Wise Words – Emerson on Being the Ultimate Source of Your Own Happiness

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”               

Ralph Waldo Emerson


We often look to outer circumstances for comfort or validation. We compare ourselves to others to see how smart we are or if we have the right opinions. It is an awesome kind of responsibility to see ourselves as the ultimate source of our own happiness.

This is understandable. We are socialized by family and culture to conform to social norms. There is value in following the rules of society and in the nourishing bonds of our close relationships. The problem arises when our inner authority comes into conflict with the outer authorities we look to for guidance.

Emerson would say we must be the final arbiter of our actions and our inner attitude.  We cannot find peace if we follow outer guidance that does not ring true in our own souls. 

The conflict may be inner versus outer, or it may be inner versus inner.  When we are confronted with information that challenges our views or our self-image, the conflict is solely internal but no less uncomfortable.  Our own rigid thinking can constrict the soul as much as the rigid views of others.  In this conflict, too, I think Emerson would urge us to listen for the bell that rings true in ourselves.

A modern philosopher said much the same thing.  In the words of Bob Marley:

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.

Photo by Simon Lee on Unsplash

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