Before I get straight into this post, a quick reminder to you all that this is my opinion … keyword being: my.
This topic doesn’t only relate to those considered the “smart” friend, but also the “overachiever” or the “successful” one; to be honest, it depends on the context of the situation but in this post, I will be referring to an educational setting hence why the term “smart” is used.
So yes, I am the “smart” friend. Everyone probably has one and honestly there are different types of “smart” friend’s that one can possess. Also, depending on the people you’re around, your title as the “smart” friend can be heightened or diminished. For example, growing up in primary, up until sixth form, I’ve been the “smart” friend in my friendship group; however, in university, that title is moreso “diminished”. To be known as the “smart” friend can stem from a variety of reasons: either you’re the organised friend, or get good grades, take your work more seriously, or that friend that doesn’t really work hard for their grades but still achieves really good grades etc. I could honestly say that I’m a mixture of all – I would say I’m naturally smart at certain things but I also work smartly (this is something anyone can perform).
Although being the “smart” friend may seem as easy or “lucky”, honestly, it has also been a burden to me. So yes, there are pros and cons. Thankfully, for me I’ve grown up to take pride in my smarts but for some, I know this is not the case.
Let me start off with the high expectations and pressure being the “smart” friend holds. Obviously to others, it may seem easy to be “smart” but like I say, being smart can come from a variety of reasons and often being naturally smart doesn’t cut it. As Abby Lee Miller says, “it’s easy getting to the top, but harder to stay there”. That being said, once you’re viewed as the “smart” friend, you have this internalised and externalised pressure to maintain being the high achiever. This just means you’re going to have to work harder and put in the extra time to maintain that position. To make matters worse, everyone will assume you’ll do well and so to avoid the embarrassment, you have to do well. And if you don’t, it feels more shameful because you are the “smart” friend. To take this situation out of the school context briefly, those who have watched Dance Moms before know Maddie as the “best” dancer who won most competitions … however, the moment she doesn’t get first place, it would be more shameful than for example, Paige or Nia not getting first place. Like I mentioned before, being the high achiever or the “smart” friend also comes with internalised pressure, so when the A* student gets a B and is upset, it’s more so a personal battle rather than to put others down who are proud of their B-grade.
In addition, others (namely class mates) overlook your struggles. This can also be translated to the passive aggressive comments you receive. For example, if I would say “I find xyz hard”, sometimes I would get the “I bet you secretly know what you’re doing” or “you’re probably going to get an A anyways”. So when the high achiever or “smart” friend does not express their difficulties, consider the fact that it could be that they don’t receive any empathetic responses. Also, people often think that the “smart” friend is lying or over-exaggerating when they express their difficulties. This is very annoying because I don’t think there is any one person that is smart at every single thing they do – we all do have our weaknesses. What can differentiate the “smart” friend from others is that the “smart” friend may strategically find a way to overcome this difficulty. To elaborate, when I find something hard, I always find a way to make it make sense to me … even if it means I make it link to dance or music or something else off the tangent.
I know that possibly some people could read this post eye-rolling at what I’ve said because we’ve got it “easy” but honestly, it is something I’ve struggled with. It’s often left me hiding my achievements or generally undermining them because I don’t want others to feel bad or because I sense a bitter attitude from them. Obviously there are gloaters who continuously shove their achievements in your face, but there are also over-achievers who tend to downplay their achievements in order to keep others comfortable. I’ve come to learn that we can all shine so I shouldn’t dim my light to make others feel better. Instead, if they’re generally proud, they would celebrate my successes the same way I would do with theirs.
This post is becoming long but this is something I’ve always battled with growing up and funnily enough, even though I’m the “smart” friend, I’ve often felt like the “dumb” one in some contexts … just that most people have never seen or sensed that. But yeah, that’s my views and I hope this post has been insightful for those of you in my position but more importantly for those who have been on the flipside.
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