People who are really smart but have low self-esteem often display these 9 subtle behaviors - Deepstash

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Self-Esteem and Intelligence

Self-Esteem and Intelligence

Being smart doesn't always equate to high self-esteem. In fact, it's not uncommon for some of the most intelligent people to struggle with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy.

Highly intelligent people often exhibit certain behaviors that hint at their low self-esteem, despite their intellectual capabilities. These subtle signs can be easy to overlook, but once you are aware, they become more apparent.


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Common Inner Struggles

1. Overthinking Every Decision

2. Perfectionism and Fear of Failure

3. Underestimating Abilities

4. Seeking Constant Validation

5. Avoidance of Risk

6. Struggling with Self-Acceptance

7. Fear of Success

8. Difficulty Accepting Compliments

9. Constant Comparison with Others


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1. Overthinking Every Decision

1. Overthinking Every Decision

Smart people with low self-esteem often have a tendency to overthink even the smallest decisions.

Their intelligence allows them to see multiple perspectives and potential outcomes, which, while beneficial at times, can also lead to indecision and anxiety. They might spend hrs contemplating the pros/ cons and envisioning every possible scenario.

This overthinking isn't necessarily about making the best decision, but rather about avoiding making a wrong one. It's a fear-driven process that can be paralyzing.


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The fear of making a mistake or being judged and criticized is often amplified in intelligent people with low self-esteem. This fear can lead to constant self-doubt, resulting in indecisiveness and procrastination.



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2. Perfectionism and fear of failure

2. Perfectionism and fear of failure

I've always been driven to excel academically and professionally. However, beneath my drive for success, there was a deep-seated fear of failure and a relentless pursuit of perfection. I would spend hours refining a single paragraph in an essay or rehearsing a presentation to the point of exhaustion.

My perfectionism wasn't about striving for excellence, but rather avoiding criticism. I was so scared of making mistakes and being judged that I would go to great lengths to ensure everything was perfect.


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Perfectionism and Growth

Perfectionism and Growth

However, this type of perfectionism does not lead to excellence, but rather inhibits growth. It is a self-sabotaging behavior that stems from low self-esteem.


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3. Underestimating abilities

3. Underestimating abilities

They often underestimate their abilities and skills. They may excel in certain areas, but they'll dismiss their achievements as luck or timing rather than acknowledging their own capabilities.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains that people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability, while those with high ability underestimate their capabilities. This is often true for smart people with low self-esteem.


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Self-Worth and Success

Self-Worth and Success

They might be exceptional at what they do, but they downplay their skills and accomplishments. This can hold them back from reaching their full potential, as they fail to recognize and appreciate their own worth.


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4. Seeking constant validation

4. Seeking constant validation

Despite their intelligence, these individuals may struggle to believe in their own worth. As a result, they often look to others for affirmation, constantly seeking praise or validation to reassure themselves of their competence and worthiness.

This constant need for approval can lead them to make choices that aren’t necessarily in their best interests, but are aimed at pleasing others. They might agree with others even when they don’t truly feel the same way, or take on tasks they don’t want to, just to earn praise or avoid criticism.


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5. Avoidance of Risk

5. Avoidance of Risk

Risk-taking is often necessary for growth and success, but smart people with low self-esteem tend to avoid it at all costs.

  • They often avoid taking risks.
  • This is due to a fear of failure and potential damage to their self-esteem.
  • Their fear of failure and criticism can make any sort of risk seem overwhelming.
  • They may continue to stick to what they know and miss out on opportunities for growth.
  • They might rationalize their avoidance with logical reasons, but beneath it all is often a fear of not being good enough.


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6. Struggling with Self-Acceptance

6. Struggling with Self-Acceptance

Despite their intelligence and potential, they often fail to see their own worth. They focus on their perceived flaws and shortcomings, while overlooking their strengths and capabilities.

Their internal dialogue is often one of self-criticism and self-doubt. They might be their own harshest critic, setting unrealistically high standards for themselves and beating themselves up when they fail to meet them.

This struggle with self-acceptance can be deeply painful and can hold them back from realizing their full potential.


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Self-acceptance and Self-critical

If you see someone who is excessively self-critical or struggles to acknowledge their own worth, they might be a highly intelligent person dealing with low self-esteem. It’s important to show empathy and understanding towards these individuals, as their journey towards self-acceptance might be a challenging one.


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7. Fear of success

7. Fear of success

Even those who have achieved high grades or excelled in their career may find themselves feeling anxious rather than happy. The expectation to maintain or surpass that level of achievement can be daunting.

Success can be scary because it raises the stakes, brings more attention, and increases the potential for failure. It can feel safer to stay in the comfort zone, where the risk of failure is less.

This fear isn't about a lack of ambition or potential, but rather a protective mechanism to avoid the perceived dangers that come with success


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Avoiding Opportunities to Shine🌟

Avoiding opportunities to shine or seeming uncomfortable with achievements, could be a highly intelligent individual struggling with low self-esteem and a fear of success.


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8. Difficulty accepting compliments

8. Difficulty accepting compliments

Instead of simply saying “thank you,” they might downplay the compliment, dismiss it, or even deflect it back. They may feel uncomfortable or undeserving, and might question the sincerity of the compliment.

This difficulty in accepting compliments is not about false modesty, but rather a genuine disbelief in their own worthiness.

So if you notice someone consistently brushing off compliments or appearing uncomfortable when praised, they might be a highly intelligent individual dealing with low self-esteem.


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9. Constant comparison with others

9. Constant comparison with others

The most significant behavior exhibited by intelligent people with low self-esteem is the constant comparison with others. They are often in a perpetual state of evaluating their worth based on other people’s achievements, appearances or successes.

This comparison isn’t about competition or ambition, but rather a measure of their own self-worth. They view others as a benchmark, and often perceive themselves as falling short.

This constant comparison can be incredibly damaging to their self-esteem, creating a vicious cycle of self-doubt and negative self-perception.


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It’s crucial to understand that each person’s journey is unique, and comparing oneself with others is a futile exercise that only serves to undermine self-esteem.



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φ 𝚙𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚘𝚜𝚘𝚙𝚑𝚢 | ⚖ 𝒑𝒔𝒚𝒄𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒐𝒈𝒚 𝚿 | ѕριяιтυαℓιту 𖦹


We will delve into behaviors commonly displayed by smart people with low self-esteem. By understanding these behaviors is the first step towards addressing and improving self-esteem. So let's get started.

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