer special classes to the child during the school week. In some cases, support extends beyond the 5th grade but at that point, usually focuses exclusively on the academic aspects of being gifted.

    My personal experience is that these programs are a good start, but provide only a fraction of the support structure that gifted individuals require. A lack of attention to the emotional wellness of being gifted may account for some imbalance in our society today.

    A 2015 study found that almost 90% of gifted individuals are also highly sensitive. So that makes hi IQ people a subset of the 25-30% of the population that has HSP (highly sensitive physiology).

    I think it’s important to mention that a book came out in 1994 called “The Bell Curve.” In that book, there is apparently a section where the authors discuss a potential correlation between IQ and race. When that book came out, IQ suddenly became a topic that could no longer be discussed. Setting politics aside, there is a definite tragedy in that. Contrary to what one might assume, having a hi IQ is actually quite difficult and disorienting. It’s fair to say that hi IQ kids are a special needs group. That being the case, people who are “gifted” in this sense of the word need to have a place where they can learn about what it is to be gifted and connect with others who experience life in a similar way. Their parents need help and support. Just like people with HSP.

    Now, moving beyond that traditional definition of the word, personally, I think high sensitivity is a form of giftedness. Why? Because people who are highly sensitive have a heightened awareness of the world around them. They’re taking in more information, noticing subtle details, and integrating information more deeply than people who don’t have HSP. This is certainly a very valuable gift.

    Essentially, HSP is an evolutionary strategy, selected for over millions of years, that produces a different perceptual experience of life.

    It’s known at this point that people with HSP make some of the best leaders. And the heightened capacity for empathy that is wired into HSP endows the highly sensitive person with an exceptional ability to care for others. Certainly a gift.

    Someone in the community said earlier this year: Highly Sensitive Physiology: Nature’s Gift

    Thirdly, there is just the common usage of the word. “She is a gifted pianist.” “He is a gifted communicator.” This is a less specific usage, though I wouldn’t be surprised if such descriptions often refer to people who are highly sensitive and/or have a hi IQ.

    Fourthly, let’s say a person is very kind. That could be another type of giftedness. I have a neighbor who is actually mentally retarded, but is a really good person. He is gifted in some way, though not intellectually. One can be gifted in the heart, and perhaps that is the best way to be gifted.

    Fifth, there are some individuals who are extremely perceptive, psychic to some degree, and there are empaths. Personally, I think that being an empath is rooted in highly sensitive physiology, but there can be spiritual aspects involved. It’s certainly possible to say that certain people are spiritually gifted. And, there’s some potential for considerable B.S. in this area too!

    So, I don’t get too hung up on any one usage of the word. There can be considerable crossover between the different usages. Importantly though, there is a historical use of the word and this site aims to support those who do have a have a hi IQ as well as the larger part of the population who has HSP. I think a considerable portion of people with HSP identify as empathic, and rightly so.

    There are some books in the library on these subjects for those that are interested. Perhaps other people can chime in with their thoughts on the subject.

  • Linda

    11/29/2023 at 12:42 am

    Hi Laura – it is great to have you posting this question. It is quite a broad topic and can include many different things. There is always the school’s definition of it being higher intelligence and learning ability. You brought up the idea of being talented which would be more of an outward gift whereas being empathic would be an inward gift. I do like to think of the attributes of highly sensitive people as a type of giftedness — to be able to experience the world in more detailed ways. I have been very grateful to learn about hsp traits and find out the positive aspects of them, especially because they were not always seen that way in my life growing up. I do count them as a kind of giftedness now. I hope others will respond with their ideas about this topic of giftedness.

  • Laura

    11/29/2023 at 6:30 am

    Hi all,

    thanks so much for your replies – it seems to be an even broader topic than I realised, and you’ve given me much to consider in this area.

    • John

      11/29/2023 at 5:56 pm

      I was thinking about this a little more today, and I think courage is another notable area. Some people are gifted with courage, and the power of courage is significant.

  • Sunny

    11/30/2023 at 11:13 pm

    To me, it’s been absolutely conscious of yourself and your environment in the present moment.

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