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Four Signs that You’re too Smart to Fit In

smart anxious personHave you ever wondered if you are too smart to really fit in, socially?

If you have, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are arrogant. It might simply be true.

How do you know if you’re smarter than average? You could take an IQ test. But since you’re here, you can also read the following four ideas that smarter-than-average people typically understand.

Disclaimer: The following is the author’s opinion. I made it all up, based on personal study and NLP training. There you go. Now you have no reason to believe me, other than personally identifying with the following.

Unusually smart people typically understand that…

1. Meaning is made up

As a super-smart person, you’re aware that things mean what you make them mean. This is typically based on what you’ve learned in the past. For example, a chair is only a chair because someone taught you to call such objects “chairs.”

Beyond the label, a chair is merely a configuration of material that has a tendency to be put to certain uses by humans. You’ve learned to recognize the configuration, put it to certain uses, and call it “chair.”

Really smart people not only understand this, but often struggle to figure out what things ‘really’ mean, given it’s all made up. In other words, they often do not take meaning for granted, and they struggle to figure things out on their own.

2. Meaning is contextual

Another element of meaning malleability is that it is context-dependent. For example, the same behavior might mean very different things, depending on the context. Take the behavior of cheering when something good happens.

It’s great to cheer when good things happen at a football game. It would be rude to cheer when something good happens in a library. The meaning of cheering depends on where it happens.

Smart people understand that there are no “good” or “bad” behaviors or words. The meaning is in the context. Change the context, change the meaning.

3. Making fine distinctions makes you more knowledgeable

Epistemologist Gregory Bateson defined intelligence as the “ability to make fine distinctions.” The more detailed the distinctions you make, the more refined your knowledge will become.

For example, when someone says, “Let’s go….”

It’s natural to ask, “Let’s go where?” (if you don’t already know).

If someone says, “I am going to win the lottery.”

It’s natural to ask, “How are you going to win?”

In asking such questions, we’re attempting to refine our knowledge. Really smart people can take these refinements to unusual levels.

For example, you might say, “It’s wrong to kill people.”

This might seem obvious. However, a really smart person might ask:

“It’s wrong, according to whom, for whom, to kill which person, under what circumstances?”

A smart person may attempt to make a lot of distinctions before finally agreeing with you. Often, when you make very fine distinctions about anything, the original, vague or assumed meaning is called into question. Highly specific information refines ideas. Smart people are very good at the refining process.

By the way, there is no better tool (IMO) than the NLP Meta Model for refining ideas and making distinctions in conversation. The Meta Model serves as refinement training wheels. Often, coaches and therapists find these questions extremely helpful as they are attempting to get clear with clients.

4. Taking a giant step back is often the best perspective

Really smart people have the ability to step back and look at the big picture. In doing so, they leave their emotional reactions behind and approach a subjective objectivity.

This is useful for learning from past mistakes, creating a vision for the future, understanding patterns in relationships and – well – comprehending more effectively just about anything comprehensible.

The Pitfalls of Being Smart

There are many. Because your mind simply wants to know what the average mind doesn’t consider, you’re likely to be seen as annoying – or even stupid!

Because you tend not to agree with people so quickly, you might be seen as disagreeable or intolerant or difficult.

Because you know you must work to find the most accurate or useful interpretation of so many things, your mind may go on and on and on and on, without turning off easily. Analysis paralysis, disconnection from feelings, insomnia!

When you express your ideas, they may fall on flat faces. People may not ‘get’ you and even think you’re odd.

Most people will consider you arrogant. You might be. Still, you don’t have to feel that you’re better than others in order to be perceived as an intellectual snob. In fact, I fear being perceived as arrogant or even heartless just for writing this article. I am suggesting some people are smarter than others. Indirectly, am I communicating that I, myself, am smarter than average? Am I an arrogant, stuck-on-myself highbrow?

Because of the above, smart people often learn to withhold their endless questions and perspectives so that other people can tolerate them. Now, they are in a position of “forced fakery,” pretending to be someone they are not, just to get along. Of course, they don’t feel accepted, either way.

Because your mind is so active interpreting the world, you may find it running in frightening directions. You may imagine catastrophic personal outcomes and worry continually about what could happen, just because you can!

One of the worst consequences of being smarter than average…

…is that you may simply feel alone. Who really understands you? With whom can you have a thorough, dynamic and real conversation?

There are organizations in the world created specifically for smart people. However, you may find these organizations are not for you. Some of them are full of people who act like smart people are actually better than everyone. You may find this attitude insufferable.

Worry, loneliness, anxiety, and disconnection from peers are the pitfalls of being an unusually smart person. Worse, who in their right mind is going to have sympathy for you, given such a complaint?

You: I am discouraged and lonely because I am smarter than most people I come into contact with.

Other: That’s your complaint? How DARE you! Get off your high horse and swallow an ounce of humility, why don’t you!

Being smart offers little protection from emotional ills. Smart people can suffer all the same emotional disorders. A smart person may find it more difficult to get help, though. For example, an emotionally distraught smart person may find it very difficult to connect with a counselor who is of average intelligence. This does not mean the therapist can’t help. It’s just difficult to connect.

I’m rambling about the woes of unusually smart people. If you’re offended, please forgive me. Yet, all of the above is accurate, whether you think I’m a daft prick or not.

Now for the good news.

A community of Smart, Anxious Misfits has formed. Most of them came to the group after reading one of two articles on PsychCentral:

In the Smart, Anxious Misfits group, the most common expression from new members is, “What? There are others in the world just like me? I thought I was all alone.”

A common response, “Welcome home.”

Four Signs that You’re too Smart to Fit In

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2019). Four Signs that You’re too Smart to Fit In. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2019
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