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Understanding & Developing Self Reliance

Self reliance is a strong belief that you are capable of successfully dealing with the challenges that life throws at you, and that you are able to take guidance from yourself rather than from other people or other things.

Put another way, self-reliance means having the ability and courage to listen to yourself, and act by yourself, rather than letting other people, things or events decide what you should do, be or have.

A self-reliant person therefore realizes and accepts that they are completely responsible for their life, and that if they want something done, then they must do it themselves.

When a person is able to listen to themselves and follow their own intuition, only then will they be able to trust themselves and steer their life in the direction they want it to go.

fish getting food

A self-reliant person doesn’t need anyone to provide for them.

If self-reliance means a strong belief in your own ability to achieve success and happiness in life, then dependency is an absence of such belief. A person who is dependant looks first to the people and things outside of them for guidance, rather than listening to and guiding themselves.

By doing so, a dependent person automatically gives control of their life to other people, things and events. As in the dependent person’s mind, these external influences are to a large degree responsible for what they think, say and do.

The result of this dependency is an absence of self-reliance, and therefore, an absence of any ability to solve and overcome problems by themselves.

The Dependent Mind

One of the most obvious signs of dependency can be seen in people who continually look up to others and see them as being superior and/or more powerful than they are. In some cases, this dependency can become so deeply ingrained within a personality, that all personal power is given up in favor of another person.

When this occurs, the dependent person will only feel secure by “clinging” on to that person. Seeing them as responsible for their happiness when things go well, and responsible for their failures when things go wrong.

holding onto foot

Clinging on to others provides one with a sense of security, but it does so at the expense of having others control the direction of your life.

Unfortunately, this puts the life of the dependant person at the mercy of those around them because they do not believe in their own ability to solve and overcome a problem, and so will always instinctively look for someone who can provide them with the answer or solution which they were looking for.

Perhaps you have seen this in other people, or yourself? Where a person automatically turns to look for someone to help them, rather than first trying to figure it out for themselves.

This is a classic sign of dependency, and typical of a person who is forfeiting their personal power in favor of the “superior” people whom they are dependent upon.

homeless girl

(the sign reads “anything helps”) Being dependent on someone else’s help automatically puts you in a lower position of power.

Getting help from other people is not necessarily a bad thing, as everyone needs a little help sometimes. The trouble is, some people become so dependant on receiving help from others, that they forget how to help themselves.

As a result of this dependency, the advice they get from others is often interpreted as a command, as something they must or must not do.

Unless this dependency is broken, the same pattern will continue throughout their entire life causing them to always seek and listen to others first, rather than listen to themselves.

In other words, the dependant person asks “Who can help me?” instead of first asking “How can I help myself?”.

The Strings of Dependency

Depending on advice from others is only part of the problem, the real danger lies in the type of advice that is given and your reaction to it.

Of course, there will be times when people are able to offer you helpful advice, but more often than not, people are so wrapped up in their own problems that they are unable to fully understand your unique situation.

person giving advice

Giving advice to others can make a person feel good and fill them with a sense of superiority. Unfortunately however, not all the advice that we receive is helpful or correct.

As a result of this lack of understanding, the advice you get may not always be relevant to your situation, or in some cases, may be totally incorrect. What do you think would happen if you lived your whole life listening to this kind of advice, rather than first trying to work things out by yourself?

Total dependency can only lead to total enslavement because it gives others the power to control your actions, just like how a puppet’s actions are controlled by a puppeteer. The only way the puppet can ever be free, is by cutting the strings of dependency that support him and learning to stand on his own two feet.


The only way that you will ever be truly free, is by learning to stand on your own two feet.

If you truly want to be free in your life and achieve the things you want to do, you must also cut the strings of dependency that are supporting you, because the only thing that they are really doing, is holding you back and controlling your actions.

Dependency From Birth

Humans are one of the very few species on earth that are born completely dependant on others for survival. The main reason for this dependency, is because babies are born with a relatively large head in relation to their body size which causes them to fall over when sitting or trying to walk.

A human baby would therefore have very little chance of surviving by itself, were it not for the help of their parents who can provide them with shelter and food until they are able to do so for themselves.

mother with baby

A baby is born completely dependent on others for survival.

Unfortunately however, the love of the parents often causes them to inadvertently amplify and reinforce this inbuilt dependency by doing too much for their child.

The result of this is usually an extension of dependency into the teenage and adult years of life, which is why some people then find it hard to become self-reliant later in life.

They have become used to their parents providing for them and telling them what they can and can’t do. If, and when they do leave home, they will then expect the same from others.

So unless a child is taught to become self-reliant from an early age, and break free from the chains of dependency they were born with, they will always remain their parents “little baby” and always be dependant on those around them.

The Adult Baby

Another reason why overcoming dependency can be difficult, is because the dependant person simply does not want to become self-reliant. They are used to having people do things and make decisions for them, and so become accustomed to that way of life.

Many people find this lifestyle a comfortable one to live, as it means they do not have to worry about anything. As a result, they enjoy their dependency and do not want to let go of it.

People like this are really just big babies, because if they were ever left to fend for themselves, they would find it very difficult to survive without having other people to look after them.

man dressed as baby

This man likes to dress up as, and pretend to be, a baby. Why? Because he enjoys the comfort and security that being completely dependent on someone else provides.

Although the dependent lifestyle may sound attractive to some, in reality, it is nothing more than a form of self-imposed enslavement. For if a person is unable to do anything for themselves, then ultimately, the life they live becomes entirely dictated by what others are willing, or able, to do for them.

On the other hand, a person who has learned how to become self-reliant, and actively seeks self-responsibility in their life, is a much freer person. They can do things for themselves, and so empower themselves with the ability to do and achieve the things they want in life.

A truly self-reliant person does not seek other people to lean on, and so can never be let down by others. They rely on themselves for their welfare, inspiration, love and motivation, and so can never be made to feel hurt, angry or depressed by the people and events that surround them.

man leaning on man

You always run the risk of falling over if you lean on someone.

With this freedom of choice comes the freedom to act, which in turn allows the self-reliant person to confidently face any challenge which life throws at them. They realize that the power to overcoming these challenges lies within them, and not with other people or other things.

Self reliance therefore enables a person to see reality for what it really is, whereas dependency only creates an illusion that is filled with limited possibilities.

By becoming self-reliant you can cast aside this illusion and overcome your avoidance of reality. Doing so will give you much greater control over your life and far less worry, because you will know that you have the power to create and shape your reality rather than being dependant on others to do it for you.

How to Raise an Independent & Responsible Child

Since a baby is born completely dependant on others for its survival, it quickly learns that certain behaviors can produce certain responses from the people around them. For example, when a baby cries, it learns that by crying other people will give it lots of attention and comfort.

When it likes something, it learns that by laughing or smiling it can get more of it, and if it doesn’t like something, it can frown or turn its head away showing that it doesn’t want it. If the baby wants something that is out of reach, it learns that by pointing to an object someone will get it for them.

baby crying

A baby soon learns that it can control the actions of its parents by crying.

So even at such an early age, babies quickly learn how to get other people to do things for them by changing their behavior to change the behavior of those around them. In other words, babies learn a series of actions which they can use to manipulate their parents with.

Of course, because babies are completely dependant on their parents for survival, this form of manipulation is perfectly understandable and justifiable. It does however, give an indication as to why dependency can continue later in life.

If we are never taught to be self-reliant, then just like babies, we will continue to manipulate others in our childhood and teenage years of life in order to get other people to do things for us or respond in a particular way.

If this continues into adulthood, whereby the adult manipulates others in to doing things which they are perfectly capable of doing themselves, then this can be a sign that they have never fully broken free from the chains of dependency they were born with.

Breaking the Chain of Dependency

All good parents will try to do the very best they can for their child by giving them what they never had when they were growing up. Unfortunately however, this can often lead to an extension of dependency of their child in to adulthood.

Out of love, the parents give their child everything they can, holding on to their “little baby” for as long as possible. Sometimes, they never let go, and when their child becomes a grown adult they will still refer to them as their baby.

It is interesting to note that humans are one of the very few species that look after and provide for their young for such a long period of time. Most animal species either abandon their young immediately at birth or push them out in to the world as soon as they are ready to survive by themselves.

tiger with cub

The mother will look after her young until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Of course, no one is suggesting that you abandon your child at birth, as we have already established that babies and children need the help of others to survive. But what we learn from the animal kingdom is that this dependency should be gradually phased out as the child grows, by replacing dependency with responsibility.

This could include activities such as being responsible for cleaning a room, looking after a younger brother or sister or even looking after a pet. The more responsibility a child is given, the more independent they will become and the less dependant they will be on others, including their parents, later in life.

child with dustpan and brush

You can prepare a child for independent survival as an adult by giving them responsibilities as they age.

So the parent should see one of their primary roles as assisting the gradual transition from complete dependency at birth, to total self-reliance during their child’s late teenage years.

This is done by allowing the child the freedom to make and learn from their own mistakes, so that they become confident in their own actions and educated by them.

The last point is especially important, because by doing things for others when they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves, you are essentially robbing them of a valuable life experience which they could have used to learn from and enrich themselves with.

learning from mistakes

An overprotective parent robs their child of valuable life lessons that are essential to one’s personal development.

Since a person can only grow and develop if the are allowed to think for themselves, do things for themselves and experience the physical or emotional consequences of their actions, the amount of personal growth that they experience will always be in direct proportion to the level of self-reliance which they are able to practice.

Put another way, the more dependent a person is, the less personal growth and development they will undergo.

Leaving the Nest

The final step to creating self-reliance in a child, occurs when they are old enough to leave home and start living by themselves.

Having moved out of home in my late teens, I certainly know firsthand how having to survive by yourself can quickly create a self-reliant mindset, especially, when you have been dependent on others for so long.

boy walking in crowded street

You will quickly find out how self-reliant you are once you have to fend for yourself in the adult world.

It is interesting to observe that many of the people society whom regards to be successful, also left home at an early age. Some left home by choice, and others because of difficult circumstances.

But whatever the reason, they all had one thing in common. Their chain of dependency was broken at an early age and as a result, they quickly learned to become a self-reliant person.

The Importance of Letting Go

Some parents may object to their children leaving home at an early age, I know mine did. This is perfectly natural and understandable, as parents want to stay with their children for as long as possible. They want to give them help for as long as possible, and they want their “little baby” to be a little baby for as long as possible.

mother with son old

Some mothers have difficulty letting go of their “baby” and so ultimately prolong the process of dependency.

However, parents who refuse to “let go” of their child only hold them back from experiencing and learning from life by refusing to break the chain of dependency which they have wrapped around their precious child. Unless this chain is broken, the child will always remain a child, even into adulthood.

They will continually cling to other people as a means of solving their problems, expecting other people to do things for them and feeling unable to do anything by themselves.

Just like the new-born baby who manipulates their parents with cries and laughter, the “adult baby” will continue to manipulate others in order to get people to do things for them.

adult baby

Just like how a baby can manipulate its parents by crying, so too can an adult baby manipulate others through their words and actions.

Just to make it absolutely clear, I am not suggesting that a child should never be given any help or assistance. But rather, that they should be allowed to do the things which they are perfectly capable of doing themselves, and be given the freedom to do what they need to do in order to grow and learn from the lessons that life provides them with. By robbing them of these lessons, you will ultimately cause them to fail the exam called life.

So by all means, help your child when they really need it. Encourage them, love them and give them recognition for their accomplishments. These are the things which will help them grow, the things which they cannot provide by themselves.

But try to avoid doing anything which unnecessarily causes your child to hold on to dependency, because such actions will only end up harming your child in the long run.

The Dangers of Social Conformity

As a child, most of us never had to make any major decisions. Adults took care of that responsibility and made the decisions for us.

Whenever we tried to express our opinion, or our view on something, it was usually not given very much importance or notice. Our parents were the boss, and we either did what they wanted or we would be punished.

father shouting at son

From a young age we learned to do what our parents wanted in order to receive approval from them.

In our teenage years of life, we began to realize that we would have to decide what was best for us and could no longer just do everything our parents asked us to.

But for some people, their childhood conformity to their parent’s wishes left them completely unprepared and inexperienced for the adult world they were about to enter.

As a result, when they entered in to adulthood, they did so with a belief that in order for other people to like them they would have to do things other people liked and agreed with. In other words, they would have to conform to others just like how they conformed to their parents.

identical people

Although conformity can help you to fit in with others, it can also suppress the expression of your true self.

In addition to our childhood programming, the desire to conform is further amplified by our natural tendency to be attracted towards pleasure and away from pain.

Whereby conformity becomes associated with pleasure through the approval we receive from it, and individuality associated with pain through the lack of approval, or disapproval, that we receive from trying to be and express ourself.

Put both of these factors together (childhood programming + pleasure/pain tendency) and it becomes obvious why many individuals do not express who they really are, and what they really believe in, but instead prefer to be and think like everyone else.

How Conformity Can Harm

Whilst conformity may sound innocent enough, in reality it is one of the most destructive psychological traits that a person can have, because ultimately, this trait will only serve to hinder and/or prevent a person from achieving the things they really want out of life.

One of the most destructive aspects of conformity is that it forces people to look to others as a means of receiving approval, thereby forcing them to look away from themselves.

The conformist is always seeking a “pat on the back” from the people they surround themselves with, and by doing so, automatically place the control of their self-esteem in other people’s hands.

pat on the back

When you conform to a certain standard of behavior (e.g., how you act or dress), that behavior is reinforced by the social approval you receive from your peers. This subsequently promotes future conformity.

When they do something which others approve of, they are given a pat on the back and their self-esteem is raised. But when they do something which others do not approve of, they are given nothing and their self-esteem plummets. The conformist therefore has a very fragile and fluctuating state of self-esteem, one that is almost entirely controlled by external factors.

As a result, people who are strong conformers, often feel a sense of frustration and inadequacy in their life, because instead of taking responsibility for the creation of their own success and happiness, they give that responsibility to other people and other things.

What they don’t realize, is that by allowing other people to control their life, they will never be able to steer their life in the direction they want it to go. When this occurs, people feel lost and begin to wonder what their purpose in life really is.

Comparing Yourself to Others

In order to conform with other people and other ideas, you must first compare yourself to something. This comparison can have three outcomes:

  • It makes you feel better, by making you feel superior.
  • It makes you feel worse, by making you feel inadequate.
  • It does not make you feel better or worse because you are the same.

Whilst some comparisons do result in you feeling better about yourself, the most common outcome of a comparison is that it makes you feel worse.

This is why people who constantly compare themselves to others tend to have very low self-esteem, because most of the time they are made to feel inadequate with who and what they are.

small toad in front of big toad

Comparing yourself to others as a means of raising your self-esteem doesn’t work, as there will always be someone bigger and better than you.

The only way they feel that they can overcome these feelings, is by becoming better than who they originally compared themselves against. When they do better than someone else their self-esteem rises, as they have now received a form of self validation that they are the superior one.

However, this boost in self-esteem is often a temporary one, because the moment they see someone else who they regard to be superior, they are again made to feel inadequate. And so the whole process begins again.

Bettering Yourself to be the Best

A self-reliant person does not feel the need to compare themselves with others, or compete with them. They recognize their own unique abilities and skills, and set out to achieve excellence in their own life.

The only person they compete and compare themselves with, is themselves, and by doing so, do not allow other people, or other things, to control their level of self-esteem.

confident person

Personal development comes from continually bettering your present self, rather than trying to be better than someone else.

However, it is important to note that being self-reliant does not mean that you should never seek inspiration and new ideas from other people. But rather, that you do not give these things the power to validate you as a person and dictate how you feel about yourself.

You should feel good about yourself regardless of what you have or don’t have, because true self-esteem can only come from within you.

Understanding Praise & Recognition

Everyone loves to receive praise. It makes you feel good, and serves as a form of validation that others recognize and appreciate you. However, praise is also extremely addictive, and can turn some people into “praise junkies”.

A praise junkie is someone who continually looks for praise from others, and the more praise they get, the more praise they want. They feel that in order to get praised by others, they must please others and do what other people approve of.

girl kissing girl cheek

Praise feels good when you get it, but it can quickly lead to an addiction if you’re not careful.

Thus, the praise junkie is very much a conformist, a people pleaser and an extremely submissive individual. All of these factors can prevent a person from becoming self-reliant.

Praise Withdrawal

A praise junkie is happiest when they receive praise, and so will work very hard to do things which others like and agree with. But, whenever a mistake is made and the praise junkie does not receive any praise, they are left in an uncomfortable state of withdrawal, desperately trying to please someone again in order to receive their next “hit”.

During this period of withdrawal they will feel as though they are somehow inadequate, and wonder what they have done wrong for the other person not to give them praise.

sad woman lying in bed

Being dependent on the praise of others for your self-esteem can leave you in a horrible state if you no longer receive that praise.

In turn, this then causes them to compare themselves to others, furthering lowering their self-esteem and igniting the desire within them to compete with others so that they may once again be the ones who are receiving the praise.

Whilst the desire to compete certainly can serve as a powerful form of motivation, what the praise junkie fails to realize is a person whose self validation comes from competing with and beating others, can never experience long-term happiness in life.

For there will always be someone better than you or someone who has more than you, it is a game that cannot be won, and only leads to a lifetime filled with feelings of inadequacy.

Learning to Love Praise

One of the main reasons why people become addicted to praise later in life, is because as children, we are constantly taught to seek out praise. If we did what our parents approved of they would praise and reward us, but if we did something they disapproved of, they would withhold this praise and punish us.

Over time, this continual cycle of praise and punishment ingrained the belief into our impressionable child mind that by doing things which others approved of, they would like and approve of us. And by doing things which others disapproved of, they would disapprove and dislike us.

mother telling off child

From early childhood we learn that to get along with others we must go along with what they want. This takes away our personal power and our subsequent ability to control the direction of our life.

Put another way, most children are brought up with the belief that in order to get along with others, they must go along with others.

This is an extremely important point to understand about human psychology, as virtually everyone tries to seek the approval of those around them by doing things which their significant others approve of. The degree to which this occurs will vary depending on the child’s upbringing.

For example, some people simply do not care what others think of them and so they do the things they want to do, without concern about receiving approval from others. On the other end of the spectrum are the praise junkies, who do things solely to please others with the hope of receiving praise from them.

Try to determine where you are on this scale, as it is often a good indication as to how self-reliant you are.

Control of Emotions

Whilst pleasing others is not necessarily a bad thing, by seeking praise from others for your actions you begin to associate yourself with those actions. In other words, you begin to believe that you are good because of what you have done, or you are bad because of what you have done.

The danger of having such a belief lies in the impact it can have on one’s self-esteem, which is put in a fragile and constant state of flux.

One minute a person may be feeling on top of the world after receiving some praise, but the next minute they are feeling depressed and inadequate because they did not receive any praise or received criticism instead.

happy sad faced dice in mouth

Don’t gamble with your emotions by trying to win the approval of others.

The person who seeks approval and praise from others therefore allows others to control how they feel rather than controlling their own emotions. To be truly free to live your life the way you want to live it, you must learn to break free from this inbuilt desire to seek praise.

So do not look upon others as superior, and see yourself as equal to or better than everyone you meet. For it is only by placing yourself below someone in a submissive manner, that you place yourself in a position where you must seek approval from them.

The Importance of Recognition

Recognition differs from praise in the sense that it is more of an observation, rather than a form of approval or disapproval. It is not a compliment, but simply an acknowledgment of an action.

For example, if you tell someone that they are a good person for doing something for you, that is a form of praise. You are praising them for their actions, but at the same time implying that if they did not do that thing for you, then they would not be a good person.

Recognition does not involve such judgment, and would simply thank the person for what they have done. Recognition therefore involves making a factual observation, and does not judge a person as being good or bad on the basis of the actions which they take.

man with halo

Recognition is a factual observation. It does not judge a person as being good or bad on the basis of their actions.

By using and receiving recognition, a person is made to feel accepted for who and what they are. Whereas praise will take away this power, making the person feel accepted or rejected depending on whether another person accepts or rejects their actions.

This is a subtle difference, but do not underestimate its importance, as a misunderstanding of the two could severely affect both your self-confidence and your self-esteem.

Expressing Your True Self

Most people are not self-reliant, and although it is through no fault of their own, it is at the same time entirely their fault.

In order to break free from the chains of dependency, you need to break free from the dependency that protected you as a young child but now enslaves you as an adult.

Recognize that dependency and approval seeking is ultimately a downward spiral, and one that will lead to the gradual erosion of your hopes and dreams. An erosion of yourself.

fuzzy head

The more dependent you are on others, the less you will be able to express your true self.

In order to become self-reliant, you must strongly desire and seek out responsibility in your life by recognizing that the only person you can truly count on is yourself. The more you rely on other people, the more often you will be let down, and the less control you will have over your life.

So from now on, see yourself as the power base, and do and feel things for yourself first rather than for other people. If you can follow this simple advice, you will be well on your way to becoming a much more self-reliant person.

Reviewed – 31st March 2016

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