People who are highly intelligent but have low self-belief usually display these 11 subtle behaviors

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Low self-belief in highly intelligent people is often an intricate interplay of internal and external factors.

From perfectionism and imposter syndrome to past experiences and societal pressures, there’s no shortage of reasons, really. 

So, let’s see what subtle behaviors often brilliant people who have low self-belief usually display.

1) They often downplay their own abilities or achievements

Look, I’m no Einstein but I’m fairly intelligent, right? And I often had this habit of downplaying my achievements or abilities whenever someone praised me. 

It was almost like I didn’t want to acknowledge my own strengths. And so I’d crack a joke or make light of the situation instead of just accepting the compliment graciously.

It’s kind of a defense mechanism, right? Like, if you don’t take yourself too seriously, maybe others won’t either. 

2) They’re always after validation from others about their ideas or decisions

Back then, I was constantly seeking validation from others. I was self-conscious about everything. 

From work, relationships, or even just my appearance, I relied heavily on other people’s opinions to feel good about myself. 

I just couldn’t trust my own judgment without someone else’s approval. Secretly, it was tearing me inside, and I hated every waking moment of my life at that point. 

I wanted to be more confident, but something was clearly holding me back. It wasn’t until I started to realize that my self-worth shouldn’t be tied to what others thought of me that I began to break free from this cycle.

Slowly, I started to trust my own judgment and recognize my own worth. It was a gradual process, filled with moments of self-doubt and setbacks, but with each step forward, I felt a little lighter, a little freer.

3) They strive for flawlessness because they fear judgment or failure

My perfectionism was off the charts. I would spend hours, sometimes days, obsessing over the smallest details, convinced that everything had to be absolutely perfect or else it would be a total failure. 

It was exhausting, and it often held me back from taking action because I was so afraid of making a mistake.

It took me a while to realize that perfection is an illusion. No one and nothing is perfect, and that’s okay. 

It’s our imperfections that make us human and that give us depth and character. Once I accepted that, I was able to let go of my need for perfection and start embracing the messy, imperfect beauty of life. 

And let me tell you, it’s been so much more fulfilling ever since.

4) They overthink things and get stuck in analysis paralysis

Apart from perfectionism, I was also “blessed” with the tendency to overthink everything. I’d analyze things from every possible angle, trying to anticipate every potential outcome, but it usually just left me overwhelmed and indecisive. 

My mind was constantly on overdrive, and I couldn’t shut it off, no matter how hard I tried. 

For example, you’d think sending a simple text message wouldn’t require a PhD in overthinking, but for me, it was like a mental marathon. 

Should I use emojis, or would that seem too casual? Should I wait a few minutes before responding so I don’t seem too eager? What if they don’t reply right away? Does that mean they’re mad at me? 

It was exhausting, and more often than not, I’d end up deleting my response and starting over multiple times before finally hitting send.

5) They avoid new challenges or opportunities to avoid failure

I used to play it safe all the time because I was so afraid of failing. I’d stick to what I knew, even if it meant passing up great opportunities or adventure. I was trapped in my comfort zone, too scared to step outside of it and take a chance.

That lasted well into my thirties when I finally started taking some chances and really big leaps of faith. 

I moved to a couple of different countries, started working interesting jobs I liked for once, and developed some self-belief and confidence. 

And now that I’m in my forties, I feel so confident that almost nothing can sway me. It’s incredibly empowering. It was also a gradual progress and didn’t happen overnight. 

6) They spend excessive time preparing because they doubt their abilities

But let’s back up a bit into my past again. Whenever I had to do something, whether it was a presentation at work or even just meeting up with dates, I would overprepare like crazy. 

I’d research, plan, and rehearse until I felt like I knew everything inside and out, all because I doubted my own abilities to handle the situation without being fully prepared.

It’s a heavy burden to carry around all the time. But it also helped me learn how to prepare for tasks quickly. 

Now, all I had to do was learn how to relax a bit, and that was it. 

7) They’re constantly measuring themselves against others

It also didn’t help that I was always comparing myself to other people, especially those who seemed to have it all together. 

No matter how much I achieved, I always felt like I was falling short in comparison. I simply couldn’t see my own worth without measuring it against someone else’s.

And, of course, social media didn’t help with that. You don’t have to scroll for a long time until you see beautiful rich people flaunting their wealth and success. 

It’s especially disheartening when they’re the same age or younger, and you start feeling like a failure. If they could succeed, why can’t you, right?

8) They prefer to stay in the background

I always hated being the center of attention. Whenever a conversation started to focus on me, I’d immediately try to shift the spotlight onto someone else. 

I preferred listening to others talk about themselves rather than having to talk about myself, which always made me feel awkward and self-conscious. 

I never asked for that, and I couldn’t take the pressure or responsibility that came with being in the spotlight.

But I couldn’t run from it forever, could I? Sometimes, you need to take responsibility and do the grown-up thing. 

9) They mostly keep their thoughts and ideas to themselves

Continuing with this theme, even when I had a great idea, I would hesitate to speak up. I was afraid of sounding stupid or having my ideas dismissed, so I often kept quiet instead of sharing my thoughts with others. 

I was in this constant battle between wanting to contribute and feeling terrified of being shot down.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, keeping quiet never got me anywhere. Even though I was often sitting on a gold mine of ideas, I was too scared to share them with the world.

Eventually, though, I realized that my ideas were valuable and that it was worth taking the risk of putting them out there, even if it meant facing a little criticism or rejection

And you know what? More often than not, people actually liked what I had to say.

10) They’re their own worst critics

My inner critic was relentless. I was constantly bombarded by negative thoughts telling me I wasn’t good enough or that I’d never succeed. 

Typically, there was this voice in my head that was always tearing me down, and it took a toll on my self-esteem and confidence.

No amount of intelligence can snap you out of it until you start using positive affirmations and giving yourself some more leeway. 

But nothing could prepare me for the following. 

11) They often feel like a fraud

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I often also felt like a fraud. I doubted my abilities and felt like I didn’t deserve any of the success or recognition that came my way. 

In fact, I was constantly waiting for someone to expose me as a fake, even though deep down, I knew I was capable and deserving of my achievements.

Honestly, this feeling doesn’t go away for most people who do creative work. You just learn how to suppress it or deal with it more effectively

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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