Free Spirits: What Makes Them the Way They Are?

Free spirits are admired for their rebellion, but also, at certain times, for their obedience. For their presence, but also their absence.
Free Spirits: What Makes Them the Way They Are?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Being a free spirit is quite a challenge in the midst of a society that seeks to absorb us all into the same patterns of behavior and conventions. In fact, there’s something rather heroic and even eccentric in these kinds of personalities. There’s also a definite hint of deliberate nonchalance, of living with clear purposes, but without taking their problems and obligations too seriously.

When talking about this profile in terms of behavior and attitude, we usually imagine someone who’s not too interested in relationships. We visualize them living in a motorhome, traveling wherever the mood takes them, dressed in boho-style clothes. However, there are many free spirits who aren’t nomads and who have their old friends close by.

In reality, these types of people live according to their own ideals and what their heart tells them. They have their own comfort zone and don’t want to accommodate patterns, scenarios, or dynamics other than their own. Their ideals are their most defining characteristic.

Being owners and lords of our actions, deciding for ourselves, and not letting ourselves be conditioned by society, can be extremely difficult at times. Only free spirits are able to cross that line.

Boy walking between mountains trying to be a free spirit
Being a free spirit often means challenging conventions and unwritten social norms.

The characteristics of a free spirit

One figure who laid down the foundations for what it meant to be a freethinker and not be conditioned by society, was Friedrich Nietzsche. In his book, Beyond Good and Evil, he explained that a free spirit is a person who maintains their criteria above social demands and reinforcers. They think and take responsibility for their own decisions. When others see them doing this and feeling good, they often want to do the same.

Safeguarding our own ideas from the prevailing thoughts of society is what grants us true freedom. In fact, without freedom of thought, it’s really difficult for there to be freedom at all. It’s also difficult to achieve psychological well-being.

For example, think about how much anxiety you’d get rid of if you dropped all the outside pressure. Imagine what it would mean to not obsess about what others expect or think of you.

Being a free spirit is an act of rebellion in a world that seeks to hold us back and condition us. Because, while it’s true that everyday realities such as paying mortgages and bills, having to meet deadlines, and following fashions and references are necessary moorings to live in society, they’re also great stressors.

Free spirits seek to avoid these kinds of traditional dynamics. They go against the grain, but their approach is, at the same time, thoughtful, deep, and meaningful. Let’s look at the characteristics of a free spirit.

Solitude, a safe and pleasant space

For those who prioritize freedom, solitude is their second home and a safe space where they can recharge and listen to themselves. The world is a really noisy, contradictory, and even chaotic place. Free spirits need their solitude to find meaning in their lives, as well as to practice psychological distance.

Their refuge of calm is essential for them to reflect and connect with their true self.

The constant search for meaning and depth in every situation

Free spirits hate superficial behaviors. If they have a conversation with someone, they’ll touch on philosophical, existential, and deep psychological and emotional issues. They despise small talk and also empty people, who imitate others and don’t think for themselves.

The most decisive thing for them is to find meaning and transcendence in each moment lived.

Dynamism and multiple passions (open mind)

Often, we tend to reject those who are continually changing their minds. However, one aspect that defines free spirits is their ability to rethink their thoughts and change their ideas. This is more beneficial than you might think.

In fact, nothing is as necessary as learning, unlearning, and rethinking ideas and thought patterns and replacing them with more up-to-date ones. This kind of cognitive flexibility is a characteristic of free spirits. They’re defined by minds that are open to new perspectives. Furthermore, they’re full of curiosity and passionate about everything that life can teach them.

The true free spirit rethinks everything they see and that surrounds them. This can often arouse some antagonism in others. Nevertheless, free spirits recognize that it’s difficult for them to fit into a society that prefers people to all think in the same way.

They’re aware that they don’t fit into today’s society

Free spirits exist thanks to their ability not to conform to ordinary social structures. It’s difficult for them to keep the same job, they don’t agree with many political ideas, and they certainly don’t understand the modern world, dominated as it is by social media and immediacy.

They’re completely aware that they don’t fit into today’s society and that being themselves and following their own ideals often brings them more problems than benefits. Despite this, they don’t give up on who they want to be. Their ideals are their defining characteristics, and freedom is their daily fuel.

Philosophy professor, Christa Davis Acampora of Hunter College (USA) pointed this out in a study. She claimed that the concept of the free spirit contains positive aspects, but also other more complex ones that reveal the uniqueness of this personality.

woman with suitcase representing how to be a free spirit
Free spirits don’t usually cling to one place for long.

They practice material detachment

Many of us cling to material things… a house, a physical space, a place, even certain objects. However, this is often the origin of a great deal of suffering. Because we feel like we never have enough. Furthermore, paying for these material artifacts costs us our lives. It’s high time we realized that the material isn’t as important as what can’t be seen (emotions, affections, relationships, etc).

Free spirits don’t place any value on the material because they hate what’s disposable. They prefer the solidity of their ideals, dreams, and values. They’re fiercely independent. This requires the courage to uproot themselves and embrace movement, the force of change, and a healthy detachment that doesn’t cling too closely to certain realities.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Acampora, C. (2014) “In What Senses are Free Spirits Free?” Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy; 25: 13-33.
  • Nietzsche, F. (2007) Más allá del bien y del mal. Gradifco: Buenos Aires.
  • van den Toren, S.J., van Grieken, A., de Kroon, M.L.A. et al. Young adults’ self-sufficiency in daily life: the relationship with contextual factors and health indicators. BMC Psychol 8, 89 (2020).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.