15 signs you’re an independent thinker who doesn’t follow the crowd

In a world that often feels like a maze of conformity, independent thinkers are the ones breaking through barriers and leaving their unique mark on the landscape of ideas.

They’re the ones who question the ordinary, who refuse to accept things at face value and who dare to venture beyond the well-trodden paths.

Their vibrant energy, fueled by curiosity and unyielding determination, sets them apart and inspires those around them to reach for greater heights.

So, let’s explore the 15 signs that you’re an independent thinker who refuses to conform to what everyone else is thinking.

1. You draw your own conclusions rather than follow the crowd

One of the most fundamental and defining aspects of independent thinking is basing your thoughts on your own perceptions.

That means doing your own research and drawing your own conclusions.

It means following your own instincts rather than just doing as you’re told.

It’s a surefire sign of an independent thinker if you’re not afraid to disagree or go against the grain.

Particularly if:

  • You dislike the herd mentality
  • You take time to consider your own thoughts, opinions, and ideas
  • You put faith and value in dedicated exploration and fact-finding

2. You enjoy figuring things out for yourself

Of course, for an independent thinker, it’s not just that they believe it’s important to think for themselves.

They also actively enjoy the process.

It’s fun to figure things out, to learn, to grow, and to experience for themselves.

Sure, you can have someone tell you how the world works.

But isn’t it a lot more enriching and entertaining to get out there and figure it out for yourself?

It’s not just the end result, it’s the process of independent thinking that brings intrigue, and meaning to your life.

3. You can leave your feelings at the door

Emotions can get the best of any of us.

But independent thinkers recognize that they can cloud our judgment.

The fact is that it’s far harder to stay fair and objective when our feelings take over.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that independent thinkers are able to switch off their emotions.

They’re not robots!

But they are able to recognize them, analyze and become more aware of how they sway their judgment.

This makes it far less likely that they’ll get tripped up by them.

In part, independent thinkers have developed this skill thanks to their self-awareness.

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4. You are self-aware and know your own strengths and weaknesses

If you want to see the world clearly, you need to be able to see yourself clearly too.

In order to be balanced and reasonable individuals, we need to do the internal work.

And the reality is that being a truly independent thinker demands that we question ourselves as much as we do the outside world — more even!

So it’s a great sign if you are committed to doing this work.

You strive to understand yourself and what makes you tick. You see yourself as a puzzle to be figured out.

This is what helps you to keep clued up on your own downfalls.

5. You’re mindful of your own blind spots

There’s actually no way to be a totally independent thinker.

Because human beings are just that — human.

Which means in many ways we’ll always be flawed.

We come with our own pre-programmed set of ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and biases.

Cognitive bias is inevitable.

The brain has a natural tendency to simply information and put it through a filter based on our own personal experiences and preferences.

In order to limit our biases, all we can really do is try to question them in order to become more aware.

Independent thinkers know that they will always see things through their own unique framework.

That’s why it’s vital to stay open to other ways of seeing things.

6. You have an open mind and are tolerant of others

As soon as we begin to close our minds off, we shut them down to other possibilities.

It’s hard to be independent in thought if we refuse to consider different views.

When we’re quick to shut others down, we cannot learn from them. We become arrogant and assume that we know best.

Even when we vehemently disagree, a strong tolerance for others’ lifestyles, beliefs, and opinions is still in our best interest.

You never know, it may just change your mind. And change is something independent thinkers are happy to do… 

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7. You’re not a fan of the status quo

Times change, but the status quo can keep us stuck in the past.

Independent thinkers believe it’s better to constantly reconsider.

That way you can be sure to move with the times.

Just because that’s how it’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things going forward.

In fact, history is littered with social, political, and human rights evolutions that were once commonplace but are now viewed very differently.

Rather than blindly following in the footsteps of others, independent thinkers are always looking for better ways.

8. You’re happy to be a trailblazer, despite what others think

When I was growing up, vegetarianism was seen as weird.

Yet to me, the idea of eating animals didn’t seem logical. It just didn’t feel right for me.

So despite facing ridicule and plenty of disapproval, I went veggie at a young age.

Of course, these days it’s nothing new.

According to recent stats, as many as 22% of millennials have tried a vegetarian diet at some point.

But the point is that independent thinkers are less focused on what others around them think.

They care more about their own beliefs and staying true to those.

9. You’re guided by a strong internal moral compass

The next sign on our list is what gives independent thinkers a way to steer through life and navigate all the conflicting opinions and ideas they come across.

Because the motivation for independent thought is usually based on strong values.

These may be universal truths such as honesty, respect, and doing what is right.

This independent value system based on their own core values is what guides them.

So when everything else is up in the air, at least they know who they are and what is important to them.

And inevitably, being an independent thinker does leave plenty up in the air!

10. You often have plenty of doubts and unanswered questions

One of the side effects of an independent mind is that it’s hard to switch off.

You are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating.

Each time, you may discover new things to consider that you hadn’t yet thought about.

This is bound to lead to a new set of questions to be answered. It might leave you doubting plenty of things.

Whilst that doesn’t sound so great for peace of mind, it’s not such a bad thing.

Not being truly certain about anything in life means you’re open to progress and evolution.

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11. You prefer to consider all the options before making a decision

Another bonus to being a naturally questioning soul is that you are far less likely to jump to quick conclusions.

Whether that’s about someone you just met or actions you’re about to take in your life. 

You like to review the evidence before making any firm decisions.

An analytical mind is one of the strengths of an independent thinker.

That means you take time to:

  • Identify problems and the issue at hand
  • Pull out key information
  • Come up with different workable solutions

No wonder then that independent thinkers can be pretty creative.

12. You’re creative in coming up with different solutions

It’s a sign you’re an independent thinker if you can think outside of the box.

The very definition of creativity is inventiveness.

It requires us to use the power of our imagination or original ideas in order to create something new.

Many of the natural traits of an independent thinker facilitate this as they are open-minded and, as we’ll see next, inquisitive.

13. You’re curious about life and the people you meet

A curious mind is another one of those wonderful qualities of an independent thinker.

It’s the fuel that keeps them questioning rather than being tempted to close themselves off to new ideas or perspectives.

If an independent thinker didn’t care and wasn’t interested in life, all that effort would seem wasted.

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14. You have a strong sense of inner self-worth

This is what gives you the confidence and self-esteem to go it alone.

You’re less reliant on the opinions of others for your validation because you have a deep well of self-worth.

This gives you the gumption to stand out from the crowd or up for what you believe in.

Unlike many other people in the world, you’re not so scared of rejection that you’re prepared to go along with things you don’t agree with.

15. You naturally tend to play devil’s advocate

Impartiality and seeing both sides of the coin seem to come more effortlessly to independent thinkers.

But that’s because they don’t see life in black and white.

They prefer to inhabit the grey area.

They know that this is a more accurate and fair representation of the world.

That means there are always two sides to the story. And an independent thinker often finds it easy to come up with arguments for both.

Regardless of their own personal views, they can provoke debate and test the strength of the opposing points.

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Picture of Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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