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Self Reliance (Translated)

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Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

As written by Ð'...


THE OTHER DAY, I read some original statements written by a famous painter. Whenever I read something truly original, I get a feeling. That feeling is far more valuable than the statements themselves. The feeling fills me with recognition of a profound truth: That genius is simply to "believe your own thought." "To believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all [people]."

Speak what is true for you, and it will almost always resonate in others.

The voice in your own mind is so familiar to you that you give it no respect. Instead, you give too much weight to the thought of others Ð'-- your neighbors, your teachers, or some great thinker from the past. But what makes great thinkers great is that they didn't disregard their own thought. They expressed what they truly thought; they listened to their own voice.

You must learn to detect the light that shines from within and pay it more respect than the blinding illumination of the great minds of all history. When you look at wonderful works of art, let it teach you this.

Let the flashes of genius that hit your mind urge you to stick with your own "spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility" Ð'-- especially when everyone seems to think otherwise. Speak out what your own perception, your own impression tells you is true and speak with boldness and trust.

As Emerson wrote, "envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide." You have something unique, original, and great to express. Try to imitate someone else and you kill off that originality which is you. Envy is a lack of appreciation of your own special gifts.

Nobody knows what your special gifts are, and you won't know until you try to express them. Follow your own interest. It will lead you where you need to go.

You are an expression of this vast and wondrous universe. You are one of the things the universe is doing right now. This immense, mysterious existence is expressing itself everywhere at every moment. For the miracle to be expressed through you, it will take courage and a firm dedication to truth and honesty. The greatness of the universe cannot be expressed by cowards.

Be brave and true to yourself. Put your heart into your work. Do these things with sincerity and you come nearer to being what you truly are: A singular expression of all existence Ð'-- a genius, a creator, a redeemer, a healer, a teacher, a force for good in the world.

Trust yourself Ð'-- not your petty self, but that Self you touch in blissful solitude on quiet walks in the mountains, that Self you feel when you are at your highest best.

Completely accept your current situation Ð'-- the place and time you live in. Accept it and make something magnificent with it. There is no better time. There is nothing to wish for. Genius and wisdom arise when you see that the source of existence is in your heart and works through your hands.

You are not a victim of life. You have a destiny, a part to play in this awesome universal battle between good and evil.

Look at children. They trust their own impression. They haven't learned to calculate how many people oppose their purposes and so they don't alter their purposes accordingly. If they conceive a purpose, they start to accomplish it without any self-censoring calculations.

Infants do not conform. The adults conform to the infant. An infant is charming, attractive, interesting, and the adults gather around and try to please him or her. But listen: There is something just as charming, just as interesting, and just as pleasing about every stage of life, from childhood to old age. Infancy has no monopoly on charm.

Take exactly what you are and find the magnificence of it and express it. Do not weep for younger years or think things will be great only when you get older. Be exactly what you are right now and already your charm starts to manifest.

It is a healthy attitude to consider conciliatory behavior beneath you. In other words, don't try to gain goodwill by displaying pleasing behavior. Don't try to beg for peoples' approval. That is the attitude of someone who doesn't feel he has a right to be what he is, to feel the way he feels, to think what he thinks. But you DO have the right.

Be yourself.

Don't try to figure out what behavior or opinion will make you popular with others. It is disrespectful to the grandeur of who you really are. It is selling your soul for the low outcome of manipulating the superficial affections of others Ð'-- as if you needed their approval. Be what you are. Be indifferent to the judgments of others, not with a thoughtless or angry defiance, but with the firm knowledge that you are a vital expression of something unspeakably intelligent and good.

Forget about what you have been before. Forget what you've said before. Be what you are now, even if it "isn't you" Ð'-- that is, even if it seems to contradict what you or others have pigeonholed you to be. Be free. Be the creative force on the crest of the mighty wave of this very instant.

Be exactly what you are right now and what will happen? Your truth, your honesty, will scare some people, and they will actively try to make you stop being true to yourself.

The world is in a conspiracy to make you conform. Others will think they know what you should be and how you should act and what you should think. And they will apply pressure to you to make you conform to it. But if you conform, you lose your soul. You lose your originality. You lose your connection to the Mystery. You lose your creativity and your aliveness.

The people who know you will sometimes resist your creativity. They feel more comfortable with what is familiar.

If you want to be the full greatness you can be, you must give up the game and be your honest self. As Emerson put it, "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." Rely on yourself and you become one of those who determine the future of the world.

Not you? Why not you? Many of the people who have changed the course of history also would not have believed that they could or would. But when you rely on yourself and be exactly what you are, a new force moves through you, and a new source of power.

Emerson said, "No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable



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