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quotations about individuality

The thing is not to follow a pattern. Follow your own pattern of feeling and thought. The thing is to accept your own life and not try to live someone else’s life. Look, the thumbprint is not like any other, and the thumbprint is what you must go by.

KATHERINE ANNE PORTER, The Paris Review, winter-spring 1963

The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual; the impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.

WILLIAM JAMES, The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy

Both body and life are predetermined, and the man has nothing to say in the matter: the individual is predetermined by the Great Will. The man is thus predestined, through the fact of his individuality, to a possible specific destiny; but, after the individuality is determined, he is given over to his own will, and his destiny is put into his own hands.

JOHN PHELPS FRUIT, "The Destiny of Marriage: Portia and the Caskets"

Man becomes virtually an automaton in the loss of his individuality and responsibility. He is the harp of a thousand strings played upon by a divine hand, but not a man!

JOHN GRIER HIBBEN, The Problems of Philosophy

It's hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.

DOLLY PARTON, attributed, How Dolly Parton Saved My Life

We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other's opposite and complement.

HERMANN HESSE, Narcissus and Goldmund

Individuality is a step in advance of Genius.


The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.

SAUL ALINSKY, prologue, Rules for Radicals

Individuality is the aim of political liberty. By leaving to the citizen as much freedom of action and of being as comports with order and the rights of others, the institutions render him truly a freeman. He is left to pursue his means of happiness in his own manner.

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, The American Democrat

If you are different from the rest of the flock, they bite you.


I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

It is the individual only who is timeless. Societies, cultures, and civilizations -- past and present -- are often incomprehensible to outsiders, but the individual's hungers, anxieties, dreams, and preoccupations have remained unchanged through the millenia.

ERIC HOFFER, Reflections on the Human Condition

Taking into account the public's regrettable lack of taste, it is incumbent upon you not to fit in.


Bring something incomprehensible into the world!

GILLES DELEUZE, Thousand Plateaus

Individuality is unaccountable surplus.

THOMAS C. HELLER, Reconstructing Individualism

More and more, when faced with the world of men, the only reaction is one of individualism. Man alone is an end unto himself. Everything one tries to do for the common good ends in failure.

ALBERT CAMUS, Notebooks 1935-1942

Whatever crushes individuality is despotism.

JOHN STUART MILL, On Liberty and Other Essays

Each man must have his "I"; it is more necessary to him than bread; and if he does not find scope for it within the existing institutions he will be likely to make trouble.

CHARLES HORTON COOLEY, Human Nature and the Social Order

The measure of individuality is the depth and breadth of true relation. I am an individual not as far as I am apart from, but as far as I am a part of other men.

PAULINE GRAHAM, Mary Parker Follett: Prophet of Management

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.

ANAIS NIN, The Diary of Anais Nin

Individuality is that which you bring into the world.

OSHO, The Book of Wisdom

My lines all curve. I tend to connect the wrong dots.


Individuality is the expression of the uniqueness of every soul and the sublime manifestation of its evolution.


Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON, Self-Reliance and Other Essays

It kills me how these days everyone has clinical justification for their strangeness.


We are flawed creatures, all of us. Some of us think that means we should fix our flaws. But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left.

SARAH VOWELL, Take the Cannoli

The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even — if you will — eccentricity. That is, something that can't be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn't be happy with.

JOSEPH BRODSKY, Less Than One: Selected Essays

The trouble with the sacred individual is that he has no significance, except as he can acquire it from others, from the social whole.

BERNARD DEVOTO, Harper's, May 1941

The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.


The definition of the individual was: a multitude of one million divided by one million.

ARTHUR KOESTLER, Darkness at Noon

I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals and I loathe humanity for its failure to live up to these possibilities.

AYN RAND, publicity form, 1936

Losing faith in your own singularity is the start of wisdom, I suppose; also the first announcement of death.


Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it in, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life's bittersweet route.

TOM ROBBINS, Jitterbug Perfume

I'm an oddity of one, my strangeness too complicated to explain or share.

LIBBA BRAY, A Great and Terrible Beauty

The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.

ALBERT EINSTEIN, Ideas and Opinions

Read James Vila Blake's essay: Of Individuality


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