In "Self-Reliance," what are the barriers that prevent us from self-reliance according to Emerson.
The two great barriers to self-reliance, according to Emerson, are the chief evils of conformity and consistency. Emerson saw society as a massive barrier to individuals achieving self-reliance through the way that it encourages everybody to conform to the tenets of society, which Emerson argued prevented individuals becoming independent. Conformity meant ascribing to an ideal of community and togetherness that does not allow man to stand on his own two feet and, in Emerson's words, "Trust thyself." In addition, consistency is the other evil that prevents self-reliance, as the following quote explores:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.
Consistency is such a problem because people get stuck in a rut, Emerson argues, doing and thining the same things day in and day out, and this prevents them from being true to themselves in the same way that conformity does precisely because they are unable to break out of that rut and think alternative thoughts and do alternative things. Just after this quote, Emerson argues that people are consistent because they are afraid that if they suddenly think something else they will be misunderstood, yet Emerson says that "To be great is to be misunderstood," pointing towards the truth that greatness and genius are often not recognised as such by others. The two great barriers that Emerson identifies as stopping people from achieving self-reliance therefore are conformity, in the way that the majority of people get a job, settle down and pay their taxes, and consistency, which is shown through people following a very similar routine day in and day out, and thinking very similar thoughts, being afraid to embrace any difference.