What is an independent thinker and why is it important to be one in today’s world?

Independent thinking is an increasingly rare phenomenon in our society. Human beings are wired for conformity and herd mentality, and there is a reason for that. Millennia ago, these evolutionary mechanisms helped us survive in the wild prehistoric world.

But even today, in the modern world that is much safer than the ancient one, we still tend to conform to public opinion and follow the crowd. Why? Because it feels more convenient and safe. The majority can’t be mistaken, right?

Yet, in our pursuit of being “normal”, we often fall victims to thinking biases and stereotypes. That’s why someone who is an independent thinker is more likely to have a clear judgment. First of all, let’s explain what it means to be one.

Independent thinker definition

An independent thinker is someone who makes decisions and draws conclusions based on their own perception and judgment. It is a person who thinks for themselves rather than mindlessly conform to public opinion and other people’s points of view.

Thinking independently means using your critical thinking skills and staying loyal to yourself, even if your opinion goes against that of other people.

Signs of an independent thinker: is this you?

Now, let’s list a few signs that betray an independent thinker. How many can you relate to?

1. You think critically

Independent thinking and critical thinking go hand-in-hand. Thinking critically means perceiving and evaluating information without bias and blind belief. It means drawing your conclusions based on evidence.

Independent thinkers always try to view a situation in a critical light, whether it concerns politics, their work, or their personal lives.

2. You always have doubts

An independent thinker won’t accept things at face value. If this is you, you always leave space for doubt because you know that things are not always what they seem and the truth is rarely absolute.

You are hardly certain about anything, be it the world economic situation, the meaning of life, or your own decisions.

3. You don’t rely on public opinion

An independent thinker tends to question public opinion, but they don’t do it for the sake of standing out of the crowd. They don’t care to show off and be pretentiously different. But they do care about finding the truth, and this is why they always view public opinion through the prism of critical thinking.

Someone who is capable of independent thought realizes that the majority can be wrong, and popular views and opinions can be flawed.

4. You don’t identify with any particular political or religious views

An independent thinker is unlikely to be blindly loyal to a political party or a religious organization. Typically, they won’t identify with any particular views. This is because they don’t like squeezing their perceptions into the box of established interpretations.

Even if they do find some specific political or religious views more relatable, they will make sure they don’t give in to blind belief. This is one of the most telling examples of independent thinking.

5. You don’t do things just because you were told to

Independent thinking means thinking for yourself rather than mindlessly obey orders. That’s why a person who thinks independently is highly unlikely to choose a military or public service career. They will pick a job that will provide a certain degree of freedom.

If you are an independent thinker, you don’t find someone’s bare words or orders motivating enough. You need to see clearly why you need to do something.

6. It’s not easy for someone to impose their opinion on you

Independent thinkers listen to other people and are willing to consider other points of view except for their own. However, they don’t easily change their minds just because someone else is trying to talk them into their opinion.

No matter how convincing the other person sounds, you want to evaluate all sides of the subject before drawing any conclusions.

7. You don’t do things out of herd mentality or peer pressure

real people misunderstood fake society

If you are an independent thinker, you have low conformity. It means that you are unlikely to mindlessly do something just because everyone else is doing it.

Even in childhood and teenage years when peer pressure is particularly harsh, an individual who is capable of independent thought tends to question other people’s actions instead of following them without a second thought. Low conformity is a crucial trait of independent thinking.

8. You don’t seek validation

As an independent thinker, you know what you need to do without getting validation from other people. If you feel that something is right, you will do it even if those around you (or the majority) don’t agree with your choice.

Remember that thinking independently means relying on one’s own judgment in the first place.

9. You don’t have blind trust in authority figures

Whether it’s your boss, a high-ranking official, or a prominent university professor, you won’t thoughtlessly believe everything they say just because they are authority figures.

You realize that anyone can be mistaken and sometimes people are driven by different intentions than it may seem. In the end, having a high social status or position of power doesn’t guarantee being always right. And it certainly doesn’t equal being a truthful human being.

10. You avoid labeling and stereotypical thinking

People often fall victim to cognitive biases and stereotypical thought patterns because it’s easier this way. Following the effortless path of mental shortcuts gives them the privilege to not think in depth. But an independent thinker is a different story.

They don’t like anything that limits free thought – be it prejudice, labeling, or cognitive distortions.

11. You always double-check the information

As an independent thinker, you feel the need to carefully assess all the available information before making a decision or reaching a conclusion.

Whether it’s a work situation or a popular conspiracy you stumbled upon on the web, you double-check everything you hear, learn, or read. You want to be sure that the information you received is factual and objective.

12. You keep your mind open and don’t jump to conclusions

Open-minded people don't care to be right

It’s easy to hear gossip from a co-worker and jump to a conclusion about your boss. It’s equally easy to watch a shocking story in the news and generalize it to the overall situation in the country.

An independent thinker won’t do that. They always try to keep their minds open because they know that there is usually more than one side of a story. Open-mindedness is one of the most important traits of independent thinking.

13. You prefer ugly truths to pretty lies

Independent thinking means embracing the truth, even when it’s unattractive and painful. If you have this quality, you don’t shy away from the truth and realize that it may not always meet your expectations.

You are not satisfied with good-sounding half-truths and white lies. You choose to have a clear idea of what’s going on over living in the realm of illusions.

14. You don’t care about what other people think

When you think independently of other people’s opinions, it also means that you give little importance to their perception of you.

You are not concerned with being liked and accepted. You care more about being an honest and decent human being, even though people may not always share your fascination with the truth.

But you are fine with being misunderstood and even rejected because you know that it’s impossible to satisfy everyone’s expectations.

Why is independent thinking important?

herd mentality

In our modern age, we are overloaded with information. It’s everywhere – news websites, TV broadcasts, and social media are constantly bombarding us with new stories. Everyone from our parents to high officials is trying to impose their opinion on us.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate truths and facts from lies, propaganda, and fakes.

For this reason, practicing independent thinking is more important than ever. The ability to view the information in a critical light, no matter where it comes from – our neighbor or the government – helps you preserve the clarity of judgment.

Thinking for yourself is a great power in our society that is driven by herd mentality and fearful conformity. If you are an independent thinker, I encourage you to not give up even when your opinion goes against the majority.

In the end, being loyal to yourself is what matters most of all.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Sarolta Tatar

    Masany independent thinkers have chosen a religion for themselves, and gone against herd mentality, even with danger of martyrdom.
    The idea that beliefs in absolute truths are somehow contrary to independent thinking is belied by plenty of religious saints and historical examples – most recently by certain Muslim terrorists who chose to die for the truth they believed in. That is not always because some authority told them they must blow themselves up. In some examples, terrorism is known to come from inner convictions, even if some members of their own religious community is against it.

  2. Ray

    Absolutely true, well put. However, I will have to think about what you wrote lol.


  3. Marcia R.

    As a 65 year old INTJ (MBTI) lady, I’ve questioned authority my whole life. My mom called me rebellious, as if it were a bad thing! I doubted most social conventions (like “women aren’t good at science or math”, gotta get married and spawn a bunch of kids to be fulfilled, etc.). Somehow I managed to marry a guy who is “Mr. Sheeple”. lol But observing him shows me how shallow and easily manipulated most people are. It amazes me how gullible people are.

  4. Jerry Gerber

    I too like to think of myself as an independent thinker, but I am not. My thinking is dependent upon truth, sincerity and humility, and upon reason, rationality and imagination. When my thinking diverges from these values, I know my thinking is going to get me into trouble!

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