Hold Up Your Head
From: How To Succeed
Thoroughly to believe in one's own self, so one's self were
thorough, were to do great things.
If there be a faith that can remove mountains, it is faith in
one's own power.
Let no one discourage self-reliance; it is, of all the rest,
the greatest quality of true manliness.
It needs a divine man to exhibit anything divine. * * * Trust
thyself; every breast vibrates to that iron string. Accept the
place that divine Providence has found for you, the society of
your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have
always done so. * * * Nothing is at last sacred but the
integrity of our own mind.
This above all,--to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
"Yes," said a half-drunken man in a cellar to a parish visitor, a young
girl, "I am a tough and a drunkard, and am just out of jail, and my wife
is starving; but that doesn't give you the right to come into my house
without knocking to ask questions."
Another zealous girl declared in a reform club in New York City that she
always went to visit the poor in her carriage, with the crest on the
door and liveried servants. "It gives me authority," she said. "They
listen to my words with more respect."
The Fraeulein Barbara, who founded the home for degraded and drunken
sailors in London, used other means to gain influence over them. "I
too," she would say, taking the poor applicant by the hand when he came
to her door, "I, too, as well as you, am one of those for whom Christ
died. We are brother and sister, and will help each other."
An English artist, engaged in painting a scene in the London slums,
applied to the Board of Guardians of the poor in Chelsea for leave to
sketch into it, as types of want and wretchedness, certain picturesque
paupers then in the almshouse. The board refused permission on the
ground that "a man does not cease to have self-respect and rights
because he is a pauper, and that his misfortunes should not be paraded
before the world."
The incident helps to throw light on the vexed problem of the
intercourse of the rich with the poor. Kind but thoughtless people, who
take up the work of "slumming," intent upon elevating and reforming the
needy classes, are apt to forget that these unfortunates have
self-respect and rights and sensitive feelings.
"But I am not derided," said Diogenes, when some one told him he was
derided. "Only those are ridiculed who feel the ridicule and are
discomposed by it."
Dr. Franklin used to say that if a man makes a sheep of himself the
wolves will eat him. Not less true is it that if a man is supposed to be
a sheep, wolves will very likely try to eat him.
"O God, assist our side," prayed the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, a general
in the Prussian service, before going into battle. "At least, avoid
assisting the enemy, and leave the result to me."
"If a man possesses the consciousness of what he is," said Schelling,
"he will soon also learn what he ought to be; let him have a theoretical
respect for himself, and a practical will soon follow." A person under
the firm persuasion that he can command resources virtually has them.
"Humility is the part of wisdom, and is most becoming in men," said
Kossuth; "but let no one discourage self-reliance; it is, of all the
rest, the greatest quality of true manliness." Froude wrote: "A tree
must be rooted in the soil before it can bear flowers or fruit. A man
must learn to stand upright upon his own feet, to respect himself, to be
independent of charity or accident. It is on this basis only that any
superstructure of intellectual cultivation worth having can possibly be
"I think he is a most extraordinary man," said John J. Ingalls,
speaking of Grover Cleveland. "While the Senate was in session to induct
Hendricks into office, I had an opportunity to study Cleveland, as he
sat there like a sphinx. He occupied a seat immediately in front of the
vice-president's stand, and from where I sat, I had an unobstructed view
"I wanted to fathom, if possible, what manner of a man it was who had
defeated us and taken the patronage of the government over to the
democracy. We had a new master, so to speak, and a democrat at that, and
I looked him over with a good deal of curiosity.
"There sat a man, the president of the United States, beginning his rule
over the destinies of sixty millions of people, who less than three
years before was an obscure lawyer, scarcely known outside of Erie
County, shut up in a dingy office over a livery stable. He had been
mayor of the city of Buffalo at a time when a crisis in its affairs
demanded a courageous head and a firm hand and he supplied them. The
little prestige thus gained made him the democratic nominee for
governor, and at a time (his luck still following him) when the
Republican party of the State was rent with dissensions. He was elected,
and (still more luck) by the unprecedented and unheard of majority of
nearly 200,000 votes. Two years later his party nominated him for
president and he was elected.
"There sat this man before me, wholly undisturbed by the pageantry of
the occasion, calmly waiting to perform his part in the drama, just as
an actor awaits his cue to appear on a stage. It was his first visit to
Washington. He had never before seen the Capitol and knew absolutely
nothing of the machinery of government. All was a mystery to him, but a
stranger not understanding the circumstances would have imagined that
the proceedings going on before him were a part of his daily life.
"The man positively did not move a limb, shut an eye or twitch a muscle
during the entire hour he sat in the Senate chamber. Nor did he betray
the faintest evidence of self-consciousness or emotion, and as I thought
of the dingy office over the livery stable but three years before he
struck me as a remarkable illustration of the possibilities of American
"But the most marvelous exhibition of the man's nerve and of the
absolute confidence he has in himself was yet to come. After the
proceedings in the Senate chamber Cleveland was conducted to the east
end of the Capitol to take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural
address. He wore a close buttoned Prince Albert coat, and between the
buttons he thrust his right hand, while his left he carried behind him.
In this position he stood until the applause which greeted him had
subsided, when he began his address.
"I looked for him to produce a manuscript, but he did not, and as he
progressed in clear and distinct tones, without hesitation, I was
amazed. With sixty millions of people, yes, with the entire civilized
world looking on, this man had the courage to deliver an inaugural
address making him President of the United States as coolly and as
unconcernedly as if he were addressing a ward meeting. It was the most
remarkable spectacle this or any other country has ever beheld."
Believe in yourself; you may succeed when others do not believe in you,
but never when you do not believe in yourself.
"Ah! John Hunter, still hard at work!" exclaimed a physician on finding
the old anatomist at the dissecting table. "Yes, doctor, and you'll find
it difficult to meet with another John Hunter when I am gone."
"Heaven takes a hundred years to form a great genius for the
regeneration of an empire and afterward rests a hundred years," said
Kaunitz, who had administered the affairs of his country with great
success for half a century. "This makes me tremble for the Austrian
monarchy after my death."
"Isn't it beautiful that I can sing so?" asked Jenny Lind, naively, of a
"My Lord," said William Pitt in 1757 to the Duke of Devonshire, "I am
sure that I can save this country and that nobody else can." He did
What seems to us disagreeable egotism in others is often but a strong
expression of confidence in their ability to attain. Great men have
usually had great confidence in themselves. Wordsworth felt sure of his
place in history and never hesitated to say so. Dante predicted his own
fame. Kepler said it did not matter whether his contemporaries read his
books or not. "I may well wait a century for a reader since God has
waited six thousand years for an observer like myself." "Fear not," said
Julius Caesar to his pilot frightened in a storm, "thou bearest Caesar and
his good fortunes."
When the Directory at Paris found that Napoleon had become in one month
the most famous man in Europe they determined to check his career, and
appointed Kellerman his associate in command. Napoleon promptly, but
respectfully, tendered his resignation, saying, "One bad general is
better than two good ones; war, like government, is mainly decided by
tact." This decision immediately brought the Directory to terms.
Emperor Francis was extremely anxious to prove the illustrious descent
of his prospective son-in-law. Napoleon refused to have the account
published, remarking, "I had rather be the descendant of an honest man
than of any petty tyrant of Italy. I wish my nobility to commence with
myself and derive all my titles from the French people. I am the Rudolph
of Hapsburg of my family. My patent of nobility dates from the battle of
When Napoleon was informed that the British Government had decreed that
he should be recognized only as general, he said, "They cannot prevent
me from being myself."
An Englishman asked Napoleon at Elba who was the greatest general of the
age, adding, "I think Wellington." To which the Emperor replied, "He has
not yet measured himself against me."
"Well matured and well disciplined talent is always sure of a market,"
said Washington Irving; "but it must not cower at home and expect to be
sought for. There is a good deal of cant, too, about the success of
forward and impudent men, while men of retiring worth are passed over
with neglect. But it usually happens that those forward men have that
valuable quality of promptness and activity, without which worth is a
mere inoperative property. A barking dog is often more useful than a
"Self-respect is the early form in which greatness appears."
"You may deceive all the people some of the time," said Lincoln, "some
of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time." We
cannot deceive ourselves any of the time, and the only way to enjoy our
own respect is to deserve it. What would you think of a man who would
neglect himself and treat his shadow with the greatest respect?
"Self-reliance is a grand element of character," says Michael Reynolds.
"It has won Olympic crowns and Isthmian laurels; it confers kinship with
men who have vindicated their divine right to be held in the world's
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