Individual perceptions of intelligence can influence personality traits.
If you consider yourself smart, there’s a better chance you’ll invest in yourself and pursue knowledge.
If you don’t, this assumption can act as a barrier to personal and academic achievement.
You’re less likely to take on challenging tasks and more likely to avoid opportunities for learning.
But what happens when intelligence and arrogance go hand in hand?
Turns out, this conviction also impacts your behavior.
People who believe they’re more intelligent than others often have these 7 personality traits.
While some of these further your ambitions, others hold you back.
1) Sense of superiority
One of the most noticeable traits in someone who believes themselves more intelligent than others is a sense of superiority.
When you think that everyone else is inferior, you’re one step away from becoming condescending.
This attitude negatively impacts your personal and professional relationships.
Look: know-it-alls are annoying.
In college, I had a classmate who believed himself to be the smartest in our class and acted like it.
He would always point out how others were wrong.
He would offer opinions unprompted, disrupting the flow of the class.
When we had to do group projects, he didn’t accept input from anyone else, and we were forced to follow his lead.
It lasted until our first set of finals.
When we got the results and – surprise! – he wasn’t the best at everything, he experienced a brutal reality check.
To his credit, he adjusted his demeanor and became less obnoxious to be around.
In turn, this made him more popular.
As his arrogance dissipated and he understood that others had plenty to offer, the rest of us no longer avoided him or dreaded his company.
I got to know him a little, and he admitted that his upbringing had a lot to do with his sense of superiority.
Growing up, his parents constantly praised him for being intelligent and sheltered him from failure.
When he moved away for college, and their influence diminished, he understood that he wasn’t, in fact, the overlords’ gift to humanity.
Treating others with condescension discourages them from sharing their ideas.
Plus, condescending folks don’t make for particularly good company.
Don’t be that guy.
On the other hand, believing you’re more intelligent than others can fuel ambition.
Knowing you’re clever usually leads to higher aspirations and a drive for achievement.
You’re likely to pursue advanced education and embark on challenging careers.
Your confidence also makes you take on innovative projects and try new things.
Self-esteem influences us more than it may seem at first sight, given that confident people are more successful in all areas of life.
Your belief can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The classmate I mentioned at the previous point realized his belief was unfounded and had to fine-tune his expectations.
That doesn’t always happen.
As you engage in more intellectual activities and witness the fruits of your efforts, it reinforces your belief in your intelligence.
This positive feedback loop then propels you further along the path of personal and intellectual development.
In other words, you embody the fake-it-until-you-make-it philosophy without even realizing it.
Which, let’s be fair, is pretty cool.
3) Need for validation
Individuals who believe they’re more intelligent than others might have a heightened need for external validation.
If you only have an inkling that you’re intellectually superior, you seek confirmation of your smarts at every turn.
You feel compelled to showcase your knowledge and achievements as often as possible to see if others regard you as highly as you do.
This desire for external validation masks an underlying insecurity and comes with drawbacks:
- You risk becoming addicted to others’ opinions for a sense of self-worth
- You end up prioritizing shallow relationships based on external validation over genuine connections
- You conform to a behavior meant to earn approval and don’t express your true self
- You experience anxiety, stress, and even emotional burnout
Moreover, being susceptible to external validation also makes you overly sensitive to criticism.
This brings me to my next point.
4) Difficulty accepting criticism
Criticism is tough for people who think they’re above others.
They view it as a challenge to their intellect.
Instead of seeing feedback as an opportunity to learn, they become defensive or dismissive.
They use their smarts as a shield against acknowledging areas for development.
When you think you know everything, you don’t seek evidence that proves you wrong.
I was fluent in online marketing during the emerging days of social media.
I worked in a related field and was passionate about the topic. I went to conferences and read industry books.
When I changed jobs, my passion dwindled, but I still thought I knew a lot.
I would look down on courses and seminars on the subject, considering them a waste of time.
When marketing professionals complained about ever-changing trends, I dismissed them as being dramatic.
You know where this is going. Social media moves fast.
So fast, in fact, that my knowledge became obsolete about two minutes after I stopped keeping up.
Fast-forward a couple of years, when an acquaintance asked me for tips on how to promote a project.
I was confident I could help. At least I had the foresight to do a little research and see what’s new.
To my dismay, I discovered that everything I thought I knew had become useless.
I’ve lost my fluency.
And up until that point, I was still acting all smug because how difficult can it be to write a Facebook ad, really?
The joke was on me all along.
People who believe they’re more intelligent than others frequently have a competitive streak.
This competitiveness can manifest in various aspects of life:
- During their school years, they’re driven to outperform their peers, seeking validation through high grades and academic achievements
- In professional fields, the competitive nature of individuals who believe they are more intelligent makes them actively seek leadership roles or positions that showcase their expertise, looking to come out on top
- In casual settings, this competitive streak manifests as a need to demonstrate knowledge or start debates to highlight intellectual prowess
While competitiveness can be a driving force for success, it can also make you undervalue collaborative efforts and see others less like peers and more like rivals.
There is such a thing as too competitive, and it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.
On a more positive note, believing in your intelligence boosts motivation.
As long as you manage to strike a balance between confidence and humility, you can use this belief to your advantage.
When you have faith in your intellectual capabilities, you are more likely to dive head-first into new endeavors, overcome obstacles, and persist in the face of difficulties.
You have a great shot at developing a genuine love of learning, which will benefit you tremendously in the long run.
People willing to expand their horizons maintain mental agility and are more adaptable.
Furthermore, a curious mindset encourages open-mindedness, enhanced problem-solving skills, and personal satisfaction.
Not too shabby.
Finally, people who believe they’re more intelligent than others are prone to perfectionism.
They want to maintain the image of intellectual superiority, so they set unrealistically high expectations for themselves.
From personal experience, the pressure to excel becomes exhausting sooner rather than later.
The need to maintain a facade of perfection keeps you from trying new things you might suck at and from showing others your authentic, flawed self.
As humans, we’re far from perfect – but it’s our failings and mistakes that make life so interesting.
Our setbacks are powerful catalysts for personal development.
If everything were perfect all the time, boredom would become the norm.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to lead a flawless existence.
It can’t be done.
Being confident in your intellectual capabilities is fantastic as long as your confidence doesn’t morph into arrogance.
When that happens, you eventually realize that thinking you know best is hindering your growth.
Only by connecting with others with different strengths are you able to improve.
A little humility equals a lot of perspective.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.