What Is Self-Reliance

The Relationship Between The Individual And The World Around Them

Self-reliance literally means satisfying every want by oneself and not depending frequently on it. However, in nature’s scheme of things, all livings and non-living are independent and sustain each other. Plants, animals, human beings cannot exist in isolation, they share life. When an individual begins to take this dependence for guaranteed and ceases to make any efforts for himself, then he becomes like a parasite. Although we need others to live, so long as we are not self-reliant, we have not started living properly. It applies to individuals as well as to nations.

Normally, an individual from the very beginning is taught to be self-reliant. A child is sent to school, then to college to prepare himself to face life. Today, parents want not only their sons but also their daughters to be self-reliant. However, it is a pity that when we talk of self-reliance, we normally refer to economic independence.

Self-reliance does not mean merely an ability to earn one’s living. It implies much more. A person cannot be called truly self-reliant if he has learned to be not only self-supporting but also to live right through rigorous cultivation of spiritual and moral values to guide him in his life. Such a person thinks without fear and works with devotion. He develops confidence in his abilities, so essential for success in life. He develops the power of independent thinking and taking decisions boldly. Such total self-reliance enhances his self-respect.

One of the more popular theories on what is self-reliance is the idea that it is all about being your own master. According to this approach, the true self is independent and can only be found through one’s interaction with other human beings. One such theory of self-reliance, this approach states, is the “ultra-personal” model which seeks to describe and define the individual’s relation to others and oneself. According to the “ultra-personal” individual, human beings are one with each other – no relationship between the human being and another exist – and there is no need to define the individual as a whole.

According to this view, there is only one kind of relationship between the human being and himself: that between one’s will to survive and his willingness to create and improve his very existence. Based on this perception, being the master one is not something one achieves but rather something that he is. What is self-reliance, then, in this modern world’s collective view of the individual as something separate from himself and as something that needs to be rescued?

Unfortunately, this “definition” of what is self-reliance continues to prevail even in the 21st century. Many individuals mistakenly believe that it is a given that they possess these traits by birth. While this may be the case for some, it is certainly not the case for most. Sadly, too many still confuse what is self-reliance with what is selfishness. While one cannot help but develop some selfish tendencies in their personal lives, it is certainly not true that the pursuit of these goals somehow transforms these traits into what is self-reliant.

It is a pity that man has become so selfish. Unless man understands the true implication of the word self-reliance, there can be no moral and spiritual regeneration. It is a lesson that should be taught early in life while the young minds are being trained for a vocation. It is education about which can teach the impressionable young apprentice to learn to live and not merely to learn to earn a living.

Thus, a lesson in self-reliance can be begun early in life so that no one grows up to be selfish, narrow-minded and live like a parasite on others. Such total self-reliance will bring about a dramatic change in the lives of the man and help in promoting a spirit of mutual love, respect and faith. It helps users in an era, which Gandhiji had envisaged, where man will not feel degraded if asked to do menial work. On the other hand, he will take pride in being self-sufficient.

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