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Self-Reliance: An Essay


Alisha Morgan

"Imitation is suicide..." (Page 267, Paragraph One).  Ralph Waldo Emerson could not have written truer words. To me, it is important to be a non-conformist because one can be oneself, without outside influences. Another important aspect of being a non-conformist is that one can form one's own opinions without other's impute. Most of all, being a non-conformist means that one can be original, by looking at life from a different angle. Unorthodox peoples are some of the most innovative persons one will ever meet. Why is this? Because they are free to be who they want to be and think what they choose to think without swaying toward conformed thinking.

"There is time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction...that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion..." (Page 267, Paragraph One). Dissenters take phrases, like the one stated, to heart. Why? Simple; because it is true. A person who can accept himself, for who he really is, is much better off than a conformist, who is uncreative because he follows the masses. In order to be happy with one's self, one must learn to take advantage of everything, the things one has been blessed with. One has to learn to love the imperfections that make up one's being, because it gives the spirit the freedom that goes along with non-conformity; love for one's self will always outweigh love for the unimaginative conformist.

These same conformists, who dress, speak, and think the same things, will never know the freedom of "just being you." As the "Rules of Life" state, "Rule number one: You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around..." (Anonymous)  Unorthodox people appreciate the defects in themselves and in the world because it gives them something to think about and discuss.

"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." (Page 276 Paragraph two). Non-conformists have the gift of being able to "think outside the box." These people think about history, philosophy, literature, and the information being processed in order to come to their conclusions. Conformists go with whatever the opinion is of the mass majority. This shows a core difference between the conformist and non-conformist; conformists are not capable of original thought (concerning the area they are conformed to), while the non conformists have many opinions and thoughts, none of which are accepted among the conformed.

As Emerson puts is, "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind." (Page 276 Paragraph four). A non-conformist can stand on his own two feet, think about the possibilities, make important decisions in life, and deal with whatever incidents occur in his lifetime. This cannot always be said for the conformist. Conformists, it seems, do not know what to do if their fellow peers reject them. For example, in high school there are cliques.  The clique a person is in will determine that person's "identity" or reputation. If the head cheerleader decides to quit the squad, she will more than likely be booted out of the cheerleader clique, which leaves the ex-head cheerleader without an identity. She was so used to conforming to the things her friends did, said, dressed, etcetera, that she will not know what to conform to. One act of non conformity will boot the conformist out of his "safe zone" and the identity that went along with the conformity.

Non-conformists do not have this problem, because they were outcasts anyway. They think on their own and do not hold the opinions of others so close to their hearts because they do not want to intermingle their thoughts and the influential thoughts of another. This is why non-conformists are capable of being true to themselves, by knowing who they are in the first place.

"With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do." (Page 276 Paragraph five). One of the best, if not the most important, features of a non-conformist is his ingeniousness. He dares society with his inventive thinking, his offbeat behavior, his chaotic way of going about his business. Nothing resembles conformity when dealing with unorthodox people. He is misunderstood. For example, Socrates was thought to be a crazy man, with all that rubbish philosophy he loved to spout! The people of today, however, think his words were filled with genius. His words have been taught in schools, analyzed by the best and the brightest, and celebrated throughout the world. The innovations of the non-conformist may have brought on an ill reputation (according to the thoughts of conformists), but they may change the world one day. Those very same innovations could change the way we do algebra, the way the Periodic Table is set up, or maybe some part of the English language.

However, for now, the narrow-minded conformists will trap the non conformist's originality. After all, there is a reason why Emerson wrote... "To be great is to be misunderstood...." (Page 277 Paragraph five). Emerson's ideas on non-conformity and transcendentalism are very agreeable to me. I think that he was trying to tell his reader that being yourself, being assertive, knowing the people and the society that you surround yourself with, and being self-reliant are the essential elements for living a successful life. He was trying to inspire his peers to think outside the box, using their common sense and past knowledge to make decisions. He was just trying to make those people see that being yourself, knowing who you are, will make a big impact on your life. Because of knowing yourself, you can be self-reliant. Independence from others, this was just the thing Emerson wanted to express. No matter how one puts it, Emerson wanted to, and succeeded in, pointing out how great it is to be your own person, free of the narrow-minded opinions of society, just knowing what you think and expressing it.  That is what Emerson wanted to do.

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