An impostor is a person who deliberately tries to deceive others for some form of personal gain. There is a variety of reasons why a person would become an impostor. The impostor may be trying to gain something tangible like money or they may be seeking something conceptual like freedom or acceptance. They may be trying to win your approval, your daughter’s heart, your heart, or maybe even a chance to get out of jail and live life outside the walls of prison on parole. Regardless of the reason, one trait that all impostors have in common is an ability to act fake.
One trait that almost all gifted people have in common is the ability to detect another person acting fake, thus they are great impostor detectors. (When I use the term “gifted,” that includes gifted, talented, and creative individuals). For the gifted individual, this is a double edged sword. It’s great in the sense that they are less likely to be conned by others, it’s hurts a bit because it makes life a little difficult for gifted children trying to establish relational and social stability.
In my experience, it’s not uncommon to hear gifted students judge their peers, teachers, coaches, parents, and even school headmasters with an authenticity criteria. For example, my teacher goes to my church but I heard her cussing in the hallway. Or, there’s the “My parents act one way in public but another way at home.” Everyone thinks that my peer, Little Miss Perfect, is so smart, but she’s always copying off another person’s homework right before class. My parents want me to hangout with these kids from my youth group, but I don’t want to because those kids are out drinking and being sexually curious. I want to hang out with these kids who don’t go to church but would rather hangout and talk about how the dinosaurs became extinct due to global warming.
I hardly notice a gifted child making a judgment without some just cause. They almost always have a better reason for making their judgement call then I have to tell them otherwise. Unless it’s a command from God that’s specifically written in the Bible, my attempts to debate them to a different conclusion will remain just that in their minds, an attempt. They may agree with their fingers crossed just to make me stop talking to them, but their hearts are still resting with their initial judgement. No real change has taken place and without some type of miracle, no real change will.
Why is this important? Why is a gifted child’s ability to detect an impostor blog worthy? Because, it predicts just how much YOU can actually direct a child’s life. What he/she will believe as true. What values he/she holds. What he/she will believe about the world, about authorities, about others, and about themselves. How authentic you are with a gifted person (child or adult) directly and positively correlates with how much weight you will be about to pull in helping to change the direction of their lives.
With my work with gifted teenagers and college student, they like to hang out with who they refer to as “Real People.” Real People are their way of referring to persons who are authentic. The authenticity is a doorway for that person’s imperfections to show and when a gifted person see’s that the other person isn’t trying to be someone they are not (fake), then that is the foundation of trust. They trust people’s reliability and opinions who are real with them. Hopefully, that person holds good virtues and values, but if they do not….then you are now battling two persons instead of one. You (as the parent) will battle this “real” person’s value system and your child who will be adamant that they can believe the “real” person’s opinions because they can trust them.
It can get really hairy and really crazy really fast. REALLY FAST. And,then you may even find yourself defending yourself as a true, reliable, and knowledgable authority figure in your child’s life, because now they are coming against you with an attorney’s case of your past insecurities and impostor moments. “Mom, you said you couldn’t STAND THAT WOMAN and you gave her a hug and acted all nice at the grocery store! YOU’RE FAKE!!! You talk about leading others to Christ, but then you yelled at the dude driving and cussed him out! FAKE!!!” It can get crazy. They have a tendency to remember everything when they’re needing to prove a point.
Some parents raise their eyebrows at me for saying things like this and give me that rolled eye and head wag of “No, that’s just not going to happen to me. My child would never…” That’s great. I hope it doesn’t, but for the rest of you who are smiling with the smile of relief that it’s not just your child doing this…here’s some pointers for you to help you “Stay Real” in the eyes of your children:
- Keep your Promises. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it. Don’t miss their game due to a meeting with your boss. You will reap what you sow. If you sow into your job but not your children, then you will reap financial gain and kids who don’t respect you.
- Act on your Beliefs. If you say that your mission in life is to spread the gospel and serve others, then do it. Invite others to church in front of your kids and offer to pick them up. Grab the kids and do a habitat for humanity project once a month or so. Act out your beliefs.
- Don’t lie to others. Don’t tell other people things like, “Let’s get together for coffee” or “I’ll call you” if you never plan on doing it. Don’t pretend that your life is the one you advertise on FaceBook in front of other people. Don’t be one person at church and then another somewhere else. Don’t be deceptive. And, don’t lie to your kids.
- Show Them How to U-Turn. If you mess up, if you cuss, if you scream at them, if you say something you don’t mean to them or about them or to/about someone else, tell them you messed up and then change your behavior. The ability to admit fault and to teach your children how to accept responsibility is priceless. They will not learn that in school. They will learn how to be victims and blame everyone for everything. Don’t teach them how to live as victims. Teach them how to take control of their lives by taking responsibility for their behavior (good and bad) and teaching them how to make a U-Turn when they make a bad choice in life.
I think I could write an entire book about how amazing gifted children and gifted adults are at targeting impostors and how that impacts their lives. I hope that this short blog brings a new level of awareness and insight to all the parents, educators, and counselors who read it. Lastly, thank you for caring enough about this population to take the time to read my thoughts.
Dr. Suzy Thompson