A few weeks ago, I was talking to someone who will remain anonymous about school, grades, and everything that comes with those things. She told me that she is a "secret smart person" because very few people realize that she consistently gets the highest grades in her classes. Some of her closest friends do not even realize her intelligence. While this friend of mine can totally live her life the way she wants to, there is problem with the idea that she'll have problems with her friends and classmates if they realize how smart she is. No one should ever feel like that they have to ignore or deny their intelligence in order to fit in.
I know personally that people have always considered me to be smart. Frankly, part of me always questions this assumption because most of the time, I have no idea what I'm doing. For better or worse though, I know that my behavior and my grades have had a huge impact in how people perceive me. I know that when people think about me, their thoughts probably run like, "Oh, Caitlin...she's that really smart girl in my X class." Part of me finds that annoying -- that my intelligence is the only noteworthy thing about me. Or people will blame me for ruining the grading curve or actually doing the homework assigned to us. And I get why some people prefer to be "secret smart people."
Because when you're known to be smart, so many people expect you to help them without them putting any effort forward. To be clear, I actually enjoy helping people study or write papers, because I'm a nice person and like helping others. But just because I'm smart does not mean that you get a free pass to cheat off my tests. It wasn't like I was born knowing how to do a Punnett square or what the definition of alliteration is, but when you're perceived as smart, people believe that they can just take advantage of that. Sometimes you think it'd be easier if no one knew that you earned good grades.
While there are many annoyances that happen when people think you're smart, I think we need to be more open to the idea that more people are smarter than we believe. When people think that they can't be smart because then they won't fit in, it bothers me. My "secret smart person" friend is very much a jock and a bit of a class clown. Those two parts of her personality should not exclude her intelligence. Just because people don't fit the boxes we've made for them, doesn't mean that something's wrong. Sometimes the blonde, bubbly girl who makes friends with everyone, and some people think is ditzy, gets exempted from her philosophy final because her average is over 100. And I think we should celebrate that.
"Secret smart people" should not have to bury their intelligence underneath the rest of their personality. It should just be one more facet of their wonderful and unique personality that makes them so wonderfully, uniquely them. And maybe then, we'll be better at seeing people as people, rather than the stereotypes we assign them.
Sometimes people we don't expect are smart because not every smart person hides their face behind glasses and their noses in books. Opening our minds might help us see that.