Here’s my ninth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.
Self-reliance is a difficult concept for me to discuss because it encompasses every part of my life. I read a lot, so I get an idea of what other people view self-reliance as being, but I don’t always agree with other people. Actually, I frequently disagree with others, and I find myself constantly re-evaluating my decisions and thoughts, trying to find a middle ground because I am good at jumping to extremes. It is because I am so prone to jumping to extremes that I search so hard for the middle ground – it is a skill I’ve had to practice, and I don’t always succeed at finding it until someone points it out to me.
From what I’ve gathered, others tend to view self-reliance as financial reliance, but I don’t care much about money and never have. If I had to place myself in a socioeconomic class, I would be considered impoverished because the only job I work is the work study I do at my school (which pays around $200-$250 a month due to the limitations placed on it), and I draw food stamps to pay for my groceries. Most of the money I make goes to gas because I still live at home with my dad – in a house that has been in my family for five generations. If I were to conform to society’s standards, I should be ashamed that I live at home, that I work a low end job, that I draw support from the government – and sometimes I do feel shame, but that doesn’t stop me from living the life I have.
The thing is, I view financial self-reliance as a means to an end. If you’re rich, then you have luxuries like sports cars, fancy entertainment systems, etcetera. Money is the fuel for luxurious living, not a means to living. Obtaining government support so that I can eat every month is a decision I made on my own without input from anyone else. Not to work more than forty hours a month at a work study job while I’m in school – another decision I made for myself. Because I know that even with the low income I have right now, I have the things that matter – I have a roof over my head, a car that runs (necessary since I live 14 miles from town), and friends/family I care about. I don’t intend to stay in this financial situation forever – I’m enrolled in school for a reason. But I don’t look at money as something that determines whether or not I’m self-reliant.
Self-reliance, in my mind, deals more with emotional, mental, and spiritual issues. If I make a decision, I commit myself to that decision. I was having a discussion earlier today with someone who jokingly said “Commitments are made to be broken.” That’s not something I felt comfortable joking about, so I replied seriously – “No. Commitments are made to be honored.” Because that, to me, is the way I live. If I say I’m going to do something, I will do it. My word is my bond, and I have to trust myself to honor my word. Self-trust is not something that comes easily to anyone, and having ADHD as I do makes it more difficult for me than most.
I believe self-reliance comes from self-trust and self-knowledge and neither of those are gained through easy methods. Taking the time to really get to know the way your own mind works, to understand what works for you and what doesn’t, to decide whether or not you will be swayed by the opinions of the people that surround you – all of that builds up and forges the foundation of a personality – experience does the rest. I’ve dealt with a lot of hardship in my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to lay down and let myself be defeated. The world isn’t an easy place to live, and if it were, living wouldn’t be worth doing.
Self-doubt and self-reliance seem like polar opposites but they go hand-in-hand. There’s not a single person out there who doesn’t doubt the decisions they make, but at some point, we have to decide whether we trust ourselves more than we doubt ourselves. I believe that it’s when we reach a point of extreme self-doubt and yet choose to trust ourselves anyways, no matter the consequences of our decision – that’s when self-reliance is truly forged. Of course, that’s just the beginning. Because the big decisions in our lives are always fueled by that extreme self-doubt, so I feel that a developed sense of self-reliance only comes from a heavy experience of self-doubt during the decisions we must make throughout our lives.
Note: I spent May 6-May 20 in Canada, so that’s why I haven’t posted anything until now, for those of you who are wondering.