17 People Reveal The Disadvantages Of Being Smart

9. Jessica Margolin

This may be specific to being a smart female.

I have a former sales/marketing colleague who constantly “othered” me by saying I was smart. She once introduced me in a professional context as a “walking brain.”

So I asked her to stop. She said, “But you have to realize that’s the first thing that anyone notices about you!”

I responded that I realize, and am thankful, that people see me as particularly smart; however I’m not working enough despite being so smart, and that lack of deal flow seems to be related to people “branding me” as an intellectual stereotype with my head in the clouds who can’t DO things, including relate to The Average Joe. I asked her to stop exacerbating this. I asked her to pick any other attribute, and since we had worked closely together she had many specific performance/outcome related introductions available to her.

She continued othering me. So I told her I was angry at her disregard of how I felt about this, and distanced myself from her.

I realized she was a competitive businesswoman whose particular skill was branding and product positioning, and she realized I was smarter than she was. I was instinctively cubbyholed into a power-zapping “brand” that she felt that she could be successful against. I do think it was instinctive and not deliberate, but the fact remains that when I said it was destructive to me and asked her to stop, she refused to.

Very sad. One of many stories like this.

On the other topic, which seems a theme in this thread, that intelligence is correlated with depression: I truly believe that the intermediate variable is isolation. I don’t think being smart makes you see things that are depressing; I think being in a society that ridicules intelligence, and then exploits it makes people feel like crap, and that causes biochemical changes which lead to depressive behaviors and ideation.

I think anyone can view life in such a way that it feels depressing, of any intelligence. The two cognitive patterns are (1) bad things persist while good things are transient and (2) small things are catastrophized into dealbreaking show-stoppers.

While intelligent people might make logical-seeming arguments to support these two dysfunctional thought patterns, anyone might make crappy arguments, and feel just as depressed.

10. Steve Upstill

(Assuming that by “smart” you mean high IQ; there are lots of interpretations of the word) There is a temptation to believe that being smart is a superpower to conquer the world. It’s a mythology about smart people that’s in the culture to begin with, but largely promoted by smart people themselves.

This mythology leads to a few basic mistakes:

  • Overestimating the importance of being smart. While being smart is undoubtedly useful in general and sometimes a critical advantage, there is a lot to being in the world beyond what smartness gets you.
  • Underestimating other attributes of the high-functioning human being. Emotional intelligence, social aptitude, empathy, compassion, spirituality; all these things and many others can get downplayed in the presence of awesome smartness.
  • Falling in love with rationality. This is an instance of the “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” problem. Massive intelligence mates with the Enlightenment ideal of rationality and breeds contempt for anything that can’t be described as a logical proposition or provable formality.
  • Sometimes being smart is actually being dumb. Hang around smart people long enough and you’ll discover that they can talk themselves into anything–precisely because they are smart.
  • Some of the other posters mention high expectations. If you have an attribute that’s supposed to furnish your life with miracles, and your life isn’t furnished with miracles, whose fault is that?

There must be more, but that’s a starter list.

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