When there’s a decision to be made, such as where to book dinner or which top to buy, do you obsessively read reviews, seek everyone else’s opinion and question your own choice, (if you actually made one, that is)? Now think about what happens when life doesn’t go according to plan. Are you more likely to take control and find a way forward by forging your own path, or is your default response a little more damsel in distress? Making your own choices, taking responsibility and flexing your independence are all tell-tale signs of how self-reliant you really are.
Life is full of decisions to be made and settling on a final answer can bring up a lot of fear. While it’s important to have a trusted person or a network of people in your life who love you, support you and look out for your best interests, over-relying on the resources of others can cheat you out of the chance to draw upon your own strengths. Being driven by the need to seek input, approval, or even the permission of someone else before making your next move calls your self-reliance into question and signals there’s work to do if you want to stand on your own two feet.
There’s a lot to be gained from owning your own choices and striving for independence in different areas of your life, including greater self-esteem and a deep sense of satisfaction. When you’re self-reliant, you believe you have the skills and resources to handle whatever comes your way. You’re confident in the choices you make and actions you take, accepting responsibility for their outcome. Accomplishment comes when things work out well, and if they don’t, you trust yourself to move through the challenge in your own way with the freedom to fix it.
When it comes to your future, someone who is self-reliant will have the final say. Knowing that the decision is theirs is empowering. For others, this level of responsibility seems daunting and comfort comes only from knowing another person is heavily invested and choosing your next steps with you, or even making a decision on your behalf.
Wherever you sit on the self-reliance scale – whether you prefer to fly solo, or expect to be saved from your struggles – a sense of balance can help you to be both self-reliant and well supported at the same time. The most independent people are less likely to be rendered helpless, but they do tend to rely on themselves alone. That means they usually miss the chance to include others on their journey.
Having someone you trust to check in with can be a valuable resource. Listening to another’s insights and wisdom can be a bonding experience that also saves you the time and energy it would take to figure things out for yourself. But pause before you hand over all of your power to someone else, remember others can’t always come to the rescue and solve your problems and you shouldn’t expect them to, so take this opportunity to consider what is the right course of action for you. Notice what your gut is telling you to do, which direction you’re drawn to, and check in with how you feel about the decision you’re about to make. By doing this, you can be confident that you are exercising your judgement in the best way you know how, you’re capable of choosing and you’re in charge.
If things don’t work out well, don’t panic. Trusting that you have the personal resources and skillset to stay afloat for even a little while before being rescued will be empowering and comforting all at once. It’s worthwhile being strong enough to support yourself, but being wise enough to know when it’s time to reach out and ask for help is even more valuable. ■