Woman As Her Own Star - What is Self-Reliance and How Can We Get More?

Woman As Her Own Star - What is Self-Reliance and How Can We Get More?

What is Self-Reliance?

The Oxford Dictionary says it is:

“Reliance on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others”.

This can be in the realms of housing, health care, mental health, parenting, fitness plus knowledge and skill development (education).  ‘Others’ could mean; your parents/ a partner/ your children/shops/doctors/teacher. ‘Other’ is anyone or anything you seek recourse to for the fulfilment of basic needs in the above realms. Ask yourself how much do you depend on these others for the provision of your basic needs such as food provision, energy, health care even mental health and education? Most people are very reliant on external sources.

Where Has Self-Reliance Gone?

Words used to describe someone who lacks much self-reliance could be: flakey, weak, incompetent or dependent. Have you ever used these words to describe someone? We are not destined to be weak and full of excuses – too much comfort makes us this way! Like the girdle principle the more we are supported the weaker we become.  We are actually optimised to survive yet its all too easy to learn to say ‘no’ or I’ can’t’ if someone else is there to pick up the pieces, if there is no real-world consequence to our inaction. In evolutionary biology – apes will continue to parent their children for longer if there is a safe environment to raise them. Plenty of food and no predators mean the parents allow the young apes to be reliant for much more and much longer than in times of adversity when the parents will expect the child to walk and seek his own food much earlier. This is so the mothers resources can spread between the other younger children and herself. As we have lived in times of plenty and with little threat over the last 60 years we have been increasingly allowed to become less capable especially earlier on in life by parents and by the state. Law also supports this, children can no longer be left alone, they cant work with machinery or in the fields – they are safe, yes, but young people are becoming less competent at life skills. Busy parents are bombarded with images of bad consequences in a sensationalist media so rarely allow their children to take ‘risks’; to light a fire or even make their own dinner today.


With increasing reports of possible disaster whether from economic break down, climatic event or terrorist attack this situation needs to be addressed. The governments own report the National Security Strategy suggests that in the event of a major national incident we should look to ‘foster domestic resilience’. But have we any left?!  We survived the second world war because people could light a fire, bake from scratch, grow veg, make things – all skills we don’t have now. How would you feed and heat your family without recourse to the above ‘others’?


Developing Greater Self-Reliance

It is often those who have had the toughest life situations that display greater self-reliance but how can others interested in improving their self-reliance and reducing their dependence on external sources begin? 

Developing Mind-set.

One of the greatest facets of self-reliance is mind-set and a tough mind-set is usually the product of a ‘have to or die’ lifestyle where weakness, apathy, laziness and reliance on external people or resources are not an option. When no one is there to pick up the pieces of a lazy decision a person has no choice but to adapt or die, again its evolutionary biology. Life should be a struggle occasionally, you should be ok being more productive and efficient than relaxed and lazy. Accept that pain and discomfort are ok to endure occasionally and see it as strength giving. Develop a positive mental outlook to adversity and discomfort – seeing adversity in a positive light is the first step to transiting toward experiments in self-reliance. To those unaccustomed to adversity or discomfort even the slightest expectation of competence in a situation can reduce them to wails and tears. We have become ‘dumbed down by comfort’, but growth cannot happen without a bit of self-sacrifice or discomfort. Remember the girdle principle? Step 1 – Remove the support to develop your own muscle tone!

Another aspect of mind-set is self-talk – does your inner dialogue involve excuses? Im tired? I can do it later? Ive no money, Ive got the kids to look after? Ill do it when I lose some weight? Learn to hear the excuses in your head then dismiss them. Also, write down your common excuses. When we write our excuses down they can often seem lame, even more so if we have to show them to someone else. Accountability to others sometimes makes it harder to ‘opt-out’ and be flakey. Make your self-talk positive action-orientated like ‘ just do it’ and communicate your intentions to others to make it harder to back out. Step 2 – Write down your common excuses here:



Now, pack them away!

Ridding Yourself of External Fetters to growth

Conversely excuses may come from external sources rather than inner dialogue – there may be certain people in our lives that allow and actually encourage us toward making these excuses to NOT become self-reliant, these people usually have their own agendas – ask yourself ‘do the people in my life encourage me towards independence and to ‘have-a-go’ or do they allow or make excuses why I shouldn’t? Get rid of all excuses whether they are your own or coming from external sources. Learn to ignore the nay sayers, its your right and your duty to become the best, strongest, fittest most compassionate intelligent person you can be in this life! If something or someone is holding you back from this, walk away. Is there anyone in your life who is suggesting you can’t or shouldn’t do something that will ultimately make you grow stronger? Step 3 – Don’t listen to the nay-sayers!

So, mind-set is the first point on our journey. Free yourself from crutches, excuses and things or people holding you back and embrace the negatives as challenges – then just do it!

Time management

Become the master of your work not the other way round – using time management tools such as automation, delegation, prioritisation, time blocking. Make a list each day, stop multitasking important jobs and focus on one at a time until completion, prioritising them according to deadline and then cross it off. Automate certain things like grocery shopping by creating a favourites list online and setting up a regular delivery, link all your email accounts to one inbox then create a to-do mailbox and simply drag those emails that need attention into the ‘to-do’ mailbox and ignore the rest, work only from your ‘to-do’ inbox. After dealing with them in the to-do box you can file drag them into other mailboxes – eg. newsletters, car, marketing tips, household, etc. Don’t consume other peoples ‘lifestyle’ blogs. Lifestyle blogs are just diaries of other peoples lives – you should be living your own!  Instead become unashamedly relevant-data hungry.  There are even apps that condense texts whether written or audio into bitesized chunks of relevant data (factor analysing in psych speak) Same with tv viewing – how much time is wasted on inane passive tv consumption? Have a movie night two or even three times a week, watch a couple of specific documentaries but tv should be off the rest of the time. You should not sit for hours each night in front of a tv passively consuming calories and other peoples fictional life stories – if you have to bin it. My kids grew up with no TV If your kids are still young or you have no kids at home then you really don’t need a tv. You wont believe how much time you will free up to: make cheese? learn a language? watch you-tube videos about how to service your car? What self-empowerment activity would you do with this new free time?

Raise The Bar On Energy

Stop feeling tired and get more energy = diet/fitness/health are all linked – try reducing carbs including sugar and wheat and eat more veg and protein based eg. start the day with a green smoothie rather than toast. Having more energy to get things done makes saying yes to opportunities for growth easier as physical energy will be high enough to actually action it. In addition to more energy you will achieve better health and the best body shape for you. Simply add more physical activity to each day. With your new tv free evenings join a walking/cycling group to further increase stamina and fitness – this may seem paradoxical to someone who feels tired all the time, but unless you have an untreatable illness then usually expending energy begets more energy. Im a lifelong anaemic but still became British Champion Ladies lightweight Tae Kwon do Champion as a single Mum with three kids around my ankles. Energy begets energy…sedentary lifestyles are actually more tiring!

Learn to say yes and no in the right places.

If it serves your growth towards being a more efficient strong human being say YES to an opportunity without thinking how it will be met. Learn to say NO to tasks you don’t really want to do or have time to do that don’t serve your growth. I stopped ironing over a decade ago and even though I speak at National shows have never felt crumpled! I also stopped crossing oceans for relatives, friends or lovers who wouldn’t cross puddles for me. Leave behind those people that don’t serve your growth (or that of planet/people in general) because of their own selfishness or because of a weakness that they do not attempt to address. They will keep you from achieving your potential by keeping you down with them – misery likes its own company. It's ok to love someone and say no or let them go if the thing or person is all input and no reward or objectively they are not doing anything good for the world and just complaining.

Develop Practical Skills

List and pursue an interest each year. Spend this year learning about one certain thing that will empower you… it could be baking from scratch, servicing your car, learning to crochet, learning basic plumbing. With Google and You tube you’ve really no excuse not to learn this subject and top it up with local classes or even a residential course somewhere in the country where you will be fully immersed in the subject and meet like-minded people to spur you on your journey. What will your subject for this year be? The idea is to learn lots of things to basic competence level in this lifetime rather than to be an artist in one.

“The survivor of tomorrow will be a jack of all trades rather than a master of one”.

Persevere – stay on task.

One of the key tenets in martial arts is perseverance. The feeling of being empowered is much nicer than the feeling of giving up, so keep going! Make yourself a machine that can keep going beyond your old limits! Make a list of achievements to tick off as you go and if you are visual create an A1 sheet with images of the future you.

Reward yourself to make the journey pleasurable I didn’t do this for years as I was so focused on being a mother and Phd student then setting up a business. Now I treat myself to a massage on my birthday, buy nice make up occasionally, go to the gym a couple of times a week including a quiet coffee in the cafe whilst writing, and say ‘no’ to the kids. I also pay for courses I cant really afford out of the grocery shopping and let us eat more simply for a couple of days. Its good to reward yourself for your journey occasionally just don’t make your life more reward than development!

Positive slogans to live by:

  Just do it (no excuses and today!)

  Don’t cross oceans for people who won’t step over puddles for you.

  Misery attracts misery – love and let go of the people who are keeping you down

  Say Yes to opportunities without thinking and No to unnecessary tasks

  Learn a new thing every six months to competence level (rather than artistry)

You can reach out in a more authentic way to connect with others once you have achieved your own self-reliance.

Wild Harvest School of Self-Reliance ’s mission is to empower you to provide for your own and your families basic needs just using your own resources and those immediately around you. Join a course to weave a basket and take it foraging then make medicines and toiletries with plants and household ingredients, learn to make candles, basic joinery, learn to light a fire and cook on it, learn leatherwork and more with Wild Harvest School of Self-Reliance.


Challenges from Wild Harvest School of Self-Reliance for this Year!


  Bake or cook something on a real fire in your garden

  Make something to wear (this could be a hat, top, shoes, socks, scarf)

  Change a car wheel or the oil/diesel/air filter

  Create light from just things in your house/garden (what oils/fats could you use and what for a wick?)

  What is one simple illness you suffer ?  Learn to treat it with local plants.

  Eat nettles and dandelion leaves.

  Reduce TV and junk food consumption and exercise more.



 *Adapted from a quote by Ralph Emmerson who wrote ‘Self-Reliance’ as written in the epilogue to J .Fletcher’s

’Honest Man’ - The original quote was “Man as His Own Star”


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.