I'm looking for a word with a positive undertone to describe a teenager who does her own thing and doesn't cave in to peer pressure. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Question edited 1/30/16. Someone marked this question as a duplicate, but I think the other question is quite different from the one already posted. The other question is asking about a single word to describe someone who doesn't follow the crowd for the single purpose of being contrary. A contrary state of mind has nothing to do with what I'm looking for. I'm writing a recommendation for a teenager who is polite, independent, confident, and doesn't follow the crowd... NOT out of a sense of being different for the sake of being different, and not because she's ornery and contrary, but because she's her own person, and not swayed by what the other teens are doing. Can we re-open this discussion?

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    Well then I guess "lost" and "disoriented" are out. – Hot Licks Jan 29 '16 at 19:23
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    Related:english.stackexchange.com/q/70526/17956 – Jim Jan 29 '16 at 19:30
  • What about a leader? – NVZ Jan 29 '16 at 20:11
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    @NVZ I know that you mean "leader" as opposed to "follower" but then again, leaders don't really "do their own thing" considering that other people follow them. – Patrick Roberts Jan 29 '16 at 20:14
  • Agreed regarding "leader." The girl I'm trying to describe doesn't necessarily have others following her. She just follows the beat of her own drum! – Libby Jan 29 '16 at 20:17

10 Answers 10


In one word "independent", in two "independent minded".

  • A side note for using "independent" as a noun (i.e. "John is an independent"): In the US, an independent is someone who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Depending on context and audience, that connotation is something to be aware of. – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Jan 30 '16 at 0:44

Consider Maverick:

A person who shows independence of thought and action, especially by refusing to adhere to the policies of a group to which he or she belongs. (TFD)

a person who refuses to follow the customs or rules of a group (M-W)

  • Maverick won't work because the person is more low-key and usually operates under the radar. – Libby Jan 29 '16 at 20:05
  • @Libby That's often the case, but a maverick isn't always flashy... sometimes only one's friends or family know about a maverick's tendencies. – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 30 '16 at 2:26

lone wolf

a person who does not conform to generally accepted standards or customs

On the link, there are many good synonyms as well, including "counterculturist", and "individualist".


free spirit

Google Definition:


an independent or uninhibited person.

It's synonymous with nonconformist, but IMO it doesn't have the rebel without a cause undertone.

Google definition:


a person who does not conform to prevailing ideas or practices in their behaviour or views.

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    Also free thinker – Jim Jan 29 '16 at 19:49
  • Free thinker is close to what I'm looking for. I may have to use more than a single word! Thank you. – Libby Jan 29 '16 at 20:03

How about nonconformist? Or independent-minded?

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    Could you add dictionary entries to back this up? – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Jan 30 '16 at 0:40
  • Even rebel, no ? "What is a rebel? A man who says no" [Albert Camus The Rebel] "To be a rebel is not to be a revolutionary. It is more often but a way of spinning one's wheels deeper in the sand" [Kate Millett Sexual Politics] "No one can go on being a rebel too long without turning into an autocrat" [Lawrence Durrell Balthazar] – Baiwir Jan 30 '16 at 9:11
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    Please explain why either of these options is useful. Remember: you're answering for people who don't know the answer. – Matt E. Эллен Jan 30 '16 at 12:48

"Independent-minded" fits, but not "independent" because that could mean she doesn't work well with others. Is she "self-actualized"?


One possibility is self-confident:

Confidence is a feeling of trust in someone or something. To be self-confident is to have confidence in yourself. Self-confident people don't doubt themselves. This is usually a positive word: you can be self-confident without being cocky, arrogant, or overconfident. If you know what you’re doing, you have every reason to be self-confident.



He was the most dedicated, eagle-spirited, student-encouraging and highly moraled man there. Tributes

spirited: having a specified mood, disposition, or nature (used in combination): high-spirited; mean-spirited. Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary


Try radical or contrarian, independent thinker who rejects majority opinion.

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    This might be a good answer if you could provide definitions and their source, which is what ELU generally wants. – Xanne Apr 18 '17 at 7:08

Iconoclast a destroyer of images used in religious worship, in particular

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    Did you, perhaps, accidentally post this answer on the wrong question? This question has nothing to do with destruction or religion. – Scott May 29 '17 at 6:11
  • @Scott that is highly unfair. You should look up the alternative definitions of the word. It is not exclusively applied to religion. – Shelby Moore III Sep 19 '18 at 21:32

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