5 Struggles Only Smart People Understand

Have you ever felt that if you were smarter, you would have less problems in your life? We’ve all wished for some more intelligence when we got a bad grade or made a dumb mistake. But did you know that high intelligence can cause its own problems?

Here are five struggles only smart people understand.

1) You are prone to impostor syndrome

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Mathematician Bertrand Russell once said, “the fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Does this doubt sound familiar to you? Smart people are extremely aware of how much they don’t know yet, which can lead to “impostor syndrome.” Those experiencing “impostor syndrome” feel like they don’t deserve the success they’ve gotten and they’re a fraud who has just been lucky so far. They are constantly fearful that they are not as talented as others think and their incompetence will be exposed. If this sounds like you, don’t despair – find reasons to enjoy your tasks for their own sake, instead of anxiously wondering whether you’re good at them.

2) You are often alone

How many things are on your to-do list right now? If you’re a highly intelligent individual, this list is probably overflowing. Research shows that smart people have a greater ability to solve problems and adapt to new challenges. As a result, their time is more focused on big objectives which make the most of their capacities. Unfortunately, this also means they have much less time to socialize, so they are often alone. If this sounds like you, don’t despair – the research also finds that smart people are impacted by loneliness less, because pursuing their goals can be satisfying in their own way.

3) You are stuck in “analysis paralysis”

Did you take a long time to make your last big life decision? Smart people know the value of thinking things through, collecting information and considering multiple perspectives. This is a key part of what makes them smart! But do you also agonize over small decisions, always unsure about the right choice? Then you might be experiencing “analysis paralysis”, where you overthink a situation and don’t take action. Smart people often find that their intelligence works against them when they face this problem. If this sounds like you, don’t despair – set a time limit to make decisions and then commit to whatever you’ve thought of when it expires, even if it’s not the perfect choice.

4) You are burdened by high expectations

Have you ever been labelled “gifted” as a child or told that you had a lot of potential? Smart people know this is not as encouraging as it sounds. They are often burdened by the high expectations placed on them throughout their lives. They face constant pressure to excel at everything they do, with no room for failure or mediocrity. A study by the University of Texas at Austin asked elderly individuals with high intelligence to look back on their lives. The ones who had been labelled “gifted” as children had lower psychological well-being and felt like their lives had disappointed everyone’s expectations. If this sounds like you, don’t despair – celebrate achievements you are proud of, rather than thinking about times you have let others down.

5) You can’t explain yourself to others

Do you ever feel like others just don’t get you when you try to explain yourself? Research shows that smart people suffer from the “curse of knowledge.” This means they know so much that they can’t think through the perspective of someone who lacks that knowledge. Passion, knowledge and expertise on a subject can actually make someone worse at explaining it to others. As a result, communication between a smart person and a novice can break down very quickly when the novice can’t properly interpret what the smart person is saying and the smart person can’t understand why the novice is confused. If this sounds like you, don’t despair – getting regular feedback about the other person’s perspective can help to bridge this gap and explain complicated topics.

Do you relate to any of the problems mentioned in this article? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and share this video if it helped you and you think it will help someone else. The studies and references used are listed in the description below. 


Damen, D., Van Amelsvoort, M., Van der Wijst, P., Pollmann, M., & Krahmer, E. (2021). Lifting the curse of knowing: How feedback improves perspective-taking. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74(6), 1054-1069.

Holahan, C. K., & Holahan, C. J. (1999). Being labeled as gifted, self-appraisal, and psychological well-being: A life span developmental perspective. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 48(3), 161-173.

Li, N. P., & Kanazawa, S. (2016). Country roads, take me home… to my friends: How intelligence, population density, and friendship affect modern happiness. British Journal of Psychology, 107(4), 675-697.

Robson, D. (2019). The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes. WW Norton & Company.

Sakulku, J. (2011). The impostor phenomenon. The Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1), 75-97.

Wiemann, C. (2007). The “curse of knowledge,” or why intuition about teaching often fails. APS News, 16(10).

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