As a gifted young adult friend recently observed, “You think it’s tough growing up gifted. Just imagine growing up gifted under a magnifying glass.”
Popular gifted performers of all stripes face challenges similar to those that less-well-known gifted young people face.
Like asynchrony, for example.
These talented artists may create as if they’re years advanced but may still be years behind developmentally. Combine that with the fact that they may be controlled by parents, managers, and other adults who don’t really comprehend what giftedness is—the emotional and social facets as well as the intellectual and creative ones—or how it impacts these young people. How, then, can these kids truly understand themselves?
At worst, they spiral into addiction, risky behavior, or depression. At best, they have the support and resolve to not let either the lavish accolades or extreme criticism go to their heads and hearts, moving into adulthood relatively unscathed. Most, like the rest of us, land somewhere in-between.
And what about perfection and failure.
For some of these gifted young artists, perfectionism swirls as constant inner conflict. And, when they fall below their self-imposed thresholds, they do so in front of an audience—forced to learn from their mistakes as the crowd gathers ‘round, sometimes with proverbial rotten tomatoes in hand. And an applause-worthy encore doesn’t always follow.
Asynchrony, perfectionism, and intensities shadow these performers into early adulthood, where they may finally get their first taste of freedom—their golden opportunity to rebel. But, when artists we’ve relied upon to do one thing begin to experiment with others, they may make us uncomfortable. So, if their new paths lead to missteps, we are tempted to soothe ourselves with criticism. Eventually, the same creative drive that insists these artists reinvent themselves may lead them to break down.
The argument can be made that these performers receive great financial compensation and are afforded vast privileges that others can only dream of. True. But does that make them less sensitive, less vulnerable, more deserving of ridicule? Does their wealth and advantage preclude just reviews? Are their lapses of judgment worse than those of other gifted, but not famous, young people? When some among us begin to hold these well-known artists to different standards and treat them as if they’re less human because they’re more famous, is that fair?
In the end, the choice rests with each of us. Do we comment, gossip, and spread rumors? Or do we keep in mind that the behavior of these young gifted artists is often magnified to serve someone else’s purpose and that it is up to us to offer support to these members of the gifted population, just as we do to those who are not part of popular culture?
Special thanks to Pamela S. Ryan for creating the graphic!