According to Southern mores, “bless your heart” is typically a veiled insult, despite its sympathetic denotation. “Think for yourself” has a similar, contradictory function.
Think-for-yourself phraseology appears in my inbox regularly, but only when I have publicly expressed my most original and complex ideas and only from people without any expertise (according to information available on the Internet). Because of the work I do, these ideas relate to culture, education, and/or oppression, generally speaking.
People who voice such an insult might think “there is no way they could develop an idea like that,” but more likely explanations rest elsewhere.
“Think for yourself,” in practice, aims to shut people down who appear threatening–threatening because they voice unfamiliar ideas, they reveal power dynamics, they suggest changes, they (unintentially) unearth ignorance, and they actually do express original thinking–and who cannot meet any soundbite requirements.
“Think for yourself” is also a baffling insult due to its utter inaccuracy and its aim to halt dialogue before it starts. One can never predict when it will appear.
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda