Talia Levy

April 17, 2023

they're not smarter than you

One of the weirdest questions I’ve been asked before is “are you smart?” I never know how to answer. In school, people have generally considered me to be smart. I know I do well in school grades-wise, but I know so many people, ones my age included, who know a lot more than I do, in a ton of areas.

So, I never knew how to answer the question “are you smart?” when asked, and it’s never felt right to be labeled as smarter than someone else or to act like intelligence is something that can be measured. It’s made me think about what it means to be smart, how people measure it, and if smart is even an accurate description of a person.

I don’t think a person can label someone as smarter than another. Because what is that based off of? Sure, we have exam scores and IQ tests, but those only test a range of subjects.

There are an infinite number of subjects a person can have knowledge and be “smart” in. And who’s to say knowledge in some areas makes someone smarter than another with knowledge in others? I don’t think one can. If they did, it’d be highly subjective.

I think we all have knowledge in different areas, and sure, maybe someone has more knowledge in a certain area than another. I think it’s safe to say Edison knows more about light bulbs than I, or that my science teacher has more knowledge on stars. Although some subjects are broad enough to where it’s still hard to tell, knowledge in a particular subject is more measurable. Smartness as a whole, is not.

Because who’s to say someone’s overall smarter than someone else? You don’t know what they know. You don’t know the full extent of their knowledge. I don’t even know everything that I know—things in my knowledge bank pop up randomly from time to time, and I’m sure others can say the same.

It may seem like someone consistently has more knowledge in certain areas than others or that they learn a lot about many different subjects. But how smart they are still can’t be compared because again, we don’t know all that we or others know. We can instead look at that person as just being knowledgeable in many subjects; we don’t need to see how their knowledge matches up to another's.

Like in school for example, maybe a person knows a lot about all the subjects in the classroom. They may appear smarter than those around them, but the student sitting next to them in math may know every last fact about basketball. Or someone else might have started a business and know a lot about the entrepreneurial process. Calling a person smarter is trying to compare apples to oranges—it’s not a fair (or necessary) comparison to make.

And that’s what’s so cool about knowledge and why one shouldn’t get down if they’ve never felt “smart” in the traditional sense in school. You can always learn. You can always gain new knowledge, and learning is so accessible. There is surely something out there that you’re interested in, can learn about, and share your knowledge in. And knowledge is power.

It makes me sad when people lose confidence or don’t think they’re “smart” because of how they compare themselves to the narrow definition of the word as we generally know it.

If you’ve never felt smart before, challenge yourself to redefine the word and what it means to be smart. Look at smart as a word to describe someone with knowledge. Smart is not good in school. Smart is not good only at what people see as “high intelligence” subjects. Because who gets to decide what those are? Being smarter than someone else is not a thing. Being smart is having knowledge.

Because the word "smart" is so widespread, I think it’d be hard to substitute it with “knowledgeable", all the time (I’ve tried). So, I think just redefining in our minds what it means to be smart is the most beneficial thing we can do.

Instead of feeling like being “smart” is this unreachable place or a label that has to be put on you by others, you can take initiative to learn and gain new knowledge in the topics you’re interested in. You have control over your knowledge. You decide how knowledgeable you are in a certain area. Which really means, you’re the one who decides that you’re “smart”. And that’s a very freeing thing.

The only “smarter” is you knowing more in a subject than you did yesterday. I’m sure we all have knowledge in something, so really, we’re all smart, and we all have the power to build our knowledge and decide how “smart” we are.

About Talia Levy

i write about relationships, self-help, & other random reflections i have. new posts every sunday.