The Smarts #16 - Self-Smart: To Reflect And Know

The Smarts #16

Self-Smart: To Reflect And Know

Today I’ll continue the series about the 8 great smarts with information about being SELF smart. You can read more in my book, 8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Childs’ Intelligences, including how to strengthen this smart, and how it relates to learning, relationships, careers, character, and spiritual growth.


Self-smart children think with reflection deeply inside of themselves and relate learning to their lives. When they’re excited, they want to spend time by themselves thinking more. They need quiet, peace, privacy, and space. They get joy from knowing what they know. Their power is reflection and the knowing that comes from it.

When studying and learning, self-smart children want to understand things in depth. This takes time. Answering questions takes time, too. They want to consider all their knowledge before answering and they want to get answers right. Therefore, they can frustrate teachers and peers and think of themselves as slow thinkers. This is a reason they often don’t feel smart.

More than other children, they may want to “sleep on their ideas.” If you force them to quickly share or if anyone belittles their “slowness,” paralysis may set in. They may stop reflecting altogether.

Because self-smart children know what they believe and why, they’re usually able to stand up for their beliefs. They may become active in a cause, perhaps in a behind-the-scenes role, or they may just talk with friends and peers when the issue comes up in conversation. Their willingness to promote their convictions and opinions will depend, in part, on whether they are also people smart or logic smart. Remember, these intelligences don’t work alone. With people-smart strengths and/or logic-smart strengths, it’s more likely that self-smart children can persuade others.

Self-smart children tend to be quiet, independent workers and thinkers. When they’re  excited, they enjoy going off by themselves to reflect on their feelings and thoughts. They don’t need others to help them know what they know. They don’t need to tell others what they know. In these ways, self-smart children and people-smart children are opposites.

Self-smart children may describe themselves as loners, thinkers, quiet, aware, and careful. As I’ve cautioned you before, make sure you look for broad patterns that indicate children have this intelligence strength before you assume they do. For example, children who are introverted by personality may say they’re loners. Children who have been neglected, abused, or hurt emotionally may behave like loners. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that they’re self-smart. Evidence of self-smart strengths include that they think deeply and privately and enjoy relating learning to their lives.

Self-smart children know themselves well. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They know what ticks them off, turns them on, and calms them down. They know what interests them, what they like, what they want, and what they need. They’re able to use this self-understanding to guide and enrich their lives.

Similar internal confusion can occur for self-smart children who are extroverted that occurs for people-smart children who are introverted.. Self-smart children need to be alone with their thoughts. Extroverted children need to be with people for their energy. Therefore, there will be times when these children are conflicted . . . should I be with my peers and family now or not? They can confuse themselves and others and send

mixed messages that make it hard to know for sure how to relate to them. On the other hand, self-smart children who are introverted by personality will have even more need to spend time alone.

Another issue consistently comes up when I speak on these intelligences. Parents and  teachers ask if I think children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder may be self-smart. It’s certainly true that they appear to have similar strengths and needs. After a mom heard me speak, she sent me this message:

Another daughter of mine has always been very shy, and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Social situations can be very difficult for her. But I have learned that she is very self-smart, and have encouraged her to know that she can set boundaries around social occasions. She knows that if we have a family event coming up, she needs to have quiet ahead of time and after. About six hours is her limit on being able to handle those situations. And she will quietly let me know if she is “done” before that. I feel like before [knowing about the smarts] I might have pushed her, but now I encourage her. She is also picture smart and uses drawing as a way to calm herself.

From 8 Great Smarts, by Kathy Koch, PhD, (Moody Publishers, 2016), pages 208-211


Who do you know who is self smart? Affirm these people. If you think they haven’t thought of themselves as smart, make sure to talk with them. If you think others have put them down, talk about that, too. Because these children are also word smart and logic smart, hopefully this hasn’t happened. But, it does happen. Being self smart is a smart! Also, how could you help them benefit others because they’re self smart? Talk with them.