Believing in Oneself to Overcome Obstacles in Self-Reliance in Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Sometimes in life we have obstacles get in our way, but when these obstacles do get in our way, we just have to overcome them. We have to decide to not give up but to rise above them. “If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said these words, because he knew that to get anywhere in life you need to step up for yourself to overcome the trials and hardships in your life. Self-Reliance written by Emerson is all about believing in yourself to overcome obstacles.

He believed that self-reliance -the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency and to follow his or hers own instincts and ideas-was one of the only ways to overcome anything. One of his sayings was “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron sting.” This explains the need for self-reliance in everybody. Our hearts need it, and it needs us to feel good with ourselves and to believe in it.

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Not many can actually do it, can overcome the obstacles in their way, but two people did. Liz Murray and Sherman Alexie did what most people would think is impossible, they are living examples of “Self-Reliance.”

Liz Murray knew what it meant to overcome obstacles through self-reliance. The movie, Homeless to Harvard, which documents her life, showed us how hard her life was and how she never felt sorry for herself. Being the younger of two children and parents who were hardcore drug addicts, she never relied on her parents or older sister to bring her food or her parents to tuck her into bed at night.

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She was the one who tucked her parents in, she was the one to try and earn money for her parents. After her mother died and her dad left: she knew she had to do something with her life. So she applied to go to school and tried to start her life, as she herself said: “My mother was dying. My father was gone. But I had to believe that their road would rise up to meet me.” She did, she went to high school and finished four years of high school in two, and she then got herself a scholarship and ended up going to Harvard and working for the New York Times.

She knew that she had to rise above those obstacles; she believed she could do it by herself and she did. “I knew at that moment I had to make a choice. I could submit to everything that was happening and live a life of excuses… or I could push myself. I could push myself and make my life good.” She showed us what Emerson meant by believing in yourself, not conforming to the worlds expectations being self-reliant and overcoming the trials in your way. As Emerson himself said, “I must be myself. I will not hide my tastes and aversions.” Liz Murray didn’t let peoples opinions of her stop her, she didn’t hide that she had a hard life.

There are many other people that demonstrated self-reliance, but there is one man that has shown self-reliance in a great way. “I refused to fail.” Sherman Alexie stated in his essay “Superman and Me”. His story, very similar to Liz Murrays, is a hard one. He was an Indian boy expected to fail, expected to stay quiet and to be obedient. His father was already denying the restrictions that the world had put on his race, he read books like there was no tomorrow and was smart because of it. Sherman took a step farther: he went to a white school, where the kids had set up barriers that they didn’t want him to cross over. But He did, and not just a little bit, he went above and beyond. He became a very successful writer and decided to help those people that people set up barriers for. “A smart Indian is a dangerous person, widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike.” He knew that he had to overcome everybody else, to overcome all the words they said to him. As Emerson said you need to be self-reliant to overcome those obstacles. Sherman did. He believed in himself, he was self-reliant, he trusted himself that he could do what most people would scoff at.

It is hard for anyone to say that they are self-reliant. If you say that, then people would think that you’re arrogant or prideful. However, we need to know that we can overcome obstacles any time they arise. I have overcome many obstacles in my life: my breathing issues, family issues, my school bullies, and my low grades in junior high. Fortunately I had God to bring through those obstacles, they had stopped me from reaching my goals in life for a little but I overcame them. So I would say that I am pretty self-reliant, just maybe not as much as Liz Murray or Sherman Alexie. I am, however, not letting the world make my decisions on how I act or what I say, as Emerson said, “What I must do, is all that concerns me, not what the people think.” I believe that we shouldn’t conform to the world’s choices; we should make our own decisions.

These people are examples for everyone, not just the homeless or the darker skinned people. We all need to know that in order to do anything in your life you need to be selfreliant. You need to believe that you can do it. Then once you’ve achieved that, you can do anything you want. Emerson, Liz Murray, and Sherman Alexie knew that people would be watching their every move once they achieved their goals, but that didn’t frighten them, they just took that as another challenge that they have to overcome. So don’t let the world define who you are or what you do, you define who you are and what you do. In order to do that, you just need to believe in yourself.

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Believing in Oneself to Overcome Obstacles in Self-Reliance in Ralph Waldo Emerson. (2022, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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