Observations and Musings

Self-Awareness, Self-Reliance and Non-Comformity

Today is one of those days in San Francisco when it’s bright, warm, sunny, with just the hint of a gentle breeze. On such days, you cannot help but be grateful, when you try and savor every moment, when time itself seems to move slowly, enjoying the bounty of nature.

It is on such a day that I came across this essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, titled “Self – Reliance“.

An excerpt – “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide, that he must take himself for the better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none.

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

And a bit later “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best, but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance that does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.”

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The essay is a reflection on how so many of us are merely conforming to what we think we “should” do, vs trying to understand what is it that we are uniquely suited to do. Instead of spending our lives doing things that people around us expect us to do, really trying to become aware of “what is it that I want to do?” And then after years of “conforming”, we complain when we are not happy, surprised at the outcome.

We will be happy not when we are doing what others expect us to do, but when we are doing what we are uniquely suited to do – nothing more and nothing less. It is better to do what is in tune with our inner self, even if we are not very good at it at first, vs do something else, if we want to optimize for long term happiness and peace.

How do you become self-aware? How do you become more in tune with yourself? How do you make sure that your inner voice is not drowned out by everything else around you? How do you learn to pay attention to the voice inside you, give it the respect and attention that it deserves? I do not know the answer to this. After years of being alive, I do not think I’m very self-aware. Perhaps just paying attention and writing down your thoughts is one place to start.

I’m not sure how to end this post except to say that investing in being self-aware is perhaps one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself. Become your own person, with a clear understanding of what gets you going and what doesn’t. This understanding will act as a guidepost, always telling you whether you’re going in the right or wrong direction. And you’ll be happier for it in the long run.

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