In his essay “Self Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson revealed his opinions on the importance of individualism as it pertains to the happiness of oneself, as well as the importance of upholding an individualistic identity in society. Emerson encourages his readers to live their lives with courage, bravery, and inconsistency, while paying no attention to antagonists who try to influence their actions and decisions based off of societal constraints. Emerson believes that individual choices and actions all benefit society in a greater way than conformed choices and actions.
One of my favorite quotes by Emerson states,“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.” Emerson uses his essay as a platform to encourage individualistic choices, desires, and endeavors among each person, regardless of the influence others try to hold over them. Emerson believes that conforming to opinions upheld by people and society as a whole, is easier than standing alone or resisting societal constraints.
Overall, I agree with Emerson’s stance on individualism in society. If no one challenged the ideas and actions of others, society and the lives of individuals would lack diversity and excitement. Today, it is easy to make decisions based off of the approval of peers, family, and even strangers with whom we may have little to no interaction with at all. It’s very easy for someone to go against their internal will and live their life in a way they are not 100% satisfied because they believe conformity will result in instant approval from others. There will always be people who claim they know what’s best for our well-being and try to convince us to abide by their beliefs and rules. Emerson ultimately believes that greatness can be determined by one’s ability to remain individualistic in a crowd of conformists because it can be seen as very challenging.
Emerson’s quote, for me, is very applicable to my everyday life. Specifically at this point in time, it is very important for myself to remain confident in my own ideas and decisions regardless of what I am being told by people around me. Choosing my own path education wise, considering possible careers that interest only me, and pursuing what makes me happy outside of work and school are a few factors that contribute to my individualism. It could be very easy for me to base my daily decisions or future plans off of what will please my family or impress my friends, but I am determined to put my interests and goals first. Being an individual in a group that only continues to conform may be challenging at times, but crucial when it comes to maintaining your individualistic self and all of the things that make someone unique.