Testimony: Recognizing an Adult High Potential

Article updated on February 15, 2022

Discover one of Mel’ s first testimonies when the blog was created. It’s 2017, she’s 30 years old, and she discovers as an adult that she is HPI (or zebra, or gifted).

How to recognize an HPI, by a zebra detected as an adult!

Detecting HPI late, at the age of 30, I am a gifted adult who was built during childhood and adolescence without knowing that I was a High Potential person.

In 2017, the buzzword was Zebra to talk about High Potential. Jeanne Siaud Facchin, at the origin of this Zebra, wrote the best-seller that democratized High Potential to the general public:“too intelligent to be happy“.

Like manyadults with High Potential, I found myself in this book. I liked the vision of the giftedness made by Jeanne Siaud-Facchin. Even if many people denounce the hype of his book and the fashion for HPI (gifted, zebra, high potential), this book helped me to dare to take the WAIS test.

Many psychologists criticize the work of Jeanne Siaud-Facchin and the term “zebra” because she combines in her book two characteristics of High Potential that do not have a consensus in the neuroscientific community specialized in High Potential.

Recognizing a High Potential adult, the signs according to Jeanne Siaud-Facchin

What bothers some neuropsychologists in this definition of High Potential is that Jeanne Siaud-Facchin associates hypersensitivity with high cognitive or intellectual abilities.

I will quote directly Jeanne Siaud-Facchin and her book ” Too Smart to be Happy ” :

  • Being gifted is first and foremost a way of being intelligent, an atypical mode of intellectual functioning, an activation of cognitive resources whose cerebral bases differ and whose organization shows unexpected singularities.
  • it is not a question of being quantitatively more intelligent, but of having a qualitatively different intelligence. It’s really not the same thing.
  • Being gifted combines a very high level of intellectual resources, an extraordinary intelligence, immense capacities of comprehension, analysis, memorization AND a sensitivity, an emotionality, an affective receptivity, a perception of the five senses, a clairvoyance whose extent and intensity invade the field of thought. The two facets are ALWAYS intertwined.
  • Being gifted is a way of being in the world that colors the whole personality.
  • To be gifted is to have emotion on the edge of your lips, always, and to think on the edge of infinity, all the time.

For my part, I think that this expression of hypersensitivity should be interpreted as heightened awareness and not hypersensitivity in its intrinsic definition.

To remember

I also believe that we must not forget that a High Potential adult is above all a human being. Even though HPI is not a cognitive disorder but simply a singular functioning, a person with HPI may be affected by DYS, ADHD and hypersensitivity. Neurodiversity is a spectrum that affects a lot of people. 1 in 3 people with intellectual disabilities are also said to have ADD/ADHD. ADD/ADHD can make you more sensitive. Therefore, it is not surprising that HPI is often associated with hypersensitivity.

Recognizing your HPI: The Too Smart to be Happy book

I really loved Jeanne Siaud-Facchin’s book. Even if she is not unanimous, I find her definition of giftedness very accurate, human, benevolent and understanding… I think it was this book that made me want to write my own. It’s often when you read the stories of other adult zebras that you discover that you are one.

And while I think it is very important that neuropsychologists study the Gifted and offer reliable sources, you can’t blame people for turning to accessible works ! It would be a lie to believe that existing books with a scientific approach will be more popular with people looking for information on the High Learning Potential !

Finally, I believe that the most important thing is not to know what an HPI is in the strict scientific sense. A person who discovers that he or she is HPI knows that he or she is detected because he or she has an IQ over 130 on the WAIS test, but what does he or she do with this information?

Recognizing an HPI: the birth of the Follow the Zebra blog

This is the beginning of the Follow the Zebra story. I found out I was HPI but I knew absolutely nothing about how it works. And at that time knowing that I had an IQ of 130 was the least of my worries. I just wanted to understand myself! To understand this brain that never paused! Understand who I was!

Our advice

Discovering thatyou are HPI or zebra when you are an adult is a huge realization and a big questioning! It’s a life-changing experience because you finally understand who you really are. During this period, you go through several stages, relief, joy, doubt, anger, sometimes denial, then acceptance. It’s normal that it takes temops and that you go through all the colors of the rainbow at this time. Remember that you are not alone!

hypersensitivity and emotional management

If you need tools to help you, you’ll find several on this blog:

But I thought that a bit of second degree, because yes, we can have it, would do us good. 6 years ago, when I discovered my HPI and then my hypersensitivity, I really felt that way !

Recognizing an adult HPI (Zebra, Gifted) according to Mel!

So after 30 years of not knowing I was a zebra, I’d like to give you a little review of this experience!


Remember, this is not a scientific or psychological definition! A bit of humor to talk about this subject so mediatic and sometimes controversial, it’s good!

According to my personal experience and with a bit of second degree, my High Potential translates on a daily basis by :

– my ability to beintolerant of others at times. I can’t stand people who do stupid things, simply because I don’t understand why they do it. The one who attacks people on social networks by saying things totally out of context and without knowing the person’s history. If you don’t agree with what the person is posting then leave the page! People who are violent or racist… Thosewho park in a handicapped space when they are not handicapped or who throw their garbage or cigarette butts on the ground.

This kind of action puts me in a mad rage. I don’t understand how anyone can be so disrespectful to others. It is not complicated to park elsewhere and walk 300 meters! When it comes to waste, cigarette butts, nature is not a garbage can and a cigarette butt on the ground or in the sewers is 500 liters of polluted water… (as a reminder, a living being cannot survive if it is deprived of water…)

When I say that it makes me immeasurably angryThis is not a euphemism. It’s like my brain is going to hell. I don’t understand, and since I feel everything very strongly with a lot of intensity, it really makes me go crazy! If I catch him in the act, I’m sure I’m going to point it out to him and 9 times out of 10, it goes wrong because the perpetrators don’t take responsibility! The answer I get every time I go to the handicapped place: I’m not staying long, I’m in a hurry. Okay, who cares and who cares! Do you have a disability? No ? You park somewhere else! Simple, basic…

And then I’ll be thinking about this action all day! Simply because when I don’t understand it can quickly turn into an obsession. I try to apply a simple rule to myself:

Don’t do to others what you would not like to be done to you!


When you respect this rule, life becomes much easier…

Don’t do to others what you would not like to be done to you

– If you were handicapped, would you like to have 200 meters to go on crutches or in a wheelchair because some asshole parked in your place? No !

– It’s like people trying to cheat in line. Are you really 2 minutes into your life? If so, you had to arrive 2 minutes before!

It’s super obvious, but what is obvious to us, to me, is obviously not obvious to others.

HPI, strong values : Respect, benevolence, justice, trust!

In short, the lack of respect in everyday life is very complicated!

Moreover, when we are High Potential, we don’t have the same notion of respect that is imposed on us by norms, rules or authority. Let me explain.

If a law or rule seems stupid, we won’t follow it. Not because we are disrespectful but simply because it is a law that has no head or tail, a kind of complete nonsense… And if we are very attached to the notion of respect, we are even more attached to logic and to what makes sense!

I believe that this is one of our main qualities and characteristicsTo make sense!

High PotentieI, the quest for meaning

If we are asked to respect something that seems stupid to us unfortunately we will not respect it.

I don’t understand why we are asked to respect older people. Already as a child, for me it was a nonsense. How is one person, because he or she is older, wiser, more caring or more courageous than another? I will respect a person because they are respectable, not because they are older. On the other hand, in the bus, I will always leave my seat to an elderly person, because that is logical. Do you understand the difference?

Basically, what drives us is respect, justice and trust and to give meaning to what we are and what we do!

Justice not in the sense, the system of justice, but that in the sense, to do right things in which one believes! Justice in the sense of good, fair, honest! For me, justice in the world today is a big mess… We live in a world of savages!

The current justice system is a perfect example of how justice does not exist.

I have no faith in justice in our world today because it is governed…by human beings. I have no confidence in human beings…

Which leads me to another point, super important when you are high potential, gifted, zebra, it is the confidence

High Potential: the relationship with others

To have confidence in the other, to grant confidence and to be able to receive confidence from the other
Confidence, for me, is perhaps the most complicated thing. So yes, all the specialists in personal development will tell us that to have confidence in others, you must have confidence in yourself! Yes, yes we know that, but then again, given the world we live in, sometimes that’s not enough!

I am convinced that when you have high potential, you have a special relationship with others

– No matter how much we are told that we are loved and that we are a great person, we are afraid that the person who tells us this will suddenly change their mind and abandon us overnight! Yes, yes, even if I’ve just been told that I’m loved and that I’m great, I ask the person again to tell me but just to be sure…

– Physical contact: I can’t stand it when a person I don’t like approaches me from near or far and especially touches me! Total anguish… Please keep a minimum distance between you and me so that I can be sure that we are not in contact! Just spending more than three minutes in his presence makes me uncomfortable, so if on top of that this person puts his hand on my shoulder, arm or back, it’s total anxiety. You, I don’t like you, please respect the barrier gestures. I can’t help but be unpleasant to people I don’t like. I don’t know how to pretend. The tone of my voice changes, I become dry and hard. Impossible to pretend.

– Conversely, I love to hug people I love, I’m super tactile with them.

Touching people physically is creating a connection with them and keeping others at a distance is preserving myself.

Even though it annoys me to no end, I always find an explanation for people’s stupidity, which makes it very hard for me to hold a grudge. I am a whole person and even if I don’t know how to cheat, I accept that others can slip up. I always see the best in people. I always make excuses for him. Too much empathy.

– I am super self-sufficient and independent. I could be so self-sufficient that I feel good when I’m alone. But, after two days, I’m starting to get really pissed off and I’m starting to resent all my buddies for not giving me any news! Well, today I understood that if I wanted news I had to ask for it and give it and that if I wanted to spend some time alone, I had to say so. Yes, in the end, it seems simple…


The zebra at work: the art of the gifted adult to complicate life!

I discovered that I was an adult zebra, among other things, by feeling out of step at work.

– You are in a meeting, your boss asks you why this thing doesn’t work, for you it is obvious and you don’t even know why! It’s obvious, but when you try to explain it, nobody understands you, so we take Bob’s solution, because he’s been around for a long time. And you, you haven’t been here long…

And then you can’t stand authority and you are much too disruptive for the company you work for! And since you pick up everything 10 times faster than everyone else, everyone thinks you’re haughty, not nice and stupid!

That’s often what being a high potential profile in a company means… They either love us or hate us! Fortunately afterwards, we can manage it and improve ourselves!

In any case, in 3 months you will leave this company because you don’t understand that we don’t understand you and when this happens to you, you get fed up and you prefer to leave! I used to do that too, but that was before! Back then, I couldn’t help but say what I thought and I didn’t have the right way to do it. You can’t afford to say everything in the professional world. This can sometimes create awkward moments and put us at odds. I’ve grown up now. I try to be more flexible.

– So you don’t care if we don’t listen to you… Except that in fact no, not at all, you don’t care if they don’t listen to you! You can’t get over it and it goes on a loop in your head for days…

– Because everything is always on a loop in our heads! Sometimes I feel like I never switch off! It’s like a little bike that spins, spins, spins in my head without stopping… It’s boring and exhausting!

Gifted adult, life goal: change the world!

Yes, thinking a lot, fast and all the time is just super tiring! Now I have my remedies! Accepting and learning to let go already… >> article here !

– I like to take time for myself! Take a stop, a break in my life which is still going at 100,000 miles an hour! Looking at nature, a sunset, the moon, a hedgehog crossing the road…

– Because I am hypersensitive, in front of a small family of piglets I have tears in my eyes and in front of our opposite stars, it’s really the big waters! I cry at everything and anything. Everything touches me! Films, news reports, natural and ecological disasters… Despite everything, I am a great idealist and I believe that we can change the world and make it more beautiful.

What’s pretty cool is that, if you also recognize yourself in these zebra characteristics, we can change the world together and also help others to help us change the world! You don’t recognize yourself in these characteristics? You can still change the world and become the one you want!

All equal in difference!

Well yes, just that, obviously, CHANGE THE WORLD… No small ambitions: small streams make big rivers !

It is not because we have a different way of thinking and apprehending the world that we are going to succeed in everything and that we are able to invent algorithms that turn pizzas into cauliflowers! Maybe some High Potentials will do that… And that’s good! It is necessary to decomplex ourselves with the notion of giftedness.

I thank Einstein and Agatha Christie every day for being High Potential profiles… There are also people who are not HPI and who will do great and beautiful things and that is also good… We don’t have a monopoly on spirit, sir!

Now you’re thinking I’m trying to confuse you a bit! That zebra or not zebra, we all have the same potential… Well yes, I confirm that this is exactly what I am telling you!

All the same potential but not in the same things.

It is impossible to make a goldfish climb a tree as it is impossible to make a chimpanzee live in a jar…

High potential or not, we do not all have the same aptitudes.

A high potential is not good at everything!

It’s clear that if you don’t like chess and you’re playing a game with a high potential chess fan, you’re just going to get knocked out! On the other hand, if you sing really well, have a great voice and do karaoke with me, there is a good chance that I will be ridiculous next to you, and my speed of understanding will not help me ! At best, I’ll read the lyrics faster than you on the screen.

I chose to study Modern Literature in college. Latin was on the curriculum for all three years of the degree. I sucked. I didn’t understand why we were studying this. As a result, I didn’t work and I never made the grade. At the time, I wanted to be a French teacher and I really didn’t understand why you had to know Latin to be a good teacher! Now I know that a large part of the French language is a heritage of Latin and to understand the meaning of words you often have to go back to their origin. Sometimes we just lack a little maturity and experience.

I also repeated two years… I have a very atypical background. I did a première S, then a première ES, and I ended up in a Master of Arts before going to business school. I repeated my second year of college in Modern Literature. Even being a zebra does not allow me to have absolute knowledge and success when I do absolutely nothing… I still ended up being a teacher (my calling) but in business school!

All this to explain to you that there are plenty of people who are not zebras and who must certainly be very gifted in Latin, in singing, I am not.

I have apprehended this particularity that is ours. I found peace and serenity, which I thought was unimaginable…

Since then, many things have happened in my life. HPI has become my daily life and my job. Despite the criticism that many neuropsychologists I passed the Wais, I discovered that I was HPI and wrote my own book: Follow the Zebra.

Whether you are a zebra or not, it doesn’t change your ability to do what you want and become who you want and most importantly to be happy!

You can also find more information, resources and tools on High Potential in Mel POINASbook. With a lot of humor, Mel tells the story of the discovery of her High Potential and the routines she put in place to finally find her place!

Le livre

Écrit par une HPI !
Un témoignage et des solutions concrètes pour découvrir, comprendre et apprendre à vivre en étant HPI.

To go further, you can read

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