Ralph Waldo Emerson made a profound statement on individuality with his quote, “Envy is ignorance, Imitation is suicide.”
When you want to have what other people have, or wish to be like other people, you lose the bits of yourself that make you, you.
But what about the parts of you that you would like to improve, and the qualities of other people you admire? What’s wrong with having a road map or role model?
Nothing is wrong with working on yourself. In fact, the idea of being yourself sort of implies that you’re A-Ok with who you are. What about when we’re not our best?
To Be Yourself Requires Self-Acceptance
Although Emerson lived according to his principles for much of his life, it’s still important to recognize he was a philosopher.
Philosophies are basically opinions about how things work. And should work. They are belief systems, even when they promote free thinking and individuality.
Theirs a little disconnect if you follow along with philosophies about self-reliance or non-conformist thought–it’s the part where you are following along.
Like when we’re granting ourselves permission to be ourselves (or to take our time, or to own our truth, plus all the other self-supporting actions we value at this site), we’re staking a claim in a belief system. We’re operating as part of a society.
So can you live a principled life without giving in to, or treading on, the wills of others?
Sure you can. This happens you accept yourself wholly, you are able to do the same of others. Accepting others wholly leads to a heightened sense of compassion.
Emerson wrote about all this in his essays on self-reliance.* Self-reliance leaves more room for actions that are not selfish, but selfless. Or, as my gramps used to say, “it’s no skin off my nose.” Gramps was just as right as Ralph Waldo was, don’t you think?
Being your true self is the same as being your best self.
When you’re feeling judgy, or jealous, or petty, or negative in anyway, if you stop and question yourself deeply, looking for self-acceptance, you’re likely to disapprove of that behavior.
You’re likely to know better. And so you will move on from what doesn’t suit you.
Not just because society says so, or because someone raised you with a certain set of morals, either. You won’t want to feel negative, simply because it feels bad. It’s good to know that being a jerk is self-correcting, if we hold ourselves accountable.
The thing is, we probably don’t stop and examine our thoughts and actions in the moment as much as we could benefit from.
If we did, we’d see that our judgments, complaints and criticisms were not really coming from our Selves.
Instead, they’re dependent on others: what others think, say, or react to. In the worst cases we see dogma leading to hate and crime. But in our daily lives, it’s often most evident in our self-criticisms.
If only we accepted ourselves more, and treated ourselves with more respect. We would surely work on being present and aware. We would live more authentically.
Yes, that can happen. Just like Emerson suggested. No need to imitate others or envy what they have become.
You can be yourself — and we’ll trust that when you are, you’re not being a big jerk.
*affiliate link: I recommend this book! And if you buy it from my link, I get a small commission...so thank you! ~Faith