6 Reasons Why Intelligent People Fail to Be Happy

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fail to be happy

Have you noticed that some of the most intelligent and deep thinking individuals out there fail to be happy?

They may have a loving life partner, family and be successful in their job; yet, there is something that occasionally makes them feel alone, sad and discouraged. As Ernest Hemingway said, “happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

Here are six possible reasons why happiness in highly intelligent people is such a rare phenomenon:

1. Intelligent people overanalyze everything

Many people with a high IQ tend to be overthinkers who constantly analyze everything happening in their life and beyond. This can be draining at times, especially when your thinking processes take you to undesirable, frustrating conclusions.

Have you heard the saying, ‘Ignorance is bliss’? It surely is – the less you understand, the more carefree and, therefore, happy you are. Being able to read people’s true selves and hidden motives is enough to make you feel disappointed with the whole world sometimes. Not even mentioning the feelings that come along with the reflection on philosophical matters, global issues and life’s timeless dilemmas that have no solutions.

2. Intelligent people have high standards

Smart people know what they want and don’t settle for less than that, no matter what area of life we are talking about. This means that it’s more difficult for them to be satisfied with their achievements, relationships and literally everything that has a place in their life.

Moreover, many people with brilliant theoretical minds happen to have poor practical intelligence and somehow idealistic views of the world. So when their expectations face the raw reality of life and other people, it inevitably leads to disappointment.

3. Intelligent people are too hard on themselves

Another reason why smart people fail to be happy is that they tend to be too strict with themselves. And here, I’m not talking only about one’s achievements and failures. Intelligent, deep thinking individuals often analyze themselves and their own behavior in such a rigorous manner like if they are intentionally seeking out things to blame themselves for.

Sometimes, you just lie there in your bed trying to fall asleep and suddenly recall a situation (which probably happened years or, at least, months ago) when you didn’t act the way you should have. This is enough to mess with your sleep and spoil your mood.

Intelligent people often experience such kind of flashbacks into their past mistakes. All this cultivates guilt, discontent and other negative emotions that can poison one’s happiness.

4. Reality is not enough

People with high IQs never cease to seek something bigger – a pattern, a meaning, a purpose. The deepest and the dreamiest of them don’t stop there – their restless mind and imagination don’t let them just relax and enjoy “the good things in life.” I guess the reality with its trivialities is just too boring for them. Such people crave for something fantastic, idealistic, eternal… and, of course, never find it in the real world.

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong here and should have lived in a different era or maybe on another planet? Deep thinking, highly intelligent people constantly feel this way. How can you be happy when you feel like a stranger to the world you live in?

5. Lack of deep communication and understanding

Being truly understood by someone is one of the greatest experiences a human being can have. How comforting it is to sit with a like-minded person somewhere quiet and have a meaningful conversation, realizing that this person understands your ideas and shares your views of the world…

Sadly, intelligent people rarely have this pleasure. Many of them feel alone and misunderstood, like if no one is able to see and appreciate the depth of their minds.

It’s now scientifically confirmed that in order to be happy, individuals with high IQs need less socialization than those with average levels of intelligence. However, it doesn’t mean that smart people don’t crave for human interaction and a good conversation. They simply prefer to talk about fascinating and meaningful things rather than discuss food, weather and one’s plans for the weekend.

No need to say that nowadays, it’s particularly difficult to find a person to have a deep conversation with. Thank today’s consumerist and materialist society for that.

6. Many people with a high IQ suffer from psychological problems

There have been many studies that link psychiatric disorders, such as social anxiety and bipolar, with high IQs. Could it be that these conditions are a kind of a side effect of a creative genius and a brilliant mind? Who knows, science is yet to unravel the mysteries of the human mind.

At the same time, the intelligent people who don’t suffer from any mental disorders are still prone to so-called existential depression, which often is a result of excessive thinking. If you are thinking all the time and analyze everything in depth, at some point, you start reflecting on life, death and the meaning of existence. Sometimes, it’s enough to make you want to re-evaluate your own life and, as a result, get sad for no obvious reason.

Can you relate to the struggles described in this article? What other things, in your opinion, make intelligent people fail to be happy? Share your thoughts with us.

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Anna LeMind

Anna is the founder and lead editor of the website Learning-mind.com. She is passionate about learning new things and reflecting on thought-provoking ideas. She writes about science, psychology and other related topics. She is particularly interested in topics regarding introversion, consciousness and subconscious, perception, human mind's potential, as well as the nature of reality and the universe.

Copyright © 2018 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.


  1. Balaji July 4, 2017 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    I like this article, It is really true, i realized that the most of the things are happening in my life as mentioned in the article, i use to see in my day to day life that people are very happy working 5 days a week and enjoying the weekends and being happy always. But i am not like them i am always thing about the something like, why people are behaving like this, why things are happening like this, what is the root cause for this, always thing about something, etc., i don’t know to enjoy the life.

  2. Lois July 6, 2017 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Without thinking, I see the problem, or inefficiency, and can quickly pinpoint the cause, and therefore, the fix. I also quickly see easy improvements to take something from OK to excellent. And not to be conceited, but I’m almost always right. In a situation when I then have the authority and resources to fix it, to make my little corner of the world a better place for others, I am at my best. People who know me only from such roles would ever guess that I’m ever anything but positive, energetic, encouraging, and motivating. I’m an engineer, but I’ve also delivered , leadership development courses for high level managers and executives and it was the best job for me and I never should have left it. Helping people be the leader they want to be was incredibly fulfilling. All that over analyzing energy was spent considering my trainees, especially the ones in a 5 week course, how to encourage them to leverage their strengths, how to gently nudge them to see where and why they are less effective, and see them grow.

    The frustration and discontent comes when we can see the problems, pinpoint the causes and the fixes so easily, or the easy improvements that would provide benefit, but we’re not in a position to fix it, no one else does anything about it, and things remain broken, and someone somewhere is carrying unnecessary burden. From global problems to our homeowners’ association, we analyze analyze analyze.

    On top of that, our desire to help make things better is often taken offensively–as criticism or condescension or arrogance. I, and I think most people like me, don’t really think that way. Looking at a situation, I can compartmentalize what has occurred to create what is the present state without trying to judge who did what, when, and why. Most of the time, the cause or inefficiency is a legacy institutionalized way of doing things that in the past was the right way, and frequently was a good fix to a problem that is no longer relevant. A changed environment isn’t a reason to criticize individuals. I always assume the best in people, that they want to do the right things, want to make the world a better place. I welcome challenges, rebuttals, different perspectives, facts I haven’t considered, because when everyone feels safe to provide input, the solution gets better. I’ve always assumed a rising tide lifts all ships, that one person’s success doesn’t mean less opportunity for others.

    When I’ve been part of or led a team like that, where mutual respect is a given, we’ve accomplished some terrific things. That environment seems harder and harder to find or create.

    I always, almost to a fault I’ve been told, share the credit and own the blame. It hurts me when I can tell from the beginning that there are preconceived notions that I’m selfish and think I’m better than everyone else because of such and such degree or credential when nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to be very good at math and analytical methods. There are plenty of things I don’t do well, and an infinite number of things I don’t know about. I welcome learning from others. But when people know about what I’ve accomplished before they know ME, it is difficult to overcome those attitudes. And it hurts me badly. As a result, I’ve never, ever, hung up on my wall my diplomas, credentials, or even had a coffee cup in my office suggesting where I went to school, what degrees and credentials I’ve earned, or awards I’ve been given.

    I am legitimately ill and on disability, so now my mental state includes feeling useless. And I realize my confidence for the future is linked strongly to the facts that I worked so hard to earn the credentials, to prove myself worthy, to pay my dues and get my hands dirty, while on the other hand, based on feedback from others and my own observations, I minimized my accomplishments to avoid “intimidating” people or making them feel bad. That’s an impossible line to walk, and the stress trying to do so with a smile on my face on top of chronic diseases, drove me to physical collapse.

    I’m trying hard to figure out the happiness part.

    • Karen Tyrell July 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Lois, I feel like you just reached into my head and pulled my inner ramblings right out of my brain!

    • Stephanie August 7, 2017 at 10:35 am - Reply

      Lois- I could not relate to you more and I too have fallen ill and am now disabled and cannot find the happiness that I desire so much. I am very sorry for your fall and hope that you and your health can recover. I feel we would do very well talking with each other and would love that opportunity.

    • Duke Skystalker September 26, 2017 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      You have my deepest sympathies Lois, and not just because I can heavily relate. The context is quite different though. I’ve often been told I’m highly intelligent. I have a natural aptitude for quick thinking and problem solving. Additionally, learning and pushing my boundaries are favorite hobbies of mine.

      However, people only acknowledge my intelligence whenever it is convenient to them. Most of the time, it upsets people. Within the span of a few minutes, a person can go from gushing about how smart and handsome I am to talking down to me like I’m a misbehaved child who’s never pondered the concept of common sense. This is incredibly infuriating to the point where it has disturbed my sleep and cardiovascular health.

      The worst part is that it’s almost always people that I’m much smarter than. People with superior or similar intelligence may make the same mistakes too if they’re feeling a bit high strung or refuse to put context into the situation, but with time we always reconcile. However, idiots always go out of their way to speak to me in a manner that especially ticks me off and then complain when I get angry.

      This is annoying because more or less everyone does it. Kids, adults, teachers, police officers. It seems average intelligence is characterized by making broad strokes assumptions about people without considering context, idiosyncrasies, or judging people according to what they do. Its a immature mindset that people hold onto because it gives them the satisfaction of having made an intelligent judgment without having gone through the intelligent thought process. Even my bosses and fellow coworkers, who I’ve held in high regard simply for being more experienced in worldly manners that me, are guilty of doing so.

      And it seems like the more I learn, the worse this feelings gets. I can’t move on in life because practically everybody, including the people I depend on to get ahead, are so belligerent towards me even though I’m rarely aggressive unless it’s warranted. I’ve had to lower my standards just to not upset people and avoid confrontation. I can feel my mental processes deteriorating but at the same time, there’s significantly less conflict than there would be if I didn’t restrain myself. However, even by displaying the bare minimum of common sense, a lot of people still find some reason to get angry at me.

      My stress levels are higher than they’ve been at any other point in my life. My hair’s falling out. The little sleep I get doesn’t energize me as frequently as it used to. I’m less confident and can barely make decisions without second guessing myself. I can barely concentrate and my thought process has become less innovative and slower. At one point, I was so anxious that I had a panic attack and almost pulled my middle finger while playing video games, a hobby that I can do for hours a day. You could knock that off as my just desserts, except I’m 21 and have been physically fit for most my life. And later on, I couldn’t even swallow food for a good 20 minutes. I’m looking to an early death trying to please people.

      My word of advice is; It’s not worth it. Average people will always complain when somebody’s better than them. There was a time where I used to ignore people who went out of their way to antagonize me, but because of my development of wanting to please everybody and avoid conflict at all costs, I forced my self to remain docile by turning my anger into fear just to avoid not reacting. Sore losers will always exist.

      However, that’s all they are. They’re not intelligent, accomplished, and they don’t have a healthy level of self-esteem. If they did, they wouldn’t feel the need to lash out to people pushing for innovation. Take pride in all that you’ve done. You don’t have to brag, but you don’t have to be humble. Let everyone know of your mighty achievements. Those who are jealous will usually just complain. Most of the time, they talk out of their ass too, so putting them in their place is usually just a one time thing.

      You have the intellect to overcome these lesser people. All they want is an excuse to blame their failures on something else. They’d rather the world burn in out dated ways than thrive in innovation. People like that are evil because their selfishness is what’s preventing this world from being the truly amazing place it could be. The best way to stand up to these people is to show you’re confident in who you are and how far you’ve come. If you show people that you’re unfettered, they will eventually leave. Ignore them and put them in their place when you can. You have every right to good health as everyone else.

    • e January 10, 2018 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      you and I are in a similar boat. I too became disabled, 7 years ago. An accident left me w/ a spinal cord injury so I’m paralyzed and cannot stand or walk, and in a wheelchair for life. I won’t even go into what a struggle it has been to relate to people in this new body, and wow….have some people, from closest friends and family members to complete strangers, really disappointed me.

      I hear it all the time “Omg. I can’t believe you’re single/not married you’re so pretty, fun, outgoing” and it’s the most OBNOXIOUS thing to hear. I’m 46, female, never been married, no kids. It boils my blood to have my self worth judged based on the fact that I don’t have a husband or kids. I used to take it as a compliment but really it’s a back handed compliment. What it really says is “Omg…if you’re pretty/outgoing/smart/fun and still single then there must be something inherently fucked up about you!”

      I promise, there is nothing ‘fucked up’ about me. My soul cannot tolerate being w/ another person (friend, lover, family) just for the sake of being w/ another person. If they can’t match my level of personality, humor, intelligence, depth than I’d rather go it alone. Maybe just come close or at least appreciate it. I feel like a workhorse sometimes because I’m always the one entertaining, humoring, debating, philosophizing, asking what ifs? trying so hard to engage and enligthen, and nobody can throw me a bone.

      I’m gonna sound smug, like a real snob but this list resonates w/ my bigtime. I’ve been thinking for a long time that the problem is I’m too intelligent for my own good, and what loss it brings with it. True intelligence comes from our soul, not whether or not we attended an ivy league school. It can’t be earned or achieved, there’s no level of degrees it’s just that some people just lack any depth and intelligence in their soul.

      Sorry! sounds obnoxious but I think everyone who commented on this article can understand why I think that.

  3. Marvin July 9, 2017 at 9:04 am - Reply

    what is to be done about it?!?!?!

    • Karen December 11, 2017 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      I can’t be bothered with this analysis.
      You forget about raw feelings.

  4. Glenn July 25, 2017 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    How is an individual with all these characteristics to find direction in life that allows them to feel worthwhile and justified in being alive ????

    • Gabriele Cripezzi December 14, 2017 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      I know how. I am doing it. You need to change world. There are two worlds on planet earth. The mass and the elite. I have the key to the elite world. I am serious and if you don’t believe me, it means you don’t deserve better

      • Gabriele Che Cazzo? January 8, 2018 at 3:22 pm - Reply

        I once went to a pyramid scheme meeting, that is the exact words they used to confuse and misdirect.

  5. Mag Jade August 22, 2017 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Being happy is not a question of how intelligent you are!

  6. Malli September 21, 2017 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    wow, just what I was looking for. What Lois posted hit me right off. I always minimize my accomplishments, etc so as to not appear “superior”. I find its lonely trying to find people that I tend to hit it off with. Luckily I’m in my 2nd marriage and my husband is very very bright, so I depend on him for stimulating conversation and company. However, in trying to find friends, I always feel like an outsider, and become disenchanted very quickly. I find it disappointing that so many people seem to be so trivial, uninformed, or uninteresting. I have become disabled and now have retired and would have loved to find like minded people who I feel are on the same level. Many people I’ve met were nice enough, but unfortunately, “nice” just doesn’t do it for me. It’s frustrating and disappointing to say the least. At any rate, I find myself watching tv, on the internet or reading and I like my own company better and find things that are more interesting than most of the people I’ve met of late. (other than my husband who, Thank God, I can relate to easily) Anyway, I’d love to hear from others who feel this way as well.

    • Cat November 9, 2017 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      I hear you, Mali. I find it impossible to find like-minded, intelligent, deep-thinking, philosophically-minded people except occasionally online. It’s very frustrating and lonely. You’re very lucky to have a bright husband. I would say I’m very existentially depressed. I’ve spent 10 years in very honest, in-depth critical thinking and questioning of everything, and you do come up with answers by doing that. I get glassy-eyed listening to the average uninformed person talking about the weather, what they did on the weekend, or gossiping about someone. It drains me. I feel that I’m trapped on a planet full of morons. I’m also very sensitive in many ways and in the past had many experiences of clairvoyance, many premonitions, etc. I’m an atheist and an avowed antinatalist and cannot understand how most simply cannot grasp the moral correctness of the philosophy of antinatalism. “Nice” doesn’t do it for me either, not by a long shot.

      • AmirMS December 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm - Reply

        I managed to solve my existential depression. Now I just feel depressed because I’m misunderstood.

    • Keggie December 30, 2017 at 11:52 pm - Reply

      Mali & Cat: Spot on! Let me know if you want a pen pal!

  7. Dominic October 10, 2017 at 1:39 am - Reply

    I never thought about myself as a smart person, id say i was always thinking im pretty stupid. But im really shocked by reading this article, because exatcly every part of it is like it was written about me. Existential depression? Yes, like 1/3 of my life is about thinking about point in life. Overthinking? Oh yes, its so hard to live with it, even when writing some test i used to start to analyze the deeper meaning of the question istead of just anwering it. Even small things like remembering various (and totally random) moments from life to just think: what would be better to do back then….
    Still im not sure what i can do with that knowedge, its not like i can change what i think by just reading this :/

  8. Nic Aeberli November 19, 2017 at 2:39 am - Reply

    I partially disagree with the article, as I don’t consider myself as being more intelligent than others, but still find myself quite often unhappy!
    Like Mag Jade commented, being happy is not a question of how intelligent you are, as you can also be both unhappy and not very intelligent!
    On the contrary, I actually believe that people who can find happiness are especially intelligent as they know what is important in life and are able to block out negativity. The questions are I guess; what is happiness and what is intelligence?
    I also hope that this article wasn’t intended to trick people to find out how intelligent they are by clicking on the IQ test link, just to find out if they are happy or not!

  9. James November 23, 2017 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Intelligence and even genius aren’t actually that rare. What’s rare is the full development of that potential, since there are a great many factors in life, perhaps especially other people, that conspire to lead you off course or hold you back. Nietzsche wrote for the would-be geniuses. It’s quite possible to be brilliant and also to be profoundly happy, to cease suffering from life, but one must learn to liberate oneself. I’d highly recommend reading Nietzsche, starting a yoga practice, and starting to follow Jordan Peterson on YouTube or elsewhere if you haven’t already. Cheers!

  10. Peter December 1, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Another reason
    Stuck in a stupid country, stupid family and stupid environment.having stupid people around yourself with their stupid belief. wasting your life trying to find someone that really understands you. Trying find a connection between yourself and you endless pains.

  11. Gonzalo December 2, 2017 at 1:13 am - Reply

    I dont know if im smart or if i just think too much, but for me its pretty simple, life is raw and brutal, but most people are either blind, ignorant, or in denial about the similarities between our lifestyle and the animal’s when in fact the two are basically the same, when we see animals and insects kill each other and die (because they do) we dont really care, the truth is that most of us dont really give a fuck about their existence, but somehow we are shocked when we see people suffering and dying when in fact it is part of nature and its kinda normal and the way life works, why are you so sure and confident that YOUR life means more than a rat’s life when in fact all we do is being born eat drink shit fuck and die just like even insects do?

    When you realize you are living essentialy the same as a rat or ant, just with clothes and houses instead of fur and caves… yeah it makes you kind of sad, add the fact that you cant fucking have a deeper topic of conversation than the soccer results or new iphone or tits or butts of x and y whore with 90% of people you try to socialize, and you have the perfect recipe for depression and isolation.

    Or maybe im just too young and whiney

  12. CAL December 8, 2017 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Thank god I have found this site, i thought I was on my own.

    • Gabriele Cripezzi December 14, 2017 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      There are two worlds on planet earth. The mass and the elite. I have the key to the elite world. I am serious and if you don’t believe me, it means you don’t deserve better

  13. Aaron Mistich December 8, 2017 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I saw my struggles in every one of those. It’s a hard life for sure.

  14. Gabriele Cripezzi December 14, 2017 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    Growing up I was feeling very often like… why wasn’t 8 like everyone else? Then I had the luck to get into the elite society where I have learn things that people don’t know. There are two worlds on planet earth. The mass and the elite. Happiness for us is only at elite level. I left the elite because I reached too high where the sicko are. I am too sane for that sh##. But I can get back in because I know the system now, the system that keeps the 2 social classes separate in 2 separate worlds. I have the key to the elite world, the matrix key if u like it, but I am surrounded by the mass who can’t believe it so I am stuck in this f###ing world now. HELP!! LOL

    • Gabriele Cripezzi December 14, 2017 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Why wasn’t I…

  15. Gabriel January 1, 2018 at 3:22 am - Reply

    This is a very good article. I have many of the mentioned characteristics and traits. I would add that the current world, highly materialistic, souless and subject to irrationality is an agravant factor in our happiness. And a detail commonly missed in articles like this is that even being highly intelligent is not fairly acknowledged. By this I mean that the parameters, tests and mecanisms tha supposedly would be a “measurement” of your skills and intelligence don’t really are. What they do is simply recognise “efficient” people, or sometimes moderately intelligent people with a lot of effort and hardwork. Really intelligent people are smart enough to see the many flaws and relativity of such tests and mecanisms, and this reason, together with the lack of motivation and difficulty to abandon creativity and criticity(this is very required in many areas) makes them also not so sucessful or recognized. However, I think that the biggest problem of all is the social inaptitude, specially in dating, or even in simple hang outs to interact with women.

  16. august January 6, 2018 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    it just we have to accept that nature is not kind for it brightest mind it always try to normalize to the center of bell curves its unfortunate to those trapped in it tails.
    brother its woe down here.

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