Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance”

Emerson is regarded as one of the most influential philosophical and academic American voices of the nineteenth century. His points about self-sufficiency are insightful and educational to modern readers. The outspoken American author offers a man’s guide to self-sufficiency. His memorable philosophies had an influence on the philosophy of individualism, which is profoundly rooted in American culture. The text emphasizes an intuitive relation to men’s hearts and is chronicled on the importance of being separate and non-conformity. As a result, Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance emphasizes that men must practice individualism while avoiding conformity. The article is written predominantly to the male audience as the entire essay makes reference to the male gender and therefore only applies to men.

A Man’s Guide to Self-Reliance

Self-reliance is the modest approach to living life and involves living a life in which men make appropriate opinions and decisions that will result in life fulfillment. Undoubtedly, men need to be individually driven, but this does not mean that they should reject the external voices completely but pick out what can help to reach the fullness of one’s destiny. The path towards self-determination is inner-directed and not other-directed. The underlining reason why self-reliance essay applies to men is that to help them to create meaningful relationships with others. The author vehemently alludes that men need to be honest in their relationships when they relate with other people. Everyone has the responsibility of avoiding misunderstandings and hurting the feelings of other people.

Emerson makes a clear argument that all men should live their own lives, build the character of individualism and improve their thinking capacity. He indicates that men need to believe in their own thoughts and consider what is true to their heart is true to a genius man. Therefore, Emerson urges men to follow individualism instead of conforming to given social expectations. People should not follow the paths of others blindly. The author insists that men are to speak their latent innermost conviction in order to make a universal sense. The author of self-reliance tries to showcase that numerous people are afraid of sharing their innermost thinking for the fear of being criticized by others. Men are careful to mask their words in an attempt to make sure that they do not sound ambiguous and that they are safe.

A man needs to know that they have valuable information and ideas to share to make the world a better place to live. However, fear present to be a major drawback and an obstacle to showcasing the inner creativity and skills. According to Emerson, the mind is the biggest hindrance that prevents every man from realizing innate dreams. As such, men should learn how to detect and watch the mind from within, and he reinforces the argument by saying that “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty” (Emerson). Everyone should be brave enough to believe in themselves and need not to be afraid of speaking their mind.

Emerson informs men about the importance of working had in life. The author indicates that all men need to take action and get their work done. He reprimands the feelings of jealousy and envy indicating that they portray ignorance. According to his argument, there is no point of getting jealous of what other people do in life. Everyone works hard to be where they hard. Thus, jealousy does not make up a nobleman. People of such characters are not sure of what exactly they what in life. He tells men that they have to know that a given point in the education of a man, one will come to a conviction on the fact that jealousy only builds ignorance. Eventually, every person at some point in life will agree that imitation is simply suicidal and that valuing your thoughts is for the better and needs to be a priority. Emerson states that “The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried” (Emerson). A man needs to do what is best at heart and what gives them peace. Particularly, the writer warns men against the dangers of imitation of suicide as the paths of men are different and that everyone has his own destiny. Emulating the life of other people is not happiness and does not contribute to life fulfillment. According to Emerson, there is no kernel of nourishment corn which can come to men without putting in extra work. Man will tend to reap what he sows, and no person will hand another man anything in life if you fail to work hard. Simply put, there is no substitute for keeping handwork when one attempts to get what you want.

Emerson deduces that the male gender has given up their individuality and failed to explore their abilities. They are not true to themselves. Emerson comes clear to advise men that they need to stop living in a perpetual negative cycle and do what gives them freedom. He states that men hear voices in solitude, but they tend to become faint and inaudible after entering the world. The whole society depicts to be a joint stock company inclined to a conspiracy that is against the manhood. The essay states that “Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs” (Emerson). Men crave for solitude and jeopardize the human experience. Ignorance of the inner voice overshadows their thoughts. The writer believes that individuals have the capability to become writers, artists, geniuses, and innovators. It is just a matter of taking up the responsibility for their lives and setting out to improve on what we do best. Emerson points out that if people learn from self-reliance, they will be able to stand proud and stronger in society.


Arguably, Emerson provides a brilliant self-critical piece of work that is most influential and inspiring especially to men and how they need to live an individualized life. Emerson mentions that men should believe in themselves and they also need to speak openly in what they consider to be right. The underlying concept is that people should not ignore their inner voices and listen to the outside influencers. It is important to note that the world’s greatest leaders and thinkers had the courage to listen to their inner convictions. The failures that people encounter should not be the reason for giving up, but rather men need to be brave enough and follow their ideas. Indeed, the essay is impactful and helps men to deduce on ways to push forward in taking the boldest steps in life to realize their destiny.

Work Cited

Emerson Ralph Waldo. Self-Reliance. American transcendentalism Web. https://archive.vcu.edu/english/engweb/transcendentalism/authors/emerson/essays/selfreliance.html. Accessed on December 10, 2018.

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