Everyone has insecurities—including highly intelligent people.
Dare I say perhaps even especially highly intelligent people.
According to psychologist Valeria Sabater, intelligent people tend to be more reflective, doubtful, and insecure in their day to day lives.
Here are ten signs of how highly intelligent people aren’t immune to insecurities of their own.
1) They have an overwhelming feeling that that they’re…well, odd
Highly intelligent people often have a hard time fitting in.
They know they’re different. They’ve learned that they have to “edit” themselves and not express their innermost thoughts blatantly for fear of being judged, say the people at Eggshell Therapy.
“Being highly intelligent means you have a degree of overexcitabilities, especially intellectual overexcitability,” they say.
So when you say what is really on your mind, even to you, what you say is logical, and well-intentioned, it can be perceived as strange, peculiar, or even offensive.
“On the other hand, whenever you try to act as your true self—not diluting your messages, not faking smiles, not initiating meaningless small talks, not entertaining faulty logic—you end up being seen as cold or even ‘mean.’”
Highly intelligent people are often relegated to being the “black sheep” of the family because of how different they are.
“Because of your ongoing frustration of being misunderstood, you may have resorted to being an observer or analyzer in social groups…They may be able to ‘pass’ for being a part of a group that does not feel that their natural, authentic self is seen or heard.”
2) They doubt or downplay their level of intelligence
Highly intelligent people tend to downplay or underestimate their own abilities.
They might understate their perspective on things so that others don’t judge them.
They may even undervalue themselves believing they need tangible “proof”’of their intelligence. This could come in the form of taking IQ or EQ tests.
They might even look to other people for feedback so that they can be “fixed” or look more intelligent, say experts.
3) They don’t have the confidence to date
This is because at some point in your life, you got labeled as a smart person, says Dr. Ali Binazir, happiness engineer, personal growth consultant, and contributor to the Huffington Post.
“From then on, that was your principal identity: The Smart One. Especially if you had a sibling who was better looking than you, in which case [they] were The Pretty One.”
The thing is, you could be a physically striking individual—in which case, you have it all—but your identity is still bound up in being The Smart One.
“So maybe you dress frumpy and don’t pay a lot of attention to your appearance. Or never bothered to cultivate your sexuality,” says Binazir.
“Part of the issue is this: When all of your personal energy is concentrated in the head, it never gets a chance to trickle down to the heart.”
4) They don’t have many (if any) friends
Many intelligent people keep their social circle small on purpose because they’re more focused on long-term goals and don’t have a fear of missing out.
They also prefer more intimate conversations rather than a million meaningless rounds of small talk at parties.
At the same time, there are many highly intelligent people, who may not have gotten over the fact that they weren’t “cool” in high school. They continue to carry this persona well into adulthood.
They have a fear of being ridiculed or turned away, so rather than risk rejection they feel like it’s better to play it safe by keeping to themselves.
5) They suffer from social anxiety
Part of the reason that some highly intelligent people may not have many friends is because they’re socially anxious, says Valeria Sabater from Exploring Your Mind.
“It’s rare for them to feel completely integrated into an environment of theirs: school, college, work…”
The idea of gatherings and events scare them because they’re out of their comfort zone and they can’t control the situation. They also find it difficult to strike up conversations with people they don’t know.
They may feel they aren’t adept at the art of conversation.
This also goes with the deeply ingrained “I don’t fit in” belief we talked about earlier, so they simply avoid social situations altogether.
6) They can be extremely emotional and vulnerable
I remember reading a story online about how a highly successful and prolific author—she has 14 published—would be devastated every time her editor emailed her with their first set of edits and comments on a book draft.
The author—no doubt a highly intelligent person—would spend at least an entire day in bed every single time. So for 14 books, that’s the equivalent of two weeks in bed.
Eventually, after a day or so in bed, each time, the author was able to move past the moping and go on to editing her manuscript.
It’s assumed that highly intelligent people are confident—even arrogant—when it comes to the quality of their work, but for many, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
7) They suffer from Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome could be the culprit.
Take Jeremy Newman, for instance. Newman is the global CEO of BDO, one of the world’s largest accounting firms. He also chairs a host of government bodies and a plethora of institutions.
“It feels like a constant need to prove you should be where you are, and a constant concern, before every meeting that I go to…am I going to make an idiot out of myself here and are people going to see through the facade and think there’s actually no real substance to this?”
We would never think a person in Newman’s position would ever constantly worry that he is not good enough, related BBC interviewer Laura Empson.
Dean Burnett, a psychiatrist and doctor of neuroscience, says that people with high intelligence tend to constantly undervalue themselves.
“The imposter syndrome minimizes their personal achievements and abilities,” he says. “Therefore, they gradually undermine their self-esteem and self-trust.”
8) They focus too much on their flaws
No matter how intelligent they are, many highly intelligent people think that whatever they do will never be good enough.
“Since highly intelligent people are more self-aware, they also focus too much on their own imperfections and character flaws,” says Anna LeMind from LearningMind.
“All this harsh self-criticism distorts their perception of themselves, making them look worse than they are. As a result, insecurity sets in,” she says.
That’s because highly intelligent people have a tendency to observe and dissect their flaws as if under a microscope, adds LeMind.
They have a habit of overthinking the most minor of failures and then proceed to beating themselves up about it for days.
Intriguingly, people who have a lower intelligence level actually consider themselves to be a lot smarter than they actually are.
“This is known as the Dunning Kruger Effect,” explains LeMind. “It describes dull people’s lack of critical thinking skills, which makes them incorrectly assess their abilities.”
In this case, perhaps ignorance really is a kind of bliss, after all.
9) They’ve been told that they’re “too much”
Children are the most curious of creatures. They explore the world using all five of their senses—even if it means using their tongue to understand the concept of mud.
They also have no qualms about asking a plethora of questions. While this curiosity should be expected, indulged, and nurtured by parents and teachers—sadly the child may be labeled as being “too much” to handle.
The same thing happens when the highly intelligent child grows up to be a highly intelligent adult.
“Even as an adult, your intellectual excitability may be deemed as ‘too much,’ for those who do not keep up with you,” says the team at Eggshell Therapy.
Instead of a parent or teacher, now the criticism comes from a partner or boss.
It can also make a highly intelligent person feel self-conscious about themselves.
10) They might feel misunderstood
A highly intelligent person is often going to come up with a new perspective or solution to a problem.
When this happens, they can be perceived as arrogant or a “know-it-all,” because other people feel threatened by them.
This was obviously not their intention, but this is often the reaction that they get from others.
“For those who are not really looking for a solution to problems and just want to be empathized on a feeling level, highly intelligent people’s approach may be dissatisfactory to them. These friends and family may even reject the highly intelligent person’s help,” says Eggshell Therapy.
So what might end up happening is that the highly intelligent person reverts back into their shell and vows to themselves not to give their opinions.
They decide to just go with the consensus.
Dear highly intelligent people…
I love this advice from Eggshell Therapy:
“Please know that even though the world misunderstands you sometimes, your unique qualities—your intelligence, kindness, and passion for the truth—remain untethered.”
“You deserve to be seen for who you are. With time and self-awareness, you can surround yourself with people who get you and love you and would not demand you to be anything but who you are.”