4 Things Daters Can Learn from "Self-Reliance"

Way back in 1830, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote what is, essentially, a classic self-help book. Nearly two hundred years later, his words sound surprisingly fresh; his advice--about how and why to be our true selves--feels surprisingly modern. And he points out that once we're able to honor the unique thoughts and emotions that make each of who she is, we'll be stronger psychologically--and (bonus) we'll also become very attractive to other people.

Lovelies, lovelies:

2010! Here we come!

I know I should probably tell you about my New Year's Eve, and my New Year's Day; maybe later in the week.

For now, suffice it to say, that on January 1, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with a couple of friends ... and took a few risks, all of which worked out pretty well. (Well, MOST of them, anyway.)



I also went to a very groovy party in Red Hook yesterday--some war photographers hosted! and one of them told me about his time in Iraq. I did an all right job of being flirtatious; or, at least, I was friendly and garrulous to everyone. But there was a certain bearded dude in a plaid shirt who was kind of cute ... and I didn't have a good chance to talk to him. Maybe I wasn't focused enough on it.

Should I have forced myself to make it happen?


Today, what I'd like to discuss is what we daters can learn from Self-Reliance--the essay by American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.*

Please my smart and wonderful lovelies: Stick with me here! I know Emerson is a dead philosopher ... but Self-Reliance feels

surprisingly modern; surprisingly applicable to my dating life. He had

plenty of inspiring things to say about why and how we can be true to ourselves. And he points out that once we are--once we are able to stick to the unique thoughts, ideas and emotions that make each of us who she

is--we'll become much stronger, psychologically. We'll also become very attractive to other people.

So I'll briefly summarize a few of his key points, and make a few observations about how they might be useful to us dater-people.




Inside each of one of us, there are a host of unique thoughts, emotions, proclivities; these are the things that make us who we are; that make us unique. And yet it can be very difficult to even to "hear" these thoughts when we're not just more or less sitting around by ourselves--and nowadays, it can be hard even then, considering how we're bombarded with a constant

flow of advertising, entertainment, electronic communications, the sounds of other people's iPods, etc.

But Self-Reliance exhorts each one of us to pay more attention to our internal voices--to listen carefully for the ideas, intuitions and instincts that come naturally to us. Emerson says that the thoughts in one's head are more important than anything we might learn from poets, teachers, even philosophers (to say nothing of bloggers).

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind," he writes.


Emerson goes on to say that, tough as it can be to hear our own thoughts in solitude, it's even harder once we get out into the world, into the society of others. When we're with people, there is constant societal pressure to

conform--to go against our nature, against our selves--in all sorts of

ways in order to be "normal" or agreeable or


It can be hard to withstand all those

pressures--especially the ones so subtle or so much

related to accepted conventions that we don't even recognize them as

pressures. But Emerson says we must.

Why? Because by doing so--by holding on to our own ideas and convictions, and allowing them to guide our actions--we'll be stronger and more vital. As he puts it: "The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force," he writes.


If we can listen to our internal monologue, and act in ways that honor our ideas and instincts, we find our way to self-respect. To self-esteem! We start to worry not so much about whether WE will be pleasing to other people, but whether they will please us, or live up to our standards; whether they will be--like we have become--true originals who respect themselves, and show their true selves to the world.

As Emerson puts it: "A great man is coming to eat at my house. I do not wish to please him; I wish that he should wish to please me."

(You could kind of translate that as this: "I'm going out to dinner with a great man. I'm not interested in winning him over, or gaining his accetpance; I'm curious to see what he will do to gain MY respect.")


Emerson makes the case that people are attacted to the "magnetism that all orignal action exerts."

Now, of course, not ALL people are going to be attracted to or comfortable with every truly unique individual. But some people--the ones you are in sync with--are going to feel really attracted, much more than they would have been otherwise, if you let your inner light shine.

On that note: Emerson thinks we shouldn't bother with people who oppress us--who prevent us from being ourselves in some way. He writes that we should tell the people around us: "I must be myself. ... If you can love me for what I am, we shall be

the happier. ... I will not hide my tastes or aversions. ... If you are

noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself

by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth

with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own."

Kind of rock-star, right? Invigorating, isn't it?


Lovelies, I'm gonna leave you here for today. But I think you probably get where I'm going with this, right?


PS: I'd love it if you feel like becoming a fan on Facebook.

*Which is one of the first things I read, thanks to New Year's Resolution #3b.