Desiderata : Theme of Positivity and Belief in one’s own self

         Themes of Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

   • Theme of Positivity

     Positivity is the main theme of Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata”. Positivity is the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in life. The poem teaches us that we should cultivate a positive outlook on life and on the world in which we live. 

     One should be positive in every aspect of life – in chaos, in speech, in relationships, in career, in love, in sudden misfortune, in loneliness and in overall outlook towards oneself and the whole world. 

     Abraham Lincoln said that  ” most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

    It is all on you how you want to see the world. You want to criticise it for the cruelties the world possesses or you want to appreciate it for the beauty and joy that the world spreads. 

      There are lots of irritants, noise, violence and aggression in the world. The world is full of loud – mouthed, aggressive people. Then there are tricksters who are out to rob us of our hard earned – money. How should we then lead our life in this world ? 

    The poet gives us right counsel and that is to accept the world as it is,  with  both its joys and woes:

     “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,

         it is still a beautiful world.”

     Ehrmann says that it can be a beautiful world if your  mind perceives it to be so. What is important is to focus on the positive aspects and keep striving towards happiness. 

    We should focus on ourselves in order to improve ourselves. We should not sit in judgement over others and the world around us. We should not even judge ourselves. We should find an inner peace. This is possible if we are true to ourselves happy in the midst of all confusion and troubles. We should have love based focus both in our interactions with others and in our inner peace. 

     The poet motivates us to achieve inner peace and poise by saying that we should try to be friendly with others, be truthful and honest and be receptive even to the dull and the ignorant. 

    He further adds that we all face hardships in life. It is an inevitable part of our life but the poet motivates us to smile through the hardships and build ourselves in such a way that we become strong enough to deal with any misfortune and keep striving towards happiness. 

   • Theme of Belief in one’s own self 

          Throughout the poem “Desiderata”, stress is laid upon the acceptance of one’s own self for what he is. One should have belief in oneself.  Believing that everything happens for a reason and  “universe is unfolding as it should”  renders an optimistic outlook towards life and keeps one away from stress. Also what is important is to feel peace within one’s soul even if one has to work hard for one’s aspirations  “in the noisy confusion of life”.

     Once you start believing in yourself and learn to appreciate your own self and be gentle to yourself, the world would become a much easier place to live in. 

       The poet further says – 

    ” If you compare yourself with others,

       you may become vain or bitter

      for always there will be greater and lesser persons           than yourself.

     Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.”

     Here Ehrmann asks the readers not to compare themselves with others. He says that we must be content with what we are and we must not measure our worth on the basis of someone else’s terms. There will always be people who are smarter than you, successful than you. But there will also people who are less successful than you. One must stop paying attention to other’s business and focus on your inner self and aim to fulfil your plans and dreams.

     Once we start believing in ourselves, we will be able to understand that the universe unfolds in its own way.

      Positivity is within oneself, and what matters is how a person shapes his life. By comparing oneself with others one can turn bitter but by just enjoying one’s own achievements, one can be happy and satisfied. Thus to live life with positivity we should be true to ourselves, should not compare ourselves with others, should not feign love or affection, should be humble, should give way to dark and dismal  thoughts and should always strive to be happy.

     This way the poet asks us to accept ourselves for the kind of person we are and try to improve ourselves without imitating or pretending to be someone else. 

     “Be yourself,

      Especially do not feign affection.

     Neither be cynical about love:”

   The poet urges the readers to maintain mental, emotional and spiritual peace and not to make a pretence of love and affection. Hence he says – 

   “Therefore, be at peace with God ,

    whatever you conceive Him to be.

   And whatever your labours and aspirations, 

   in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.”


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