Intelligent People Tend to Be More Insecure

· January 31, 2018

But the most arrogant types are secure by nature because they don’t worry about the consequences of their actions or weigh the effect of their words. Plus, they don’t worry about the harm they might cause to other people.

People say “ignorance is bliss.” We’ll surely all agree on that. Because we’ve all certainly come across that essence so characteristic of human stupidity where someone acts with complete emotional and rational negligence. They’re never conscious of the effect some of their behaviors have.

“Someone’s intelligence can be measured by the quantity of uncertainties he can bear.”
-Immanuel Kant-

But, even though most of us can recognize the “ignorant” person, the one who acts with obvious pride, presumptuousness, and arrogance, we still ask one question. Why do they still have so much power in our lives?

Historian Carlo M. Cipolla said that sometimes we underestimate the huge amount of stupid people in the world. But we should add something extra to that statement… Why has stupidity reached such high levels of power in our society?

Psychologists and sociologists tell us there’s an interesting aspect associated with this behavioral pattern. The stupidest people tend to display an elevated sense of security. They’re more rash, “louder,” and have the ability to influence others because of these qualities.

Intelligent people, though, tend to be characterized by insecurity. They have a high level of personal response, reflection, and discretion. 

None of these things makes an impact. Plus, we live in a world where people still see insecurity as a negative characteristic.

Franzesca Dafne art

Intelligent People Tend to Undervalue Themselves

We still have a somewhat mistaken idea about intelligent people. And this is especially true with people who have a very high IQ.

We see them as competent people, always able to make the best decisions. Or we see them as people who are highly effective in their work, responsibilities, and daily obligations.


But, there’s there’s often something else coming into play. Intelligent people tend to suffer from social anxiety. It’s rare for them to feel completely integrated into an environment of theirs: school, college, work…

Also, as psychiatrist and doctor of neuroscience Dean Burnett explains, people with high intelligence tend to constantly undervalue themselves.

It’s what we now call “impostor syndrome.” It’s a disorder where the person minimizes their personal achievements and abilities. Therefore they gradually undermine their self-esteem and self-trust. 

We obviously shouldn’t generalize though. There might be people with high IQ who are very secure. There might be high IQ people who have climbed the ladder of success with psychological composure, consistency, and efficiency.

But, the first pattern is the more common one. Intellectually brilliant people tend to have a deeper perception of reality.  It’s a reality that doesn’t always seem easy, pleasant, or even trustworthy.

In this complex world, unpredictable and full of contradictions, intelligent people see themselves as “strange,” as aliens.. So, almost without them realizing, they often end up undervaluing themselves. They do it because they don’t see themselves as capable of adapting to these social dynamics.
Franzesca Dafne art

Is Insecurity Really So “Negative”?

It’s true, a secure person is attractive and inspiring. We like people able to make quick decisions. People who are put together and react quickly. But… is it really right or even desirable to always be so “sure” of ourselves?

The answer to that would be: “yes and no.” The key is in moderation, balance. Back to neuroscientist Dean Burnett, let’s talk about one of his well-known books: “The Idiot Brain.”

In it he explains how in general, the most naive or “stupid” people tend to display the highest levels of personal security. They’re the types of people unable to recognize when something is wrong. They also can’t apply analytic, reflective thought to pre-evaluate the effect of certain decisions, actions, or comments.

But the thing is, “the idiot personality” tends to have more social success. Directors, officials, or politicians who display rashness, security, and firmness in their decisions tend to have what a lot of people see as “leadership ability.” 

However, that assumption is truly dangerous. Sometimes we put our future in the hands of people who aren’t able to evaluate the consequences of their actions.

Franzesca Dafne art: intelligent people

Productive Insecurity

Insecurity that traps and paralyzes us isn’t useful. But there’s a kind of insecurity that tells us things like, “stop, be careful, and think before you act.” This kind of insecurity can be helpful.

But that’s only if we use it to help us make a decision. It’s not good if we let hold us back permanently.

Intelligent people tend to have a really hard time when it comes to processing that insecurity. That’s because, like we’ve said, they tend to have low-self esteem, on top of some other characteristics:

  • They over-analyze every fact, occurrence, word spoken, expression, and attitude.
  • They have a “branching” kind of thought process. That is, they go from one idea to another and another, until they’re buried.
  • They’re very logical people and need everything to “fit.” Everything has to make sense. But sometimes life demands us to accept it as it is, with all its irrationality, chaos, and strangeness.

So, they need to keep their insecurity from isolating them in the stagnation of their sophisticated minds. They have to learn to put up with uncertainty. They have to accept the imperfection of human behavior. A lot of what happens in the world makes no logical sense.

On top of all that, their intelligence absolutely has to break its extremely “rational” border. They have to move towards emotional intelligence, where they stop undervaluing themselves or feeling like an alien.

Even if they don’t believe it, this world needs them more than ever to beat “the virus of human stupidity.” 

Images courtesy of Franzesca Dafne