Some of the brightest people happen to have insecurities and suffer from psychological complexes. Why does it happen? Wouldn’t it make more sense if all highly intelligent people were confident and successful?

Yes, it would, but in reality, higher intellect often goes hand-in-hand with self-esteem issues. Let’s explore a few reasons why many smart people lack self-confidence.

Why Do Intelligent People Suffer from Insecurities?

1. They overanalyze

A high level of intellect doesn’t come with benefits only. There are drawbacks too. One of the most troublesome side effects of above-average intelligence is overthinking.

A bright person tends to notice and analyze everything, even when there is no need to. This habit often leaves them pondering about hypothetical problems and worry about the things that haven’t even happened yet.

And of course, they also overanalyze themselves. The tendency to overthink things can easily become the culprit of an intelligent person’s insecurities and lack of self-belief. They constantly wonder,

“What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough for this?”

They can think up 100 possible reasons why they could fail, and this can be counterproductive. Sometimes you need to just relax and do your job without too much analysis.

2. Too high expectations

Gifted children often face too high expectations from a very young age. They might come from a family where all members have above average IQs or are just pushed by their parents towards one achievement after another.

This pressure from parents and teachers is what makes a gifted kid work hard to meet these high standards set for them. After years of this rat race towards success, they begin to feel like whatever they do, it is never good enough.

At the same time, not all intelligent children are meant to grow into CEOs and university professors later in life. Some bright people are happier doing ordinary jobs without forcing themselves into great achievements.

But the unrealistic expectations from their childhood haunt them for a lifetime.

Being a highly intelligent child of demanding parents is a sure road to developing insecurities. Such individuals may feel like a failure and even suffer from an imposter syndrome, which makes them write off their accomplishments and feel like they don’t deserve to be successful.

3. Self-criticism

Self-criticism can arise from the first two features. A highly intelligent overthinker faced with unrealistic expectations grows to be overly self-critical.

It looks as if they observe their flaws and mistakes under a microscope and find faults where they don’t exist. They overthink their most minor failures and beat themselves up for days.

Since highly intelligent people are more self-aware, they also focus too much on their own imperfections and character flaws. All this harsh self-criticism distorts their perception of themselves, making them look worse than they are. As a result, insecurity sets in.

Remarkably, people of lower intelligence often consider themselves to be smarter and more competent than they are. This is known as the Dunning Kruger effect. It describes dull people’s lack of critical thinking skills, which makes them incorrectly assess their abilities.

Intelligent people tend to experience the opposite – they have an excess of critical thinking and self-awareness. This may lead them to be too hard on themselves and even underestimate their abilities.

4. Wired for doubt

A truly intelligent person is never 100% sure of anything – be it politics, religion, or themselves. Critical thinking and the ability to see a situation from different angles are among the most important indicators of intellect.

Most of the things in the world are multi-faceted. Life is full of semitones and half-truths, and a genuinely smart person knows this very well. They know that perceiving the world in black-and-white terms is a feature of narrow-mindedness.

That’s why they are never truly certain about anything, including themselves. A person with above-average intelligence is wired for doubt, and this often leads them to be indecisive and insecure.

Before making a decision or reaching a conclusion, they always ask themselves questions such as, “Is it really so?” “What if…” Sometimes they are so baffled by self-doubt and suspicion that they decide to not act at all.

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence Charles Bukowski

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

Charles Bukowski

5. They don’t fit in

The smarter you are, the harder it is to fit in. An intellectual person may struggle to find like-minded friends with similar brains and interests.

Typically, gifted people are creative and think outside the box. For this reason, they don’t blend in with the crowd and don’t have much in common with those around them. As children and teens, they may face rejection, which paves the way for low self-esteem and inferiority complex.

Many intelligent people are also non-conformists. Some studies have associated low conformity with increased problem-solving, creative thinking, and intelligence. Truly smart people tend to think for themselves instead of mindlessly consuming what they are told. They have their own vision of things.

While it’s a great quality, it has a flip side too, and gifted individuals often struggle to relate to other people. Because of this, they may feel like outsiders who don’t belong anywhere.

Bright people also tend to be pickier when it comes to social life. They realize that they have no time for nonsense and random people. A highly intelligent individual prefers to spend their evening doing something meaningful rather than waste it on gossip and shallow chitchat.

Because of all this, people with high IQs may sometimes feel lonely and painfully different, which results in a sense of inadequacy. After all, it’s a natural human desire to want to be accepted by the group.

Are You an Intelligent Person Baffled by Insecurities?

If you have recognized yourself in the above, I’m here to tell you this: no matter how society and other people make you feel about yourself, keep doing your thing. Make good use of your amazing brain and don’t be afraid to stand out. It’s much more rewarding than trying to fit in with others.

Do you know someone who is both highly intelligent and insecure? Is this you? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


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the power of misfits

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. kellly

    #5 for sure. Additionally many people have very weird concepts of intelligence and misconceptions about highly intelligent people. There seems to be no filters on the way some people comment and think it’s acceptable to behave towards someone more intelligent than they are. It gets tiring to be subject to put downs yet at the same time be a walking encyclopedia for others and expected to perform some kind of mental miracle every 10 minutes. The stereotype if “evil genius” doesn’t help matters any, either.

  2. Eddie

    “Intelligent People” is kind of relative. The biggest intelligence that I can have is that I have very little intelligence. That is why I am one of the most intelligent people on the earth. 😃 I prefer “Thinkers”; as long as l don’t break anything, thinking is what makes me special. It took me a long time to learn that many people hate to think and use their minds. Who knows, maybe THEY are the intelligent ones!!! Ignorance is bliss? Sadly there is always a fall waiting at the end of the bliss! I have learned to live with watching dead people walking. It is lonely at the top? Thanks for great advice Anna.

  3. Ray

    It’s not a matrix nor a hard choice of pill to swallow, intelligent people do stand out, naturally, even when we stand down. Yes, it’s a multi-faceted reality because people tend to both praise and scorn intelligence and this does lead to insecurity and lack of confidence, because scorn is often noisy while praise is almost always quiet. And that is telling on its own. But if intelligence is a red pill (or blue one, I don’t really know), I’ll choose intelligence every time. Great article, Anna, and an altogether great take-away. Thank you.

  4. Bonnie Moore

    Of course I’ve never fit in! I skipped a grade; was always on the honor roll; and was good at math when girls just didn’t do that! Got teased for the good grades. I outshone my siblings. Problem is, I never learned how to study, but I made it through college. Much later, I tested so high on the LSAT that I won a 3-yr scholarship to law school and passed the bar on the first try. However, I unsuccessfully tried marriage three times (to ordinary men), and had a hard time “just” being a mother to my kids; I needed more intellectual stimulation. So, I’m 76 now, and getting ready to launch a third career as a mystery writer! Yes, life has been a mystery to me!

  5. vicente carranza

    I am 81 years old. I just retired as a daily radio talk show host for 32 years. Due to religion, TV (all news) and social media, intelligent people for what ever reason have gotten dumber. Dumb people have gotten way smarter at being dumb. So today in the USA reality dumb people are doing more and getting away with more than intelligent people. And any of you who does not see it or disagree with me you are an example of what I said.

  6. Pavithra

    This is something i have always wondered. Up until my graduation, I was dumb. But then something happened and my eyes opened, now i think about how stupid and confident i was back in college, and I am woke now but feel more alienated and read a lot of stuff, and when i talk to normal ppl from back in college who i befriended, i realise how stupid most of them are, yet confident and going on like the happiest ppl on earth. sometimes i want to be stupid, dumb, just to get that confidence more.

    Its like that quote, “the more you know, the sadder you are and yet you feel you know nothing”.

    And i relate to Bonnie More’s comment! i just feel like i wont be happy just being mother of kids, need more mental simulation, than just a day job that pays well.

  7. DuWizrd

    Another take on intelligence: Imagine two clear glass jars shaped like heads. In one (A) are a few marbles and the other (B) is packed with marbles of varying size, color and material. Each marble represents some universe of knowledge. A marble for knowing about your Self, one for math, another for geography, etc. A has only a few small marbles, representing let’s say a 4th grade C-D level of education, knowledge and comprehension. Meanwhile B is packed with marbles/domains of knowledge and understanding across a range of information bases, representing let’s say an A-A+ level post graduate and life experience. Shake A: it rattles, is light, fun to play with; lots of room to grow and new relationships and associations come and go. Shake B: it’s heavy, makes no noise, no fun. The marbles are packed so close together and the relationships and associations between them are well defined and stable. B will reject arguments that don’t compute while A can be gullible, eating up anything that makes the marbles spin.

    Add head tilt for certain driving factors.
    Left/Right for persuasions of all type: religious, political, sexual, etc.
    Forward/Back for tendency to champion/retreat from issues.

    So, there it is, a simple marble theory of brain packing in intelligence.
    Hopefully it is food for thought the lightly packed and full of arguable points for those richly packed. And, that’s ok: It’s a suggestion not a perfection.

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