“Gifted kid” burnout

Makar M., Staff Writer

For students being labeled as academically “gifted” at an early age, stress from the weight of expectations may result in needing support.

Labels can impact a person greatly if they are accepted as a genuine factor of identity, but being labeled as gifted is not a black-and-white issue. Both positive and negative outcomes with how students see themselves and how they perform are possible.  

“[…] I think it depends [on] how [the label and program are] handled… There are certainly some beautiful programs out there for kids who are labeled as gifted, so I certainly think that is a benefit, but at the same time, if that label is creating some unrealistic expectations, it could be a negative,” said School Psychologist Roseann Sciancalepore.

Depending on the enrichment program, the school, the child and their family, labels can lead to negative outcomes like lowering one’s self esteem. Labels can often cement at the core of a child’s identity.

“[…] The child [labeled as gifted] will feel like they may not need to work as hard to achieve good results and when they don’t, it will lead to a loss of self confidence. The child may feel like they failed to live up to their expectations,” said sophomore Kevin M., via instant message.

This lack of self confidence can grow alongside an aversion to developing healthy work and study habits. Students who were previously seen as gifted may not have needed to manage their time or develop study skills to succeed. The expectations associated with the label will stick with them. 

“I wouldn’t say [a negative outcome is present] across the board, I wouldn’t say that’s the way everyone is going to interpret that label […] but absolutely there are some kids […] who get used to not needing to study. [They think if they are] truly gifted then why should [they] ever have to study,” said Sciancalepore.

This has created a trend on social media where these former gifted kids find others like them who are experiencing burnout, or are unable to focus or have a lack of confidence in themselves.

“I have seen [those posts]. I think it’s pretty common [to feel how they do]. I think it just makes all that anxiety [that comes with being labeled as gifted] okay, like you’re supposed to go through it,” said sophomore Nisa C., via instant message.

These strong feelings of anxiety and guilt over not being able to meet the standards of this label can cause further bad habits to develop, including procrastination. Like a downward spiral, it’s possible for dread and anxiety to keep piling on top of each other, effectively normalizing this process for many. Procrastinating perfectionists live in high stress situations.

“[They don’t] want to do [their work] but everyone needs the grades, like a reward,’ said Nisa C.

 These types of students are not alone, and they can be helped with the right guidance. Taking back labels from their identity, making them actualize a positive self-image , developing good habits and changing what stress means for them are part of this process. 

“While some people may not study as long as others,  forming healthy study habits would definitely help prepare students for high school and beyond,” said Kevin M.

Those who struggle with being weighed down by labels all experience these inner burdens differently. It is important to keep them in mind to help them get back on track so that they are prepared for what lies ahead.

“I think that it’s important for them to be open to learning these study skills, which I know is the first obstacle, because they may often feel like ‘I don’t study, that’s not who I am, that’s not my identity. I don’t need that’. The first step is to have some conversation about how if they want to continue to go in this high achieving direction now we need to boost those skills a little bit. That doesn’t take away someone’s intelligence. That doesn’t take away who someone is […] I think it’s really helpful to bring like-minded kids together to learn in a group, learn organizational skills, time management skills, study skills, how to get started on a big task, making sure you follow through, and not procrastinating,” said Sciancalepore.

Although labels can affect a person’s approach to school, one’s view of oneself matters the most. For some, the ‘burnt out gifted kid’ moniker is one that describes them, but it does not have to.🔳