To stop copying others, choose your environment and be mindful of the content you consume as we all have a tendency to imitate what we see. To stop copying others, identify who you are and what you like, improve your self-esteem, and learn not to follow.

Congratulations, by the way — despite being one among eight billion humans, you are absolutely unique and special.

Let’s have a look at how you can maximize this precious uniqueness and what may interfere with it.

Without further ado…

Why we copy others

Ever felt bad for imitating others? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There is a reason — many reasons, actually — we tend to absorb and copy everything we see and perceive.

And even worse, it’s subconscious, if not unconscious. So it turns out that true independent thinking and individuality is quite difficult to reach. And here’s why — scientifically, psychologically, and even spiritually.

Scientific research

Science looks at undeniable, objective phenomena and their patterns to hopefully reach some sort of truth. When it comes to our tendency to copy others subconsciously, scientific studies do provide us with interesting facts.

Perhaps the most interesting, eye-opening one being the one about the so-called mirror neurons, originally discovered in the late 80s in Italy. The following is Wikipedia’s definition of them:

A neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.

Neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese says “this natural mechanism is involuntary and automatic (…); we don’t have to think about what other people are doing or feeling, we simply know” (source).

I find this incredibly fascinating because it suggests that things like empathy and learning, and in general how our behavior is shaped by external influences, is a lot more automatic (unconscious) than we may think.


Then we have the psychological explanation, which looks at why we make certain conscious or unconscious decisions (what drives us, what moves us toward a certain goal).

Psychologically, we tend to imitate others for many different reasons, the two main ones being survival (or simply convenience/laziness) and building relationships. In short:

  • We copy others because we assume they know better e.g. we ask for recommendations before a trip abroad, or wear what others wear, order the same dish etc. as it saves time and it’s probably a good decision
  • We also copy others as a way to connect with them e.g. socialize, show that our views and habits are similar or exactly the same, show empathy and approval, feel that we belong to a certain group

We take this for granted but it’s actually essential in some ways. Imagine a world where our natural reaction was to do the opposite of what others do, automatically — that would have very serious implications.


Then there are spiritual theories, that is, the possibility that the issue of copying others unconsciously happens because of phenomena that goes beyond anything that’s tangible.

Though it’s impossible to prove any of this scientifically, we can look at people’s behavior and notice patterns (the same way a scientist would look at data) and “guess” what happens in the background.

A very interesting spiritual/esoteric theory as to why we copy others comes from Vadim Zeland. He believes that each time a strong emotion is felt, this creates an imbalance in the “energy field”.

This imbalance generates entities (he calls them pendulums) that die as soon as the feeling dies. Pendulums, then, try to survive/grow by influencing people’s behavior so that the same feeling — their source of energy — is copied.

Like viruses, pendulums cannot think but are somehow very good at making copies of themselves. If this theory is true, then it could explain anything from fashion trends to wars, cruelty, or fanaticism in extreme cases (full explanation here).

Risks of copying others

  • Going with the crowd isn’t always the most sensible decision
  • It’s hard to be unique and be yourself when copying others
  • Copying others’ goals or ambitions can mean wasting time
  • Going for what’s good enough can prevent you from going for the best
  • Efficiency and convenience can sacrifice creativity/experimenting

How to stop copying others

1. Copy consciously

Want to stop copying others? Just be more selective instead, and copy the best. Paradoxically, this might be the best and easiest way.

As we’ve seen, our mind has been “programmed” to mirror our environment in all kinds of ways, so sometimes rather than going against this tendency you simply want to be more selective.

2. Think, then act

Obvious, but very important. Though the opposite of being too impulsive — overthinking — would often be as bad, the simple act of thinking twice can literally change your life.

Once it becomes a habit, you’ll find yourself going through the same pattern where you first perceive an impression, then there is a gap, and only then an action.

3. Identify what you like

Here’s an interesting exercise to help you discover who you really are and ultimately what you are meant to do here on this planet — grab a piece of paper and write down what you like (or would like to do).

The further you go down the list and the more you experiment and reflect on this, the more you’ll get clear on what your priorities are. And once you are clear, it’ll be much easier to be yourself and deliberately work toward your own happiness.

4. Meditate and be mindful

Remember the impression, gap, action pattern from the second point? There is a tool that helps with that and it has been practiced for thousands of years — meditation.

Essentially, it’s a tool that helps you slow down and go back to a state where your mind is clear and free from the patterns of impulsivity and automatisms.

5. Travel somewhere new

You cannot copy what you can’t see; you can only copy what you see around you. This is why the fifth tip to stop copying others is to travel as much as possible.

As we’ve seen, you’ll always have a tendency to copy anyway, so you may as well see more of the world until you find what truly resonates with you — what can and should be copied.

6. Improve your self-esteem

It takes confidence to be the artist who creates something completely new and original, to approach an issue from a completely different perspective and then tell everyone about it, etc.

Besides being the pillars of mental health, self-esteem and self-worth will somehow protect you against the tendency to copy out of insecurity and self-doubt.

7. Be an outsider

Being an outsider does have benefits: it teaches you to think, act, and live regardless of what everyone else is doing and/or their opinion of you.

If you don’t want to copy others automatically, learn not to follow, not to get involved unless you really want to; learn to be okay with being “the odd one”.

8. Consume the right content

How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen, and most importantly, what do you see on that screen?

Learn to be mindful of the type of content that you consume; take a break from social media if needed, and fall in love with books and videos of people that truly inspire you.

9. Observe the masses, do the opposite

It’s a famous quote, and the last tip in this list. It’s not a rule by any means — being a hardcore contrarian, being a black sheep for the sake of being a black sheep won’t get you very far.

However, it’s one more interesting exercise to try out. Observe the masses, see if you notice anything that doesn’t look or feel right, reflect, and then feel free to do the opposite if that’s what your gut tells you.