We live in a world where fitting in is often prioritized over standing out. Despite the American societal ideals of individuality, going against the grain isn’t always easy.
Having the courage of one’s convictions takes mental and emotional strength that not everyone has. It requires a commitment to being yourself, regardless of what other people say.
Highly intelligent people share one trait that differentiates them in a conformist world.
Julian de Medeiros, who has a TikTok presence based on explaining complex philosophical concepts in an accessible way, referenced an idea that he credited to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. He claimed that “Antisocial behavior is a key characteristic of intelligence in the conformist world.”
According to de Medeiros’ interpretation, “A lot of people who are highly intelligent also tend to keep to themselves.”
He noted that “they might even struggle to relate to other people. They tend to be loners; they need time to think and to work, and this means that they’re often misunderstood.”
“They see the world differently from other people,” de Medeiros explained, touching on an idea from the composer Schopenhauer, who wrote that key thinkers have “a sensitivity to distractions,” and one of the most intense distractions is other people.
“The more intelligent you are, the more difficult it becomes to spend time with other people” as you “become someone who values your time and appreciates having space to focus.”
The original Tesla quote is recorded slightly differently from the way de Medeiros reported it; Tesla is quoted as saying “Anti-social behavior is a trait of intelligence in a world full of conformists.” Small differences in phrasing aside, the meaning behind the statement remains the same.
Many deep thinkers are interpreted as being antisocial, if only because they prioritize their time to be on their own, in order to get their work done.
Tesla expounded on his idea that antisocial behavior is connected to high intelligence with a different quotable statement, saying, “Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
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Yet not all ideas are born in a vacuum; in fact, hardly any notable achievements are made without building upon someone else’s framework. It’s valuable to note that there are various kinds of intelligence that exist — emotional intelligence and relational intelligence being two of them, which both rely on our relationships with other people to stay strong.
Even Tesla himself noted the dangers of keeping oneself too far apart from society. He was quoted as saying, “The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”
However, Tesla was onto something important in declaring the power of being antisocial in a largely conformist world. In order to make a difference, we have to define ourselves and advocate for our beliefs, even if they’re deemed uncomfortable or unpopular.
After all, as that other famous saying goes, well-behaved women rarely make history. So, standing apart from the crowd goes a long way if we’re looking to create lasting change.
Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango’s news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.