To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, philosopher, and poet whose writings and teachings were responsible for the growth of metaphysical beliefs of the 19th century United States. For those who are unaware, Emerson was strongly influenced by the Vedas.
To me, Ralph Waldo Emerson has always been an absolute favourite. His ideas, like Mark Twain, never fail to trigger a sweeping thought process.
In the above quote, Emerson appears to be strongly campaigning for individuality. But, there is a hidden warning in what he says: the world, the people around you, will always curb individuality. To be able to express who you really are, you need courage and determination. Emerson knew that the society is structured to discourage individual expression and promote a herd mentality. It’s easier for those in power to influence people who think like a herd, where individual opinions don’t exist.
Emerson accords a high status to those who manage to retain their uniqueness and their individualism in this world. He goes on to state that if you can manage to maintain your distinctiveness, then that is the greatest accomplishment.
His idea is easy to verify if we look at the greatest individuals to have walked upon this planet. Almost all of them have, to use the words of Einstein, encountered violent opposition to their ideas. But they persisted. Most people who are venerated and revered as great today, were ridiculed and persecuted in their days. They remained authentic to themselves. And that is what made them great.
Emerson is egging us to be daring and original because that is the greatest accomplishment.