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Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate: Emerson On Self-Reliance

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“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate: Ralph Waldo Emerson On Self-Reliance - A Collage of RWE Portraits

Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate: Ralph Waldo Emerson On Self-Reliance – A Collage of RWE Portraits

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. 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.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you? Have you read Self-RelianceRalph Waldo Emerson – (1803-1882) was a U.S. philosopher, poet, and essayist whose treatise on – Self-Reliance – offers the quote above and a lot more. Known as an outspoken leader of the mid-19th century Transcendentalist movement, Emerson was a fierce champion of individualism and was respected for his philosophical essays and critical writings on what he called “The countervailing pressures of society.”  The quote above, “Insist on yourself; never imitate…”  is one of my all time favorite quotes and one you see on the first page of this blog. To appreciate the beauty and powerful insights of Emerson’s essay, you will need to take some time to read it. There are many pithy nuggets of wisdom in Self Reliance; a 58 page discourse on what it means to develop self-reliance and trust, in our own abilities and skills, in a pressure driven world.

I remember reading Emerson’s essay back in High School, and marveling at his brilliant meanderings through philosophical social, spiritual, individual, economic and moral assertions, while exhorting us to trust ourselves, honor our humanity and divinity, and banish our desire for imitation. Imitation was anathema to Emerson and he considered it a form of creative and character suicide.  Can we learn from each other without becoming clones of the people we revere? Sure.  True growth comes from taking the best from what we’ve learned and carving out our own path.  Only puppets should repeat everything they are taught/told verbatim.  Self Reliance  nudges us to dig deep for the brilliance that is in each of us … and let our light be brilliant too. The language might strike you as somewhat archaic but, trust me, the message is vital, timely and as current as can be.  I promise that reading it would give you much to reflect on about your life, attitude and expectations. I turn to it because it is a terrific reminder that fulfilling our own destiny demands that we stay true to who we are, and nurture our talents and skills to the best of our ability. It is, in simple terms, a call to DO YOU!

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” Ralph Waldo Emerson on Self-Reliance

Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate: Ralph Waldo Emerson On Self-Reliance - A Collage of RWE Portraits

Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate: Ralph Waldo Emerson On Self-Reliance – A Collage of RWE Portraits

“Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Do you TRUST yourself and your own gifts and skills? To develop self-reliance, we must learn to trust ourselves and our own instincts. Many of us go through life trying to be like someone else or trying to imitate someone we admire. It is fine to admire great people but, you must stay true to your own inner impulses and develop your talents instead of copying everyone and everything that flashes in front of you. Some of us are afraid of our own voice so we become great imitators of others. Why? Because we are afraid to speak our own truth for fear of public criticism or derision. Some of us would rather regurgitate what brings in XY instead of following what truly calls our heart.  We are all familiar with the saying: “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” However, don’t let it become a crutch that stands in the way of your own creative voice and actions.  I would say, imitation is flattery up to a point, then you must find yourself and your own path. Where are you falling short on the above dictum?  How can we learn to stay on course even in the face of misunderstanding? Read Self-Reliance and contemplate what stands in your way…. Fear is a big one but, we can work to overcome it. What else?

More Below!

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” Ralph Waldo Emerson on Self Reliance

Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate: Ralph Waldo Emerson On Self-Reliance - A Collage of RWE Portraits

Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate: Ralph Waldo Emerson On Self-Reliance – A Collage of RWE Portraits

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

How do you know when you are on the right track? In addition to the daily demands we experience  in the world, we are constantly faced with the expectations others have of us and our choices.  As much as we’d love to stay true to who we are and remain centered on our own passions, we get distracted by our fears, our petty jealousies/envy,  and our desires to be like X.  Remember what Emerson says about that?  “Envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.” Unless we have the understanding and peace within to stay focused on our own goals, to be present and work on our tasks, no matter how small, we will develop doubts and allow things to throw us off.  Make choices that resonate with your spirit and that allow you to share your interests and passions. To everyone, I’d say: Insist On Yourself; Never Imitate, Be at Peace with yourself … and let your spirit shine through. What are you so frightened of? Do you imagine your goals as originating from a place of peace within?  Stay true to YOU!

This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post:  Quote Me –  Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

Positive Motivation Tip: Follow your own pathway and develop a fearlessness that makes you proud. You are your own best work.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos, Portraits of RWE: RWEmerson1859RWEmerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson 1940 Issue-3c stamp, Ralph Waldo Emerson ca1857, Emerson3 cropped via Wikipedia

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

80 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    27/01/2016 2:56 pm

    As much as I like to be my own person, I feel that there is a TON to be learned by watching and learning from others. And isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

    • 27/01/2016 4:21 pm

      Sure, we can learn from each other but, we also need to find our own path and carve it out in our own special way. 🙂

  2. Chanelle permalink
    27/01/2016 3:09 pm

    My favorite quote is “when the winds of change blow, some build walls and others build windmills”. I even have a tattoo based on it! I try to be the kind of person who builds windmills.

    • 27/01/2016 4:14 pm

      Exactly. That is a great example on learning to dig deep for answers that work for us… instead of blowing witchever way the wind blows.

  3. Robin Masshole mommy permalink
    27/01/2016 3:41 pm

    I agree that we need to be self reliant. It makes sense.

  4. Amanda permalink
    27/01/2016 4:46 pm

    I love this Positive Motivation Tip! You are definitely a definition of your best work and how you present that does make a difference.

  5. travel blogger permalink
    27/01/2016 6:09 pm

    I really enjoyed reading Emerson in high school. Such thought provoking writing. It really makes you realize we need to be true to ourselves especially in a time when we are so obsessed about what everyone else is doing.

  6. Sherryl Wilson permalink
    27/01/2016 6:22 pm

    My favorite is: Lead, Follow or Get out of the way!

    You can teach me, learn from me but don’t stand in my way. Finding your own path can be tough but so worth it.

  7. Andrea permalink
    27/01/2016 6:33 pm

    “I gotta be me, I gotta be me” – well it’s the me that God creates me to be 🙂

  8. angie permalink
    27/01/2016 7:39 pm

    love history and thoughts about what we learned from history we must learn to be more self reliant because in the end who else besides God and ourselves can we depend on

  9. Amanda Love permalink
    27/01/2016 7:54 pm

    I’ve always love the quote that there is only one you so be the best you that you can be. No one can do you better than you.

  10. 27/01/2016 10:57 pm

    I’ve heard of him, great quotes, he must have been amazing.

  11. Ana De-Jesus permalink
    27/01/2016 11:32 pm

    I agree. There is so much we can learn from watching and learning from others.

  12. michelle permalink
    28/01/2016 12:20 am

    Ralph Waldo Emerson is such as fascinating person some of my favorite quotes come from him. my go to quote though is “if you can dream it you can do it” from walt disney

  13. Bhushavali permalink
    28/01/2016 2:11 am

    The word Self-Reliance means a lot to me as an Indian. The Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi taught us to be swadeshi (self-reliant) and said, that’s the only way to attain freedom!

  14. Fashionable Librarian permalink
    28/01/2016 2:13 am

    We need to learn to strike that balance. Be true to yourself but also know that there are things we can learn from others

  15. Nicole Herose Cochingco Escat permalink
    28/01/2016 3:18 am

    This is my Favorite Never Imitate, Be at Peace with yourself … and let your spirit shine through. What are you so frightened of? Do you imagine your goals as originating from a place of peace within

  16. Pal Raine permalink
    28/01/2016 3:29 am

    I have one favorite quotes that I keep on reading every time I feel down and weary….”I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart”. I forget whose the author of this, but this really helps me a lot in my journey as a single mom.

  17. jmanandmillerbug permalink
    28/01/2016 4:41 am

    My favorite quote is “If you must doubt, doubt your doubts and not your beliefs” I am not sure who said it, but I love it!

  18. Eugenia Nazarova (@NazarovaEugenia) permalink
    28/01/2016 5:00 am

    My favorite motivation quote is that “Impossible is nothing” by Adidas that constantly helps me! Love your post 🙂

  19. The Binder Ladies (@thebinderladies) permalink
    28/01/2016 5:54 am

    I absolutely LOVE Ralph Waldo Emerson! Thanks for sharing this!

  20. Eileen Mendoza Loya permalink
    28/01/2016 7:19 am

    I have a favorite passage from the book, “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” by Og Mandino. It goes, “I will persist until I succeed. Nor will I allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure. I will forget the happenings of the day that is gone, whether they were good or bad, and greet the new sun with confidence that this will be the best day of my life. So long as there is breath in me, that long will I persist. For now I know one of the greatest principles of success; if I persist long enough I will win. I will persist. I will win.” I read and re-read this passage every time I feel depressed and hopeless.

  21. Rosey permalink
    28/01/2016 7:42 am

    We do sometimes get distracted by stupid, stupid stuff. If you look back on some things and see how much focus you lost on something that was really very small in the large scheme of things, you really have to shake your head at yourself. Or at least, I do. 🙂

  22. Amber permalink
    28/01/2016 7:53 am

    I think as children we learn from imitation but as adults to grow we have to find what works for us as an individual. Develop our own interests and find ourselves through our own unique experiences. We each can experience something different no need to copy or imitate others. We should be proud of individual selves.

  23. tp keane permalink
    28/01/2016 9:29 am

    This is a great post. I think it can be used in almost all circumstances in life. As an author it’s a good mantra.

  24. Ayesha Heart (@iamayeshaheart) permalink
    28/01/2016 10:03 am

    You are right! We are the driver of our lives so we shall make it awesome.
    Great post!

  25. PJ Zafra permalink
    28/01/2016 11:13 am

    What a great post here. Nothing is better than being ourselves.We need to trust our voice, skills, beliefs and ourselves in general. That’s something we should never be ashamed of. After all, we’re all YOUnique. 😉 Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading your post.

  26. Maddie permalink
    28/01/2016 11:53 am

    I feel like I should be self reliant, but sometimes have trouble trusting in my own talents and skills.

  27. Christine - The Choosy Mommy permalink
    28/01/2016 12:42 pm

    I think this is why we study history…to learn from others and to not make the same mistake twice. Rarely does history repeat itself!

  28. Nova permalink
    28/01/2016 1:55 pm

    I didn’t know about this person until you wrote an article about him.

  29. royaltyinreality permalink
    28/01/2016 2:27 pm

    My favorite quote about self worth/love is “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”. If you don’t love yourself, who will?

  30. Liz Mays permalink
    28/01/2016 3:32 pm

    It’s really refreshing when you meet someone who is being their own person. It’s definitely something they have to work on!

  31. Cheryl F permalink
    28/01/2016 4:31 pm

    “If I have the belief that I can do something, I will surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Kept this in my profile for so long to always reminds me that not because you once fail for such thing means it’s not meant for you.

  32. angie permalink
    28/01/2016 4:40 pm

    I have always learned that the more we learn the better we are keeping our mind strong and alert is awesome

  33. MapleMouseMama permalink
    28/01/2016 5:18 pm

    I actually do have a quote that has been sort of like a mantra for me as of late, but it is actually working! That quote is from one of my favourite influencers, Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It’s positive and encouraging, which is just what I need.

  34. Angela at Daysinbed permalink
    28/01/2016 5:38 pm

    This was an interesting post. I do believe that we need to be self-reliant and this is something I am trying to do as a blogger.

  35. Kristie permalink
    28/01/2016 5:52 pm

    It is definitely a challenge to go with your gut instinct, rather than what others say is right or what rational thinking would have you to believe. But, usually that instinct is correct!

  36. Claire Algarme permalink
    28/01/2016 6:36 pm

    Believing in one’s self will also extend on others believing in you. I have seen how genuine self-confidence can attract people to admire you for who you are.

  37. Chubskulit Rose permalink
    28/01/2016 7:22 pm

    We can get inspired from other people but it is important that we be ourselves.

  38. Healthier Steps permalink
    28/01/2016 7:48 pm

    Although I need to have my individuality. I prefer to share my journey in this life with others. Sometimes that means relying on others to help me.

  39. RonRon permalink
    28/01/2016 8:20 pm

    Self reliance is a tough art to master, but not impossible at all!

    Agree with all the points in here!

  40. Carmela Pop permalink
    28/01/2016 8:30 pm

    Learning from, and imitating are two completely different things although some people like to mix them

  41. Lisa Scott permalink
    28/01/2016 9:08 pm

    I love this post. Being self reliant is one of the things in my life I have worked the hardest for and I am most proud of. You wrote a beautiful piece here.

  42. franckxethee permalink
    28/01/2016 9:49 pm

    I think one of the best things to learn is being self reliant. You get stronger and you get tougher.

  43. Anamika Ojha permalink
    28/01/2016 10:09 pm

    Loved your post! It’s nice to aspire someone but we have to be ourselves.

  44. tara pittman permalink
    28/01/2016 10:13 pm

    No favorite quotes here. My middle school was named after Emerson.

  45. Karen permalink
    28/01/2016 11:29 pm

    We are all uniquely beautiful so try not to look like the other.

  46. phyliciamarie permalink
    29/01/2016 1:24 am

    Imitation will only get you so far, it is our own individuality that we can always rely on in the end to further reach our dreams and goals. Sure it’s okay to learn from other like you said, but forging a path on your own makes you a better person, and a force to be reckon with.

  47. Sunshine Kelly permalink
    29/01/2016 2:44 am

    To be recognize one has be original and with substance. Imitation is not the way to sustain, however if others imitate us that confirmed that they look up or wanted to follow us.

  48. Jason Panuelos permalink
    29/01/2016 3:06 am

    We really have to celebrate our own individuality. I could never understand how other people could just conform to the expectations of others

  49. Kai | Lilpink permalink
    29/01/2016 3:59 am

    if we have the confidence and self-esteem, i think there is no need to imitate others. if people only believe in the capabilities of themselves, there would be no need to look at others and copy them.

  50. 조이 Czjai (@RebelSweetHrt) permalink
    29/01/2016 5:31 am

    I agree! One must strive to be the first-rate version of his/herself!

  51. Shub permalink
    29/01/2016 8:12 am

    Thought provoking. Though imitation is always never-genuine…I think, it is good to learn a few things from others and implement them 🙂

  52. Fashion Travels (@tauyanm) permalink
    29/01/2016 8:18 am

    i have so many quotes in my life, that quote that nothing can bring peace but yourself is a good one

  53. Susannah permalink
    29/01/2016 8:35 am

    Hm… I think there’s definitely a mixture in this! We need others to help shape and guide us and some imitation is good but ultimately we do need to be our own person.

  54. tinajohnson2 permalink
    29/01/2016 8:47 am

    I often talk to my daughters about this topic when I see them acting like their friends instead of being themselves. It’s a concept we need to address starting at a young age!

  55. NYG@NaughtyYogaGirl permalink
    29/01/2016 10:12 am

    Great post – I’m a sucker for quotes … although I have too many of them to choose a favorite. Bookmarked your site to go back to again. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  56. Melissa Bernardo permalink
    29/01/2016 10:46 am

    Lovely post! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  57. JessicaACassidy permalink
    29/01/2016 11:18 am

    Oh! Look at all these handsome men. I bet they all have individual and unique talents that separate them from others.

  58. Claudette Esterine permalink
    29/01/2016 2:09 pm

    This is not just my faovurite quote but has become the way I am “walking” through this life for years now:

    “To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
    To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.” – Bessie Stanley

    Often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, it is an adaptation of a poem published in 1905 by Bessie Stanley.

  59. Fred permalink
    29/01/2016 2:16 pm

    You may start by imitating your idols but eventually you should give it your own original touch or flair. This would make your product distinctly unique with your own trademark.

  60. Shaylee Field permalink
    29/01/2016 4:06 pm

    I absolutely agree with you that we need a good balance of self-reliance and help. We learn so much from others!

  61. top5life permalink
    30/01/2016 12:35 am

    What I feel, Self reliance makes an individual independent. It also imparts a unique individuality. It helps in shaping the personality as well.

  62. Ria Rosaura Romero permalink
    30/01/2016 1:34 am

    yes, we are the maker of our own destiny, our life depends on how we make of it

  63. nicol permalink
    30/01/2016 4:41 am

    some great quotes there! it took me a while to trust myself and i wish i did it earlier!

  64. Lisa Rios permalink
    30/01/2016 5:59 am

    I always love to be myself & never like to imitate anyone anytime. Everyone has a different life & all you can do is learn something out of it & live accordingly. Thanks for inspiring.

  65. Chanelle permalink
    30/01/2016 6:55 pm

    I have tried to instill in my children their unique gifts shine brightest when they choose to embrace who they are. It is an ongoing dialog in our home, but I am glad we are having it.

  66. Amy Jones permalink
    30/01/2016 7:01 pm

    I love that emerson quote that you shared! And agree with you, we need a balance in life

  67. The Perfect Storm (@perfectstormbff) permalink
    30/01/2016 10:00 pm

    I agree with Emerson. Too many times people get caught up in what theyre worth based on what they have instead of their real worth being in who they are as people. Inspiring

  68. thedealmatchmaker permalink
    30/01/2016 10:43 pm

    This is a terrific reminder. I agree that we need to be self reliant.. It’s very important.

  69. Kristie permalink
    31/01/2016 7:04 am

    Emerson’s quotes are great. I think the only way we can be successful and find happiness is to first believe in ourselves and have confidence. From there, we can build friendships and relationships that come from a stable and authentic place.

  70. patranila permalink
    31/01/2016 8:38 am

    None live in a vacuum and nothing is created in a vacuum. One of my favorite quotes is ‘no man is an island unto himself.’

  71. The Trophy WifeStyle permalink
    31/01/2016 2:26 pm

    Yes!!! Totally agree!!!! You have to follow what your own head and mind want. It’s the only way you will ever be happy dealing with anything in life 🙂

  72. Coralie permalink
    31/01/2016 3:18 pm

    It is always good to be self-reliant – but it is also important to always be learning and growing and seeing what others do that is successful to improve yourself.

  73. MommyPehpot permalink
    31/01/2016 6:22 pm

    My favorite quote which was shared to me by my mother is: The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.

    • MommyPehpot permalink
      31/01/2016 7:21 pm

      another fave quote of mine is this: The best and the most beautiful thing in the world cannot be seen or even touch.. it must be felt by the heart.

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