Self-Reliance is an essay that was written by philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. He wrote it in 1841. The essay advocated for strict individualism. Emerson wanted people to follow their instincts more instead of conforming to the established societal norms. Emerson started a Transcendentalist movement from his beliefs.
A Look Through into the Plot
His essay begins with him calling the reader to start believing in one’s true self. Emerson believes that it should start from infancy so that one’s spirit develops a sense of independence and also non-conformity. According to him, a person’s growth depends on their attitude toward conformity. He sees society as a negative force in the growth, and that solitude is the right way to live. Emerson believes in living through instinct. He sees life as an organic process with many contradictions.
Everyone’s instinct comes from the universe and acts as a guide to living. Any individual acting on their instinct follows the spirit of the universe. He takes to a religious example whereby Christ to support his point about living in one’s present. People should avoid worrying about their past and future since they are both toxic to the human condition.
Emerson cites Moses, Milton, and Plato as examples of people who were never afraid to speak their mind. These people did not depend on the work of those who came previously. Emerson reveals that it is difficult for people to follow their footsteps since people undervalue their opinions just because they are their own. Emerson encourages acting like a youth when the conformity has not yet become a way of life. When individuals are young, they do not suppress their desire to function independently. Their decisions depend on their thoughts.
As they grow older, the society influences them to need other people’s approval, to abide by traditions and to focus on factors such as reputation. Emerson believes that an individual cannot claim to be Self-reliant unless they have adopted non-conformity and the youthful attitude of being unrestrained.
However, Emerson does not call for rebellion with his belief. Instead, he wants to live in a world where an individual can develop their character and personality according to their terms.
Emerson stresses that one should accept that they have an individual destiny. Everyone must find their truths rather than blindly believing in religion to build on their spirituality. One should follow what they believe in.