Some folks are masters of living life on their own terms. They march to the beat of their own drums, travel wherever the wind takes them, and float through life seemingly immune to life’s struggles and responsibilities.
We marvel at these free spirits, sometimes wishing to be more like them. Why are we stuck when they’re so free? How can we replicate their attitude in our own life and become a free spirit like them?
What Does it Mean To Be A Free Spirit?
Being a free spirit means you’ve released the hold things that don’t matter have on your life. You’ve broken free, dismissed the life script and the idea that you must do something a certain way, doing it your own way instead.
Free spirits don’t worry about what they’re supposed to do, what they should do, or how they structure their lives. They do what they want and live on their own terms, refusing to accept society’s often outdated expectations of what they should do.
Lachlan Brown, the founder of Hack Spirit, a popular site focused on psychology, relationships, and personal development, says a free spirit is a rebel, but in a good way. He says it “refers to a person who has an independent and non-conformist approach to life. A free-spirited individual prioritizes personal growth, creativity, and exploration, often in a way that defies societal norms.”
Aiden Freeborn, self-proclaimed free spirit and senior writer at Broke Backpacker, says, “A free spirit is someone who isn’t afraid to live outside conventional lines, stray off the beaten path, and discover more about themselves and the world they inhabit.”
What is a Free Spirit Person Like?
Every free spirit is different. If they all conformed to a single idea of what it means to be a free spirit, we wouldn’t be able to call them free spirits.
However, they do have many things in common. Julius Cermak, Holistic Healthcare Provider and founder of the web resource Deer Antler Velvet says, “The free spirit lives for its own enjoyment and fulfillment without care for the norms of the surrounding society.”
Daniel Matchar, a licensed therapist working at Practical Pie, says most free spirits ignore the standard set of societal rules, so they may appear rebellious. However, he stresses that they typically follow legal laws and aren’t likely to commit crimes. They also accept other people’s desire to follow social norms, valuing the freedom to choose your own path above all else.
Is Free Spirit a Compliment?
Whether calling someone a free spirit is a compliment depends on who you ask. Many love the concept of throwing off societal expectations and living life on your terms, so look up to those free spirits who achieve the dream.
However, some are strict adherents to tradition and may not understand a free spirit’s desire for something different. They may call someone a free spirit in resigned frustration, showcasing their complex feelings about how someone else chooses to live their life.
Overall, It’s generally positive. It takes a special person to disobey society’s rules and expectations and do their own thing.
16 Signs You’re Actually a Free Spirit
Many of us have a free spirit inside us, one who’s been beaten down and held back by rules and responsibilities. The energy is still there, lurking just beneath the surface, waiting for that golden opportunity to break through and let you live your dream life.
Here are 16 traits common in people with free spirits. If you relate to most of them, it may be time to release your inner free spirit.
Freedom of Attachment
Brown associates a key trait of free spirits with the Buddhist idea of freedom from attachment. Free spirits don’t let material things tie them down.
They don’t collect things or allow themselves to be tied down. Disavowing material things allows them to move around as they see fit.
Lots of Daydreams
It may be time to let your free spirit soar.
Tiffany McGee, a spirituality and relationship expert and founder of Nomadrs, says, “Free spirits often express themselves through creative outlets such as art, music, or writing. They have a unique perspective on the world and enjoy exploring it in unconventional ways.”
Matthias Dettmann, a psychologist (M.Sc.), Triple-P Trainer, and PMR Coach who also runs the Tarot resource Valaros, explains that a free spirit’s strong sense of creativity helps them think outside the box and develop innovative ideas.
Passion for Many Things
Free spirits don’t feel the need to stick to one thing. They don’t let one passion or career define them and allow themselves to dabble in anything that piques their interest.
A free spirit may be a painter one day and an explorer the next. They go where the wind takes them, obsessing about basket weaving for a period before moving on to unlock the secrets of the multiverse.
A free spirit embraces every opportunity life offers.
Can’t Stop Learning
A free spirit’s desire to learn and explore leads them to a life of learning. They love discovering new ideas and understanding different perspectives.
McGee says free spirits are always receptive to new ideas, and a core trait is that they aren’t afraid to challenge their own beliefs when presented with new information.
Dettmann adds that they often seek out these new perspectives and viewpoints, highlighting that free spirits crave information, even when it challenges their inner belief system – especially when it challenges their belief system sometimes.
Free spirits aren’t beholden to a particular set of rules and beliefs. They’d rather seek the truth, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes them.
One of the most common traits among free spirits is courage. “It takes a lot to be yourself in a world which is trying to force you to conform,” states Freeborn.
It’s true. Society has a life script for us. The world tries to push us into these perfect little boxes, and people get upset if you don’t fit. It’s hard to ignore messages we’re bombarded with daily from the time we’re born and do something completely different.
Many born free spirits cave to society’s pressure and try to shove themselves into those little boxes. Our free spirit still lives inside, yearning to be free.
Up for Anything
A free spirit’s motto may as well be “Sure, I’ll try it.”
They crave new experiences and will be the first to try that tasty fresh cuisine, visit a trendy pop-up museum, pick up a new genre of book they haven’t considered, or participate in extreme sports.
If you need a partner in crime (only the metaphorical kind), a free spirit’s your guy. They are typically up for anything within the confines of the law.
You’ll find a free spirit wearing a tutu when everyone else dons business casual. They’ll yell at the creepy dude despite the stares and hold the door for both men and women, regardless of gender.
Michelle Giordana, Community Counselor and Outreach Specialist for Live Another Day, says social norms and conventions don’t bind free spirits.
They don’t feel the need to stick to a dress code, stay quiet to avoid making a scene or adhere to gender roles.
Some mistake their non-conformity with rudeness, but free spirits don’t see it that way. They don’t go out of their way to be rude, but they won’t let social expectations hold them back from speaking their mind or protecting their boundaries.
Free spirits express themselves. They showcase their thoughts, beliefs, and style through fashion, art, and opinion.
A free spirit isn’t afraid to wear quirky hats and gaudy costume jewelry. They don’t care what you think and will wear what they like.
They also freely express their opinions, writing op-eds, attending protests, or speaking out on social media. However, they typically aren’t rude, respecting other people’s rights to their own opinions. You may find the free spirit engaging in a respectful debate because although they love to express themselves, they don’t shy away from learning new perspectives that could change their opinion.
A free-spirited person isn’t afraid to talk to new people. They enjoy making new friends and building relationships.
Don’t let the outgoing tendency of a free spirit fool you into thinking they must be extroverts. Free spirits can fall anywhere across the introvert/extrovert spectrum. They may not gain energy from being outgoing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy it.
Free spirits crave adventure. They want to journey into the vast unknown and discover everything hidden there.
Susan Anderson, Founder and Lead Editor of The Worthy Goods says they prioritize experiences over possessions and are not afraid to try new things.
Free spirits may become digital nomads, traveling the world in search of new experiences. They lust for adventure, trekking into the wilderness for days on end to commune with nature or climbing the highest mountains to push themselves to their limits.
A key trait of free-spirited individuals is their commitment to independence. McGee says free spirits value their autonomy and don’t want to be told what to do.
As such, free spirits are self-sufficient. They don’t want to rely on anyone because relying on others can threaten their beloved independence. Instead, they make their own decisions and are happy to deal with any consequences on their own.
Many free spirits are highly intuitive, trusting their instincts above all else. May Shorrock, spiritual therapist and owner of incense resource Burnt Beech, explains that they follow their intuition instead of relying on the predetermined path society carved out for them.
Because of their highly intuitive nature, some free spirits may be empaths. They innately understand other people’s feelings and emotions and often rush to help others through difficult times.
A free spirit’s refusal to commit to society’s timelines helps them embrace spontaneity. They may get a wild hair to book a trip to the other side of the planet or hop in the car for a last-minute getaway, and they’ll do it.
Dettman says free spirits may be impulsive and unpredictable. These traits are exciting and enticing to friends, who get to go along for the ride.
However, it’s not always a good thing. Impulsive behavior can be reckless, and if free spirits aren’t careful, they may find themselves in financial trouble after blowing all their money on fun things.
Dettman says, “They are often accepting and non-judgmental towards others and tend to be very empathetic and compassionate.”
Free spirits are masters of throwing off society’s expectations and doing what they want, so they won’t judge others for doing the same. They want to be accepted for who they are and will show the same courtesy to others.
Many of the above traits lead to a wonderful virtue of free spirits: they make terrific friends. Their empathic nature provides a safe space to discuss complex feelings, while their adventurous spirit helps others step outside their comfort zone.
A free-spirited friend helps others challenge their beliefs, embrace creativity, and get the most out of life.
The Downsides of Being a Free Spirit
The above traits all portray the common idea of the free spirit: a visionary who throws off social norms to live on their own terms, which often succeeds and shows the world it’s okay to be different.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. Free spirits are often ridiculed as much as they’re celebrated and face unique challenges in navigating the world.
Trouble Fitting In
Despite their tendency to be excellent friends, few people embrace relationships with free-spirited individuals. Cedric Basille, Senior Medical Officer at Researching Health, explains the struggle.
“People with a free spirit often find it difficult to conform to society’s expectations,” he says. “They may feel like they don’t fit in or are misunderstood. This can be challenging in a world often geared towards conformity.”
People who expect conformity may hesitate to develop relationships with those who ignore it.
Those who embrace social norms may find free spirits threatening. Someone who successfully opposes the standard way of doing things may become an example to others. Soon, more and more people will rethink their views on what they should be doing, and some fear that these new ideas could threaten the very fabric of society.
Arthur Yavelberg, author of the philosophical A Theology for the Rest of Us and retired teacher specializing in world history and comparative religion, compares free spirit’s ideology with famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch, a “superman” who embraces the concept of a free spirit.
Yavelberg explains that’ Nietzsche’s ubermensch doesn’t acknowledge an external authority, which undermines the power of political structures. The ubermensch also challenges the mob’s happy complacency, promoting change where they crave stagnation.
These ideals terrify those who rely on the status quo.
Free spirits often feel ahead of their time. They pursue goals and ideals that society as a whole isn’t ready for, which has historically led to persecution.
Yavelberg points to historical examples such as Socrates, Galileo, and Telsa. The three men developed revolutionary ideas that challenged their contemporary worldviews. Each was scorned, arrested, ridiculed, and shunned for their efforts.
Although society eventually caught up and now celebrates their contributions, their free-spirited nature destroyed their lives.
Humans crave community and connection. Although the standard concept of the free spirit portrays them as happy-go-lucky, Yavelberg claims it isn’t always true.
Yavelberg points to Kant’s description of a free spirit as someone who throws off internal drives and external pressures, instead focusing on logic and reason. Their strict adherence to logic puts them at odds with some of society’s rules, and they can’t put that aside, even to fit in.
Some free spirits may find themselves stuck outside, longingly peering into the window of a community they can never hope to join.
How To Navigate Modern Society as a Free Spirit
Fortunately, modern society rarely arrests or persecutes free spirits. However, that doesn’t mean all of their challenges disappear.
The negative aspects of having a free spirit may create many challenges. There’s a script we’re supposed to follow, and those who wander too far from the path face ridicule and may even struggle to make ends meet.
Free spirits have options. Here are some tips for navigating modern society when your soul yearns to be free.
Stay True To Yourself
The world wants conformity. It wants to stifle your free spirit, hold you back, and push you into one of the little boxes it’s created.
You don’t have to let it.
Dettman says there are ways to be true to yourself while working within existing structures. Consider pursuing an unconventional or creative career or embracing your artistic side outside of work.
Embrace Your Values
A critical component of being true to yourself is being true to your values. Both Dettman and Brown stress that staying true to your values will help you navigate society as a free spirit.
Conduct shadow work to discover what you truly want and believe, and hold these inner truths above all else.
In discovering these values, you will uncover the things that don’t matter as much. You can seek compromise in these areas. Showing you’re open to giving a little in some areas will help you make peace with those demanding conformity, and you don’t have to sacrifice your core values.
Find Your Community
The internet makes finding like-minded individuals to commiserate and grow with more accessible than ever. Free spirits from past generations were stuck in their communities with no access to the outside world and no real options for finding a network.
Use that to your advantage. Find online communities with folks who share your worldview. Build your own if none exist. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up rather than tear you down.
Free spirits can find fulfillment in exploration. Though many may dream of visiting foreign lands and embarking upon exhilarating adventures, the harsh reality is that modern society limits our ability to do such things.
Traveling might be prohibitively expensive for some free spirits. We were born outside the age of exploration: past societies conquered the hidden lands, and our current technology isn’t advanced enough to explore the final frontier.
These challenges don’t have to prevent you from exploring the world around you. Take local adventures, discover hidden gems, or find ways to travel on the cheap. Explore the world through knowledge by taking classes and reading books. Keep your mind engaged, even when you can’t physically explore.
A free spirit rejects the rigid conformity of social constructs. However, if you take that rejection too far, you may become fixed in another way, refusing to conform out of spite.
Shorrock says successful free spirits remain flexible and must adapt to the world around them. Be open to changing your mind about things when presented with new information, and be understanding of the varying perspectives shared by those around you.
Shorrock says mindfulness can be crucial in helping free spirits adapt to the world around them.
“Mindfulness often helps free-spirited individuals stay grounded in the present moment and avoid getting caught up in worries or regrets about the past or future,” she says.
Don’t let anxieties prevent you from taking your journey. Enjoy the moment, and worry about the next as it arises.
Follow Your Heart
Following your heart is the best way to embrace your free spirit while navigating the world’s reality.
It sounds like a whimsical dream, but it’s achievable for most people.
Society values money as the trademark of success, but that ideal isn’t true for all of us. Your passions may not make a million dollars, but that’s okay. They don’t have to.
Shorrock reminds us that success looks different for everyone, and you should prioritize your happiness and fulfillment over the traditional expectations of success.
For some, that may mean renting a small apartment to focus on painting. Others may give up careers to raise families, and others may decide to spend their time wandering the world. These paths may not bring wealth, but if they bring happiness, does it matter?
Let Your Free Spirit Soar
Many of us have a free spirit buried somewhere deep inside us. Embrace the quirky, weird, adventurous side of yourself.
We only get one life, so we may as well spend our time enjoying it and doing what we please.
Your free spirit wants more. It’s time to set it free and let it soar.
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.