What does self-reliance mean to you right now? Does it mean you grow all of your own food? Does it mean you make your own cleaning products or medicine?

The meaning of self-reliance is different for everyone. For some, it is a simple point of view, for others more complicated. In recent years, with all that has been happening in the world, the importance of self-reliance has become a priority.

Self-reliance and self-sufficiency often are used interchangeably. Both terms mean that you have the ability to depend on yourself for basic needs and to survive. In other words, you take responsibility for your own life.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the definition of self-reliance is reliance on one’s own efforts and abilities. However, one’s own efforts and abilities are different from person to person. What self-reliance means to one person may be different for the other.

In this post, you will learn and recognize what self-reliance truly means to you.

What Does Self-Reliance Mean?

Pioneer Kitchen

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Where Does the Term “Self-Reliance” Come From?

Although we don’t really have the first mention of self-reliance being documented specifically, the term became more popular with the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay, Self Reliance. In it, he refers to his beliefs and outlook on how society negatively impacts our growth. You can listen to the whole essay below.

3 key topics of his essay are:

  • think independently (trusting your instincts and making your own opinion)
  • embrace individuality (be who you are and listen to your inner voice)
  • work towards your own goals (doing what needs to be done using your own capabilities and your own abilities)

Emerson promoted learning from experience over books. He says you should not be influenced by others’ ideas because it will distort your original ideals. In other words, be yourself, make your own opinions, and trust your own instincts.

He also states that you should worry more about your own family members and less about the lives of others. That does not mean you cannot help others, but that you and your family should be first.

Integrity is valued above all in his essay. Doing the right thing at the right time and for the right people matters most.

Lastly, he states that our society needs more self-reliant thinkers instead of followers.

By studying these great works of art, you will have a better understanding of what self-reliance truly means.

Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Ralph Waldo Emmerson

What Does Self-Reliance Mean to Me?

To me personally, self-reliance is when people are living their own lives, handling their own affairs, trusting their own intuitions, and taking personal responsibility to cover their basic needs. To me, it is about doing it yourself or finding a way to provide what you need, when you need it, yourself.

Here are some examples of how I choose to be self-reliant in my own life.

My Do’s and Don’ts

  • I don’t want to depend on a grocery store to provide food for my family.

Instead, I do grow my own fruit, vegetables, and herbs. I raise my own pork, beef, and chicken, I also raise fish in my backyard. I preserve the food I grow by dehydrating and canning. And I know how to cook all of that food over an open fire if needed. These actions are a healthy way to provide wholesome food and meals to my family.

  • I don’t want to depend on a pharmacy or convenience store for medicine and cleaning products.

Therefore, I do make my own soap and body products, as well as homemade cleaners and candles. I also make herbal remedies and natural medicines, and I have a first-aid kit available at all times that I created and keep supplying myself as well as an emergency go bag ready at all times.

Homemade Cleaners
Homemade cleaners made on our homestead.
  • I do not depend on the town I live in for water.

Instead, we collect rainwater in rain barrels to water our plants and to provide water for our animals. We also had a well dug for water to our home.

  • I don’t order out for meals.

Cooking from scratch is my preference. I do make my own bread and butter. We sit at a table as a family and have healthy meals every night.

  • I don’t waste electricity.

In the future, we will be 100% solar-powered. Until then, we do turn off what we are not using to save money on the power bill. We know how to heat our home with a wood stove. We also know how to use oil lamps for light in the evening.

The Practical Skills I Learned Along the Way

Starting a fire

There are so many self-reliant skills I have learned over the last 6 or so years. Some of those skills came with hard work. But through learning those skills, I developed a strong sense of self-reliance and how important it is for me and my family.

Some examples of self-reliance skills I learned include:

  • Seed saving
  • Tracking
  • Butchering
  • Gardening
  • Trading
  • Fire Starting
  • Foraging
  • Carpentry Skills
  • Basic Firearm Use
  • Raising Livestock
  • Bread Making
  • Prepping

Of course, there are many other skills I have learned and even more, I still need to learn. But with every skill I learn, I become one more step closer to being self-reliant. What is important is that I make my own judgment on the important things and I am not influenced by others. I make sure the essential needs of my family are provided by me and I depend on no one else to do so.

What Does Self-Reliance Mean To You?

Understanding Emerson’s thoughts and opinions, and by me sharing what self-reliance means to me, did you form a clearer picture of what self-reliance means for you?

Are there ways in your everyday life that you may be practicing self-reliance that you may not have been aware of prior? Think about the ways you provide for your own needs and your own wants.

Think about the following questions:

  • Do you grow a vegetable garden or some herbs?
  • Are you saving seeds from those harvests?
  • Do you use a compost bin or pile?
  • Can you cook from scratch? Can you start a fire outside to cook on?
  • Have you ever built a small shed or a chicken coop yourself?
  • Do you use solar panels?
  • How about a rain barrel or DIY watering methods?
 Self-Reliance has become a priority and a lifestyle for many people lately. But what exactly is self-reliance? Find out here.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Now that you have 2 points of view on what self-reliance means, it is time for you to decide what self-reliance means to you. A good starting point is to determine what matters most to you. Create your own self-reliance definition.

What skills need to be learned and practiced for you to feel a deep sense of feeling self-reliance? Think about how learning these skills will help you become less dependent on outside sources.

Remember that in due time, with every skill you conquer, you become one step closer to living a life of self-reliance.

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