Breaking myths: Gifted and misunderstood

6 min
Montserrat Pinillos

BarcelonaThey all learned that they were highly gifted as adults. Knowing this changed their perception of themselves: Albert Sauri felt identified in his diagnosed son, Montse Valls understood where her "permanent dissatisfaction" came from, Raquel Tomàs understood some emotional changes and Montserrat Pinillos discovered that she was not "the black sheep" of the family, as she thought. The four explain to ARA the not always easy path of being gifted.

"School was torture for me and nobody motivated me"

What memories do you have from your time at school?

MONTSERRAT PINILLOS: I was a school failure. School was torture for me. Nobody motivated me and the reinforcement from the teachers was always negative. When I got good marks (which wasn't very often) they told me that I could do more, and when I got bad marks they told me that I didn't put enough dedication into it. I always thought I was the black sheep of the family.

ALBERT SAURI: They always told me that I could do more and better. The problem was that this increased my level of self-demand, which was already very high. The feeling was that you are never good enough. I think it's a problem with the education system.

MONTSE VALLS: In my case, I have many good memories of the infant and primary school years. When they gave us activities I did them all and I did some extension activities. Even so, everything changed when I got to ESO, when I started to fail everything. I hadn't acquired the habit of studying and I didn't have a culture of effort, because I knew how to do everything on the spot and I didn't have to make much effort.

RAQUEL TOMÀS: I'm very different from the three of them, because I was what used to be called a nerd. I had a lot of facility and I had an extreme perfectionism and a very great sense of responsibility. I had been taught that what you had to do was study, so I took it to the extreme.

Montse Valls, 31, was a translator but decided to study another career. The detection of giftedness was a key factor in her decision

How did teachers treat you?

M.V.: I had no middle ground. I either got on very well with teachers or I got on very badly. The difference was their authoritative attitude. I really liked teachers who were close to me and who cared about the students. On the other hand, I rebelled against those who weren't like that.

R.T.: From a teacher's point of view, I was a person who went completely unnoticed, since I didn't need any help at all. I was always used as an example as a studious person, but I was asked to be more social. My reports were always along these lines. I remember that teachers were also quite authoritarian.

A.S.: I don't remember them worrying too much about me, even though I had a fairly cordial relationship with them. Sometimes there were things that were very difficult for me to understand, but when I understood them I would say: "Look how easy it was to explain and how badly they explained it to us". Even so, I had good teachers who tried to bring out the potential I had inside me.

M.P.: I spent my classes looking at the English teacher's ties. In EGB I remember that they scolded me, sent reports home and used me as a negative example to the rest of my classmates. One person even threw a piece of chalk at me. In vocational training things got better.

Albert Saurí, 39, is self-employed and has created his own company. He has a son who is also gifted

Has your condition influenced you at work?

M.P.: I wouldn't know if it has influenced me or not. I worked for ten years with nuns and I did my work and that of the others. Then I studied a career in the evenings, even though I don't think the fact that I was gifted influenced me. And then I opened my centre focused on helping children with high intellectual abilities. I do many things at the same time, and maybe I do see a relationship with this.

R.T.: My perfectionism and extreme self-demandingness have not allowed me to have good work experiences. I worked for ten years as a family doctor, but instead of taking ten minutes per visit I took forty or fifty. It's a perfectionism that I can't control and now I don't work anymore. I have taken the MIR eight times and I have passed them all. I am 50 years old and I have finished two specialties, but I am absolutely incapable of working. I don't know how to solve it.

A.S.: When I entered the world of work I wasn't aware that I had high intellectual capacities. They act as an amplifier, but I don't think we can fall into the trap of thinking that high abilities have influenced everything. I have been a person who has always wanted to go further and has never had enough. But with age I have been calming this restlessness. In the world of work I haven't had many problems.

M.V.: I became self-employed in 2012 and I was doing translations for a long time. At first I liked it, but little by little I got bored with it. I went to a psychologist and they told me I had high intellectual abilities. I had to rethink everything that had happened to me up to that point and it was a turning point. Then I decided to give up translation and start a new career.

Raquel Tomàs, 50, is a family doctor but she doesn't see herself capable of working. She is not giving up and is thinking about new professional projects

In your job, do you explain that you have high abilities?

M.V.: I was self-employed, but I have never explained to my clients that I was gifted. I don't think you can say it, because people think you're an overconfident person. You can't find the time to explain it. Also, a lot of times I don't think about it.

A.S: In my environment there are people who know and people who don't. It's a question of trust with the other person. It's an intimate thing, from my point of view. It's true that when you know you have high abilities you want to tell your friends, but not at work. In the work sector there is a great lack of knowledge about what high abilities are. There are still too many prejudices behind it. Luckily, I own my own company and I haven't had to explain it to anyone. By the time this interview comes out, we will have come out of the closet. We won't need to say anything anymore, the people around us will know.

"I bore people and they bore me"

How are your personal relationships with family and friends? Do you feel understood?

R.T.: Always with the premise that I don't know if it's the high capacities or my way of being, I've been a quiet person, but I consider myself sociable and I haven't been excluded. Of course, I didn't go beyond a superficial relationship. I got on well with a lot of people, but I never ended up having best friends. I bore people, and they bore me too. I've learned that I won't be a person with many friends, but the ones I have, I want them to be the more real the better.

M.P.: I have been a very introverted person, although now I am improving thanks to the job I have. I've had very few friends: three or four people who are still with me. In fact, I have never understood many of the people around me and the jokes they make, or, rather, the nonsense they do. They didn't understand me either. It has always been quite frustrating.

M.V.: I've also been very introverted and at school I even played alone. I need my alone time. I have few friends, but I don't need more, really. Although I'm not shy, it's hard for me to get to know a person.

A.S.: I have given myself a lot to relationships and sometimes the opposite has not been true. Perhaps the high capacities intensified it. I am a person who lives relationships with intensity. I also know how to adapt to the environments I'm in: I can be introverted or extroverted depending on the people I'm with. You have to know which cards you show and which ones you don't show.

What are the positive aspects of high intellectual abilities?

M.P.: I think the most positive part is my hyperactivity, motivation and the need to help others. I would also highlight the intuition I have, like a little bird that warns me of everything.

M.V.: Giftedness has helped me to be a very creative, empathetic person, even though I thought they were defects. The ACACIA association - where the interviewees met - has helped me to change my vision and to discover that there were people like me. There we meet people with high abilities and we share our experiences. It's true that it's been very good for me to know that there are more people like me and that I'm not the only black sheep.

R.T.: Imagination and creativity. This helps me to escape from reality and make an interstellar journey into myself. Also the ability to cooperate and to always get ahead, even though there are many difficulties. My life is an absolute failure, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. To have these virtues is an extraordinary privilege. A gift.

A.S.: The dedication, the insatiable curiosity to go beyond and to go deeper into everything. Also at the level of creativity and imagination. We must strongly embrace our virtues.