What Is Self-Reliance?

02 May 2024
10 min read
Self-Reliance: How to Be in Charge of Yourself?

In 1841, the Transcendentalism movement co-founder Ralph Waldo Emerson published an essay that defined self-reliance as a sense of independence. When people are independent, they take care of their needs, rely on their own abilities, go after their goals, solve their own problems, and are more productive members of society. Philosophers like Henry David Thoreau supported this view.

Evidently, this definition has stuck. Let’s see what self-reliance means in today’s society, how it helps build social interactions, and how you can reach it.

5 Characteristics of Self-Reliance in a Modern World

Self-reliance is reliance on one’s efforts, skills, and talents.

Merriam-Webster dictionary

Even though we cannot measure self-reliance, we feel its value and potential to bring us success and happiness compared to our environment. We feel its importance, and when share our perspective with others, we feel they understand us. So what is the definition of self-reliance today? Well, most likely, it means the complex of these 5 things.

1. Independent Thinking

Independence is frequently a synonym for “going against the crowd.” For example, unlike a common life strategy, you decide to quit your job and go back to school to seek new skills. If you choose to move from the suburbs where your significant others live and relocate to the city, along with its different lifestyle, you may have also engaged in your own thinking and subsequent action.

Thinking independently and acting on that takes courage, especially when those in your “community” have a tough time accepting your choices.

Related reading: Do’s and Don’ts on Becoming a Happy Person

2. Self-Motivation

People relying on circumstances to motivate them are vulnerable to other people’s beliefs, values, and pressures. In contrast, self-reliance means that a person has a sense of what they need to do, has an internal grit and the energy to get going, and lives their life inspired to seek new challenges.

3. Self-Efficacy

Basically, self-efficacy is belief in oneself and confidence in one’s internal skills to accomplish goals and access needed outside resources. It’s an important element of self-reliance that gives them a feeling they control their fate and that no one else or any other circumstances bear accountability for what happens to them.

4. Direction

People with self-direction know they are in charge of their progress toward any goal they set. Being a part of maturity development, this trait dictates there is no need for someone else to monitor their progress. Prior to adulthood, there are parents, teachers, and other significant adults who guide and monitor that development.

5. Instrumentation

Instrumentation relates to the tools, from money to friendships, that help achieve all that someone wishes to accomplish. Some of those are within (previous traits), and some will be from without – that’s why self-reliance includes an ability to ask for help timely. The latter does not mean the person is not self-reliant; it means they recognize their current limitations and will do what they need to overcome them.

5 steps towards self-reliance

5 Steps to Develop Self-Reliance

As children, we all are dependent on caregivers for preservation. Back then, we have zero self-reliance and are not capable of dealing with basic needs or solving problems. Then, we develop curiosity about the world and start to explore, striving to make sense of all that is around us. This is how we steadily develop self-reliance.

But some of us don’t become self-reliant because our primary caregivers didn’t let us do so. If that’s your case, check out these efforts worth taking to encourage self-reliance development in yourself.

1. Solve Problems Yourself

Things like shape boxes and simple puzzles allow toddlers to figure things out on their own. Simple puzzles do the same. Adult life is nothing new than solving puzzles – they just look more serious these days.

Remember: the first step is the hardest one, and giving up when things get tough shows a lack of inner direction. Don’t shy away from getting extra help when facing a tough task, but complete it yourself.

2. Schedule Tasks

It’s good if you have experience scheduling things as a child. It’s not about something big and important – your tasks may have included cleaning the room, feeding the dog, taking out the trash, doing homework, visiting extra classes, etc. But if you have this experience, you may have less time management problem as an adult.

If you’re not used to scheduling tasks, you should try now. In the beginning, your goal is to understand the meaning and purpose of a work schedule so that you can complete what is expected of you. Ultimately, you’ll learn to follow that schedule intuitively.

Related reading: Quality Time – It’s a Love Language

3. Conduct Your Own Thinking

Thinking for yourself is among the key concepts of self-reliance. If you were not given options to weigh and make your own choices as a child, you should work on them now.

It’s in your current power to assume accountability for your choices without rescue. One of the worst things parents can do is “rescue” kids from the poor choices they make. This is what makes you remain dependent, but being curious about trying things your way can make you more independent.

4. Build a Social Circle

Self-reliant people are moved out into a community. Yet learning the give-and-take of friendships cannot be taught – if your network of social bonds is weak, you should go and experience this for yourself. And your learning process will inevitably go through a system of trial and error.

Again, you learn from your mistakes and, ultimately, become confident about good friendships to choose wisely. This is a key skill in any adult community—the neighborhood, the social groups, and the workplace community, too.

5. Ask for Help

When a person’s own resources are not enough to achieve something, they accept their limitations and learn to look within their community for help. There is nothing wrong with this, and it should not be seen as a lack of efficacy. This is finding the right balance between self-reliance and knowing one’s limitations.

You should do everything on your own; it’s worth doing so only with things that you’re confident are within your skills and abilities.

How to become a self-reliant version of yourself

6 Practical Tips to Nurture Self-Reliance in Yourself

If, after reading what has come before, you believe that you may not be as reliant upon yourself as you should be, it’s time to commit to personal development in that direction. In this section, I’ve combined Registered Clinical Counselor Pareen Sehat’s strategies with my own experience of nurturing healthy individualism in myself.

1. Identify Your Uniqueness and Source of Internal Motivation

It all starts simple. Just sit for a while and identify your strengths, skills, weaknesses, values, and genuine interests. You can take quizzes or do some spiritual practices – and at this stage, your goal is to get to know yourself intimately to set goals that fit your nature.

Pay special attention to things that energize and challenge you most. This will help you choose what you want to do and how you want to build relationships.

Related reading: How to Become the Most Authentic Version of You

2. Work on Self-Efficacy

You don’t need big accomplishments at this point. Start your journey by setting small goals, going after them, and achieving success. As you do this, you will gradually set tougher goals.

If you want to pursue a career in teaching but are not qualified yet, set a goal to take a few related college courses, complete them successfully, and then enroll in a community college program. Then, you can attend a four-year university to get the degree and certification you need.

Ultimately, each small success exemplifies what you can do on your own.

3. Start Making Your Own Decisions

Again, start small with nurturing personal responsibility:

  • Make your own plan for this Saturday and collect the inner strength to stick to it
  • Wake up and promise yourself you won’t listen to others telling you what to do
  • Experience the freedom of making your own choices for the whole day

If you make such days routine, you’ll learn to be reliant on yourself. Once you have determined to make your own decisions, you can make choices that will eventually take you in the direction you want to go and make your place in any community relevant.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

4. Embrace Your Uniqueness

People-pleasing (or conformity for the sake of acceptance) is a killer. You become “one of the crowd,” constantly seeking approval. This diminishes the meaning of who you really are.

To start living a new life, get physically away from your community and institutions:

  1. Take a solo vacation to a place of peace and solitude
  2. Let yourself dream about the meaning of your life
  3. Take some time to clarify where you want to be and what you want to be doing
  4. Return to your community once you’re determined not to do and be what they expect you to.

You may lose some friends in the process. But in return, you will develop and embrace growth and change and create your own universe based on your insights and your ideal existence.

5. Grow Your Resilience

Some parents rush to help and rescue their kids whenever something tough happens. As a result, such kids are not self-reliant and lack the necessary skills to survive in their community. If no one is there to help, as expected, such people fold. They lose all faith in their competence and just let others lead them.

If you’ve recognized yourself in my story and have been feeling like quitting for decades, take all the previous steps to summon up your inner grit and push forward. If you fail, hear yourself say that failures provide learning.

Make your new mantra, “I think I can,” and take this next strategy to heart. Expect to achieve.

6. Ask for Help to Balance

Did you know that your community is your powerful resource for reaching your goals? Don’t neglect it, yet don’t expect anyone from this community to lead your way and save you from yourself. Knowing when and how to ask for help is one of the key elements to measuring self-reliance.

Part of self-efficacy is the ability to see your toolbox is not full, recognize your limitations, and ask for help. But remember, there is a difference between clinging to the hope that someone in your community will come in and rescue you and someone providing some resources, advice, encouragement, and support.

Can We Measure Self-Reliance?

Self-reliance is considered one of the key factors of success for several reasons outlined above. Ideally, the development of self-reliance begins in early childhood and should continue into and through adulthood. But in reality, it’s our task as adults to measure self-reliance elements in ourselves and take the necessary steps to stop being helpless and begin to lead.

For your convenience, we’ve shown the exact traits of someone in charge and responsible for their path. Our goal was to let you stop being afraid to chart his own path, establish your goals, represent yourself to others as in charge, and ask for advice and guidance when necessary.

Given these factors, where do you stand? Maybe your self-reliant development could use a boost. Just say the word to yourself and get going. Be your own master!

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!

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