How to Live True to Yourself | Motivational Podcast

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of wearable inspiration for a better world.

Today’s podcast is the first episode of what will be an ongoing series, where we share motivational works that have been adapted from classic books, essays, and speeches, in order to make them more inspirational and enjoyable to contemporary listeners like you.

Today’s reading has been edited and adapted from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous essay on self-reliance, first published in 1841….

The power that resides in you is new in nature, and no one but you knows what you can do, nor will you know until you have tried. Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place that divine providence has found for you in the society of your contemporaries.

Great men and women have always done so, devoting themselves childlike to the genius of their age, with all of their being. Like those who have come before us, we must accept with highest mind our transcendent destiny; and behave not like cowards fleeing before a revolution, but like fearless guides helping others advance through the Chaos and the Dark.

There are brilliant, formidable, playful, and eloquent voices which we hear in solitude while young, but they grow faint and inaudible as we grow older and enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the self-reliance of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree to surrender their liberty, so that the shareholders might enjoy the illusion of greater security. The virtue that society demands most is conformity. Self-reliance is its enemy. Society loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man or woman must be a nonconformist. Whosoever seeks after the creative life of the spirit must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore whether it BE goodness. Good and bad are but names very readily given to this or that. The only right is that which follows your inner spirit and guiding light. The only wrong is that which dims this divine light.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve yourself to yourself, and you shall unlock the door to your destiny.

I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges, titles, and dead institutions. Every individual who society deems decent and well-spoken affects and sways me more than what is right. We ought to remain strong and vital, and speak the rude truth in every way.

Though we may come off occasionally as impolite or graceless, the truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it—else it have none. Steel your courage. Be prepared to shun father and mother and wife and brother, when your genius calls you. Should they ask you why, simply reply, “Whim.” Let’s hope, of course, that it is somewhat better than a whim, but we cannot spend the day in explanation.

Do not feel compelled to explain to others why you seek out or why you exclude certain people from your circle of friends and confidants. Your life is for itself and not for a spectacle. But seek out a life that is of a humble strain, so that it is genuine and solid, rather than glittering and unsteady.

Your primary concern should be what you feel “called” to do, not what other people think. This rule is hard to keep, both in real life and in our intellectual life, yet it is what separates greatness from the commonplace. It’s especially hard because there will always be people who think they know what your duty is, better than you know it. It is easy within society to follow the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to follow our own; but great individuals are those who in the midst of the crowd remain true to their independence of thought.

When you feel tempted to conform to the crowd, remember that it scatters your force. It wastes your time and blurs the impression of your character. But do authentic and original work, and everyone shall know you. Stay true to your work, and you shall reinforce yourself against all the conformists who oppose you. And oppose you they will. For there is nothing the world likes more than to whip the nonconformist with its displeasure…..

Read The Entire Essay in Evergreen: 50 Inspirational Life Lessons

50 Inspirational Life Lessons