Are you an übermensch among the herd?
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche believed in the concept of the übermensch, which directly translates to “superman” in English. However, you don’t have to learn how to fly and be able to bounce bullets off your chest to be an ubermensch among the herd—you just have to be an independent thinker in a world of conformity.
Independent thinkers are individuals who are not afraid to challenge assumptions even in the face of outrage. They are not afraid to question conventional wisdom or the status quo, because to them, the worst sin a man could make is to be a blind follower.
Want to know if you’re one of them? Read more below to learn the 9 signs you’re an independent thinker in a world of conformity.
1) You question authority
Nietzche described the concept of the übermensch as someone who is able to defy the laws of man, and even God, when necessary. Similar to independent thinkers, these are individuals who are not afraid to challenge other people’s assumptions, even if “other people” are people in power.
This is because independent thinkers have the courage of their convictions. In a world full of conformists, they’re the people you’d expect to call out an authoritative figure when that person is making a mistake.
If you’re an independent thinker—an übermensch, as Nietzche would put it—you know how to think critically and form your own beliefs and opinions based on sound reasoning and evidence. While you respect authority, you also know that people in positions of power are still people in the end, which means they’re fallible and prone to making mistakes.
You believe that it’s important to examine and evaluate information for themselves, rather than blindly accepting what those in authority say or do. When you were younger, it probably didn’t make sense to you how family members blindly followed a religion or an ideology.
This is why you vehemently question the very same ideas now, because you think critically rather than readily accept what’s being spoon-fed to you.
2) You think critically
In a world plagued by misinformation campaigns, it’s incredibly important to know how to think critically—and you, as an independent thinker, know this, because as an independent thinker, you value rationality, evidence, and the pursuit of truth, above all.
You don’t like being bound by traditional or conventional ways of thinking; you don’t simply consume what’s being spoon-fed to you, but you poke and prod until you find the truth.
However, you recognize that you do not have all the answers and are willing to admit when you are wrong—you know it’s hypocritical to point out others’ mistakes when you can’t even own up to yours.
In fact, it’s this attitude that actually makes you a good leader.
3) You’re a good leader
Don’t let the “independent” in “independent thinker” fool you into thinking they’re selfish and individualistic. In reality, they are good leaders who look after the needs and interests of their members.
You make a good leader as an independent thinker because you are able to see the big picture, communicate your ideas effectively, and inspire others to join you in your vision. You place great value in different opinions and perspectives, which is why you’re excellent at building and leading teams.
Independent thinkers are smart and often intellectuals, but this doesn’t hinder them from being good leaders because they don’t think anyone is beneath them just because they’re intelligent.
In fact, they encourage other people to think critically and share their knowledge, because they dream of a world where everyone is enthusiastic to be in pursuit of the truth.
4) You’re self-aware
Being self-aware is more difficult than it seems. It involves facing difficult truths about yourself, the ugly facets of who you are, and connecting deeply with your psyche in order to have a deep understanding of who you are as a person.
As an independent thinker, no matter how difficult it is, you value self-awareness greatly because you recognize the importance of being introspective enough to make sound decisions. You believe that before you understand the world, you must understand yourself first.
This is why you’re not solely reliant on external validation to form an opinion. In a world that copies their real-life opinions from bad takes on the internet, you take the time to reflect on your own experiences, values, and knowledge before you form your own beliefs and convictions.
In fact, you know that self-awareness is an important step toward becoming more creative and imaginative.
5) You’re creative and imaginative
Your high level of self-awareness as an independent thinker enables you to effectively tap into your own inner resources to come up with new and original ideas. Because you are the least likely to become a victim of mob mentality, you are often able to think outside of the box and be creative and imaginative.
As an independent thinker, you’re not fond of being limited by conventional or traditional ways of thinking. You often open yourself up to exploring new ideas and perspectives, and are not afraid to challenge existing norms and beliefs.
In addition, you are often curious and inquisitive, always seeking to learn and gain wisdom. This constant quest for knowledge and understanding can lead to new insights and ideas that the rest of the world may not have considered, and is why a lot of independent thinkers are philosophers, scientists, novelists, and artists.
6) You’re not afraid of looking stupid
Many of us are afraid of looking stupid, and understandably so. We believe looking stupid hinders our ability to make friends with others and find community, because who would ever want to be close with a freak?
This is what sets independent thinkers apart. They’re not afraid of looking stupid, because they know they’re not weird for having novel, creative ideas—they’re innovative.
Everyone thought Galileo was stupid for thinking the sun is the center of the universe, and they were all wrong in the end; it was everybody else who looked stupid for thinking the universe is geocentric.
In the end, other people’s validation, particularly that of strangers, is not really important when it comes to creating new ideas and being true to yourself. You value your ideas too much to be constrained by the opinion of people you don’t know.
7) You don’t wait for validation
An independent thinker is a radical thinker.
Queer activists fought for LGBT rights before it was cool. Women protested for their rights before it was hip to be a feminist. A handful of Germans resisted Nazism and hid Jews in their basements before it was widely accepted in Germany that Nazism is bad.
This is how you know you’re right without needing the validation of others. Other people might think you’re radical and ridiculous because you think ahead of everyone, which used to make you feel alone and uneasy, but as you grew older, you’ve really started getting used to it.
In fact, it’s even quite amusing to witness the slow pace in which everybody progresses until they reach your level, by which point, you have progressed so much farther already. You’re used to the fact that being radical means having to face the prejudice of the herd for a while until they adapt the same convictions.
8) You’re objective…
Sometimes, people think you’re cold and cruel. You’re the person in a friend group who often makes decisions based on facts, not feelings, and actively calls out your delusional friend to bring them back to earth.
However, just like everybody else, you do have feelings, and you actually do this because you love your friends. People just think you’re cold because you’re objective.
Similarly, you try to act based on reason, not emotion. David Hume did say that reason is and ought only to be a slave of the passions, but he did not say that reason is unimportant. You know that reason remains to be an essential guiding factor to making decisions, but contrary to everyone else’s beliefs, you know when to follow your heart, too.
Additionally, as an independent thinker, you know that objectivity does not equal being neutral or centrist, especially when you need to take a stance.
9) …But you take a stance when you need to
It was the great Anti-Apartheid and Black rights activist Desmond Tutu who famously said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
But did you know that there’s more to the quote? It goes: “If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
As an independent thinker, this perfectly illustrates your political convictions. You don’t stay neutral in times of oppression, because then, you’re taking the side of the oppressor. Objectivity does not equal political impartiality. Gay rights, Black rights, and women’s rights are all political, and in all these instances, you take the side of the oppressed.
Remember: a true independent knows to take a stance when they need to, because they are always on the right side of history.