The art of being different: 10 traits of a true nonconformist

Herman Melville once said, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”

I’ll let you sit with that for a second.


Alright. Here’s the deal. Being a nonconformist is tough. Humans are social animals – we were literally programmed to depend on each other for survival reasons – and the danger of being cast out of the tribe still gives rise to fear, no matter how modern our society is.

It takes guts to be different and own it.

Think you can rise to the challenge? Let’s see. If you’re a true nonconformist, you have these 10 traits.

1) You’ve got the courage to show up as your authentic self

When I was fifteen, I decided to express myself through fashion. This basically meant that each of my outfits consisted of at least four different colors and two different patterns.

Understandably, my friends were baffled. “You do know none of this goes together, right?”

I didn’t care. I wanted my clothes to express my optimism and vivaciousness, and every time someone gave me a judgmental side eye, I took a deep breath, weathered their stare, and kept going.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “So what? You dressed like a clown. Big deal.”

I invite you to try to recall what it was like to be fifteen. Back then, the opinions of our classmates were everything. Small things meant a great deal to us.

Choosing to be a nonconformist in those circumstances wasn’t easy.

But if there’s one thing it’s taught me, it’s that showing up as your authentic self is so much more fulfilling than blending in with the crowd.

It takes a bit of courage, but the reward is worth it: you begin to feel like you can exist in the world as your true self.

2) You’re immune to external pressure

It would have been easy to succumb to the pressure when my friends criticized my outfits and simply… stop dressing that way.

But that’s the beauty of being a nonconformist. Other people aren’t going to change your opinion in a snap of a finger. If a whole group of people is against you, you persist. You don’t get easily swayed.

This is a monumental challenge because, well, crowd psychology is a thing. When we’re part of a crowd, it becomes easier for us to go with the flow, shed our individuality, and give in to the contagious emotions swirling in the air.

A nonconformist must possess an insane amount of integrity and stubbornness to stay immune.

Oh, and speaking of which…

3) You have integrity

One of the reasons some people change their minds pretty quickly is that their opinions aren’t that strong to begin with.

They don’t have any stable principles to base their moral compass on; they don’t live their lives according to their core values; their words and actions are often at odds.

Not you, though. 

No. If you’re a true nonconformist, it means you have a stable and strong sense of self. You’re not easy to break or manipulate. You know what’s what.

People with integrity are in harmony with themselves.

As a result, they are okay with standing out from the crowd because they know that they’re simply being authentic and honest about who they are.

4) You look at every piece of information through a critical lens

Want to know another thing about nonconformists?

They question everything. And I mean everything.

If you tell them about some fact you’ve read online, they will go ahead and google it instead of trusting your word from the get-go.

If they learn something at school, they don’t take it at face value because they understand that even the information we’re taught in academic establishments may differ based on where we live.

What’s more, they think critically about the world around them, especially when it comes to societal problems and political issues.

A nonconformist isn’t going to succumb to great rhetoric, theories with no scientific backing, or an advertisement that plays at their emotions.

The whole point is that they are too strong-willed to conform to other people’s expectations, norms, and rules.

If you’re a nonconformist… you strive to always look for truth and truth only – no matter how uncomfortable.

5) You’d rather be free than “successful”

The meaning of success is determined by the society we live in.

In the 21st-century UK, for instance, success is generally related to your career performance, the money in your bank account, and the car you drive.

Close your eyes. Imagine a successful man.

Chances are, he’s wearing a suit. He probably works in finance or is a CEO of a company. He has an amazing wife and talented kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that guy isn’t successful. But the truth of the matter is that success looks different for everyone.

If you’re a genuine nonconformist, you’re probably nodding your head as you’re reading these words because you agree with me.

You don’t want to be “successful” in the eyes of the society. You want to feel content, peaceful, and free. 

That is true success, no matter if you live in a monastery, a skyscraper, or a council house.

6) You’re open-minded and non-judgmental

Nonconformists are unique and different. That much is clear.

However, the side effect of this is that they’re also extremely open to learning more about other people’s personalities and experiences, listening to them with curiosity rather than judgment.

This is probably my favorite trait about nonconformists.

All of the unique people I’ve met have always exhibited a great deal of acceptance and kindness toward others because they know all too well what it’s like to stand apart from the crowd.

So why not stand together?

7) You surround yourself with unique people

Naturally, the result of open-mindedness is that you’re more likely to befriend amazing people and forge connections you would have otherwise missed out on.

Like calls to like. If you show up as your authentic self, you’re bound to find other nonconformists sooner or later.

Don’t settle for friends who judge you or keep trying to tune down your personality.

There are other unique people out there in the world. You’ve just got to go outside your comfort zone and look for them.

And when you find them… you’ll realize it was all worth the effort.

8) You prioritize quality over quantity

Let’s be honest – there aren’t that many nonconformists out there, which is also why it might take some time to find your group of people.

This makes complete sense because, well, a nonconformist wouldn’t be a nonconformist if half the people on the planet fit in the same category.

What this means for you is that you’re much more likely to prioritize the quality of your relationships over quantity.

In other words, you’d rather have two friends who completely understand you on a deep level and will stand by your side no matter what than ten friends who will scatter in all directions the moment you need them.

9) You’re motivated by excitement rather than fear

Fear is what keeps people in line.

The fear of running out of money; the fear of losing one’s house; the fear of dying alone; the fear of being judged… there are plenty of things to be afraid of, that’s for sure.

And most people succumb to that fear. 

They get an ordinary job in an ordinary town, they stick to the rules, and then they grumble and complain because they feel unfulfilled on a fundamental level.

You, on the other hand?

You don’t give in to fear. In fact, your whole approach to life is completely different because it’s grounded in excitement and love.

If you decide to go down a certain career path, you don’t do it because it’s the best way to prevent your worst fears from coming true.

You do it because you feel deep within your bones that this is the right career for you.

Life is too short to be afraid all the damn time.

You might not know why your soul landed on this planet when you were born, but since you’re already here, you might just as well live your life to the fullest.

10) You love who you are

Finally, one trait that all true nonconformists share is that they love themselves.

Not in a narcissistic way. Not at all. I’m talking about healthy, healing self-love.

The kind of self-love that gives you the strength to withstand external pressure, the courage to express yourself authentically, and the motivation to go after your dreams.

The kind of self-love we all need.

Do you root for yourself? Do you believe in your capabilities? Do you look in the mirror and like what you see?

Are you your very best friend?

If your answer is yes, congratulations! You’re probably a true nonconformist.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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