10 signs that show you’re a smart person who thinks for yourself

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Being smart doesn’t always mean being good at math or science.

In fact, some of the smartest people are those who think for themselves, challenge conventional thinking, and aren’t easily influenced by the opinions of others.

If you’re someone who values independent thinking and the ability to think critically, then this article is for you.

Let’s go through the top 10 signs that show you’re a smart person who thinks for yourself.

1. You’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking

One of the first signs that show you’re a smart person who thinks for yourself is the ability to challenge the norm and question accepted wisdom.

Thanks to modern technology and curated filter bubbles, it’s easier than ever to go with the flow and accept ideas and ways of doing things.

But conformity stops you, and others, from achieving your highest potential — it might even be working against you.

That’s why in work settings, you’re willing to ask “Why is our workflow and process this way?

Couldn’t we sell our products at a better price?”;

“Because that’s how it’s always been” isn’t an answer you’re going to accept.

You’re not afraid to actively seek out new ideas and perspectives, even if they go against the grain of conventional thinking.

It also means you’re open-minded and receptive to new information, and you’re not afraid to change your mind if evidence suggests your initial beliefs were misguided.

2. You’re objective and fair-minded

“Objectivity is the cornerstone of a good judgment.” – Learned Hand

Truly smart people always concern themselves with the facts; what they can observe and the information that they can gather.

You’re a smart person if, in difficult social situations, such as in an argument, you are able to set aside your emotions, take a step back, and objectively analyze the situation.

You also understand that true objectivity is impossible. We are all born with a default, personal bias.

You know that the best that you can do is gather as much evidence and raw data as you can to make the most rational decision in the given circumstance.

This allows you to make well-informed decisions and form your own opinions based on evidence and reason, rather than simply accepting the opinions of others.

3. You have a curious mind and you’re always asking questions

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

In general, smart people are the curious types. They aren’t quick to jump to any conclusions.

It’s a slow process of gathering as much information as they can.

To do this, you use a timeless yet still effective method: raising your hand and asking questions.

There’s always going to be vital information hiding behind engaging questions.

It could clarify project briefs, support arguments, or even dispel some illusions to show others that there might actually be a better solution to their problems.

Asking questions helps you to clarify your own thoughts and ideas, and to develop a more nuanced and well-rounded perspective.

All this can be achieved because of a few questions.

4. You have a rich imagination

“The imagination is the golden pathway to everywhere.” – Terence McKenna

Intelligence isn’t simply measured by how great you are at remembering things or how well you can follow instructions.

Anyone can pretty much do that if they train their memory enough.

If someone’s really smart, they don’t have to use guidelines as crutches because they think on their own feet.

You can rely on their own skills and transform ordinary things into something truly extraordinary.

You have an innate ability to look at a situation and approach it with curiosity.

Instead of accepting things at face value, you turn things around and ask yourself “what else?”

This ability to imagine allows you to generate new ideas and see the world in a different light.

It also allows you to empathize with others and understand different perspectives.

This leads us to the next point…

5. You’re able to empathize with others

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” – Benjamin Disraeli

When people open up to you about their problems with relationships or with finding the right job for them, you can easily see yourself in their shoes — even though you’ve never had a similar experience.

Your ability to empathize with others comes from the fact that you can not only actively listen to what they’re saying, but you can also tell from their body language that it’s been hard on them.

They seem to deflate and shrink, expressing how small and sad they’ve felt after their partner left or when they lost their job.

You can read from the hesitation and softness in their voice that this isn’t something that they usually talk about — meaning that they trust you enough to know about this side of them.

People aren’t often upfront about what they’re feeling, so it takes a keen eye to respond to them in the way that they want to be responded to.

This is how you’ve built lasting relationships over time. You can read between the lines and through their actions and tones.

This also means you’re open-minded to other people’s experiences and ideas, which is important in developing your views.


Empathizing with others helps you avoid confirmation bias because you consider multiple perspectives rather than just your own.

6. You can agree to disagree and respect others’ opinions

“I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

Arguments can be healthy. It’s a chance for you to test out your beliefs to see if it’s credible — if not to others, then at least to you.

Debates reveal how much you believe in your idea or if you’re merely spouting what everyone else is saying because others said it’s right.

The ability to engage in debates without coming out of it resentful of the other person is a good indicator that someone is a smart person.

They disagree respectfully. Everyone has their own perspectives. They can’t force their opinions on you any more than you can on them.

The best bit?

This allows you to have open and respectful conversations with others.

Because when you acknowledge that it’s okay for people to have different opinions to you, you create a more inclusive and respectful dialogue, which prevents misunderstandings and heated conflicts.

7. You’re a skilled problem-solver and decision-maker

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking

Truly smart people generally make great problem solvers because they don’t stick to rules and regulations.

You don’t approach problems with a fixed idea of what the solution should look like.

When you address a problem, you approach it from multiple different perspectives.

More importantly, you don’t assume you’re right and you likely ask people to look at the problem with you.

You don’t assume that you are the best person in the room and serve mostly as a mediator between problem and solution.

You listen more than you talk, you evaluate more than you act, and you collaborate instead of dictate.

This allows you to navigate challenges and obstacles in a proactive and effective manner.

8. You’re open-minded and willing to change your mind

“An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.” – Jef Mallett

Too many people never change their minds.

People take pride in the things they believe in and start associating their sense of self with their rigid and permanent opinions.

How many times have you seen a person argue to death for an opinion that everyone around them knows to be wrong?

On the contrary, you don’t associate your ego with your opinion, which is why you can so easily say, “I was wrong.”

You aren’t afraid of admitting that something you once believed in is actually incorrect and that you now believe in something else because you have more evidence or proof.


When you admit that you were wrong, you’re acknowledging that you’re not perfect and that you can make mistakes.

This humility and self-awareness allow you to learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future.

9. You’re introspective and self-aware

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

It’s easy to set your mind on cruise control and go along with the flow of mainstream media.

Smart people, however, don’t partake in that. They look inward. They think about how they think.

This is related to the ability of self-reflection; analyzing your thoughts, feelings, opinions, even reactions can help you learn more about yourself and think more critically.

10. You’re a lifelong learner and love reading books

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Reading is a smart person’s favorite pastime.

It’s hard to say what comes first — do smart people naturally like reading, or does reading make people smart — but regardless, they have always had a significant relationship with books.

You might have read tons as a kid, and as an adult, you might no longer read as much as you once did, but you still read more than most people around.

And it’s the perfect hobby for you — immersing yourself in another world without caring about anyone around you and learning about things you never knew about.

You know you’ll always have a connection with books and not a superficial one where you take pictures of book covers to post on Instagram, but a real one that will always draw you back to your favorite bookstore, no matter how long ago you finished your last book.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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