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I am not a snob!
February 18, 2013 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I feel as though my classmates and friends think that I'm a snob that silently judges them based on their intellect. However, I love my friends and classmates so much because they are wonderful, warm, hilarious, dedicated and intelligent people! How do I let them see this?

I've had several friends and classmates joke or imply that they feel as though I'm judging on the basis of their intelligence. Just recently I was hanging out with some close friends when one of them joked, "Oh, krakus probably won't think ___ is intellectual enough for her." The same friend also immediately joked that I probably need a couple beers in me to have some fun. Another friend immediately defended me, someone else remarked that the comment about the beers was condescending, and the subject was dropped. I should mention that otherwise, I get along really well with the friend that made the jokes, and for what it's worth, he invited me to hang out the next day. I should also mention that he and I are "new" friends and we are just really getting to know a lot about each other.

That said, I've gotten that sentiment from a lot of my less-close friends and from classmates. This is just the first time someone's said it in words to my face; I suspect that he only did so because he felt comfortable enough in our friendship to speak his mind. I don't hold it against him at all, honestly. I'm not angry with him or at all annoyed; he is an otherwise great friend. Rather, I'm more concerned with myself that I'm projecting a negative aura. I suppose that the reason I am so concerned is that I am so surprised. My friends always remark about how I'm always so cheery and friendly. I consider myself (and have been told by many people that I am) very unthreatening - I am small, I have a decidedly un-scary voice, and I smile a lot (in a nice way, not a demeaning way). Most importantly, I think that I am not at all a judgmental person; I’ve lived abroad for a long time with so many different kinds of people in so many different situations that I’ve learned quite clearly that judging people is awful and absolutely counter-productive.

I suspect that the fact that my classmates and friends are all seeing me in an academic setting that they perceive as competitive is what makes me seem like an intellectual snob. I wonder if it's the competitive, high-pressure academic setting that brings out their suspicions of snobbery. All of us are in a rigorous program to which we are all new; insecurities are high among all my classmates (myself included). I do participate in class a lot, but it's only out of a love for school and learning. When I feel like I'm preventing others from speaking or otherwise detracting from the classroom by talking, I shut up. (I am very mindful of this.) Yes, I am intelligent, and maybe I am more intelligent than some of my classmates and friends, but only in an academic sense. All of my classmates are insanely talented musicians, athletes, thespians, and writers, whom I deeply admire. I think that they all have deeply interesting perspectives and I love hearing what they have to say. I am also not the kind of person who likes to only talk about "intellectual subjects" all the time outside of class - I enjoy gossip, shopping, and the like just like any other girl. How do I get them to see this?

(I am most likely being overly sensitive here, but this has been eating at me for awhile and I'd like to get to the bottom of it or at least learn how to deal with it.)
posted by krakus to Human Relations (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
No one here will be able to tell you for sure.

Next time this comes up, ask about it. "Hey, am I doing something that makes people think I am a snob? Because I don't feel that way at all and if it's how I come off I want to fix it."

You may have to ask a few different people.

And it could just be that it's the competitive environment causing insecurity in everyone.

And... it's not that important that they see you as "just like any other girl," it's important that they like you for who you are, as they seem to based on your description. It sounds like you are confident in your intelligence, and there's no reason for you to shy away from that. Own it.
posted by bunderful at 7:48 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


This sounds a bit like mythologization, a common component of familial / friendly interactions. As people get to know you, they try out simplified ideas about who you are and what you're about. Sometimes it's cool, and sometimes it's annoying.

I'd categorize 'intellectual' as pretty cool and mostly roll with it, but perhaps take moments like that to tell a silly or self-deprecating anecdote about something really non-intellectual I'd recently enjoyed. I don't mean play dumb, but rather acknowledge the norm while revealing a notable counterpoint that implicitly takes 'snob' off the table as a possibility.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:51 PM on February 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Your new friend more than likely has an agenda, but is insecure. IMO, he's negging you, which is the worst, although YMMV.

The other people - why care what they think?

You can spend your life running around trying to show people who you really are - or you could just live your life.
posted by heyjude at 7:55 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are you sarcastic alot? Do you say judge-y thing about other people?
posted by discopolo at 7:58 PM on February 18, 2013


I'm pretty sure that guy is just hitting on you.
posted by empath at 8:01 PM on February 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


discopolo - No, definitely not. I consciously shy away from using sarcasm with others, and I do not really say judge-y things about people in general.
posted by krakus at 8:02 PM on February 18, 2013


It sounds like your new friend is intimidated by you. That is something he has to get over by himself. (You can keep an eye on yourself and be sure you're not unintentionally saying snobbish things, but it sounds to me like this is his problem. Or that yeah, he's hitting on you.)

Your reply to those kinds of comments should be "okay, whatever dude" and then change the subject.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:02 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be brutally honest-as a person who has had this thought about people, but also doesn't think it's a big malicious thing-your friends don't see you as a stuffy intellectual-they see you as an uptight nerd.

Like, obviously you're not paging through Victorian classics/biology case studies while out to lunch with them. I'm guessing-GUESSING-that maybe the problem is that they view you as the person who might get uncomfortable/left out if conversation veers from classwork to, like, proper blowjob etiquette, or how placing a hand on the floor can cure the spins.

I am just guessing, like I said, as a person who has frequently censored herself around people whose pursuits are more academic than my own. Also I am drunk. But I would maybe see if there's ways you could loosen up around your friends that don't involve playing dumb.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:09 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


What's your vocabulary and attention to grammar like? Do you read a lot? Are you up on current events?

These factors are all interconnected and tend to make people who are not as interested in them feel less intellectual.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:09 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect that the fact that my classmates and friends are all seeing me in an academic setting that they perceive as competitive is what makes me seem like an intellectual snob. I wonder if it's the competitive, high-pressure academic setting that brings out their suspicions of snobbery. All of us are in a rigorous program to which we are all new; insecurities are high among all my classmates (myself included).

Well, you're all in the same setting and part of the same program. So the only differentiating factor is... you. Maybe you're a better student. Maybe you made some snide comments about someone's inability to understand the material. Maybe you make references to liking to hang around intellectuals. Maybe you're just a particularly better performer in class and other people are intimidated. Maybe all your "compliments" towards your friends are humblebraggy statements of, "Oh, you're so good at sports/acting. I could never do that. I've only ever been good at academics. I'm just book smart."

We don't know you or your friends, so I don't think we can give you a clear answer.
posted by deanc at 8:13 PM on February 18, 2013


To your classmates, does it look like most of your pursuits are intellectual? Even if you can talk about other things, if most of the stuff you do in your spare time is perceived as intellectual, that's the label you're going to get. I would check in with someone you're close to and make sure that you're not being perceived as "krakus looks down on us for not doing intellectual things," but this doesn't seem like something to worry about. Just live your life and own your hobbies.

Honestly though, the guy making the comment was probably just feeling defensive.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:27 PM on February 18, 2013


You point out that you participate in class a lot, so much so that you feel you have to stop yourself in order to give others a chance. Even if you feel like you're holding yourself back sometimes, it sounds like maybe you stick out way more than you feel like you do just because of this fact. Not that that's wrong, but that could be a large part of why casual acquaintances perceive you this way.

It's also possible that friend guy was attempting to flirt with you in a rather immature style.
posted by wondermouse at 8:36 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pick a random popular interest and mention it a bunch of times, like violent videogames or pop music or sports.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:12 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


discopolo - No, definitely not. I consciously shy away from using sarcasm with others, and I do not really say judge-y things about people in general.

Then straight up ask them why they think this. There's no way to figure his out. It's okay to ask.
posted by discopolo at 9:23 PM on February 18, 2013


Do you sort of sit quietly while you're figuring out what to say? Or just sit quietly enjoying the conversation? If the conversation is about something "fluffy" and you're sitting quietly, that may read as you being "too good to join in" rather than "I have no idea what you're talking about" or "I'm really enjoying listening to you two talk."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:37 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not seeing a lot of evidence that other people actually see you as a snob. That one guy made a dorky comment; your other friends shut him down; and that was the end of it.

And if they do: so what? It's not your job to please everyone, or to make sure everyone else's impression of you matches up with how you see yourself. It's OK to be misunderstood.

Beware the trap of the intelligent woman who feels she has to hide or apologize for, or Zeus help us all, downplay her brainpower and interests to please others.
posted by nacho fries at 10:03 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


"I’ve lived abroad for a long time with so many different kinds of people in so many different situations"

I'm betting that you are quietly confident, speak more than one language? and no matter what you do, you'll stand out as an intelligent, confident woman. You've handled it well, carry on exactly as you are and forget about it.
posted by humph at 2:02 AM on February 19, 2013


Two factors:
  1. Once people have a perception of you, you can ignore it, play to it, or play against it. And
  2. It's very difficult to know how others perceive you.
If they think you're "too intelligent", the hell with them. Ignore it, as nacho fries says.

If they think you're "snobby", that's trickier. It could be a class anxiety thing (did they have the opportunity to travel and live in different countries?), or differing tastes, or you might actually be a little snobbish about some things — most people are. They could just be ridiculously lowbrow! You can play to it or play against it as you wish. But it's a fool's errand to try to control people's perceptions of you. Let them be wrong about you, or right about you, and continue being yourself as long as you aren't hurting anyone.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:58 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


"He" said this?

I will tell you what I think is happening. "He" has accused you of thinking you're too good for others, ie him. You now must work to demonstrate that you are not above him, so as to earn his regard. He will know that you have taken your proper place below him in the hierarchy when you drop your drawers because you have accepted that you are not too good for him.
posted by tel3path at 3:34 AM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pointing out that there is a very simple way to get to the bottom of this. Next time this happens:
(he says): "Oh, krakus probably won't think ___ is intellectual enough for her."

(you say): "what? What gives you that idea?"
And then he either explains what you do, and you decide what to do about it, or he says something that's totally stupid and you decide he's a jerk and don't worry about it any more.

And, scene.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:11 AM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, ‘Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.’ So the old man said, ‘Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.’ The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, ‘Didn’t they say anything to you?’ He replied, ‘No.’ The old man said, ‘Go back tomorrow and praise them.’ So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, ‘Apostles, saints and righteous men.’ He returned to the old man and said to him, ‘I have complimented them.’ And the old man said to him, ‘You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.'
posted by Tanizaki at 5:49 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, unlike Tanizaki I'd say that if six people tell you you're dead... don't lie down, but do take your pulse and ask a medical professional for a reality check.

Nothing that you've said here suggests that you are a snob. I can't say for sure, not having observed you in your natural habitat. But this really reads to me like would-be suitors trying to put you in a lower position so that they can become "good enough" for you.
posted by tel3path at 5:55 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two ideas:
1. Do you ever correct anyone in grammar or facts, either in class or in casual conversations?
2. During class, when you are participating and holding yourself back - try keeping track of how often other individuals participate. Not the participation of the class as a whole compared to you as an individual, but keep a tally of each individual in the class and see if you are overpowering the class. (This assumes that the one guy is in your class and would see this dynamic).
posted by CathyG at 5:59 AM on February 19, 2013


My question to you is this: why is it so important for you not to stand out because of your passion for academic pursuits? You are in an academic setting and it sounds like you love it. You probably love it more than a lot of the other students in your program. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I could have written exactly this post years ago, while I was doing my master's degree. I used to try to cater to other people's insecurities. All I ended up doing was deny who I really was: someone who likes school, who loves intellectual conversation and who tends to quiet down when the topic runs into, say, the best way to get rid of facial hair (note: the intricacies of proper blow job etiquette are, however, fascinating).

You can either try to please everybody (which we all know is, in the end, an impossible feat) or be yourself and attract the friends and partners who love you for exactly who you are.
posted by Milau at 8:34 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Oh, krakus probably won't think ___ is intellectual enough for her."

"Hey, I hang out with you, don't I?"

A couple of rounds of this and the next would-be instigator will probably keep their mouth shut. If anyone else has a problem with it, let 'em go.

A classmate of mine once complimented me sincerely on the fact that I didn't dumb down my vocabulary. I think he felt relieved because he didn't look like such a big nerd any more with me around!
posted by Currer Belfry at 10:49 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just recently I was hanging out with some close friends when one of them joked, "Oh, krakus probably won't think ___ is intellectual enough for her." The same friend also immediately joked that I probably need a couple beers in me to have some fun.

I can never figure out why some people feel entitled to say these sorts of put-downs. I might say "Gee, thanks" and then ignore it. Don't change yourself in response to comments from this guy! What he said was a little thoughtless and not polite. I tend to be quiet and soft-spoken around people I don't know well and some evidently feel uncomfortable, but it's insecurity in their mind if they imagine a quiet person is secretly judging them, which I'm not, it's not my issue to deal with.
posted by citron at 11:22 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just recently I was hanging out with some close friends when one of them joked, "Oh, krakus probably won't think ___ is intellectual enough for her." The same friend also immediately joked that I probably need a couple beers in me to have some fun.

I had a dance teacher/director who would constantly tell me to 'RELAX' and that it was so good to see me so much more 'RELAXED' today, and so on. I was pretty young but it became obvious over time that she was doing it to make me more self-conscious.

If I ever did let my guard down, I'd get accused of some kind of carelessness and be publicly berated for my unprofessional/frivolous attitude or whatever.

I really wouldn't listen to people who try to needle you by telling you you need to relax more. They're just winding you up.
posted by tel3path at 2:41 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you guys so much! Your replies have been extremely enlightening.

After some introspection guided by your advice, I've realized a few things:

1) My vocabulary can sometimes be unnecessarily pretentious. A lot of this is simply cultural (I grew up with parents who learned to speak British English, but I live in the southern US) but I definitely think I can tone it down, particularly since here it comes off as affected instead of natural.

2) I'm really shy about sharing my non-intellectual pursuits with others, out of fear of judgment and criticism. I'm very secure about academic-related things, on the other hand, so I tend to emphasize that to hide my insecurity about my other activities and hobbies. This is stupid of me, and I am going to stop. Not only does it make me seem stuffy (and possibly snobby), but more importantly, it also is holding me back in terms of improving at these things I'm so shy about.

3) I'm a lot less outgoing than I realized. I'm talkative outside of class, but I'm also really private and a bit reserved, except with close friends. I guess I structure my social circle with a lot of casual acquaintances and a few super-close friends. I think this is contributing a lot to the snobby thing, as I think my reservedness (which stems almost completely from acute shyness, not any kind of moral or intellectual superiority) is being misconstrued as unfriendliness. I think I can work on being more outgoing and open with people from the beginning.

4) I need to give waaaaaay less of a fuck about what everyone thinks of me. It's naive and pointless to worry about whether or not everyone likes me. I guess what's more important is that I like me.

Also: next time this topic pops up in conversation, I'm going to be direct and ask my friends about it. Probably more productive than being a worry-wart. :-)
posted by krakus at 7:08 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


krakus, what I can tell you is that when you are reserved, people take it really personally. I can't explain why, exactly, as I don't know what they're thinking, but "being reserved" is something people look for as a social signal from you to determine whether they're being accepted/rejected. I mean, I manage pretty well socially despite being reserved, but I have encountered a lot of situations where I got judged regarding my friendliness because I am temperamentally reserved.
posted by deanc at 11:02 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


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