professional development

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Stupid: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED May 3rd, 2021 & UPDATED ON Nov 28th, 2022

Everyone ends up feeling stupid at least once in their life. There can be so many situations where, in the back of our minds, we stop and think: Holy shit, am I really this stupid?! Maybe you’re in a group and a topic comes up that you’re not familiar with, at all. It could be a political debate, discussing a current event in the news, or even the most recent winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. You have nothing to contribute to the conversation and it makes you feel like a certified dumbass. Or you’re writing an exam and while everyone else is flipping through test pages like it’s NBD, you’re stuck on the same. damn. question. Not to mention how awful it feels to hear someone say: Oh, you didn’t know that? Suddenly, you just want the earth to open up and swallow you whole out of total humiliation. Whether it feels like everyone knows something you don’t or you’ve made a mistake, it can make you feel really, reallyyy stupid.

Here’s an important reminder: just because you FEEL stupid, doesn’t mean you’re actually stupid. ‘Cause, you’re not! But when we feel stupid, it’s hard not to feel totally insecure and tear ourselves apart. We start comparing ourselves to other people and wonder why we can’t be better. It can make us feel so out of place and alone. But don’t worry! You’re not alone or the first person to ever feel this way. So let’s talk about feeling stupid, why this shitty emotion affects your mental wellbeing, and how to cope.

A Deeper Look at Feeling Stupid

Okay, we know what stupid means. Dictionary.com defines stupid as “adj. lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull.” Ouch. Who wants to feel like this?! But, it’s probably one of the most common words in the English language! We use it all the time: Well, that was stupid. Did that sound stupid?! What a stupid mistake! 

There are so many different scenarios in life where we might feel stupid. An obvious one is getting a bad grade can make us feel really stupid. You might equate self-worth to how well you perform at school. So when you don’t get the grade you wanted, it can be devastating. Some people have test anxiety and struggle to get good grades on tests, which has nothing to do with how well they understand the material. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has different learning styles, strengths and talents. A bad grade can come from stress, anxiety, burnout, lack of preparation or not fully understanding the material. None of those things have anything to do with being stupid. It’s all about learning what works for you!

Sometimes other people can make us feel stupid, whether they mean to or not. If they criticize, patronize, or speak down to us, all of our self esteem can fly out the window. FYI, it’s never okay for someone to call us stupid or treat us like we’re idiots! In other cases though, constructive criticism can be really helpful. There are always opportunities for us to learn and do better! There’s a difference between helpful and hurtful feedback, and you’ll probably know the difference when you see it. But no matter what, just because you have made a mistake or have more to learn does NOT make you stupid. We’re always learning and growing as humans!

Imposter Syndrome and Feeling Stupid

When we question our knowledge and skills, and feel like we don’t deserve our achievements, it’s known as imposter syndrome. Maybe you’ve started a new job and all of your coworkers seem so accomplished, unlike how you feel inside. You start to feel like a fraud and worry that your boss will realize they’ve made a huge mistake in hiring you. When we feel stupid, it can be from a case of imposter syndrome. We feel like we don’t belong or deserve recognition for our work, even though we absolutely do. But the voice in our head keeps on insisting that we are stupid, so we start to believe it.

How Feeling Stupid Shows Up Mentally

Feeling stupid can obviously have a negative impact on mental health. It can be a sign of social anxiety disorder where the thought of looking stupid or saying the wrong thing in front of other people holds you back in life. You avoid socializing, speaking up in class, or taking leadership at work out of fear of judgement. This can make you feel super alone and even more isolated from everyone around you.

Low self-esteem and insecurity are common causes of feeling stupid. The doubt, feelings of worthlessness and beating yourself up over mistakes can create turmoil in your mind. You might engage in a lot of negative self-talk, even telling other people that you’re not smart enough to do something because you don’t want them to beat you to the punch. Chances are, you probably compare yourself to others too. Remember: we are our own worst critics!

We all feel stupid sometimes. Eventually, we get past our mistakes or insecurities. But if these feelings become overwhelming and don’t pass, it can be useful to talk with a mental health professional.

How Feeling Stupid Shows Up Physically

Since feeling stupid can be linked to low self-esteem, insecurity, social anxiety and overall feeling sad, the physical signs are also similar. You might have a hard time focusing, feel fatigued, have headaches, and experience stomach aches or digestive issues. These signs are only more serious if they are prolonged and don’t go away on their own.

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Stupid

Let’s be real, it can hard to get past feeling stupid. When we obsess over insecurities and have low self esteem, we tend to fixate on the things we find wrong with us. And feeling stupid can be a big one! But we have some coping strategies for you to help move past these negative thoughts. ‘Cause, we want you to feel good about yourself!

1. Journal

If you’ve never gotten into journaling before, you might be rolling your eyes right now. But we swear by this practice! Writing down how you feel can be a great way to gain some clarity and reframe the negative thoughts you’ve been having about yourself.

2. Reach Out for Support

It can be embarrassing to admit when we’re feeling stupid, especially when we’re comparing ourselves to other people. But you should never feel ashamed for reaching out to a friend or loved one for support! Sometimes just having someone to listen to us and validate how we’re feeling makes all the difference. 

3. Comfort Yourself Like a Friend

If you don’t have anyone who can be there for you right now, that’s okay. You can be there for yourself! Think about how you would want a loved one to comfort you in this moment. Give yourself a pat on the back, write a list of the things you like about yourself, and reflect on your accomplishments. 

4. Give Yourself a Pep Talk

Sometimes, we gotta give ourselves a little pep talk in order to turn those negative thoughts around. Try saying some encouraging phrases to yourself out loud: I feel stupid right now but I know this feeling will pass. Everyone makes mistakes and feels stupid sometimes. I’m gonna be okay. 

5. Engage in Compassionate Self-Talk

It’s safe to say that when you’re telling yourself how stupid you are, you aren’t showing yourself the most compassion. Try giving yourself compliments out loud, even if it feels silly! I am smart. I’m super knowledgeable about ____. My talents are ___. I’m really proud of the time that I ___. Reminding yourself of your strengths will help you focus less on what you perceive as weaknesses.

We hope these tips help you out, ‘cause you deserve to feel your best! It’s not always easy, we know. But keep in mind that everyone feels stupid and insecure sometimes. You are not alone, and you will get past this feeling!


Read More: Self-Sabotage: What Is It & How Do We Stop Doing It?, 6 Ways To Take Care of Yourself While Working Night Shifts,