In "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson , the author encourages people to be self-reliant in seeking their future, as the title suggests. Each person is distinct and individual and must follow his or her own individual steps. Specifically, the author urges people to listen to their inner self...
and follow their own path rather than the path they see others following or the path they believe society dictates for them. Do not look at others, according to the author, and think their path is the right one and so envy them. The wise man understands this, as Emerson writes:
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 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.
“[T]hat envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide” suggests that to follow another person’s—or society’s—path is suicide because it kills individuality and the reader’s ability to realize his or her own true realities. Moreover, to envy or imitate others is a sign of ignorance because the truly educated person recognizes that they will only be fulfilled if they follow their individual path. Each person has their own “new” and personal contribution to make. Emerson continues in that same paragraph:
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. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.
In writing, “The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray,” Emerson suggests that there is a reason that one person sees possibility in something, while another does not. In other words, one person sees the life of a city dweller and desires it, while another regards farm life as ideal. Emerson stresses that each person should be self-reliant. Each person should follow their own goals and realize their own individual strengths and not merely be social conformists.