Reading through Michael’s article, Why Highly Intelligent People Are Miserable, I definitely agreed that people who are considered academically intelligent have a number of issues to overcome, especially his mentions of boredom and overthinking. I would like to add to one of the issues he discussed, however: people’s expectations for highly intelligent people.
Now I am not a genius by any means. I have a decent IQ (although those have proven to be functionally useless measures in recent years) and I am a quick learner, but I don’t like to think of myself as at all superior.
Part of this reasoning comes from the fact that while I personally have always been excellent in school, I have not been at all interested in the fields I "excelled" in; I may test well in mathematics and advanced sciences, but that aptitude does not equal an active interest.
It strikes me as strange that people would be disappointed when I mentioned that I didn't want to grow into a mathematician, some even to the point of being offended. "You're so good at this, what do you mean you're not going to pursue it?!"
They didn't seem to understand that I found solving equations soul-crushingly boring and frustrating, and that I preferred the sciences when I could pick and choose my topics from across multiple fields without worrying about specifying and limiting myself to one narrow area of study.
“Having a brilliant brain is wonderful. But having to deal with people’s expectations of the great things I’m supposed to do with my brain? Not so much.” — Michael Ndubuaku
On top of this, because I was good at most of the subjects we covered, I developed intense Imposter Syndrome. I thought that surely no one can actually be good at many different things, that of course, I must be faking it somehow, fooling my teachers and peers, and even myself into believing I was something I wasn't.
I agonized over this, because my academic success had always been used as a point of pride by my family and teachers, so it had slowly morphed into a part of my identity when I would have much rather been defined by my talents with writing and acting, the ones I actively pursued and enjoyed. If they would rather appreciate my grades, was I even talented in my favorite fields at all?
I’m not angry with the people who had these expectations of me. It’s reasonable to assume that someone who is good at a field would go into it later on, especially when those fields are profitable STEM ventures. I appreciate that they wanted me to be successful and use the talents I was given, but there’s something painful about “just” being the smart kid.
Being intelligent is good, yes. It means advancement and a high level of understanding and engaging conversations and such. But it also means thinking more critically about everything, including yourself. Just being smart is not enough; we need to be loved and appreciated for other things, things that we value, as well.