5 Unexpected Downsides of Being Extremely Intelligent

Has anyone ever called you a smartypants? Were they right, are you smarter than the average bear? Being gifted intellectually is something that’s sought after by almost everyone. Some people dream of being so smart they can solve all their problems and others want to crush academic pursuits extremely easily.


Whether you are or think you are, having a high IQ is something to be proud of. But are there things about being smart that are actually a drawback? Some would agree that being smarter than your cohort is actually quite challenging, offering its own host of problems and struggles that not everyone can identify with. Here are the 4 challenges that every intelligent person has to deal with.

1. You think instead of feel

Being a big brain, you often think instead of feel. Feeling is the way we assess how something makes us feel and is tuned into our point of view. But thinking is the way we deem something to be logical and is a calculated response. People who are thinkers try not to let their wishes, or wishes of others, affect their decisions. Feelers, on the other hand, take the wishes of others into consideration and balance them in their decisions. When you think instead of feel, often people will see you as cold and calculating or indifferent to the emotions of others. Feelers, by contrast, might be seen as indirect and idealistic. (1)

In reality, people do a variety of both, but when you’re highly intelligent, you might be predisposed to analyzing every situation in what can sometimes be called a cold and calculating manner, displacing you from your emotional needs. And our feelings are very important, they tell us a lot about ourselves and guide us through our lives, but if you ignore them you might find yourself holding onto a result you’d be happier without.

2. Dealing with expectations

When you’re intelligent and people know it, it can sometimes be less than fun competing with their expectations. In one study on expectations and intelligence, it was found that students who believed intelligence was a fixed entity tend to emphasize performance goals and were vulnerable to negative feedback (2).

Meaning, if you have a high IQ and know it, but have recently experienced a failure, it can be damaging to your esteem causing you to disengage from challenging learning opportunities. On the other hand, students who felt that intelligence is malleable tend to emphasize learning goals and rebound better from occasional failures, believing that they simply have to try harder.

3. Overthinking

Letting ideas bounce around your head is what smart people do. They try to make sense of the world around them and to assess things in detail. But are you over-doing it? Overthinking means you don’t let things pass on by after they happen. Remembering every little detail and playing it into your model of the future.

According to a study on worry and intelligence, those with greater intelligence can consider the past and future events in greater detail leading to an intense rumination and worry (3). So, if you can’t stop thinking about how things have or will happen, the upside is you might be smart. But this is quite stressful to overthink on everything so do your best just to let things be.

4. Knowing your limits makes you sad

Having a proper understanding of what you are capable of is another hallmark of high intelligence. But this understanding can have an effect on your emotional state. In other words, knowing what you are capable of makes you sad. The earlier mentioned study on expectations and intelligence highlights how this can happen. Having a belief that intelligence is fixed (i.e. your intelligence is X) can restrict what you think you are capable of because of a focus on performance goals (2). If you are not performing highly on a particular task, then you must certainly have reached your limit. And as earlier mentioned, people respond negatively to this, and it causes them to avoid challenging learning opportunities.

Having an idea about your capabilities can be frustrating because you feel you’ve been dealt a certain hand in life and that’s what you have to deal with. Having an idea on your limitations can indeed make you sad. Feeling as though you’ve gone as far as you can in some ways and there is no more mystery about what you could accomplish.

5. Not supposed to need help

Another drawback of being highly intelligent is that you feel like you’re not supposed to need help. Everyone needs a little guidance now and then, even people with high IQ. But you’re not expected to need help, you are highly intelligent and can handle things for yourself right? That’s not always the case and needing help conflicts with the image a highly intelligent person has of themselves.

Or plainly, you are not offered help because you are seen as smart and capable. It can be frustrating to have to depend on yourself all the time especially when you’ve hit a block in the road and don’t know how to go forward. Even the very smart need a little direction some of the time.

(1) The Myers and Briggs foundation. Thinking or feeling http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/thinking-or-feeling.htm Accessed: December 7, 2016.

(2) Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Why do beliefs about intelligence influence learning success? A social cognitive neuroscience model https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1838571/ Published: September 1, 2006. Accessed: December 7, 2016.

(3) The Huffington post. Worrying about stuff is a sign of intelligence http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/26/worrying-intelligence_n_6369370.html Published: December 26, 2014. Accessed: December 7, 2016.

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Source: The Hearty Soul