Our world is one of collectivism. People identify themselves by the groups they inhabit and not the deeds they’ve accomplished. If you want an easy life, you can attach your wagon to any political, cultural, and racial identity and wait for that to pull you to victory.

But why should one swim against the current and strive for individuality? Why should you take the path less traveled and pursue your best self?

This week, I discuss individualism, why it’s opposed, and the importance of becoming an individual in a world that loves collectivism.

Table of Contents

  • What Is Individualism?
    • The Clear Benefits of Individualism For Society
  • What are the personal gains of being an individual?
    • You become your most virtuous self
    • You define your life 
    • You will earn your freedom
  • Why Do People Oppose Individualism?
    • Freedom, Responsibility, And The Fear Of Virtue
    • Addressing the Critiques: The Myths and Realities of Individualism
  • How do you become an individual?
    • Understand your goals
    • Take care of the essentials
    • Reject the collectivists
  • The Power of One: Embracing Individualism in a Collectivist World
  • Actionables

What Is Individualism?

individualism | purple flower

Individualism is the belief that you own yourself.

Individualism is a social theory that values the individual above the needs, wants, and desires of the collective and the state. Politically, it is expressed through libertarianism, minarchism, and anarcho-capitalism. Economically, it is expressed through capitalism.

Individualism as a personal philosophy is about self-improvement through the rigorous pursuit of virtue. The uncompromising pursuit of virtue helps individuals improve their lives by overcoming their vices, helping their community, and accomplishing their goals.

Because individualism is about pushing individuals to be their best selves, such personal responsibility trickles upward. You can’t have a beautiful forest with dead trees. Therefore, individualism strengthens the trees (the individuals) within the forest (society), so the whole forest flourishes.

The Clear Benefits of Individualism For Society

There are a few ways individuality improves society:

  • Capitalism allows people to earn an honest living serving their neighbors. Other people benefit from cheaper goods and improved services provided at competitive prices.
  • Individualism promotes universal moral standards because everyone must pursue virtue. Universal moral standards ensure the familial unit isn’t a place of abuse and harm but an area of love, virtue, and high standards.
  • Focusing on the individual allows people to self-reflect to determine their personal goals. Through such self-reflection, they can pursue what’s most important to them.
  • A society built on virtue ensures individuals can pursue their virtuous ends while not being able to harm or hurt others.
  • Decentralized authority reduces the state’s power, thus the primary vector for exploitation and harm in any given society.

Of course, individualism improves society. Let’s delve deeper into how becoming an individual will improve your life.

What are the personal gains of being an individual?

personal responsibility | silhouette

Personal responsibility is the only real solution to most of your problems.

At the core of individualism is the meaningful pursuit of your most virtuous self. Collectivist ideologies do not put you at the center. Thus, such philosophies can justify your abuse and exploitation by the ruling classes, elites, and mobs.

But you won’t be another victim when you firmly place yourself at the center and your most virtuous self as the goal.

Despite the clear benefits, why do people oppose individualism?

Why Do People Oppose Individualism?

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Bernard M. Baruch

Man is a creature of comfort. Virtue is pursuing your best self, free of immorality and pettiness. When a man is told to pursue virtue, he knows that means the end of his comforts. Thus, he pushes back.

Individualism dictates a man should live on his own two feet. He is responsible for his actions. He bears the consequences of his decisions and indecisions. While such a strict life can have pitfalls, the end result is everyone becomes more vigorous and in a better position to help those who are genuinely in need.

Freedom, Responsibility, And The Fear Of Virtue

But people oppose such an objective, virtuous system because freedom means responsibility. It means owning up to your mistakes and paying for your excuses. You cannot force your neighbor to fund your wars or sell your children to the state in public schools. When you choose vice, you pay for it. When you fail to be great, you suffer in mediocrity.

Most individuals do not want to be their own savior. I do not mean in a spiritual or religious sense. For example, if I want to be in better shape, I must deliver that goal to myself. My wife cannot lift weights for me. My children cannot schedule my workout routines. I cannot pray for bigger muscles. I have to lift weights and go on the jogs. I have to deliver the dreams I have.

When pursuing your most virtuous self, you must contend with what you want and how to get it. Self-improvement requires immense effort, time, and energy, something no one wants to invest in. Therefore, opposition to individualism comes from a hatred of virtue, a desire to have what hasn’t been earned, and an opposition to greatness.

Addressing the Critiques: The Myths and Realities of Individualism

gulag | collectivism is evil

Individualism has its pitfalls, but it is superior to everything else.

There are good critiques of individualism, and I’ve never shied away from them. There are two main issues with individuality: social atomization and the potential neglect of communal responsibilities.

However, such things still happen under more collectivist-centered ideas and systems. A large government does not solve poverty, hunger, or exploitation. People are still atomized today despite reduced individuality and increased group identities, government power, and hedonism.

Lastly, communal responsibility is never handled, even in family-centric cultures. Such families do not have universal standards for all members: parents can routinely abuse and hurt others, especially children. One can point to any sort of economic or social success as a justification, but I won’t settle for that. I can win a war by killing civilians, but that is still immoral and will create more issues down the line.

Only the rigorous pursuit of virtue by individuals resolves the personal and social issues that ail us.

How do you become an individual?

“Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.” – Ayn Rand

Only the individual can understand their life, define their goals, and overcome their vices. No one can beat overeating for you or pursue courage on your behalf. You must do these things.

Thus, you must be the actor. By doing the following three things, you can start becoming a stronger individual and reap the benefits of individualism:

  • Understand your goals – Think about what you want to do with your life. Then, define the goals that will help you achieve what you want. Plot them out clearly: life, long-term, weekly, and daily goals. Every action must carry you forward toward greatness.
  • Take care of the essentialsGet in better shape, earn more money, and spend time with loved ones. Taking care of the essentials further solidifies your freedom and develops the discipline needed to succeed. The essentials must be handled so you can move through life with less worry and stress. Think about it: If you know your family is well, your body is healthy, and your job pays, what else do you have to trouble yourself with?
  • Reject the collectivists – Don’t become another cog in the machine, begging for scraps. You have a greater destiny if you are willing to take it. You have to let go of collectivist, other-people-centered thinking. The mob wants you to be a slave to your vices. The ruling classes will force you to serve them, begging for handouts and favors. The elites want you to worship their success, spend money, and grovel at their feet. But an individualist does none of these things. Your purpose is more significant than enslavement.

The Power of One: Embracing Individualism in a Collectivist World

Individualism is the philosophy of self-improvement and virtuous living.

The opposition towards individualism is opposition towards responsibility and greatness. We are all individuals and must be responsible for what we do and choose. This reality is apparent and can’t be disputed.

Weak individuals simply do not wish to be responsible. They do not want to be free. And they do not want others to be free.

When a man becomes his best self, as he has defined within reasonable perimeters set by tradition, moral law, religion, and virtue, then he will be free.

Such a world is not easy to build, but it is a life you can achieve for yourself.

That is the benefit of becoming an individual: becoming a virtuous person, the most significant outlier.


“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. Do you fear freedom? If you had more control over your life, how do you think you would respond? For example, what would you do if you had to run your own business? How hard do you think it would be? Or, how would you deal with having to rely on your own common sense to choose the safest provider of your meals or medical care without having to depend on regulations? I suggest developing physical strength and health to start your journey towards more freedom.
  2. How do you deal with weak individuals? Are they in your life? Do you wish to be free of them? What steps can you take to ensure weak people do not have a say in your life? For example, I am not friends with people who want the government to solve all their problems. I also don’t listen to people whose solutions to complex issues are more government control. These are small but significant ways I keep weak individuals out of my life.
  3. Have you become more of an individualist? In what ways has your life improved? What have been the drawbacks? When you seek to improve yourself, what costs have you endured? What benefits have you been given? Write down your answers to these questions. See where you can increase your efforts and where you can mitigate the costs you have paid.

Please remember it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

*Image credit to Unsplash.