Emerson: Self-Reliance, Cultivating Your Genius and The Curse Of Society

Source: MyStudentVoices, May 2018

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…”

Emerson tells us to believe in ourselves and speak openly and candidly what we believe to be true.

Many of us are afraid to share our innermost thoughts in fear of criticism and backlash. We are careful to mask our words, to make sure they are ambiguous and safe so as to not hurt anyone’s feelings or create any misunderstandings.

Many of us believe we have nothing valuable to share. We have flashes of brilliance in our ideas, artwork or writing, but our fears stop us before we can even try. We doubt our skills in our creative endeavors, and allow our minds to be the biggest obstacle.

Emerson tells you to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men. Most of us are too afraid to speak up, and find ourselves gravitating toward those who dare to break the silence.

When you are brave enough to speak what you believe to be true, you will find that others agree with you but were simply keeping silent, hoping for someone like you to express your own opinion first to see if what they hold is acceptable or rational.

He tells us that imitation is suicide, because our path is different than the person next to us. To emulate someone else’s life as your own would not be living your own life. You are simply imitating someone else’s way of life and will never find happiness or fulfillment.

Emerson tells us to take action and get to work. He tells us that to envy great and successful people is to be ignorant. What’s the point of being jealous of what other people have and what paths other people are walking? We are simply unaware of what we truly want in our lives and decide that living the life that “looks” fun, comfortable and filled with luxury is what we want.

We should not be afraid to speak our mind. If we find that we are misinformed or ignorant, there is more for us to gain. If we find that our views were rigid, harmful or unacceptable, at least we will be able to know that we were wrong and could make efforts to improve ourselves as smarter and balanced individuals.

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty”

In order to not feel alone, we have chosen to conform. We have given up our individuality, our abilities to be our true selves, to be included in a society… and then wonder why we have to wear masks and hide our true selves in our social interactions.

We crave solitude but love companionship. It is the cruel paradox of the human experience.

We have long ignored the inner voice within us. We are all capable of becoming geniuses, artists, writers and innovators.

If we all did not worry about what people think about us and envy the lives of others, what kind of world could we create for the next generation?

If we all took responsibility for our lives and set on improving ourselves, what would this world look like in the next 50 years?

If you took responsibility to change your life from this point forward, what would you look like in the next few years? You will become a strong individual, a person to look up to, a capable, respectable and impressive being.

If you learned to be self-reliant and were able to stand proud and strong even if society crumbled before you, what have you to fear?

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.


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