Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.
August 13, 2021 — 13:06 PM
When you hear the term “free spirit,” what comes to mind? Maybe it’s a young, rebellious child, or a quirky but wise elder. Maybe you even think of yourself. But what does it really mean to be a free spirit, and how can these people thrive in their offbeat lives? We asked the experts.
What does being a “free spirit” really mean?
Let’s start by breaking down this term: “Spirit” relates to a person’s soul, and “free,” of course, means freedom from anything that might constrain or limit that soul.
As spiritual author of The Self-Love Experiment Shannon Kaiser explains, free spirits often don’t live by the rules or follow traditional paths. And it’s not because they want to be troublemakers, renegades, or rebels, she adds, but rather because “they live from their heart and are comfortable living outside their comfort zone.”
Professional intuitive and the author of Self-Care for Empaths Tanya Carroll Richardson explains that free spirits are one of many “soul archetypes,” like the warrior or the healer. “In my experience with clients,” she notes, “some people just come into this life more naturally free-spirited.” She notes this can look like living unconventionally, with an aversion to being boxed in or tied down.
“They often have a healthy joie de vivre,” Richardson says, adding they enjoy trying new things “and light up or sparkle when they feel safe to be uninhibited.” Kaiser notes these folks also listen to their own inner guide rather than the outside world, wherever it may take them.
“In truth, they just hate to be bored and crave lots of different experiences,” Richardson says.
Is it a good thing to be a free spirit?
Being a free spirit might sound all fun and carefree, but those who fall under this personality type certainly have their own struggles.
According to Richardson, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaning into your authenticity. But that said, free spirits can be misunderstood, “as some people will interpret their wanderlust or their multi-passionate career as a lack of maturity, focus, or discipline.”
Kaiser adds that indeed, those who don’t relate can perceive free spirits negatively. They can come off as stubborn, messy, flaky or noncommittal, unreasonable, and even standoffish. But remember, this all depends on who you ask. Free spirits will appreciate other free spirits—but those who don’t identify simply may not “get” them.
15 characteristics of free spirits:
Set yourself up for success with a good night’s sleep.*
First and foremost, free spirits are carefree but also intentional. “They don’t care about what others think of them and march to the beat of their own drum,” Kaiser explains, adding, “They aren’t motivated by external societal norms but an inner drive to live with meaning, joy, and fulfillment.”
These folks are intuitive and guided by their own strong inner voice. Kaiser explains that they know themselves and what they stand for, living from their heart and trusting themselves and their intuition.
As you could imagine, free spirits are also usually very independent. While they have no problem getting along with others, they also need space and crave sanctuary, according to Kaiser. “They’re content flying solo if that means they can stay true to their convictions,” she adds.
Richardson notes free spirits are naturally open people. They’re always interested in learning or trying something new, “which can make them more open to new people, ideas, perspectives, etc.,” she says.
There’s nothing free spirits value more than authenticity. They want to be themselves through and through, and they appreciate that same energy from the people in their lives, recognizing authenticity easily in others, Kaiser tells mbg.
Along with being authentic, free spirits are unique. Because they tend to make their own rules and even adapt philosophies and spiritual traditions to suit them individually, Richardson explains, they are definitely not your average person.
Along with being intuitive and in touch with themselves, Kaiser says free spirits are often very sensitive and even empathic in nature. This sensitivity toward themselves and others is also what pushes them to do their own thing.
“Fear” is not a big factor for the free spirits of the world. Not to say they don’t experience feelings of fear or doubt, but they simply don’t let it hold them back. In fact, Kaiser says, fear is “an invitation to push forward.” These people know how to solve problems, so troubles don’t easily intimidate them, she adds.
According to Richardson, some free spirits embody a certain lightheartedness or childlike demeanor that can be very endearing. Their aforementioned courage and authenticity are like that of a child. While one might think this equates to naiveté, free spirits simply don’t see the need to take life too seriously.
“As breezy as free spirits appear to be, they are often at war with an aspect of themselves, or in inner conflict that they are seeking to smooth out,” Kaiser says.
In other words, while they don’t like being put in a box, that in itself can become a box of its own. “This makes true free spirits full of contradictions,” she explains, like being extroverts who love their alone time, hopeless romantics who bounce from partner to partner, or world travelers who feel isolated, she adds.
Because these folks are always willing to pave a new path and take the road less traveled, they are natural-born leaders, Kaiser says. It’s also not uncommon to see these leaders become self-employed, as they enjoy the freedom that comes from unique career paths.
Again, free spirits are very open-minded, according to Richardson, and this lends itself to a nonjudgmental attitude that’s very accepting of others’ ways of being. Kaiser notes this makes them easy to be around because even if they’re different from someone, they’re not going to put someone down because of it.
Kaiser notes these folks live for adventure. In fact, she says, they find stability in it. “They value experiences over objects [and] like to live outside of their comfort zone,” she notes, adding that it’s typical for a free spirit to move around a lot.
Doing things your own way isn’t always easy, and no one knows that better than a free spirit. It requires ambition to forge your own path, but free spirits are born with what it takes. As Kaiser notes, “They dream big and often follow through. They don’t like wasting time, and they give 200% in everything they do.”
And last but not least, the unique nature of the free spirit drives them to continuously grow, according to Kaiser. They’re always looking for ways to be better than they were yesterday and continue evolving, all while remaining authentic and true to themselves.
How to thrive as a free spirit:
1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Free spirits always want to try new things and keep life fresh. That said, Richardson advises against making promises and commitments you can’t keep, whether that’s in a partnership, business, romantic relationship, or friendship.
As people who thrive on adventure and exploration, it’s important for free spirits to find new ways to explore deeper aspects of themselves, according to Kaiser.
Whether it’s with a fresh project, dream, or goal, keeping that newness alive will help them thrive. “Once they are familiar with something, somewhere, or even someone, their mind will turn to the next challenge. If they don’t have continuous change in their life, they feel suffocated and get bored and restless,” she adds.
3. Find your kindred spirits.
Having other fellow free spirits around will help fuel your lifestyle, Richardson says, though she adds that it’s also important to respect others’ natures too. And if you have a free spirit in your life, it’s good to hold them accountable while also celebrating their free-spiritedness, she notes.
4. Don’t let the world harden you.
In a world of routine, Richardson encourages the free spirits out there to hold true to who they are. “There’s nothing wrong with you if you are a free spirit,” she says, and allowing for flexibility, spontaneity, play, and independence in your life is a great way to honor who you are.
Free spirits “encourage people to take healthy risks, think and live outside the box, and be more authentic—those are all good things!” she adds.
Because free spirits can be sensitive and empathetic, Kaiser says they can pick up emotions from others but don’t always allow themselves to feel or process their own emotions. She recommends free spirits give themselves time to really feel their feelings through practices like journaling, meditation, creative arts therapy, and things of that nature.
And lastly, Richardson notes it’s important for free spirits to stay grounded. Maybe that looks like earthing (aka walking outside barefoot to connect with the Earth) or starting a mindful movement practice. Anything that gives these folks a healthy dose of structure now and then will help them stay balanced.
Whether you’re a free spirit or you know someone who is, there’s no question these people have so much to offer the world in terms of their authenticity, independence, and uniqueness. We all have a little free-spiritedness in us, and knowing how to nurture that adventurous and carefree nature can help us show up in the world as our truest and freest selves.