4 Rare Traits Of People Who Know How To Think For Themselves

Thinking for yourself is one of the hardest skills you can develop.

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Over 90% of the people reading this article don’t have the ability to think for themselves satisfactorily.

I don’t say this to judge anyone. I don’t say this out of ego. 

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I’m simply saying this because it’s true. It’s against the structure of society to let you be able to think for yourself. Because if everyone was able to think for themselves — they’d soon figure out a way to develop complete freedom. And if someone is free, they cannot function as society wants them to.


But thinking for yourself is an essential skill if you want to live a life that’s more than just mediocre. And it’s not as easy as you might think. Here’s why.

When we arrive in this world, we’re a blank piece of paper. We have no idea what the world is. We have no idea how to think. That’s where authority comes in. Our parents, teachers, and elders — all teach us how to think and how to live.


And that’s necessary — because if they didn’t — no child would survive into adulthood.

However, there comes a time, as you get older, when you’re supposed to transition. You’re supposed to stop relying on other people’s thought processes and begin to think for yourself.

But most people aren’t able to do that — because it takes a lot of mental work to do so. Their lazy brains are okay with letting someone else dictate their actions. Why spend the energy to think for themselves?

In this article, I want to discuss the four important steps or principles necessary if you want to think for yourself.

  • Develop a disdain or at least a skepticism towards authority.
  • Avoid herd mentality like it’s the flu.
  • Develop self-awareness.
  • And have enough courage to actually let your own thoughts dictate your life.

This is not a simple step-by-step process. All these steps need to occur simultaneously. Because if you develop a disdain for authority and herd mentality — but don‘t develop enough self-awareness — you’ll create a vacuum within your thought laboratory — and that won’t sustain itself.


So let’s take a deeper dive in and understand each point properly.

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Here are 4 rare traits of people who can think for themselves:

1: They have a disdain for authority

“Long live impudence! It is my guardian angel in this world.” — Einstein.

Right from the beginning of our lives, we’re told to respect authority. We’re told to listen to them — without questioning them. Questioning your parent’s, teacher’s, or elder’s orders was equivalent to utter disrespect — and consequent punishment.

This makes sense in an evolutionary context. Because if a child doesn’t listen to his elders, his survival is in danger.


However, this system is only supposed to be a placeholder. It’s not supposed to be permanent. But most people get stuck.

Even as they get older, they can’t get themselves to question authority. They still place authority on a pedestal and listen to them more than they should. This — by definition — stops them from thinking for themselves.

The solution is to develop a skepticism toward authority. Or even disdain for them.

Because if you don’t — authorities; politicians, teachers, and more importantly, your parents — they'll keep telling you how to think and what to do. They’ll tell you that you need this car and that career to be happy.


But the problem is that they can only give you generic advice. Since they can never know you as well as you can — their advice will lack specificity. Their advice will be bland of individuality. Only you can know what’s the right thing to do with your life.

I’m not saying their advice is completely meaningless. I’m only saying that it’s one thing to consider their opinions — another to act on them blindly.

To begin thinking for yourself, you have to stop overvaluing the thoughts of others — especially the authority.

2: They avoid herd mentality like the plague

Another aspect to begin thinking for yourself is to hate herd mentality.


You see, people are fearful of having their own opinions. Even if they have them, they’re afraid of speaking them out. And this too — is rooted in evolution. We all have the desire to fit in — and to fit in — we must think like others.

But if you keep thinking like the herd — how can you possibly think for yourself?

A simple example of this would be to get overly attached to labels.

For instance, I’m an Indian. And most Indians hate Pakistanis. It’s as if that’s one of the defining criteria to be an Indian. But it doesn’t make sense to me. I understand that we’re rival countries. But if any individual Indian hates any individual Pakistani without actually knowing him or her — are they really able to think for themselves?


It’s okay to be a part of a community. Communities help us live beautiful lives. However, if you overly attach yourself to the community — you’ll adopt all their beliefs without actually testing them out for yourself. And that, by definition means that you’re not thinking for yourself.

Einstein hated herd mentality — just like he hated authority. He adored individuality.

So much so — that at one point in time — he even renounced his German citizenship — because he didn’t want to think like other Germans. He only wanted to think like Einstein. He considered himself a citizen of the world.

When you develop an aversion to herd mentality, you’re less likely to get influenced by other people’s thought processes. This allows you… nope. Scratch that. This forces you to think for yourself. And that’s difficult. But it’s beautiful.


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3. They have high self-awareness

Herd mentality and blind respect for authority are two things that stop you from thinking for yourself. When you erase both, there will be a vacuum within your conscious mind.

This vacuum has to be simultaneously filled in by having thoughts for yourself. And this can only be done by developing an extremely high self-awareness.

If you don’t simultaneously fill it in, your mind won’t like the vacuum and it’ll slip into old methods of thinking — which will be achieved by relying on authority and herd mentality. That’s not what you want.

And self-awareness is not at all easy to develop.


You have to explore the world — not just physically — but intellectually as well. You have to try different things — and then dissect your emotions. You have to tell yourself that your emotions — your opinions — actually matter. Because so far, you have been told that they don’t matter.

The world will tell you that you’re supposed to like this or that. But you have to ignore it all — and listen to the voice within your own mind. After all, that’s the only voice that matters.

You have to not care about what other people like and what they think about what you will like. You have to explore your emotions as if you’re the only person that exists on this Earth.


That’s how you develop high-self awareness. And that’s what will allow you to think for yourself.

4. They've developed the courage to transition

The three points we talked about above are essential — but not enough. Courage is the one that’s going to bring it home for you.

You see, when you listen to authority and the herd, you’re free from being responsible for your own thoughts. If things don’t work out, a part of your mind will always feel that it was not your fault. After all, you did everything you were supposed to do.

But when you begin to listen only to yourself — you’re now completely responsible for your own life. And that’s scary as shit. Because if you screw up — you will feel stupid that you listened to your own thoughts.


In fact, if you listen to and act for yourself — and god forbid you to have to face a failure — an authority figure or someone else from the herd will be dying to tell you, “I told you so.”

That’s why, it takes an extraordinary amount of courage, for both:

  • Transitioning to thinking for yourself.
  • And sticking to the process in spite of the failures.

And courage comes from self-love and self-respect. You have to realize on a very deep spiritual level that it’s your life. If you fuck up, you fuck up. So what? At least it’ll be your own fuck up. You’ll learn from it and move on.

No matter what, thinking for yourself is a thousand times better than not thinking for yourself. Because that’s the only way to own your own life.


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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.