Our culture has some strange ideas about intelligence sometimes.
Often, anytime a genius is portrayed in movies and TV shows, they are practically a superhero. They know how to do just about anything, from quantum physics to advanced mechanical repairs.
Unfortunately, in the real world, intelligence doesn’t work that way at all.
Being smart does not mean being good at everything. And in fact, having high intelligence can sometimes make other aspects of life harder.
Don’t know what I mean? Well, here are some examples of things that are often hard for smart people.
If you struggle with these issues yourself, it might be a sign that your intelligence is higher than you think.
1) Relating to others
There’s a popular stereotype of the misunderstood and reclusive genius. But it’s just that – a stereotype.
While there is some evidence that introverts may be more intelligent than extroverts, there are many other explanations for why more introverted people seem to do better on standardized intelligence tests.
And for every reclusive genius like Isaac Newton, there’s an extroverted brainbox like John von Neumann.
What is true, however, is that intelligent people often feel out of place in regular society because their more capable brains have thoughts the average person can’t keep up with or even understand.
This is called the communication range.
Put simply, the idea is that people whose IQs are 30 points or more apart will have difficulty communicating in any meaningful way.
The average IQ is 100, so the average person will struggle to have a meaningful conversation with someone with an IQ of 70 or lower.
Now, think about someone with an IQ of 140. For them, anyone below 110 is going to be difficult to talk to – and remember that an IQ of 110 is still above average.
In other words, the smarter you are, the harder it will be to find people that you can really talk to.
2) Psychological disorders
Even worse news for smart cookies: intelligent people may be at a higher risk for psychological disorders.
Psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski published a landmark study that found gifted people often suffer from what he termed “overexcitability”.
While this overexcitability allows intelligent people to focus and get deeply absorbed in intellectual pursuits, it can also be associated with depression and mild anxiety.
Researcher Ruth I. Karpinski found a similar connection in this study from 2018. Her study found that a high IQ was predictive of disorders like ADHD, autism, asthma, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Now, to be clear, being intelligent doesn’t mean you will suffer a psychological disorder. And it’s perfectly possible to suffer these disorders without being especially intelligent.
However, it does seem that there is some correlation between high intelligence and psychological problems.
3) Analyzing everything
Like a mirror, a mind has to be reflecting something. And the more powerful the mind, the more it takes to keep it stimulated and engaged.
That’s why intelligent people analyze everything, from the news they hear to the way their friends behave to the books they read last night.
In some ways, this is a gift. This constant analysis is part of what helps intelligent people understand the world around them in a way others don’t.
It also helps them learn more and feed their relentless curiosity.
However, as author and therapist Robert Taibbi points out, this tendency to analyze everything can be a curse when it prevents you from taking effective action.
Wanting to understand the reasons behind everything is part of what makes intelligent people so smart. But it’s a fine line between analyzing everything and overanalyzing everything.
And that’s a struggle smart people face every day.
4) Getting to bed on time
This trait is a little more unexpected.
But research suggests that night owls tend to be more intelligent than early risers.
Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa writes that this may date back to human evolution when the day was devoted to tasks like hunting, gathering, and maintaining the home, while the night was spent talking, singing, and engaging in other social activities.
Those who stayed up late were those with more active and curious minds.
Whatever the reason, there seems to be a significant link between staying up late at night and intelligence.
But that means smarter people often struggle to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Procrastination means putting things off until a later date. And unfortunately, procrastination is associated with various harmful issues, including:
- Worse financial status
- Worse academic performance
- Poorer mental and physical health
- Relationship issues
Even more unfortunately, procrastination appears to be linked to high intelligence.
In other words, smart people tend to put things off.
On the other hand, it’s not all bad. Because it allows them to free up time for creative and intellectual endeavors that ultimately have great results.
Or it may just be that smart people procrastinate because they know their intelligence can help them catch up on any task they have put off.
6) Work ethic
This one is by no means universal. Millions of highly intelligent people are also incredibly hard workers.
However, there is some evidence that smart people tend to be more physically lazy.
In my own experience, I’ve seen how high intelligence can also hold people back in academic and professional fields.
I have a friend who was a very gifted child. He could count on generally being the smartest person in any room he was in, including the classroom with his teachers.
As a result, at school, he learned he didn’t have to try hard. He could procrastinate and not do his work until the very last minute, then turn in work that scored highly without putting in much effort.
All of this taught him that his intelligence would always be enough to pull him through. However, in adult life, that’s often not the case.
Now, he struggles to put in effort when it’s required, having never learned how to work hard.
While this is by no means universal to all intelligent people, it is a struggle for some.
7) High expectations
When people know you’re smart, they expect you to succeed.
But while intelligence can be a predictor of success, it’s not that simple.
There are all sorts of reasons why people may not achieve their full potential in life, and many of them have absolutely nothing to do with intelligence.
But because of the expectations placed on them by others and by themselves, smart people often suffer more when they don’t achieve success.
Dr. Joan Freeman, author of the book Gifted Lives, points out that the expectations placed on gifted children can often lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. In many ways, this only becomes worse as smart children grow into smart adults.
8) Forming relationships
I talked about the communication range earlier, and how it’s hard for highly intelligent people to find others they can really connect with.
As you’d imagine, this makes it very difficult for intelligent people to form relationships.
Whether we’re talking about friendship or romantic love, intelligent people often struggle to find other people who can keep up with them.
It’s also true that because intelligent people analyze everything, they may struggle to let themselves enjoy a relationship the way other people can.
They may have a negative outlook of human nature that prevents them from trusting others, resulting in them ending up alone.
On the other hand, intelligent people are often more comfortable being alone than others, so the fact that forming relationships can be more difficult may not matter to them.
But it is a struggle intelligent people have to face, especially if they are social people who want to be around others.
To be clear, I’m not talking about intelligent people being more prone to being jealous themselves. I’m talking about the fact that many people are often jealous of others’ intelligence.
People who are insecure about their own intelligence or achievements will often try to tear others down. Sometimes, these people can see intelligent people as a threat.
They may resent that intelligent people don’t have to work as hard as them. Or they may be concerned that a more intelligent person may take their job.
In extreme forms, the jealous person may actively try to hold back the intelligent person they perceive as a threat. They may try to turn others against them or sabotage their efforts in the workplace.
Of course, jealousy can happen to anyone. But smart people are especially prone to the jealousy of others.
The perils of intelligence
It’s true that intelligent people have some major advantages in life. That’s why you’ll rarely find intelligent people wishing they were less intelligent.
But it’s also true that high intelligence can bring some unwanted side effects.
And if you struggle with these issues, it may be a sign that you are smarter than you think.