Have you ever wondered how many of your thoughts and ideas are your own?
How many of them are a result of your own critical thinking, and how many of them have you simply passively absorbed from society?
Freethinkers always strive to come up with their own opinions and ideas. They question dominant beliefs and are open to alternative ways of seeing the world.
It’s no exaggeration to say that freethinkers have been responsible for humanity’s evolution as a society. Without their sharp, analytical thinking, we would have been stuck in the Middle Ages.
Here are 10 subtle signs you’re a freethinker.
1) You question everything
Skepticism is one of the core philosophies of freethinkers.
After all, you cannot critique the world without questioning it.
You can’t develop your own ideas if you don’t interrogate the current ideas of the collective consciousness.
Remember that asking questions is how we progress, and we need to keep doing it to advance as a society.
We used to think that the Earth was the center of the universe! If not for Nicolaus Copernicus questioning such belief so adamantly, nothing would’ve changed.
So no matter how widely believed something is, don’t be afraid to question it.
But keep this in mind: being a questioning freethinker doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll always arrive at a different conclusion. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t.
What’s important is that you just don’t mindlessly parrot what others say, but rather form your own beliefs and conclusions from your own critical thinking.
2) You’re a voracious reader
Being a freethinker doesn’t mean that you refuse to educate yourself about society’s current ideas.
In fact, it’s the opposite—you know them so well that you understand their intricacies and contradictions.
It’s the only way you can question and critique them in any meaningful way!
And the best way to be well-informed and well-educated? Read. A lot.
Before you can think for yourself, you need to see how and what other people have been thinking. That’s how you learn.
If you’re both a voracious and diverse reader, then you have the tools to become a freethinker.
After all, if all you read are romance novels, then there’s only so much you can learn from them. Being a freethinker is all about being open-minded, so they expose themselves to different sensibilities and perspectives from a vast array of literature.
Novels, essays, the newspaper, memoirs—yes, even textbooks! They read, read, read.
3) You seek the truth
However, despite stuffing your brain with ideas from various disciplines and viewpoints, you still seek the truth.
For freethinkers, their pursuit of truth is not about being right. It’s not about having an agenda. You simply wish to know what is true.
However, freethinkers are also wise enough to know that while there are objective truths to the universe and people, people also interpret these truths in different ways. You understand that truths can manifest themselves differently to different people.
It is this complexity—some would say, contradiction—that infinitely fascinates freethinkers and what drives them to continue their intellectual pursuits.
4) You consider different ways of seeing the world
And because you immerse yourself in the sheer diversity of human opinion, you can think cross-disciplinary and multi-dimensionally.
When you consider a certain topic—let’s take poverty, a problem that humanity has not been able to solve yet—you consider various ways of seeing it.
You read from the perspectives of psychologists and economists. You consider how different religious institutions think about poverty. You listen to your ultra-capitalist brother-in-law as well as your diehard communist friend.
You take all these beliefs—especially from other freethinkers—and forge your own.
5) You’re changing
Questioning everything is tough. It just might send you right down into an existential crisis.
If you start to question everything, you’ll also begin questioning everything about yourself:
- Your political beliefs;
- Your religion;
- Your country’s culture;
- Your relationships;
- Your perception of media;
- And so on…
Then you’ll likely change. After all, critically thinking about the information you’ve been absorbing all these years will inevitably lead you to disagree with at least some of them.
And with new thinking comes new lifestyles. Maybe you won’t go to church anymore. Maybe you’ll change the way you approach work. Maybe you’ll stop letting your family take advantage of you in certain ways.
It might cause tension with friends and family, but you know deep inside that faking it will be much worse.
Truly, being a freethinker is a lonely, difficult road. But the liberation, the opportunity to be truly yourself, is well worth it.
6) You’re not easily amused or convinced by popular culture
Freethinkers understand the pitfalls of modern culture, specifically popular culture.
Reality TV? The Kardashians? Talk shows? Superhero movies?
Sure, there is perhaps some value in consuming such things.
But you understand how most of them are simply mindless forms of entertainment that are meant to distract the masses from the world’s true problems.
You know that, at the end of the day, all they want is your attention and money.
And you? You get nothing in return and are left feeling empty.
It simply doesn’t appeal to you anymore.
Truth be told, the idea of wasting your time and energy consuming such soul-draining content fills you with dread. You’d rather eat a bowl of rotten cheese!
You’d rather read or spend time with loved ones. You know, things that are actually meaningful?
Of course, freethinkers are people too. So don’t blame yourself for having a few guilty pleasures, okay?
7) People think you’re weird
And because you’re typically not into what most people are into, some people just don’t get you. In fact, many people don’t.
- …think you’re crazy for questioning how the world is run;
- …think you’re wasting your time on useless pursuits;
- …dismiss your supposedly outrageous opinions;
…then you just might be a freethinker.
Because here’s the thing: they don’t necessarily have to agree with you. But if they can’t, at least take the time to try and see why you think the way you do?
Then that’s a sign that you’re truly thinking outside the box. You’re truly walking your own path as a freethinking individual.
8) You strive to go beyond mediocrity
Here’s a potentially hot take from me.
I believe everyone can become a freethinker. But not everyone will because we are all conditioned to be comfortable in mediocrity.
The biggest reason, I believe, that not more of us are freethinkers is that too many people are intellectually lazy.
They don’t read enough. Or write enough. Or research and reflect enough. Or don’t travel or go out of their comfort zone enough.
Even if you’re an average Joe with a mediocre 9-5 job, you still have the ability to be a better thinker!
We live in the best age ever to be able to do so. With information at our fingertips and spaces where we can discuss and debate with people from all around the world, we can all be freethinkers!
9) You’re doubtful of religion
I’ll be perfectly transparent: there is a bit of bias here because I’m not a religious person.
But just objectively and statistically, freethinkers tend to be atheists or agnostic. Or even if they are spiritual, they are critical of religion.
However, this isn’t to say that you can’t be religious and a freethinker. Truth be told, some of history’s most influential and revolutionary thinkers have been religious figures!
On the flip side, even some atheists think that they are somehow intellectually superior to religious people and that they drown in their ego and close-mindedness.
Regardless of whether you’re religious, spiritual, agnostic, or atheist—or anything beyond and between—what’s important is that you deeply think about and criticize your beliefs.
Whether you change your beliefs or not, you will still end up with more conviction about your beliefs. Then you will feel more fulfilled and confident about them.
And that’s what being a freethinker is all about.
10) You’re self-aware
Here’s the ultimate caveat about being a freethinker: they never think of themselves as one.
Well, at least not fully.
In their quest for knowledge and truth, they know that they will experience difficult times as they change drastically as people. They are self-aware of how they are changing.
And they question that too.
Because the moment you stop inquiring and questioning…
…The moment you think you know how to solve all the world’s problems…
…The moment you stop and say, “I’ve found the truth, and I hold all the knowledge and wisdom there is to have…”
…is the moment you stop being a freethinker!
Question everything, people. Even and especially the new beliefs you form along the way.
How to start thinking freely
As I just said: it is foolish to think that any of us are immune to the ideologies that we were raised with. We are social creatures, after all—we form our identities and beliefs that often mirror those around us.
But the sad truth is that not many of us even start to acknowledge this!
Here’s how you can start doing so and begin to think freely.
1) Cultivate self-awareness
The last point we mentioned above is actually the starting point as a freethinker.
You need to be aware of how you’re a product of dominant social norms. You cannot begin to question things and think freely without acknowledging this.
To do this, you need to start trying to see yourself from a distance—from the perspective of an outsider. We need to combat how we all grew up seeing the world from a very specific narrow worldview.
Through this, you’ll begin to see why you speak, act, and think the way you’ve been doing so all your life.
2) Question all authority
For better or worse, our societies are built on hierarchies. Authorities don’t just tell us what and what not to do, but also what—and how—to think.
Isn’t this such a frightening thing to think about?
So stop letting them think for you. Stop blindly following the dogma they’ve been spreading.
The overwhelming majority of the time, they aren’t really concerned about you. They have their agendas.
Of course, practically speaking, most of us are left with not much choice but to follow. However, we must, at the very, very least, question them!
That is how we change the world, slowly but surely.
3) Seek change
At the end of the day, freethinkers seek change as much as they seek the truth.
They seek to change the world, and they start by trying to change the way they see and think about the world.
So look for ways how you can change both the world and yourself for the better.
It’s incredibly daunting to go against the grain. Our world today is incredibly institutionalized, and many ideologies appear set in stone.
But giving up means stagnation—it means failure! That goes for both ourselves as individuals and the world at large.
It’s not an easy task, but question everything. And I mean everything. Start thinking and living for yourself, and you will find true liberation.
And the next time you see someone that you feel is a little crazy? Maybe hear out what they have to say.