Smart people come in all forms, but they all have some things in common.
And if you’ve ever wondered if you are genuinely smart yourself, you can try keeping an eye out for these things.
In this article are 15 traits of a smart person that can’t be faked.
1) You doubt yourself a lot
The funny thing about being smart is that people believe you would be full of confidence simply because you know things.
But that’s far from the case—in fact, there’s this well-known phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger syndrome.
Basically, people who don’t know a lot tend to be the ones most confident with their abilities. But as they know more, they become aware of just how much they don’t know and start losing their confidence.
So if you’re always doubting yourself, especially if you know you used to be very confident before, then trust me—you’re probably quite smarter than you think!
2) You don’t immediately take others on their word
You doubt yourself, yes, but you also doubt others instead of just taking people at their word.
It’s not like you would call yourself a contrarian and make it a point to doubt everyone on principle.
A more accurate description of who you are would be “skeptic”—whenever someone makes a claim of some kind, you would try to verify yourself whether or not what they said is true before you accept or dismiss their words.
You do this regardless of whether or not that statement supports your own personal beliefs and biases or goes against them.
3) You can smell bullshit
It’s almost like you have a sixth sense that makes you go “wait, something’s not right.”
Perhaps you might hear people raving at some politician’s rousing speech. But you, on the other hand, simply can’t help but feel that something is not quite right.
Or perhaps you might have a friend rave to you about their new “miracle” health supplement, and know they’re definitely being scammed.
This is something an ability—or perhaps a sense—that is honed over time by smart and observant people.
4) You’re obsessive/nerdy
We all like things. But what sets you apart is that you’re not content with simply appreciating something superficially.
Did you just learn that dinosaurs aren’t all extinct? You would sift through encyclopedias and science journals just to know more about how birds are simply just tailless flying dinosaurs.
Do you like art? Then you would burn the candle learning about new techniques and styles you can use when you want to draw.
It doesn’t matter how many times you would pick up a new obsession, be it weekly or once a year—you get nerdy and obsessive about it.
5) You know your limits
For the most part, you’re quite aware of how far your knowledge and skills go. Because of this, you can avoid overreaching or biting off more than you can chew.
People might call you overly cautious for this, sometimes. But as far as you’re concerned, the problem is that everyone else simply keeps on overestimating themselves.
You don’t try to keep up illusions when you’ve hit your limit. Instead you will admit that you don’t know or can’t do anymore—but you’re certainly willing to talk!
6) You can make connections
You can make connections between things that are seemingly unrelated at first, and will certainly seem that way to everyone else… but not to you.
And that’s because, again, you don’t stop to look at only the surface. You actually try to take a closer look, and that means you get to see the many little coincidences and matching bits that others fail to notice.
And not only that, you think beyond what’s immediately in front of you—you don’t just settle for whatever the direct effects of something might be, but even consider its consequences, and the consequences of its consequences.
It’s maddening sometimes because it can seem almost impossible to explain what you understand to someone else without sounding crazy trying to explain yourself.
7) You don’t fetishize intelligence
That is to say, you value intelligence, but you don’t put it on a shrine and worship it.
Genuinely smart people don’t put things like “sapiosexual” on their bios or say “I admire intelligence more than anything.”
And yes, even assholish smart people who actually do look down on people not as “smart” as they are won’t do this—they’ll just judge people quietly.
As far as you’re concerned, your intelligence is just one of your many personality traits, and not your entire personality.
8) You’re open-minded
That is to say, you won’t reject something outright just because it doesn’t agree with you and what you believe or because you find it ridiculous.
This is the reason why smart people are often so different from everyone else. And if you’re a smart person, open-mindedness will come to you one way or another.
I actually know some smart people who were very close-minded when they were young, but quickly opened up as soon as they got older.
One could say that open-mindedness is a consequence of intelligence.
9) Context matters to you
If you have spent any amount of time at all on the internet, you will definitely have seen posts like “this person said they support harassment!” or “do you know that they’re putting chemicals like dihydrogen monoxide in the water supply?”
You will also have seen people get into a panic over them.
But not you. Even if something looks damning, you will go out of your way to look for the context, because you know that context matters a lot in… everything, really.
So you would be able to see that, for example, that someone who they say supports harassment was actually speaking out against it, and that dihydrogen monoxide is actually just water.
10) You’re willing to concede that you’re wrong
Nobody is ever right all the time and you know it. Moreover, you know that if you are indeed wrong, you’ll only make a fool of yourself if you insist on trying to prove that you are, indeed, correct.
So when someone tries to prove you wrong, you’re more than willing to consider that you are and will happily listen to what they have to say.
And if they’re right, you’d gracefully accept that they are indeed correct. Your self worth does not rest on whether you’re “wrong” or “right” in a debate.
11) You’re somewhat depressed
This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but statistically, smart people tend to be depressed, or at least less happy.
And the smarter the person, the more depressed they tend to be… even if things are going well in their lives.
There are many reasons for this, such as the fact that intelligence makes people like you more aware of the injustices in the world, or that your curiosity can lead you to questions like “what is the meaning of life?”
Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and smart people are not ignorant.
12) You like to ask questions
You’re well known for asking questions. If you feel like there’s something you just don’t know about, you try to ask around. If you have a new fixation you’d like to understand, you try to ask people who might know more.
And you don’t remain content just asking one or two sources either. You won’t be happy, for example, for wikipedia to be your only source of knowledge on your most recent interests, so you would look for actual experts if you can.
Perhaps as a child your curious nature will have annoyed others, and perhaps some people still find you annoying even now. But hey—it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
13) You don’t think you’re trustworthy
Your default reaction whenever someone praises you for your judgment and talks about how you always seem to know everything is not to feel proud of yourself, but embarrassed.
Sure, you might be right every now and then, but you’re perfectly aware that you might not always be right and that you honestly don’t want people looking up to you like that.
After all, what if you make a mistake and, because people think you’re “trustworthy”, you get to see people blindly following that mistake?
So you don’t think of yourself as someone to trust and believe, and do not like having yourself seen that way.
14) You can entertain scenarios without believing them
That is to say, you can toss around thoughts and concepts in your head without actually believing or condoning them.
You may hate cheating, for example, but you have no issues about imagining, writing, or reading stories about them.
Or perhaps you can talk about hypotheticals like “what if Brazil declares war with the USA” without actually believing in or supporting such scenarios.
You’re perfectly aware that engaging in these topics in fictional and hypothetical situations doesn’t mean that you endorse or want to normalize them in reality.
15) You know how to be impartial
When you’re faced with a stressful situation, you can divorce yourself from whatever emotional investments you might have in the moment to pierce through to the heart of the matter.
So that means it’s easier for you to make “hard” decisions that you personally would not have wanted to make yourself, like cutting off a friend who was dear to you… but was also abusive towards you.
You know how to take a step back and look at things from a more impartial point of view.
Being smart will just naturally influence the way you think and act one way or another.
It may be subtle, it might be obvious. But one thing is certain, and that is that you think differently and that you stand out from the crowd.
Even if you were raised to be the opposite of everything listed here, given the chance to think freely, you will start showing at least some of the signs on this list.