While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that most people of high intelligence are usually socially awkward in some respect, most people don’t realize it’s not because they’re “dorks” or whatever high school stereotype you care to use. Rather, it’s because highly intelligent people see the world on an entirely different level than the rest of us. Because of this, become incredibly anxious in seemingly normal situations. It’s not that they don’t know how to function at parties and social gatherings; it’s that their mind is constantly working on overdrive, which makes them incredibly anxious about any and everything around them. The following explains why being super-smart is both a blessing and a curse:
Highly intelligent people are much more in tune with the world around them than most other individuals. They are highly sensitive to threats of any kind, to the point that they have a hard time relaxing. Sudden loud noises can be enough to send them into a panic. They are so quick that while everyone else is processing the noise they just heard, the quick-thinker has already moved on to the “what if it was a gun or bomb or…” cycle of thought. Rethink this the next time you call your friend a “nervous Nellie.”
Intelligent people are constantly thinking about how they are being perceived, and will change their behavior when in a public place to attempt to blend in as much as possible. They’re constantly plagued with thoughts of “What if everyone saw me just sneeze all over my hand? They’re all gonna laugh at me.” While people may have seen it happen, chances are they didn’t care enough to make a big deal about it. Oddly enough, it’s tough for intelligent people to realize most of their thoughts are only in their head, and they’re being too self-aware.
Highly intelligent people constantly look for deeper meaning in conversations and regular life occurrences. This can lead to them getting lost in their own train of thought and losing their place in the conversation at hand. By over-analyzing things, intelligent people often distance themselves from mainstream conversations, finding it better to be an outside observer of goings-on than actively partaking in interactions with little face value.
Intelligent people are constantly wondering “What did he mean by that?” This can cause social anxiety in the most innocuous of situations. A simple compliment from a boss could lead to a string of worries, such as “Was he being sarcastic? Did I really do a good job? Have I not been doing a good job, and he felt the need to tell me I was today?” and so forth. Of course, their boss most likely meant to give a quick compliment; but the over-thinker is left worrying about the simple interaction for the rest of the day.
Let’s go back to the last example, imagine the boss had said “Great job today” with anything less than enthusiasm and exuberance. You can be sure the socially anxious person would have picked up on his boss’ body language and lack of excitement. A boss could be having a bad day which has nothing to do with the highly intelligent person, but being aware of someone else’s state of mind makes you want to find the problem and fix it. A socially anxious person will spend the rest of the day wondering if he did something to offend the other party.
Along with being overly sensitive to how other people present themselves, highly intelligent people are also highly empathetic. Unfortunately, this causes them to take on their friends’ burdens and problems as their own. Since they overanalyze every situation they encounter, highly intelligent people will stop at nothing until they’ve solved their friends issues; of course, this leads to even more anxiety, as they are dealing with not only their own problems, but the problems of a person they care for deeply.
Highly intelligent people are incredibly logical, which sounds like it should be a good thing. However, working with people who don’t think the same way can be incredibly frustrating. Many people operate off of emotions, so when a logical (and correct) conclusion is reached by a person with higher intelligence, there are usually some who will oppose the idea because it does not align with their train of thought. No matter how fool-proof a logical plan may be, it can be thwarted by those who fail to acknowledge the logical process behind it.
Being logical thinkers, highly intelligent people use past experiences to predict future outcomes. This can lead to high levels of social anxiety, as any possible negative outcome will certainly cross their mind along the way. Socially anxious people avoid getting themselves into situations in which they’ve embarrassed themselves or otherwise failed in the past. While weighing possible outcomes, it becomes difficult to avoid thinking of worst-case scenarios, and doing so can potentially derail an anxious person’s drive to complete a task.
As mentioned before, intelligent people often overthink off-the-cuff, innocuous remarks made by others. So when someone acts generously, a socially anxious person may get caught up wondering if there was some reason the other person was being so nice. This leads to a mistrust of the general public, regardless of people’s actual intentions. Again, socially anxious people think of worst case scenarios, and often let these scenes blind them from reality.
Since they tend to overthink every little situation they face, intelligent people’s minds are constantly working. This leads to burnout, insomnia, and undue stress that could have long-lasting negative effects on a person’s health and overall well-being. Although people with higher than average intelligence are overall grateful for the gift they’ve been given, I’m sure they’d like nothing better than to be able to take a few minutes each day and tune everything out.
Featured photo credit: Backlight of a teenager depressed sitting inside a dirty tunnel via shutterstock.com
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