80 Self Reliance Quotes From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Transcendentalist Essay

Many of these Self Reliance quotes demonstrate the predominant elements of Transcendentalism: nonconformity, self-reliance, free thought, confidence, and the importance of nature.

Self Reliance, an essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1841, is about the importance of following one’s own thoughts and intuitions, instead of pursuing public norms.

Emerson, a transcendentalist poet, author, and philosopher uses several transcendentalist themes to urge his readers to follow their individual will, instead of conforming to social expectations.

Another theme that Emerson speaks about is “being misunderstood.”

This is aligned with several of the transcendentalist themes, such as free thought, confidence, and nonconformity.

The quotes about being misunderstood posit that it might not be a bad thing at all.

What does Emerson mean though when he speaks about this idea of self-reliance?

Keep reading through the list of Self Reliance quotes for a better understanding of the term, and learn how you can implement these transcendentalist themes in your daily life.

Don’t forget to also check out these Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes on living a great life.

If you love this quote collection, read out our most popular quote article about short inspirational quotes for daily motivation. 

If you need more inspirational quotes, check out our motivational quotes category page.

Self Reliance quotes about being misunderstood and non-conformity

1. “Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

2. “Misunderstood! It is a right fool’s word.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

3. “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

4. “To be great is to be misunderstood.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

5. “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

6. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

7. “Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

8. “For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

9. “The great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

10. “A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Self Reliance quotes about man and self

11. “Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

12. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

13. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

14. “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

15. “Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

16. “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

17. “Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

18. “Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

19. “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

20. “The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out, and we have become timorous desponding whimperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Short but wise Self Reliance quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essay

21. “Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

22. “My life is for itself and not for a spectacle.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

23. “If we live truly, we shall see truly.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

24. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

25. “Let us answer a book of ink with a book of flesh and blood.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

26. “What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within?” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

27. “Always do what you are afraid to do.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

28. “Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

29. “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

30. “With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Self Reliance quotes about education, intellect, and institutions

31. “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

32. “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

33. “I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

34. “As men’s prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

35. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divine.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

36. “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.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

37. “My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

38. “I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

39. “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.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

40. “The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Self Reliance quotes about being yourself and staying true to what is

41. “Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

42. “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

43. “It is easy to live for others, everybody does. I call on you to live for yourself.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

44. “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

45. “He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

46. “The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

47. “Insist on yourself; never imitate.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

48. “Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

49. “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.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

50. “But keep thy state; come not into their confusion.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Insightful Self Reliance Quotes By Ralph Waldo Emerson

51. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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52. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

53. “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

54. “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

55. “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

56. “The years teach much which the days never know.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

57. It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

58. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

59. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

60. “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Quotes about Self Reliance and Success

61. “Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

62. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

63. “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

64. “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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65. “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

66. “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

67. “Make the most of yourself… for that is all there is of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

68. “Self-trust is the first secret of success.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

69. “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

70. “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self Reliance Quotes To Overcome Hard Times

71. “Freedom comes from strength and self-reliance.” — Lisa Murkowski

72. “The basis of good manners is self-reliance.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

73. “Do we not realize that self respect comes with self reliance?” — Abdul Kalam

74. “Self-reliance conquers any difficulty.” — Harbhajan Singh Yogi

75. “Poverty breeds lack of self-reliance.” — Daniel De Leon

76. “Self-Reliance is a prerequisite to the complete freedom to act.” — Marion G. Romney

77. “The masses have no habit of self-reliance or original action.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

78. “Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom, and being one’s own person is its ultimate reward.” — Patricia Sampson

79. “There is an inverse relationship between reliance on the state and self-reliance.” — William F. Buckley, Jr

80. “The difficulties, hardships, and trials of life, the obstacles… are positive blessings. They knit the muscles more firmly, and teach self-reliance.” — William Matthews

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What did you learn from these Self Reliance quotes?

Emerson wrote dozens of essays, which were all published and conducted over 1,500 lectures across the United States.

He is seen as a champion of individualism and even called the “Father of Transcendentalism.”

What exactly does he mean by “self-reliance,” though?

As you might have surmised from these Self Reliance quotes, it is the concept that we can trust our conscience and maintain one’s personal integrity.

Emerson expresses how humans feel a need to follow the patterns set by others, and often go against what they believe in the face of social pressure.

He believed that human beings could realize almost anything (achieve any dream they set their minds to).

He also spoke about the human soul and the relationship that we have with nature.

Emerson once said, ”Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul.”

If you are looking for ways to feel a little more self-reliant, try spending at least 30 minutes outside, immersed in the nature that surrounds us.

You can go for a walk in the park, watch (or listen) to the birds, or sit on a beach if you are lucky!

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Self Reliance quotes and lines?

Let us know your favorite way to connect with nature in the comment section below!

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