How Is Non-Conformism Related to Bravery in Emerson's View of Self-Reliance: Essay

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Non-conformism represents a complicated concept that refers to an individual's refusal to accept the established beliefs, views, opinions, customs, or values. One of well-known non-conformists is Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an American philosopher and writer. He is characterized as a transcendentalist because of his views on society and individuals. He believes that all people are good in their nature, but the society they live in is highly corrupted. His focus on non-conformism allows him to promote the concept of self-reliance in order to persuade people of the need for relying on themselves. In his essay ‘Self-Reliance’, the author highlights the significant role of individualism, intuition, personal responsibility, and non-conformity in human development and personal growth (Emerson, 1983). He writes, “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness” (Emerson, 1983, p.263). Emerson states that for an individual, it is critical to understand his/her own duties and responsibilities in this society and avoid relying on the so-called ‘world's opinion’ because of the negative impact of social institutions on personal development. According to the American philosopher, “the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude” (Emerson, 1983, p.263). This is a brave man because he lacks fear of commitment of specific individual acts.

As a matter of fact, the values of self-reliance affect how people view the world today. It is clear that outside opinions are powerful because most people depend on society, its rules and norms. However, Emerson places emphasis on the fact that society has a strong impact on what individuals consider as values. Society makes everyone dependent on the established principles which lead to the ongoing removal of individual unique traits and qualities. This fact means that conformity is the final goal of social institutions which are designed to make society well-organized and properly planned. Non-conformists do not conform to society; therefore, they are unique, and their values reflect their own views, opinions, and beliefs. Thinking for yourself is an ability to become a non-conformist. Relying on what the media tells people is the sign of conformity supported by social institutions and the government.

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Furthermore, the role our government plays in caring for people today is linked to the establishment of certain social norms and rules which make it possible for all people to behave in the same way, to think in the same way, and to act in the same way. Our government does not support individualism in decision-making of people. Emerson's essay ‘Self-Reliance’ influences the minds of people who have a great desire to show their uniqueness in order to oppose the widely accepted social norms and rules. In Emerson's time, the government played a much smaller role in everyday life. People could trust their instincts because of the social context that was appropriate for their personal growth. “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius”, the author writes in his essay (Emerson, 1983, p.259). Emerson recommends to “speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost” (Emerson, 1983, p.259). Today's society provides massive opportunities for developing collective thinking due to the shared views on common issues. This fact means that self-reliance is an alien concept for many people living in modern society.

Taking into consideration the above-mentioned facts, it is possible to determine how to represent the idea of ‘bravery’ in order to prove that non-conformism is related to bravery of Emerson's view of self-reliance described in his eponymously-named essay. Any brave individual is the one who can rely solely on his/her own ideas, views, and beliefs to get ahead. There is a need for understanding how bravery influences individual decisions and actions which become unique as they mirror personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The brave individual can ask for help of others, if it is necessary for completion of the set goals. In this case, needing the help of others does not mean that the individual is not brave or not self-reliant. When decisions are positive, they benefit the brave individual and help him/her to achieve the goals which are essential for reaching full potential in life. Cowards fail to demonstrate self-trust and individualism in their daily activities because cowardice is not associated with self-reliance. Brave individuals can show how they think autonomously through the focus on their own instincts. They trust their natural instincts; therefore, they can resist the opinions and views which come from society. Bravery gives much confidence in using one's own beliefs, intuition, and rational decision-making to make difference in this world.

Thus, I note finally that self-reliance is a trait of any brave individual. There are other traits, such as self-trust and individualism that are closely related to bravery described in Emerson's essay. These traits help an individual to avoid the conformity imposed by society and social institutions. Hence, non-conformism is related to bravery of Emerson's view of self-reliance because those individuals who are ready to express their own opinions and views without consideration of the world's statements on these issues are non-conformists. They are brave because they ignore society. All in all, Emerson's essay is worth reading and analyzing to draw relevant conclusion on how to become brave and achieve success in the attainment of the set goals.


  1. Emerson, R. W. (1983). Self-Reliance. In J. Porte (Ed.) Essays & Lectures (pp. 259-282). Literary Classics of the United States.
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