5 things intelligent people never get attached to, according to psychology

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As people, we either idolize smart people or want to be seen as one.

But what does it actually mean to be intelligent?

Our usual idea of it is being able to solve complex math problems, being academically good, maybe knowing how to decode the most complicated pieces of literature—basically what it means to be book smart. 

But there’s more to intelligence than this.

Intelligent people aren’t attached to things that are trivial. This is not just my personal opinion—it’s backed by psychology itself!

According to psychology, intelligent people tend to avoid getting attached to certain things that can hold them back or negatively impact their well-being. 

Let’s discuss these below.

1) Academics

For you studious people, this might sound surprising—ludicrous, even—but hear me out.

Intelligent people excel in academics, but they’re rarely ever attached to it.

Why? Because attachment = being too emotionally involved. And intelligent people know that getting overcome by emotion, in any situation, will never lead to any good result.

According to this 2023 study by Giudice and Haltigan, adults with “preoccupied states of mind” are actually less intelligent.

If you feel you might be getting too attached to academics, maybe it’s time to step back and take a breather.

As a Hermione Granger type of student myself, this is something I struggled with.

But trust me, you’ll achieve your academic goals better when you’re not so overcome by competition and the pressure to be good.

2) Material possessions

When I was younger, I liked to think of myself as a material girl in a material world. 

My idol was Elle Woods from Legally Blonde—I wanted to be just like her! Pretty, covered in all pink, but most of all, highly intelligent.

But like Elle herself, I later found out that there’s more to life than fashion and material possessions

Of course, I still love to dress in all pink and wear high heels, but I’ve found other, more profound things in life to be happy about, too.

Intelligent people don’t place too much importance on material possessions. When you reach that certain level of intelligence, you mature emotionally as well. 

This study from the Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar in Croatia actually shows that when you’re more emotionally intelligent, you’re less prone to compulsive buying. 

Personally, while I still enjoy the comforts and conveniences that come with material wealth, as much as I can I try not to put too much value on them.

Why do this, though? In a capitalist society, isn’t material wealth our best source of satisfaction?

Well, not really. As humans, we’re not really meant to hoard loads and loads of money and material possessions. 

When our happiness solely depends on that, our lives end up miserable. 

To be dripped in gold and diamonds is a dream that not many can achieve, for sure, but what is all that when you don’t have friends and family—the things that truly matter—in your life?

3) The need for approval

When you have low self-esteem, no matter how smart you are objectively, the need for approval is hard to overcome.

Because you don’t see your good traits yourself, the only way you can believe it is when others see it in you.

But this is no way to live, and intelligent people know that.

“The problem arises when self-validation is not possible or is not valued. In other words, if an individual puts the opinion, approval, or recognition of someone else over their own feelings, they will need that external, other person’s validation on an ongoing basis,” says Sherry Lagaba, LCSW, in her article, Stop Seeking Validation from Others in Psychology Today.

As you can see, it’s a vicious cycle that can be really hard to break. Like a drug, the more you get a taste of it, the more you need it.

But intelligent people have grown past the need for approval. I know, because I’ve been there myself.

It’s not easy. But with the help of my friends, my therapist, and my own willingness to be a better person—not just for others, but for myself—I was able to stop seeking validation from other people.

Even if it was a mistake seeking such unending validation in the past, I don’t beat myself up for it anymore, because now, I know better.

4) Past mistakes

It’s hard not to be plagued by past mistakes.

When you’ve hurt people in the past, even if it’s not your intention, it’s hard not to go to bed thinking about the million things you could’ve done differently to avoid committing such a big mistake.

In this article from the American Psychological Association, Robert Leahy, PHD, talks about regret:

“I would say [regret] is a pervasive emotion. It’s often an emotion that people ruminate about, an emotion that can linger on sometimes for decades. I mean, I’ve talked to people in their 90s who regret decisions they made when they were in their 20s.”

Imagine that. Holding on to a regret for decades. That’s a really long time, isn’t it?

But here’s the deal.

Dwelling on the past won’t change the present. The only thing you can do, when you’ve made a mistake, is to learn from it.

And to be intelligent is to know you can’t correct it until you accept it.

5) Ego

My father is a man of a big ego.

Every time he and my mother would get into a fight, he never was the one to apologize. I even heard him once saying, “I am the father of this household. I get to do whatever I want!”

Which is so dramatic for the man he claims to be, to be honest. 

Anyway, growing up, what this taught me is that to be truly intelligent is to be humble—to let go of pride.

And I’m not talking about the good kind of pride.

In Psychology, there are two types of pride. Authentic and hubristic.

Authentic pride is the good kind. The one that you feel when you accomplish something, such as getting that promotion at work that you’ve been working for for months on end.

On the other hand, hubristic pride is the bad kind. From the word itself, it is filled with hubris.

The Psychology of Human Emotion defines hubristic pride as the following:

Hubristic pride occurs when we experience pride in the absence of an eliciting event or even for eliciting events that we did not achieve. During hubristic pride, we experience an inflated sense of self-esteem because we may not have achieved something but still feel pride. 

This kind of pride is something truly intelligent people don’t possess.

Because when you’re truly intelligent, you’re smart enough to know that you’re not any better than other people. 

You don’t let your hubris cloud your judgment, because doing that can only make you angry or aggressive. 

Instead, you think with a clear head, feeling pride only for the things you’ve worked for, or the things that make you, you.

Final thoughts

To be truly intelligent is to know what truly matters in life—and it all depends on what you personally care about as a person.

This article is here to help you realize the superficial things you need to stop spending energy on, but ultimately, the choice is yours to make.

Time spent on things you love is never time wasted.

And to be truly intelligent means to be smart enough not to let people dictate what it is you need to focus on, or what to care about.

Here’s to living a more fulfilled, happier life!

Joyce Ann Isidro

Joyce is a writer who believes in the power of storytelling and changing lives by writing stories about love, relationships, and spirituality. A bookworm and art enthusiast, she considers herself a creative-at-heart who likes to satisfy her childish wonder through new hobbies and experiences.

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