Advice for 2e Adults

Advice for 2e Adults

spinningskyMany 2e adults are still struggling to figure themselves out. They often have depressing memories of how confused, frustrated, and ostracized they felt as children. These memories may continue to impact their lives as they mature. The adult world can be just as harsh and judgmental as it was when they were children; but they now have the added burden of needing to compete in the job market, be functional in relationships, and responsible for others. This is tough for any adult, but for someone who has always struggled to assimilate, it can be overwhelming. I can offer the following advice to help you figure out how to make your multi-faceted self fit into that round hole we call life.

Learn about twice exceptionality. Understand why you feel and behave the way you do.

Be your authentic self. Many 2e persons have difficulty fitting into “typical” social expectations. Allow yourself to create a life that may fall outside of societal norms. It is important that you feel comfortable and able to live according to your own wants and needs.

Embrace both your abilities and disabilities. People often see the disabilities more than the abilities, and that can prevent them from reaching their full potential. Disabilities should be accommodated, but should not be your only focus. Your abilities need to be acknowledged and nurtured too.

Don’t underestimate your abilities, 2e people frequently evaluate their competence based on their disabilities, which can lead to underachievement, disengagement, and depression.

Find your niche. Your passions and talents will be best utilized if you stay connected to what you love and find a way to build your life around those passions.

Find a group of friends who are kindred spirits and have intellectual synergy. It is important to be with those who understand your humor, share your passions, forgive your quirks, and allow you to be yourself.

Be your own advocate. Seek good professional support, but trust your own instincts too.

Accept that many “typical” school and work situations may not be a good fit. Twice exceptional people often reject expectations that feel meaningless to them. It is critical that you allow yourself to be autonomous, even if it means rejecting the status quo. Being an entrepreneur or finding a way to be self-employed may be a good choice for 2e people.

Embrace your intensity. Don’t let others denigrate your feelings and experiences.

Don’t expect to be brilliant all the time. Allow yourself to have periods of rest and reflection.

You don’t have to be well rounded. It is your right to pursue your passions with singular focus.

Others may have difficulty understanding your drive, moods, ideas, sensitivity, and intensity. Try to understand others’ perspective, but don’t give up your essential core to fit their expectations. Don’t dumb yourself down to fit in.

Many twice exceptional people are great at starting projects, but poor finishers. Sometimes it is because they have too many competing ideas, or they don’t feel they can produce what they see in their mind, or they are afraid they will disappoint themself or others. Work to build your self-efficacy and resilience, both will help you push through those anxieties.

Don’t give in to perfectionism, it will cripple your ability to pursue your work to completion.

Understand that you are essentially an asynchronous being. You will always have areas where you are far below “normal” and areas where you are far above. Your intellect, imagination, spontaneity, inquisitiveness, enthusiasm, sensitivity, impatience, and emotionality are an integral part of your make up, but are often out of sync with the world around you. You may not move through typical adult stages of life at the same time, or in the same manner, as “normal” people do.


Childhood struggles with twice exceptionality can be crippling, but they do not need to have the same impact on your adult life. You have more opportunity to avoid unhealthy situations and expectations as an adult. While you may continue to feel out of sync with others, you have more control over your life.

High cognitive abilities can lead to success, but can also lead to intense frustration if you are unable to fulfill your expected potential. You may have to reject society’s achievement-bound definition of success in order follow your passions.

Don’t let your intensity destroy intimacy. Build your ability to see another’s perspective and approach relationships with empathy, for yourself and for others.

Find a way to give back and help others. You have the capacity to see things others may not notice, utilize your unique vision to contribute to your community.

Stay tuned to your own developmental pace, but make sure you continue to progress throughout your life. There is always something more you can to do enrich your connections, accomplish your goals, and make a difference in the world.

Dr. Melanie Hayes