Why most of our ideas aren’t really ours


Kevin Mangelschots

Instilled by other people

Most of our ideas come from other people. Most of our ideas are structured thoughts, or opinions that we have heard somewhere else from those around us without truly knowing the validity of those words, thoughts, and ideas.

Simply parroting the opinions of others isn’t good since we want everyone to think for themselves to prevent falling victim to groupthink, and to better society as a whole.

Social conditioning

A smiling Indian woman.

A lot of these thoughts and ideas have been instilled in us when we were growing up and forming our belief system.

That’s because we are particularly vulnerable to the opinions of others while growing up. Even though the sentiments of those around us remain important to us even as adults, but less so.

That means that social conditioning can be used to impart beneficial beliefs and ethics to others, but also to create extremists such as racists, or terrorists for instance. What we can conclude is that social conditioning plays a large role in our critical thinking and that we should be careful simply imitating other people’s personal views.


Image of multiple pawns standing together with one pawn standing separated alone.

The importance we place on the opinions of others without carefully evaluating their sentiments is also why prejudices exist in my opinion.

That’s because we take other people’s words, thoughts, and ideas for granted without checking for ourselves if those views are true. The fact that it is a prejudice proves that we haven’t checked its validity, or at the very least have wrongly assessed the situation.

Where do most of our ideas come from?

Multiple possible questions being written on a wooden board.

An idea can be about something concrete, but also about abstract matters and objects. Conceptional ideas are about things that can not be felt, smelled, or touched. Like ideas about love, good and evil, or beauty, for example.

Abstract ideas require a lot of imagination and creativity since we are thinking about something we can’t see.

How often do we have original ideas or opinions we have truly thought through thoroughly? Thoughts where we know the ins and outs of? The possible positive and negative consequences of these views?

Most of our ideas will come from

  • Other individuals
  • Groups of people
  • Institutions
  • The media

Illustration of someone thinking up a new idea.

The reason few of the views we hold are truly original is simple. It’s really hard to find out new ideas.

There have been so many people before us. So many smart and creative individuals. That’s why chances are that most opinions have already been formulated somewhere in one way or another. Oftentimes, we don’t realize this because those sentiments have been phrased differently in the past.

That’s not to say that thinking about beliefs and ideas from the past is bad. No opinion or point of view is perfect. This means that there are almost always different ways to improve the original idea.

Let’s take it a step further. If we’ve established that a lot of what we say and think isn’t ours, then how much of our personality that we consider to be the “me” part is ours?

Isn’t a lot of what we consider to be our character fabricated by what others say and think, or by us just echoing other people’s words, ideas, and thoughts?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Where do ideas come from in the brain?

Illustration of synapses firing in the brain.

Creative ideas come from the mind due to synapses firing and creating points between visualizes, thoughts, and physical reactions.

We have a conscious, but also unconscious mind.

The conscious mind holds the thoughts that we’re aware of, while the unconscious mind houses the ideas that occur outside our awareness.

The unconscious mind is where a lot of our outstanding, and original insights reside.

How are ideas formed in logic?

Ideas are formed in logic by expressing experience.
They are formed by a principle of images that are communicated via speech. This means that the forming, but also the sharing of ideas, is a related process.

How to generate good ideas on your own?

“Good idea” written in white letters on a green background with a hand pointing toward a white lightbulb.

  1. Ask questions

    Humans are curious creatures, and luckily so, since there’s so much to learn.

    We can generate good ideas by asking questions to acquire new knowledge and gain a better understanding of the topic at hand.

  2. Write your ideas down

    Writing your ideas down allows you to visualize your abstract thoughts, but also to reconsider your opinion at a later date.

    This way, you have a physical note that shows you how your view was at first, and how it evolved. This will hopefully demonstrate how your personal view gets better over time.

  3. Think relatedly

    Many things in life are related to each other in some manner. That’s also why you can take an idea in one context, and extrapolate it to another instance or opportunity.

    New experiences can lead to new insights. Thus, gaining a new understanding in a seemingly unrelated area can yield new, and great creative views if we’re willing to take these opportunities.

  4. Test your new ideas

    People who innovate new opinions will test these new views to see how they hold up, and if they’re good ideas.

    That’s because most of the opinions we create aren’t all that good. But that’s okay because it’s about finding those few good thoughts and capitalizing on them.


The word “summary” written in black letters on a green background.

To quickly sum up, this means that most of our ideas, and thoughts for that matter, we consider to be our own originate from outside sources.

This can be in the form of spoken words from friends, family, or even the news we see on television. These external informants can also be in the form of written words like the newspaper, or letters we receive, for instance.

The opinions that don’t arise from ourselves can come from:

  • Repeating other people’s words
  • Repeating other people’s thoughts
  • Repeating other people’s ideas


Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

Very rarely do we have a truly original idea that we haven’t consciously, or more probably, unconsciously picked up somewhere down the line from outside sources.

We consider all our personal views to be our own, but if we take a closer look, we realize that most of our sentiments are at the very least influenced by external communicators. Even informants that we don’t have an emotional connection with such as the media or newspaper influence our thinking, views, and behavior a lot more than we believe.

Nevertheless, different ideas and opinions lead to growth. If everyone were to think the same, then it would be an extremely boring, and unchanging existence indeed.