On Self-Reliance (What Does it Mean? Is it Wrong? Should We Be Searching for Community Instead?)
What is self-reliance? And is anyone ever truly self-reliant? Is it even possible to be totally self-reliant? Most homesteaders strive to be at least somewhat self-sufficient, and this is partly because I think we have a sense of purpose when we can take care of things ourselves.
Other people don’t want to depend on others at all. What is prompting this post is that I had a reader write me a note mentioning that she was concerned about the self-reliance issue after I wrote an article about this topic.
In her wise words, she wrote, “What we really need in this world is community and friends and family to partner with us through life.”
And really….I couldn’t agree more with that statement.
I thought I’d better address this concern because the self-reliance/homesteading trend seems to be continuing strongly in developed countries these days. I think one of the questions that should be asked is: WHY?
Why do so many people feel this urge to be (at least a little more) self-reliant nowadays?
What is Self-Reliance, and Why Do Some People Strive to be Self-Sufficient? What is Behind the Yearning to Homestead?
Let’s talk about what self-reliance actually means for a moment.
Self-reliance is defined as “reliance on one’s own efforts and abilities,” according to Merriam-Webster. Some synonyms include self-dependence, independence, self-sufficiency, and self-support.
Initially, this definition sounds kind of selfish and self-serving, doesn’t it?
And my heart skipped a beat, because for a moment I questioned my own personal motives for desiring to be as self-reliant as possible. I did some reflecting about why Mr. V. and I feel so strongly about self-sufficiency and our homestead dreams, and I realized there is a LOT more to it all than just being independent.
Then I reached out to some of my other homesteading friends who are in search of their own levels of self-reliance, and got some really wonderful and unique answers.
For Mr. V. and myself, here at Healing Harvest Homestead:
We want to be as independent as we can so that we don’t need to go to the stores, doctors, etc for our basic needs. We like to grow and raise our own food so we know what is in it. We want to make our own medicines because we have researched the side effects and understand how much better they are for us.
Also, when others need help, we have something to offer them. Whether it’s homegrown food, a natural remedy for an ailment, some muscle (Mr. V.) or a tool for a project, to help get an elderly neighbor down the hill, to share our timber with a neighbor who just moved in and has none for their winter woodpile…..
These are just some of the reasons we try to be as self-sufficient as possible. We help ourselves, and we help others too.
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Here are some other thoughts about being self-reliant from some of my homesteader friends I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and get to know (online):
From Joanna at Modern Rustic Mom:
“Self-reliance is not exclusive to neighborliness or community-building. It is a traditional practice, learning and honing your skills to improve or protect your own livelihood. And quite often, you'll find an opportunity to trade these self-reliant skills with your neighbor for tasks or to improve the quality of your community. By improving ourselves, we can serve others.”
From Jenna at Flip Flop Barnyard:
For our family, self reliance is raising our own food so that we don't have to depend on shopping at grocery stores, having skills to make and fix things for ourselves so that we don't have to depend on others to do so, and continually growing our knowledge and experience in all of these things. In doing so, we are free to serve and teach others through our abilities and sharing the things that we raise and make.
From Kelly at Montana Happy:
Self Reliance to me is taking part of the skills humans have used for hundreds of years. When we are no longer connected to our food, water, or nature we lose part of ourselves that makes us better human beings.
From Alecia at Chicken Scratch NY:
To me being self-reliant is about being able to do things on my own for myself and my family, not always because I want to but being prepared incase I have to.
From Bethany at Family Growing Pains says:
Self-reliance means, to me, using my resources and means to reduce dependency on stores to provide for my family. Self-reliance also allows me to help my friends and family when they’re struggling and to create a safety net for my family in emergency scenarios.
Candy at Candy’s Farmhouse Pantry says:
We are self reliant so we can help and teach others.
Lisa at The Self-Sufficient Home Acre says:
I don't see this as an either/or issue. If a person works to be more self reliant, it means many things. For example if you learn how to repair items instead of purchasing new products, you are consuming fewer raw materials. This is good for our environment.
Danielle at The Rustic Elk mentions:
Self reliance involves community. No man is an island. It simply means that you can provide for yourself and your family most things and can source what you cannot. To me, self reliance is simply not being dependent on our failing food systems and industrial farming practices.
My friend, Bonnie, at The Not So Modern Housewife, says:
If we look back 100 years to when self reliance was common and expected, we’ll find that communities were very dependent upon each other. I know that I can’t do it all myself. I produce what food I can, but I also purchase from local farmers. I shop with local small businesses as much as possible.
I’ve grown a community by selling the extra products I produce. I’ve also used my products to barter for products and services from others. Community is the heart of being self reliant. It’s not just taking care of ourselves, but it’s being an asset instead of a burden when things go wrong.
There is a common theme in the self-reliance trend: To be connected. To be able to help. And to also be independent from systems that are no longer as trustworthy as they used to be.
It’s not about being selfish or self-centered or even to be all alone in the world. It’s about having skills to get us by in difficult times and to also help others around us who are in need. By being self-reliant, we are better people, and we can better help ourselves as well others.
Is It Possible to Be Truly Self-Reliant?
I’ll be honest. I personally don’t think complete self-reliance is possible. Do you know what total self-reliance reminds me of? Tom Hanks in the movie, Castaway. Now, HE was totally self-dependent.
And most of us just don’t live alone on an island (nor want to), having to find ways to meet our own every need. We have others we can ask for help if we need it! Thank goodness and Amen!
I do believe it’s the responsible thing to continue building useful skill sets in your life.
If you have no skills to help yourself and others, what will you do if something happens? Building skills requires education, practice, experimentation, helping others with projects, and lots more. It requires effort.
Also, I would say it requires a certain amount of courage to get out of your comfort zone and try and do/learn new things.
However, we all need help from time to time. There is no way any one person can know how to do all the things well. It’s just not going to happen, at least not in any kind of quality manner.
When Mr. V. and I first moved into our home here in Idaho, a neighbor on top of the hill who lives adjacent to our property up there, called us and told us there were dead trees that needed to come down. Like ASAP. They were dead when we moved here and needed to be removed because of possible insect infestation.
Removal, we discovered, was going to be time-consuming, expensive, and likely both. And we did not have the money or the time.
Well, luckily, our (also new to the community) neighbor down the road needed firewood, as winter was coming, and he had none. He also did not have much leftover money to buy several cords of wood. But what he DID have was logging experience and tools.
So, this neighbor cut down our dead trees. And in return, we let him keep the wood to use as firewood or anything else he liked. He ended up making me an absolutely beautiful stool that I just love, as well.
THAT’s what a homestead community is all about.
We are not self-reliant all on our own. We are SO much better together.
And Mr. V. wants me to say this for both of us as well: Being able to rely upon God faithfully has given us the ability to be self-reliant. We rely on God first. Then we have more strength in our own lives.
How YOU Can Be More Self-Reliant, No Matter Where You Live
I’ve written about how you can start your own homestead without a lot of money and no matter where you live before. You can click through to that article if you want some really great ideas. There are actually many long lists of things you can do right now to start your own self-reliant journey.
Here’s another article you may enjoy about Urban Homesteading.
But the best thing you can do (in my opinion) is think of your “why.” WHY do you want to be more self-reliant?
It’s a little different for everyone, I think.
What started our desire for self-reliance was actually learning about being prepared (prepping) for emergencies.
At about that same time, I realized that I had been getting some rather poor advice about Rx medications in my far and more recent past. I turned to herbal medications I can make myself after this.
THEN the desire to reduce our exposure to the S.A.D. (aptly named) Standard American Diet by eating clean, grass-raised (100%) meats, raising our own chickens for meat and eggs, and gardening our own food (as much as possible) began in earnest.
And we’ve just kept educating ourselves and over time have become less reliant on systems as the years have gone by.
I’m telling you this because where you start your own self-reliant path is going to be determined by your own . unique circumstances.
Maybe you’re fed up with having to take medications all the time. You may want to start with figuring out how to take charge of your own health better.
Or, perhaps you’re tired of having to call handymen to do things around your house, or perhaps you want to build something? Maybe you’d like to learn some carpentry, plumbing, or electrical skills?
Maybe you’re just needing a creative outlet, and that knitting (or sewing or spinning or felting—etc.) project caught your eye. These hand-crafting projects that are enjoyable for so many aren’t just fun—-these are real skill sets that can serve you well.
Here are a few other things you can do no matter where you live: cooking from scratch, baking bread, gardening in containers or beds, taking courses in herbalism, learning more about using essential oils, fermenting foods and drinks, making your own body care and house cleaning products…..I could go on!
There are seriously thousands of ways to start your own personal journey to self-reliance. And when you hook into groups of others with similar mindsets, the magic starts! This is where you can actually start bartering with and helping others!
The important thing is to just start somewhere. It’s likely you are already doing some things to make you a more self-dependent person in some ways.
Final Thoughts on Self-Reliance, Community, and Independence
Being self-reliant doesn’t exclude community, friendships, neighbors, and partners in your life at all. We all need others to help us get by at different times in our lives.
In fact, I think our lives are best lived by being able to know you have people in your life you can rely upon!
Self-reliance is that feeling of empowerment you get when you are able to take care of something yourself…or when you can offer your skills to others in need. There’s nothing like this feeling—-it’s wonderful!
What do you think of self-reliance? Do you think it’s possible? Do you perhaps think it’s being very self-serving?
Do you agree with these thoughts I’ve shared? I’d love to know what you think of all this. And I’m really glad my reader wrote in with her question for me. It made me stop and think. Leave comments in the comments section!
You may also enjoy these related articles:
There are LOTS more over on the blog too! So head on over and take a look!
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Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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