Egirl Team

AddedTuesday, November 20, 2018 at 9:47 AM

Have you ever felt like you were not able to show your full intelligence in order for people to like you?


I do really well in school, but people get mad at me if I say anything about it. I don’t want to make people feel bad, but I’m also proud of my work. Have you ever faced this? If so, what did you do about it?

Related to Communication Skills, Featured Question, Self Doubt, Social Concerns, Working with People
  • Margaret Byron , Penn State University
    Answered Wednesday, December 19, 2018 at 8:06 AM

    I was lucky in that I never felt much pressure to pretend that I didn’t like science or math, or pretend that I wasn’t good at it. There was a year or two where I was pretty lonely, at the beginning of middle school, because other kids made fun of me for being a nerd (I spent a lot of time reading and wasn’t very aware of the latest trends in music or fashion). It bothered me, but I never considered pretending not to be smart; I just wished I could find other people who liked the same things I did. My parents were really supportive and encouraging even though I was a little different from other kids. Eventually, I made plenty of friends that were just as into STEM subjects as I was, including lots of girls. I think this is a big key to surviving middle and high school as a young girl who is interested and smart and motivated — find your “tribe," the people who will appreciate you for you (and not make fun of you or pressure you to conform). Don’t be discouraged; they are out there and you will find them with a little patience! Anyone who pressures you to act a certain way or do things you don’t want to do is not worth your time. Go find someone cooler to hang out with, and I promise that they will be thrilled to find you too!

  • Jodie Lutkenhaus , Texas A&M University
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 3:20 PM
    I sure have, especially when I was in high school. However, I was reminded that high school was only temporary. I tried to keep my head down, do my work, and get through it. Once at college, I was able to specialize in chemical engineering, where everyone around me was just as smart! It was a relief to finally be myself, to make new friends interested in STEM just like me, and to share the same goals with these friends.
  • Mekka Williams , NetApp
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 3:17 PM

    Unfortunately yes. This problem never goes away and can happen right in your own family. Here is my advice:

    • Stop hiding your intelligence immediately. You don’t have to play dumb. Sometimes you can just refrain from engaging directly in those conversations. It is better to say nothing than to pretend you don’t know any better.
    • Don’t bring your facts to an opinion fight. Recognize when people are interested in learning and hearing truth versus venting and wanting their opinions heard.
    • Learn how to use your powers for good! You can from time to time educate your friends and raise the bar in your social circle.
    • Don’t be afraid to mix it up! Find circles of like minded people that you can grow with and hang out with them sometimes too!
    • Make sure you are not misinterpreting the situation. Sometimes our read on how our circles will react to our authentic selves is off. Get out of your own head and be yourself! You might find that your circle is just fine with the real you.

    At the end of the day, if people need you to pretend you are not as smart as you are in order to like you, you probably don’t need those people.

  • Priscilla Bennett , Spire / Laclede Gas Company
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 3:14 PM
    No, I have never felt the need to hide my intelligence to fit in. I can understand that you may feel this may be the only way to fit into a certain crowd and my suggestion would be to find those friends who like you for you. Instead of pretending to be something or someone you are not, know that there are different people in the world and this would be a prime time to explore new friendships and connect with people you may have something in common with – be that your book smarts, or hobbies, or cultural matches, or sports, or joining some school groups that are a mix of intelligence. Everyone can learn something from someone and the key is to never stop learning, so my suggestion would be to find some new people to associate yourself with, no matter their intellect, and you’ll find acceptance right around the corner!

  • Rebecca Goldberg , Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 3:12 PM
    Hi! It is not on you to pretend to be less intelligent for people to like you. Firstly, not everyone will like you, and that is okay. Secondly, your intelligence/inquisitiveness is as much a part of you as your skin color or hair type or ancestry. What if someone didn't like you because they don't like Norwegians? It's a silly example, but you get my meaning: Do NOT just change yourself to be better liked by other people. They won't respect you for it, and they'll probably not be reliable friends anyway.

  • Andromeda DuMont , CH2M / Jacobs
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 1:22 PM

    As a civil engineer, my job requires as much social intelligence as it does technical intelligence. In some situations, I need to communicate my authority and credentials so that people understand my technical credibility. But in other situations, I disarm people or downplay those same credentials. I'll ask people to explain it like I'm five or I won't call a timeout when they start to do the dreaded "mansplaining." In those situations, I consciously make the decision to appeal to the crowd or else I've decided that this situation doesn't require intellectual respect from all parties. It's not worth the stress to always fit in with my intellectual peers, especially if they are people who won't be changing their viewpoints easily. I see this as a human experience and not necessarily a woman's experience. As the poet John Lydgate says "you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all of the time".

    However, there are certainly situations where my capabilities are called into question purely based on my demographic. Unfortunately because of bias, the situations above happen way more often to women than men. It's important to then decide if it is worth the energy to dissuade opinions or pretend I'm less knowledgeable than I am. I know that I can always lean on my allies to talk me up to those people if needed or I can ask my allies to repeat what I've said so that the content is respected, even if I don't get credit personally for it. It takes a lot of work to become socially aware of how other people respond in each situation.

    In my personal life I find that I downplay my capabilities more often than in my professional life. Around new people I am cautious around people's preconceived notions about women in STEM. I have come to expect people to be impressed and maybe a bit intimidated by my career choices (and how much I excel at them). Once I begin to be more familiar with people, no one is confused about my strengths as well as my faults. I keep the people in my life that are okay with my authentic self, both strengths and faults.

    My advice is this: be confident in who you are. If you are confident, then it doesn't matter how anyone else perceives you. Find your worth and make sure that no one else has control of it but you.

  • Claudia Galvan , Early Stage Innovation
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 1:21 PM
    Great question, being smart is a superpower! Part of being smart is the ability to work well with others. What this means is understanding that everybody has something to contribute and not putting anybody down because they don't think like us. What this means is learning to listen, support other people’s ideas and help the team when it gets stuck in the difficult problems. Being smart is a great thing, use it wisely!
  • Adriana Beal , Carnegie Technologies
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 1:11 PM

    Getting people to like me never required pretending I wasn't as smart as I am. In fact, offering to teach colleagues something I knew and they didn't (which I suppose highlights how smart you are) was precisely how some of my work friendships started.

    My advice is be yourself and don't focus on being liked, but rather on treating others with respect and kindness. Be a good coworker, and naturally, with time, your bonds with at least some people at work will deepen. And it's possible that many of your colleagues will never become close friends. Some people just aren't comfortable having real friends at work, or prefer to have a more formal relationship with their colleagues. And that's OK.

  • Liz-Hasbleydi G. , Tech + Desing
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 12:40 PM

    More than pretending, I was moving away from them; my parents and grandparents told me that I was always honest with myself. When you are in elementary school, high school, and university you want to have friends who want to be your friends and when you realize that you have certain qualities or special talents that others do not, it is difficult to make friends because they are intimidated and make you feel bad. Sometimes I experience verbal aggression from others of both genders.

    I learned to choose friends who appreciate me for what I am. I spent a lot of time reading all the books that caught my attention and devoted time to sports and the arts. I always talked to my parents and grandparents about it and they always advised me to go ahead and be myself always, and to be kind and a good attitude in the face of adversity.

  • Jill S. Tietjen , Technically Speaking, Inc.
    Answered Monday, November 26, 2018 at 12:30 PM
    I was always different from everyone else. My parents encouraged my self-confidence and self-reliance and made me feel like I was capable and confident the way I was. I didn't have to be like everyone else and I didn't necessarily have to fit in. Parts of high school were still really hard – but the attitude certainly paid off in college and in my career.