I walk through the forest alone.
I forge my own path.
I refuse to blindly conform to the flawed ideals.
My trust is placed in myself, not in society.
I float and I float, the waves carry my thoughts,
for nature is where true philosophy lies.
I walk, and I think, my mind is my best friend.
Are you afraid of being alone? Terrified of your own presence and dreading the lonely abyss? Is your life so focused on avoiding loneliness that you have forgotten to take the time to truly get to know yourself?
In 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American philosopher, wrote the revolutionary essay titled ‘Self Reliance’. The reason why this essay has been so revolutionary is because of the impact it continues to have on millions of people. It teaches you and shows you the art of having trust in yourself, of relying on no one else to sustain your happiness and truly finding contentment in following what it is you want to do.
In layman terms: it’s one of the first essays that showed us that being original and taking our own route in life leads to greater ultimate contentment in life. The art of self-reliance takes dedication, but it’s the only philosophical concept you will ever need to master.
The Principle Fault of Society & Why You Need Self-Reliance
“It is easy in the world to live after the worlds 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.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
You may be questioning right now why we should ever want to be fully reliant on ourselves and no one else. And rightfully so, it may seem like Emerson is advocating for a lonely, cold world, with no genuine human connections.
But this is wrong, self reliance is about finding the “perfect sweetness…of solitude”. Because yes, being alone in solitude can get bitter and sour if done in the wrong way. That’s why we are searching for the sweetness of it, the golden juice of the nectarine.
For more than 10 years of our lives, we are thrown into an education system that tells us to believe the same things as each other, to blindly follow authority above us, and to regurgitate knowledge from memory, and this is supposedly meant to form individuals.
Wrong. It creates blind followers. Followers who have somehow developed the audacity to trust the rules others have made to control them, rather than their own God-forsaken thoughts. This may seem Orwellian, and rightfully so. Independence and originality are slowly ceasing to exist, just like in 1984.
Maybe to help you understand where society is falling short, it’s better to put it like this: Nowadays, there is a strong attraction and heartfelt desire for the acceptance and respect of others. This longing for respect and acceptance has outweighed the passionate duty we all have to speak our own minds.
The necessity for self-reliance:
I firmly believe that cultivating self-reliance is not only a good idea in theory but an even more effective and applicable one in practice. Everyone can benefit from believing in themselves and cultivating a strong faith in their own actions.
I sometimes feel like an outcast for wanting to spend most of my time by myself. I have been conditioned to feel immense guilt every time I reject a drink-up with my mates. I am seen as unreliable for choosing to do my own thing and make my dreams a reality.
For some reason, our herd mentality has been programmed to think that anyone who spends their time alone, working towards things that matter to them, or simply enjoying their peaceful solitary presence, has something wrong with them.
“No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” — Rudyard Kipling
Remember, self-reliance will require you to go directly against the grain, it will feel like at times you are swimming up a current, instead of effortlessly letting it take you.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned from appreciating my loneliness, it’s that self-reliance is in no way shape, or form unnatural. It is actually a philosophical concept in perfect synergy with the natural world. Being self-sufficient, following your own heart, and being guided by the magic of your own thoughts is what nature is calling us to do.
Nature flows effortlessly, the wind blows the trees, the rain falls onto the ground, the deers frolicking in the forests. By choosing to trust your own intuition in life, be it as simple as choosing to say no to a pint to take a solo trip out of your city, you are binding your essence with the independent and solitary nature of the natural world.
It All Comes Down To Being Original: It’s Not That Hard
Okay, I’ve just bombarded you with some heavy philosophical food for thought. But how do we actually become self-reliant and apply this Transcendentalist philosophy in the 21st century?
It’s as easy as this: just be original.
Maybe you thought self-reliance necessitated for you to go live in the forest for the rest of your life, or for you to dye your hair pink, tattoo your face, and make yourself as far from the conventional visible norm as possible. Well, this is wrong.
Self-reliance starts in the mind. It is like a seed you can plant, and through the thoughts, it can blossom and the roots will dig themselves into the real world, allowing you to take self-sufficient action in whatever way you deem necessary.
Thinking is a gift and a curse. You can choose to think like the rest, to think that your comfortable life in your comfortable job is all that life has to offer. Or you can be original and fill your mind with elaborate (or not so elaborate) schemes to be different.
Is everyone around you thinking of going into the finance industry? Well, why don't you think about how happy and content you can be with a stress-free mind, rather than the burden of money weighing you down and controlling your life.
“I must create a system, or be enslaved by another mans.” — William Blake.
We live in a dog-eat-dog world. The minuscule percentage of people at the top are the self-reliant ones. But they use self-reliance in a selfish and gluttonous way. They control the masses by themselves, and therefore create and cultivate societies that have no sense of individual independence. They created us to be rule-abiding robots.
Do you want to be a slave to someone else? Or do you want to be the person who is in charge of your own destiny? That is what William Blake is suggesting in the quote above.
It comes down to this, are you willing to forge enough individuality to the point where you are one of one? Being original can start with small things. Choose to sell your car whilst those around you destroy the planet.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Forge your own path. Create something that no one else can, use the innate capacity you have to be original. We can all be self-reliant if we all just choose a path of originality and not a path that is littered with billions of people doing the exact same thing from birth to death.
3 Simple Practices to Help You Achieve Self Reliance
Apart from being original, there are certain things that we can do to help us even better achieve self-reliance. Of course, we can read philosophy and learn about it that way, but to truly feel the benefits of being sustainable by yourself, these three practices can easily help.
Let go of unhealthy attachments
Do you want to know why most people aren't self-reliant? It’s because they are attached to the people around them, they are allowing external people to become the source of their happiness.
This means that you aren't actually happy by yourself. Attachment is the root of all suffering. If I look back at times where I’ve suffered the most in my life, it's after I was left by someone I was extremely attached to. I can't explain the pain I felt the first time I got heartbroken. The person I was closest to abandoned me.
When one can truly rely on themselves, they flow through life like water. You will suffer less, you will create your own oceans, your own lakes and rivers, and it all comes from the freedom you feel when you eliminate the unhealthy attachments and start to become independent from unhealthy relationships.
Spend time in nature
Ralph Waldo Emerson was very big on man connecting with nature. His philosophy, Transcendentalism, teaches us to value the spiritual and natural world over the material world.
Nature is of utmost value in Transcendentalism and achieving self-reliance because it is in raw nature that you can experience independence from society and coexist peacefully with the free blowing wind.
Emerson always thought that a true existence and a genuine life exist in nature. Connecting with the core roots and origins of the earth, unspoiled by the destructive and diseased human race, is where self-reliance can be found.
Just take your time to explore your local nature spots, it will all be worth it.
Become dedicated to your craft
When a craftsman dedicates their life to improving, creating, and striving for mastery, they will inevitably feel the separated from the superficial and unhealthily interdependent world.
Working towards a passion of yours on your own terms, be it writing a book or building a wood sculpture, your work is a manifestation of how strong your independent character is.
Most pursuits are lonely. Do you think the greatest writers in history were constantly socializing in the middle of their writing process? No, they weren't. They became self-reliant when they launched themselves into a passionate pursuit of what they love.
Capitalist society tries to eliminate this, they want us to work in a cube owned by a man who owns more than you or the next 20 generations of your family will ever own. Why do you want to be a part of such a system? A system that profits of the enslavement of your own mind.
You can be your own person by just pursuing what it is you want to do, your true passion.
Ralph Waldo Emerson has been a huge inspiration for me. His idea of self-reliance really and truly is the only philosophical concept that I actively strive towards day in and day out. Because I don't want to be the same. Sure, I may look the same as others, but my mind is what contains my truth.
Self-reliance has given me the confidence in myself to be proud of ignoring the trends, it’s restored my faith in my abilities to achieve what I want to achieve. I will create works of literature, books to inspire generations, and this confidence was installed into me by Emerson’s essay self-reliance because it finally helped me understand that originality and individualism in a person is always going to be superior to follow the masses.
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