Feeling like an outsider can help build excellence

“I never felt like I fit in anywhere.” Rachel Weisz

Many of us who are creative, sensitive, even gifted, have felt like outsiders. These feelings can be intensely painful, especially early in life, but can also help creative people excel.

Rachel WeiszThe quote by actor Rachel Weisz is from an article about her movie “Disobedience.”

Writer Amy Kaufman notes Weisz liked the story “because it was about not fitting in, which Weisz never feels she has.”

“I was just born that way. It’s not ‘different’ like better, but I never felt like I fit in anywhere.

“It’s an internal thing — you can’t tell from the outside.”

Her co-star Rachel McAdams commented about some of how Weisz works as an artist – which might be, at least partly, from “never fitting in”:

“She really goes into scenes with such an open mind,” McAdams says.

Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams in Disobedience“I find her a very brave actress that way.

“I sometimes really feel like I have to nail things down to feel secure, whereas she’s kind of the opposite.

“She doesn’t even really get attached to stage directions.

“I think she even scratches them out of her script because she just wants to be very, very free to explore and turn things on their head.

“I think she always is kind of drifting outside the box.”

From article Rachel Weisz takes matters in her own hands in her film ‘Disobedience’ by Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times, May 02 2018.


Sharon BarnesPsychotherapist Sharon Barnes works with sensitive, intense, gifted children and adults.

In one of her many articles that address the emotional and psychological challenges of being exceptional – and how to thrive – she notes:

“Many creative, sensitive, intelligent and/or gifted youth and adults feel like misfits, or as many have expressed, like aliens from a different planet.

“Although they may have learned to camouflage or try to hide it, they may carry within themselves a deep sense of inferiority and inadequacy, and may have concluded that they are defective in an irreparable way.

“For many, having an awareness of being profoundly different than others and then drawing a conclusion that ‘I’m defective’ can come as young as ages 2-5 or even younger ? at the very time that the foundations of the Self are being constructed.

“All too often this can evolve into a secret sense of alienation, and is often accompanied by anxiety, depression, anger, rage and a plethora of additional distressing emotional states.

“This eventually can lead to despair and deep discouragement.”

She goes on to detail “how to rescue yourself, him- or herself from this sense of inferiority, inadequacy and defectiveness, so you or they can instead, recognize your or their distinctiveness and make the creative contribution for which you or they are uniquely prepared.”

Read much more in her article:

Different by Design: “Finding the MAGIC in Being a Sensitive and/or Gifted MisFit OR … How to MOVE From FEELING Defective to BEING Distinctive.


Sandra Tsing LohWriter, performer and radio program host Sandra Tsing Loh recalls being a student at CalTech was a mixed experience:

“I think I was regarded as a very odd person, indeed. I didn’t fit there, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was bad in science. It was kind of a mess.”

[Q: That whole idea of fitting in, and not fitting in, seeing oneself as an outsider, is a common theme with talented people. Do you continue to feel that?]

“Yes, and I think there are a lot of reasons.

“Growing up, in junior high school especially, when I went to Malibu Parks Junior High, where we literally had movie stars going to our school, I mean you were definitely of the ‘nerdy kid’ group, as opposed to the popular kids… taking cello lessons, and in the Latin Club, and such a geek compared to everyone else.

“And junior high is a particularly horrible time. But I remember around that time I and my friends, who were totally the nerds, had real fun starting our own little clubs and stuff like that.”

Sandra Tsing Loh – from our interview.


The Gifted AdultIn her book The Gifted Adult, Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PhD writes about the experience:

“To feel like an outsider, to constantly pressure yourself to hold back your gifts in order to fit in or avoid disapproval, to erroneously believe that you are overly sensitive, compulsively perfectionistic, and blindly driven, to live without knowing the basic truths about the core of your being – too often this is the life of every day geniuses who have been kept in the dark about who they are and misinformed about their differences.

“No one told them they cannot escape the fact that they will always be quantitatively, qualitatively, and motivationally different from most other people.

“Nor do they know that these very same things that are the basis of criticism are fundamental building blocks of excellence and advanced development.”

Also see articles by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen:

Arousing the Sleeping Giant: Giftedness in Adult Psychotherapy

Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time

Giftedness in the Workplace: Can the Bright Mind Thrive in Organizations?


Social Emotional Health Program for Creative, Gifted, Highly Sensitive People

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