There’s More Than One Kinda Smart: On Not Being a Snob

In this post, I want to praise those with intelligence that isn’t defined as “book smart.”

Because really, intelligence isn’t the most important thing.

How fast you understand a concept isn’t most important– but how you apply it once you DO learn.

Having a solid work ethic is the most important thing. And the harder you have to work for something, the more you cherish it.

And honestly, intelligence isn’t always so wonderful.

I’m GLAD that mine is concentrated in a few areas. I have work harder to understand things in other areas, but I don’t give up until I do– and then I really feel good about myself when I DO get it and learn to use those skills and apply them in other ways.

Because I don’t understand a lot of things, that forces me to ask for help– and people are usually willing to help explain. Most people are kind, if you trust them and give them an opportunity. Contrary to what you might think, asking for help does NOT make you look weak or unintelligent. It makes you human, and smart enough to understand that someone else can teach you the answer if you have an open mind and the patience to listen and learn.

A lot of people who are the most intelligent are also the most angry or apathetic. They know so much that it’s hard for them to feel they’re around equals. They feel isolated and bitter, and making conversation can be difficult because no one understands their references. Also, they like to show off their intelligence, and enjoy proving others wrong or trying to teach them how to do something better– which almost always comes across as arrogant and makes others defensive. They’re perfectionists about their passions– and anything less than perfect or the exact right answer isn’t acceptable. They will sooner abandon a project entirely than allow it be less than incredible. It has to be THE BEST. They can be intolerable in fights– no matter what, they must “win.” Even at the expense of their own dignity, or the feelings of others. Even if it costs them a relationship with someone they love, friend, family or partner.

I know this after dating several “brilliant,” men– talented in music, science, linguistics, business, take your pick.

Nerds are a double-edged sword. They’re shiny, dynamic, exciting– being around their energy is captivating. Listening to them go on about their areas of expertise is fascinating. But they have so many ideas, so much to accomplish, and are so obsessed sometimes with their passions, that there’s not much emotional energy left to give in a relationship. They are usually workaholics and loners. That might work great if you’re also a nerd, crave alone time as much as they do, and are equally obsessed with your own interests and career. Maybe both of you are more logical than emotional, and find relief together. But it can also be very lonely.

They’re enraged by the injustice of the world, constantly. Their main focus in life is to enlighten everyone. And although that makes for wonderful activists and brilliant artists, scientists, and thinkers– it often doesn’t make those people happy human beings. Nothing much surprises or delights them– because they have already deconstructed how it works. They’re so worldly, well-read, maybe well-traveled. Maybe they’re rich, they’ve figured out how to be successful in business. But there’s no magic for them, because they can probably see through it. They always want to get to the bottom of everything, to understand the mechanics. It’s very difficult to be in a relationship with someone like this. Their brain may delight you– but often they can’t offer much emotional support. They’re so logical, so focused on “the truth,” that proving their point is more important than everything– especially your feelings.

One of the best things about this poetry workshop for me was just being around regular people.

Adults who just wanted to learn about poetry, not criticize it and compete. English wasn’t always their first language. They found such wonder in what we discussed.

It reminded me of what a snob I’ve become about language.

These days, I cut people a break.

I don’t compulsively correct their grammar, spoken or written. Nobody likes that. Only if someone gives me something to read, and WANTS me to comment on grammar and style. And then I am sure to balance it with positive comments and what is WORKING.

And if they have questions, I’m happy to help or explain if I’m able. But I don’t put down their efforts– because criticism is what kills that spark of imagination. I try to see the feeling they were trying to convey, and focus on that. But several people have told me that they find me intimidating, because they feel like they need to have perfect grammar when talking to me. And that’s not true. Deviations from standard grammar are what make our world delicious, why traveling is so glorious. You get to hear your own language change in different regions of the country. I’ve never traveled abroad, but I can imagine it be beautiful to hear different languages spoken!

I used to really look down on people who can’t spell, or who don’t grasp grammar the way that I do- spoken or written. And that was wrong– since then, I’ve changed my point of view. Because I realized that not everyone has been given the opportunities that I have enjoyed. Maybe they had to drop out of school at a young age to help support their families. Maybe they weren’t able to finish school because of money issues, or a difficult home life. Maybe they lived in an unsafe area. Maybe they moved a lot, and didn’t have consistent schools or teachers. Maybe they needed extra tutoring, but couldn’t get it for some reason. Maybe they have a disability, but didn’t have the money or health insurance to receive the attention needed.  A lot of factors can intervene. These people have often spent their entire lives working jobs– and that’s commendable.

Because there are so many other ways to manifest your intelligence. And I enjoy and benefit from knowing people with different types of intelligence than mine– especially those who are great at building, mechanical types of things. Who enjoy natural pursuits– like the outdoors. Or people who are really good at organizing, looking at a space and seeing how to use it efficiently.  I wish I had more of that!

And also, there’s nothing wrong with being primarily focused on fitness. Fitness is a wonderful thing. It makes you feel good, and if you keep it up you also end up with great results including a great body image. I miss running. I mainly stopped because I lacked the discipline and didn’t have a partner to keep me accountable. It got me out of my head, and I always felt great afterwards. It made me happier. I slept better, and easier. I had a real reason to BE exhausted!

It’s refreshing being around people who aren’t “intellectuals.” They are the anti-snobs! They ground you, they often enjoy life more, and are more secure about just dealing with life as it comes and laughing at it. I need that. They often have a great positive attitude, and are not hung up on everything being perfect. They accept themselves for what they can do, and also others. They know they’re human, and don’t punish themselves or others for messing up– because that’s normal! They just appreciate the effort, and know it takes a lot of mistakes to get it right. They’re often more supportive people. They’re more likely to apologize, and more willing to compromise and accommodate others. They often have phenomenal patience. They are encouraging– because they just want you to enjoy yourself and aren’t hung up on your performance or if you “win.” These are the best kind of people to be around. My dad is like this. He’s the reason I have good self-esteem.

Sometimes we’re not even aware of our snobbery, and feel terrible once we realize it. After we’ve made a cavalier remark.

Everyone has their moments of snobbery. I try and check myself with reality when I catch myself doing it.

And I’m glad when others point it out to me, because I want to be more aware and empathic of how others feel.


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