Self Reliance Quotes

If you're ready to man up and wear the pants in your life, these self reliance quotes will give you a shot of philosophical courage in the face of haters who mock your newfound non-conformity. Better yet, these self-reliance quotes come straight from America's most dogged defender of individualism himself, Ralph Waldo Emerson, author of the appropriately titled essay "Self Reliance."

  1. "To be great is to be misunderstood." Teenagers, EMO bands, punk-rock wannabes and sensitive poets everywhere have misunderstood this "Self Reliance" quote, flipping it around and adopting it as a mantra against any and all criticism, legitimate or not: To be misunderstood is to be great, they say, when you tell them their latest navel-gazing masterpiece makes no sense. That's too bad, because inspiration should lie in seeking greatness from within – the thing you "can do better than another," as Emerson wrote. "Do that thing at which you are great" and be your "best self'; the greatness – and being misunderstood – will follow.
  2. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do." You try to lose weight, but your friends order pizza and rib you for eating salad – and just to meet their expectations, you cave and chow down on pepperoni with extra cheese. If you want your hobgoblin to stay in charge, grab another pizza slice. If you want to be a great soul, heed this "Self Reliance" quote and defy expectations, no matter how much your friends tease you.
  3. "If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives already." You gave your buddy grief for "finding himself" while you sweated your dissertation, but now that you're out in the cold, harsh world, you realize your buddy was on to something: Self-reliance doesn’t come from a fancy degree; it comes from within. Bubbles have burst, banks have failed and you have to learn to fall on your feet, even if it means flipping burgers.
  4. "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles." If you count on your girlfriend, buddies or boss to make you happy, you are missing out on the deepest peace and happiness of all: the satisfaction of staying true to yourself. Heed this self reliance quote and quit depending on others to make your day.
  5. "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."  If you sweep your beliefs under the rug out of sheer fear, you will never achieve greatness, because as this quote from "Self Reliance" reminds you, greatness requires guts, not the other way around.
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