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Solving constant worry over one's intelligence [very long]

  1. Dec 23, 2015 #1
    Overall I'd say I'm a somewhat secure person; though definitely a bit weaker than average, I'm not an emotional wreck except for when it comes to one thing: doubt of my capacity/potential, which has lately bothered me a lot. Any time of IQ or intellectual superiority are mentioned I go crazy. I'm fifteen (a sophomore in high school) and this has been my bane for many years. I'm thinking it's mainly because I'm drawn to computer science, a field with many very intelligent people, and I feel like I can't really compare. At my school a lot of people say things such as that I'm the next Bill Gates or his son, I'm the smartest person they've ever met, etc., but I think I'm just relatively, narrowly and contextually knowledgeable. That's part of why my anxiety feels hopeless. No matter what I do, I have a feeling I'll never think much of my own ability or accomplishments. Put that way it sounds like drive, but much more often I have an attitude of "you probably couldn't do it anyway," leading me to give up on things I know, looking back, I shouldn't have. I do not know what my IQ is. Today I was nearly having a panic attack and took one and scored 115, but despite the terrible environment (optimistically, it was late in the day and I couldn't take advantage of the time because every time a family member walked by my spot central in the house I hid the tab for fear of criticism because they know I worry a lot about it and would tell me to not), I know online tests are inaccurate and almost always give a score quite a bit higher than what would be expected from an official test, and even if I have an IQ of 115 I wouldn't be satisfied because statistically, that's a significantly limiting factor for what I want to do, which, if I have complete choice, is to start a software company. I used to do the same a couple years ago. Late at night I'd start panicking and take IQ tests, getting the same uninterpretable and wide range of 85-180. It was partly this anxiety that led me to dabble in psychedelics, and though I've gotten some revelations, sadly, this was unaffected. I'm really not sure what to do. Doubt and criticism have become part of almost every thought. If I ask myself whether I've become something better, I can only respond with the doubts I've seen in others. How can I end this suffering? Telling myself that IQ doesn't matter anyway doesn't help. It wasn't always so bad. The last year I almost forgot about it, but for reasons unknown to me, it recently returned as bright as ever. I ask this on this site because I saw a similar person post a similar problem and it was responded to intelligently, though sadly his reasons were very different from mine now. If anyone has bothered to read through all this, what am I to do? I could live like this forever but that forever seems awfully long if I won't be able to stop trying to compare myself.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2015 #2
    relax relax relax relax!!!!!!!!!! ok ok ok ok, online 'iq tests', even the ones that take an hour to solve and promise to email you the results with a full analysis (if you pay them of course) are FAKE! and should be taken just as seriously as personality tests that tell you what your inner animal is. a real iq test consists of multiple, long sessions with a psychologist and you're given all sorts of tasks (most of them don't appear in online 'tests') that you have to solve with creativity and logic. in every area in life there are the geniuses that everyone hears about, but a lot of talented people who don't have an iq of 209382109 can be good at what they do and contribute to society. you sound like an extremely bright kid and you should develop your passion, no passion and hard work=no success. even for the smartest person out there. start young, and you'll have a major advantage. in every field there are always going to be people who are smarter than you and people who are a lot less smarter than you, it's just a fact of life. it's like an art student saying that they can't do art because they're not as talented as da vinci, or like a martial artist saying they're terrible because they're 'only' a black belt and not 6th dan. plus, you have to remember- there are a LOT of people who like to show off or exaggerate their abilities, but it doesn't mean that they're better than you. they can be very intimidating though! i like to think that the more knowledgeable you are about a subject, the dumber you feel. my iq has been formally tested, and i still feel stupid. 'ok, i'm in the gifted range, but only slightly... why isn't it higher? why aren't i in the genius range? that's it, my dream of studying to become an engineer/physicist are over' (this is false of course), the number will never be high enough.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  4. Dec 23, 2015 #3
    You can be a computer scientist with an average intelligence, so don't worry about that. Also, quit the psychedelics, those are fun, but if you have any type of problems like self confidence, that'll make it worse. And like said before, online IQ tests are fake in every sense of the word, and your IQ score doesn't matter in any way. The only benefit I've ever thought of with having a high score, is to be able to put Mensa on a college application, beyond that, useless.
  5. Dec 23, 2015 #4
    Thank you for the replies.
    I guess I don't want to be average. A person with an IQ of 60 could be a computer scientist, but put in the real world with real competition, a higher IQ would surely predict dominance and faster design/problem solving. I can't say for sure whether or not I'm above average overall, either. I've written an x86 disassembler, say, and could probably complete a college course once I'm in college, but so far I've seen only that school proves you know how to do what you're told, a poor predictor of real performance where creativity and insight is required, much more than reading and doing. It helps that you, one who knows he has a high IQ, feels it is without value, but to one who may or may not be lacking I don't know whether or not I should have it really tested in attempt to solve this or not for fear of more dissatisfaction.

    Thank you for all this. I guess it's not so much iq but overall "potential". I'm starting to feel this is all silly of me, but since it's been in me for so long I don't know if it will go away forever. Am I just lacking in confidence? My fear is to have a world limited by the creator's (my) capacity. For never feeling like I'm good enough, I think for the most part I'd be happy if I'm 135. I've talked a fair bit with a person with a certified IQ of 179 and I guess after that and feeling like there are always others outperforming me I don't want to always feel like my circuitry isn't as optimized as my competition's. I can't change it anyway, but I have a feeling this is a problem of not just a number I don't even know but much more and I'm not really sure how to manage it. I know there probably aren't many psychologists on here but my hope is to get some insight (which you and newjerseyruner have provided quite a bit of). I'm terrified of going into a major wherein my classmates are worlds beyond me in terms of both knowledge and capability and I fear that may happen - maybe arrogance? Is relief from overall anxiety what I should seek?

    "I think it's arrogant for anyone to proclaim that he or she expects to become the best, but I don't want to not be given the option to try."
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 23, 2015
  6. Dec 23, 2015 #5
    about the first quote- yes and no, definitely not dominance, and problem solving? maybe, but not always. i was also very insecure before i was tested, and getting tested didn't help much. besides playing around with java for an afternoon i have no clue whatsoever when it comes to computer science, but it sounds impressive for a 15 year old. if it makes you feel better, when i was 15 (because i'm oh so old now, i'm 19) i spent all of my time playing maplestory and trying to break my own record of sleeping as many consecutive hours as possible. clearly i was not focusing on any intellectual habits or using my time efficiently. iq tests measure a specific type of smart, they do not say anything about interpersonal skills, confidence, charisma, expression and creativity through art and writing, learning abilities etc, which are equally as important if not more. i was exactly like you in the past in terms of being insecure about my intellectual abilities, until i went through a major crisis and couldn't perform at school at all. at that time i had to learn to appreciate other areas in life and coming out of that i learnt a lot about myself and had to rebuild my whole identity (as cliche as it sounds).

    if you're doing computer science at the age of 15 you have potential, and you sound very wise for your age. how do you know that person's iq? if they're walking around telling everyone, well...
    there will always be others outperforming you, no matter how good you are, and you will always outperform others. i'd imagine there are a lot of other people who have the same fears as you, especially ones who are also aiming for studying some sort of science in university. you will meet the geniuses, but being intellectually off the charts isn't everything in life, what kind of people are they? are they happy? are they decent people? are they empathetic? there is more to a person than simple intelligence. i can tell you that in a workplace there are so many factors other than pure iq that determine success. sometimes you will encounter a boss who for whatever reason doesn't like you and make you feel terrible and incompetent, even though it's not true. on other times the boss will love you and you'll get along with your co-workers and you'll feel great. some workplaces will reject you. others will gladly hire you. no matter how qualified you are for the job. sometimes there will be people a lot less capable than you in higher positions. sometimes you'll mess up and sometimes you'll do something excellent. other people don't have to be your competitors, you don't have to compete. if you focus on yourself and try to learn as much as possible for your own knowledge and know what you have to offer, there's no competition. it takes two to compete, otherwise there's no race and the person trying to compete against you will just run around pointlessly until they lose their breath (how silly is that?). not competing doesn't mean being passive, it means finding your own way of doing things and being independent. try setting yourself some tasks and realistic goals of acquiring knowledge for your own pure enjoyment, and work on your self confidence. who are you as a person? what defines you other than your intellectual abilities? if you think you have anxiety issues try seeking help. remember, you are your greatest obstacle in life. not your iq, not your intellectual potential, and definitely not a number of some sorts. if you want it badly enough, you can have it. but you have to work for it (said someone smart on the internet i can't remember his name).
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  7. Dec 24, 2015 #6
    This sounds like classic OCD. You get intrusive thoughts: "not smart enough/IQ not high enough", you answer it by a compulsion: "Doing online IQ tests a lot"
    And anybody with OCD will definitely recognize the following:

    I was about 15/16 when my first OCD attack hit me, and it was also about me not being smart enough. I wish I recognized this sooner, but I thought I was just being crazy.

    It's clear. You have an anxiety problem. Maybe not OCD, but very related anyway. The absolute best thing you can do now is see a psychiatrist. What you're doing now is clearly not helping and is just making it worse in every aspect. Really consider this if this problem persists.

    About IQ then. You seem to be having the same IQ as Feynman. I think things worked out rather well for him...
  8. Dec 24, 2015 #7


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    OMG. This, from one of the smartest people I know. :oldbiggrin:
  9. Dec 24, 2015 #8
    Thanks a lot. But I still can't see me that way. Luckily, I have stopped caring about being smart or anything. Right now I only care about learning new and cool stuff.

    As an aside, I think it's very common for smart people to doubt their intelligence. Certainly when you're young and you haven't accomplished anything meaningful yet. I know the Dunning-Kruger effect is famous because it says that "dumb" people think they have more knowledge than they do. But an interesting part of the Dunning-Kruger effect is also that capable people tend to second-guess themselves more often. When you're in grad school, this often manifests itself as impostor syndrome. Everybody I've met in academia has suffered from this one way or another.
  10. Dec 24, 2015 #9


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    Transferred to modesty? :oldbiggrin:
  11. Dec 24, 2015 #10
    Flynn's effect. IQ doesn't truly represent your intelligence and plus it changes gradually over time.
  12. Dec 24, 2015 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    Online IQ tests are games, they are not IQ tests. You do sound like you may have problems with anxiety/OCD that micromass mentioned. Please see a psychiatrist for proper diagnosis and help.
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