Self Reliance

Ralph Wald Emerson, a transcendentalist, wrote “Self Reliance” with thoughts that would end up starting arguments between people. In 1841, when Emerson wrote “Self Reliance,” people were not ready for such a strong viewpoint by Emerson that argues that Conformity kills an individual. By doing this Emerson started something to what today is known as American individualism. In “Self Reliance,” Emerson has many specific points, but one of them deals with role models interfering with what a persons personal talents. I personally do not agree with Emerson.

I believe that in the world today role models are great to have. In “Self Reliance,” Emerson talks about Aversion. Aversion can best be described as a strong dislike towards something. In the end meaning that self reliance is a strong dislike towards conformity. Emerson even states,” Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion,” (3). Even Emerson contradicts with his own views a little bit.

Emerson believes that having a role model will cause a person to try and be somebody that they are not, which would cause the rest of society to see that and look down upon that. Emerson goes on to say,” Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world,” (7). This explains that Emerson believes that a person should stick to their self and be able to rely on their self for everything. Along with that a person should not need a role model or the media to influence how they should be.

Emerson believes and argues that being self-reliant is a good thing. Personally I agree with him because not being self reliant and learning to depend on others will only hurt you at some point in your future. Learning to be self-reliant will help you mature faster and help you to learn how to take on challenges by yourself. Emerson says, “imitation is suicide” (2). What Emerson means by this is that if you envy someone else, you are oblivious of your own feelings. I believe this quote to be true because if you are too

worried about the people who you look up to and you try to make your image better based off of them, then you are totally forgetting about your feelings and what you truly want. For example, when I was in my young teens, my dad wanted me to be a wrestler and I look up to my dad so much. My dad wrestled in high school and when he told me that I should wrestle, it made me think that I could be just like him. After my first year of wrestling, the only reason I enjoyed it was because I was being like my dad. I had totally forgotten how much I loved playing football.

I was too busy trying to be like someone else that I had forgotten who I was. “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think,” (8) Emerson says. This quote by Emerson goes right along with my example. Someone who goes through their life relying on others and also trying to fit someone else’s image will only struggle in their life and will never have true happiness. Emerson says, “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best” (2). When you learn to do things by yourself, you can depend on yourself that you will do your best and that you will finish what you start.

Where as if you depend on others you may not be satisfied with the result. For example when I was working on a group project in class, I had to depend on the other group members to do a good job on their portion of the project. Don’t get me wrong working in groups does have its benefits, but when you have a group member who says he forgot to do his portion, it just makes everything about the project ten times harder plus it stresses you out. Where as working on a project by yourself, you know that the result is going to be based upon only the work you have put into it, so you can make it what ever you want to make it.

Life is whatever you make it. Having a role model does not necessarily mean that you are trying to be just like a person, it is more of a person that someone inspires and looks up to. A role model is more of someone that keeps a person motivated to keep moving forward. I believe that there is nothing wrong with having a role model because society wont look down upon someone for having one and it gives a person something to strive for. Emerson says, “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.

Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none,” (2). In this quote Emerson is basically explaining that every person has their own right and own power but no one will ever really know what that individuals true talents and views are if they keep trying to imitate and be just like their role model. Which would be using someone else’s talents and not their own. Emerson also says, “Else to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another,” (2).

Basically what Emerson is saying is that if a person keeps terminating their own thoughts because they want to be like their role model instead, that eventually someone else down the road in time, someone will have the same idea and actually present it to someone and then the first person would just have to sit there and watch their original idea be spoken about by someone else. In all of this, Emerson is saying that having a role model will only cause someone to not be there self and will end up ruining a person’s true identity. I believe differently.

Back in high school, I had a good friend who was a good student and an amazing football athlete. His junior year he had division one offers from some of the top football colleges there are. He had planned on going to University of Wisconsin Madison over all of his other offers just because it was his dream to be like J. J. Watt, a football great from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Mr. Watt was his role model because not only is he amazing at football but he does so much for his community and is a good guy in society. Well senior year for my friend came and on his way to practice he was in a bad car accident and broke his femur.

Having to sit most of the season he lost his scholarships to most of his division one offers including Madison. He became an absolute wreck because he lost his dreams. It just so happens that my cousin is really good friends with Mr. Watt and I told my cousin about what happened and my cousin made things happen. Mr. Watt had gotten my friends home phone number and called him personally to talk to him. To sum things up, my friend played for a smaller division one school the next season and proved to Madison that he is still capable of his athleticism.

He ended up getting his full ride scholarship back to Madison and played for them this past season. This all happened because he was inspired by his role model. A role model is not a bad thing; they only motivate people to strive for goals and to keep moving forward. Emerson contradicts almost every argument he has, so in a way he thinks role models are good too but he is still mainly against them. In “Self Reliance,” Emerson has many specific points, but one of them deals with role models interfering with what a persons personal talents. I personally do not agree with Emerson. I believe that in the world today role models are great to have.

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