Monday, 21 November 2016

Who me, smart?

It's said that men tend to over-estimate their intelligence while women under-estimate it. Well, personally I'm one of the under-estimators. However often I'm told how intelligent I am, I never really believe it. I'm quite sure it's just a bit of flattery far removed from reality.

I suppose the reason for my self-doubt is that I fasten on every mistake or misunderstanding or moment of confusion as obvious evidence of my limited intelligence. Surely if I was that intelligent these things wouldn't happen?

On the other hand, when I instantly grasp something complicated or have some brilliant insight, instead of seeing it as a sign of intelligence, I see it as a peculiar fluke or stroke of luck that only emphasises how gormless I usually am.

I also assume intelligence means being quick on the uptake. If I'm in a new job or situation, and I'm not picking things up fast enough, I conclude I'm a prize dimwit. Surely other people grasp things much quicker? I forget that maybe the problem is the complexity and unfamiliarity of what I'm being told, not my brain.

I'm fooled too by people who pretend to understand something that's gone way over their heads. They listen to someone yattering away and nod frequently as if they're totally up to speed, while I'm mentally floundering. Obviously they're much brainier! It never occurs to me that they just don't want to admit their ignorance.

If anyone raves over a book or film or artwork I didn't like, again I assume they must be more intelligent, they've caught all sort of nuances and subtleties that mysteriously passed me by. Their attention must be way sharper than mine. But is it? Perhaps those clever nuances they've spotted are more imaginary than real.

So go on, reassure me that I'm highly intelligent. I still won't believe it.

28 comments:

Ursula said...

Believe whatever you like, Nick. In my book you are intelligent and, at times, remarkably obtuse as to your merits.

Do dismiss this at your leisure, but - by way of example - I so enjoy your meticulous writing. The day I find one spelling mistake (not that I am looking), a phrase not finely turned in your prose - will be the day I die.

Oh, Nick, I don't know. I sit here, this moment, at my keyboard, shaking my head. I'd like to shake YOU at times, snap you out of putting yourself down. YOU ARE A GOOD GUY.

U

helen devries said...

No false modesty, now!
You know you are intelligent, but don't wish to claim the title...
If it is any comfort, the numbskulls I have come across in my life always believe they have all the answers - especially if they haven't understood the questions.

Nick said...

Ursula: I may doubt my intelligence, but "meticulous" I'll own up to willingly. I have no patience with spelling mistakes or sloppy writing. I'm also an excellent proof reader.

Thanks for your conclusion that I'm a good guy. But yes, I have that other supposedly female trait of putting myself down.

Helen: False modesty is another of my traits, I fear. Indeed, numbskulls think they know it all because they're too stupid to comprehend their massive ignorance.

Bijoux said...

Along the same lines as Ursula, I have always found your writing to be above reproach, which is, to me, a sign of someone very well read. Which equals intelligence, in my book!

Hattie said...

Well, I don't have to put myself down. Others will be glad to do that for me!

Nick said...

Bijoux: I'm certainly well-read. We have around 1000 books in the house, with more being added all the time!

Hattie: That's bad. Who are all these sourpusses and curmudgeons?

kylie said...

False modesty is....um, false. You are better than that.

Just recently I read a list of traits which suggest intelligence. Humour was one, curiosity, individualism, adaptability and self control.

Nick said...

Kylie: Well, I would definitely claim all those characteristics, so it looks like I'll have to claim intelligence as well!

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm not sure why you care. We are what we are.

tammy j said...

well...
you know what the famous humorist will rogers said...
"everybody is ignorant... only on different things."
one of bob's clients once was a well known brain surgeon in the city.
he showed bob his study where a replica of the human brain was.
he proceeded to give a small lesson on how he performed his surgeries on the various parts and how each part was affected.
bob was fascinated and full of admiration at the surgeon's skill.
but the esteemed doctor apparently couldn't even keep his bank account balanced.
his wife joked about him messing it up. and in talking regular small talk about various issues in the world bob was amazed how ignorant he was on anything but brain surgery!
so maybe will rogers was onto something.
in the doctor's defense... I would definitely want him FOCUSED and totally adept at what he was trained for... being brilliant and intelligent in cutting open my brain!
maybe will's quote should have said
'everybody's intelligent... only on different things.'

Nick said...

Jean: Well, yes, I am what I am, and that includes thinking I'm not that intelligent.

Tammy: 'Everybody's intelligent...only on different things.' That's about right, I think. I should pay more attention to the things I'm very smart about. Which doesn't include brain surgery, ha ha. It doesn't surprise me that the brain surgeon was such a duffer on anything else except his particular skill. A bit like the proverbial absent-minded professor, I guess.

CheerfulMonk said...

You seem to think being smart is a bigger deal than I do. As I've said before, compared to the size and complexity of the universe, we're all stupid. I think we're all a bunch of nuts to take the whole thing seriously.

Nick said...

Jean: Very true that as tiny specks in the universe, in the last analysis we're all pretty ignorant of everything outside our own little personal bubble. But I do think we have to take the outside world seriously, especially when you look at the present political trends in the UK and US.

Dave Martin said...

As others have said, Nick, it's clear from the way you write that you're certainly not a thicko.
Most of us have an element of self-doubt, and it's a good thing. It keeps us grounded.
Those who lack this and firmly believe they are wonderful are arrogant pricks who you wouldn't want to spend time with.

Nick said...

Dave: Self-doubt is a very useful quality. It's a shame there's so little of it among those politicians who're riding high just now. As Charles Bukowski memorably put it: “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

Rummuser said...

You are like me. Normal. Don't flog yourself.

Nick said...

Ramana: Thanks! But I don't think I flog myself. I give myself a pretty easy ride most of the time. I do like to examine how my mind works though.

Cheerful Monk said...

"Very true that as tiny specks in the universe, in the last analysis we're all pretty ignorant of everything outside our own little personal bubble. But I do think we have to take the outside world seriously, especially when you look at the present political trends in the UK and US."

I think what's going on in the world is interesting, and I spend a lot of time trying to understand it. What does that have to do with your wondering if you are smart, and that us reassuring you won't do any good?

CheerfulMonk said...

Do you think you would be happier if you thought you were more intelligent?

Nick said...

Jean: Well, I guess intelligence can partly be measured by your understanding of the outside world. And I guess my understanding of that is as good as most people's, so no worries there. My self-doubt is more centred on how I relate to other people in my daily life.

Would I be happier if I believed in my intelligence? That's very hypothetical, isn't it? I immediately think of Stephen Fry, who seems highly intelligent but has had periods of intense unhappiness. So I think the answer to your question is, not necessarily!

CheerfulMonk said...

"My self-doubt is more centred on how I relate to other people in my daily life."

I know a lot of extremely intelligent people who feel the same way. So my guess is talking in terms of being smart is a distraction. You say you like to examine how you mind works. Have you ever read The Power of Focusing? It's a powerful and fairly easy way of getting in touch with what you really think and feel. That clarity can make a huge difference in our lives.

CheerfulMonk said...

"your mind" not "you mind", of course.

Nick said...

Jean: I'll investigate that book. Also Focusing by Eugene Gendlin. They look interesting.

Jenny Woolf said...

Often, at first I don't understand something that everyone else seems to understand. It's a feature of my life. I don't think I'm stupid generally but I am certainly not much good at picking up how to do things quickly!

CheerfulMonk said...

Yes, Gendlin came up with focusing. Cornell assisted him for a while, then started her own teaching practice. Her book makes the process easy to understand, and she gives a lot of examples.

Nick said...

Jenny: Ah, then you understand how I feel about not picking things up quickly!

Secret Agent Woman said...

I find bothering with how intelligent someone thinks I am or how intelligent someone think himself/herself a waste of time. Generally, others aren't always the best judge and don't have the expertise required to assess it.

Nick said...

Agent: It is a waste of time - but I can't help doing it! I know the way I'm thinking is pretty nonsensical, but that's how my mind works.