Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, Self-Reliance, is a writing piece about his resentment of man’s conformity to social trends and expectations. Emerson’s core ideology of self-identity revolves around the quote, “what I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think.” Essentially, Emerson illustrates the importance of how an individual’s self-value corresponds to their own honest decisions that define them.
As an adolescent in high school, I am having a difficult time choosing which career path to pursue, specifically between either business or medicine. My parents are encouraging me to enter the medical field due to its high demand in correlation to its advances in technology, but my interest is relative to mathematics and negotiation/communication. Although my passion is the ultimate goal to make a considerable amount of money and to essentially be happy in my occupation, I am in agreement with Emerson about how this decision is only in relevance to my own self-purpose. I must not take into account the perceptions of others, but to look into my own heart and connect with God in order to understand my destiny.
Likewise, Emerson remarks on how people are misconceived to come into awareness of how occupations define a person rather than a person defining their occupation. As a result, it is hard to detect the character of an individual without being lost in the fog of irrelevant ideas that surround them. In response, it is important to notice the fine line between associating oneself with a system in comparison to being in control of the system through oneself. Meaning, man effectively represents the purpose of humanity by separating himself from against any pledges to society that he has made in order to revive his independence.
Moreover, Emerson perceives on how effortless it is to disregard personal independence by simply conforming to the motions of society. It is important for everyone to understand that there will always be people who will believe that their opinions in another person’s duties hold to be their ultimate function in life. If those notions are carelessly accepted without deliberate contemplation or confrontation, a person will be stripped from their individualism. In addition, that person would not deserve their distinctiveness because they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they had it. Fundamentally, it becomes the responsibility of an individual to put their faith into their own hands, and to build their own fate.
Furthermore, how unique would society be if every individual conformed to the one next to them? The fact that there are modern inspirational figures, such as Mark Zuckerberg, and historical ones, including Thomas Edison, demonstrates how indifference toward the world’s expectations of them benefits humanity itself in the long-run. These aforementioned individuals in essence signify how to “march to the beat of a different drummer.” Without Edison, we wouldn’t have had the application of electricity applied into a light bulb and without Zuckerberg, none of us would be able to waste incredible amounts of time on our phones for communication conveniences to fulfill our shallow happiness.
Ultimately, one must pursue their aspirations in order to create meaning within their lives. The man who makes a difference within themselves and in society is an unreasonable one.