It’s human nature to co-exist with others, build communities, and create families; yet, self-reliance is also human nature. How does this fit together?
At an instinctive level, it’s important we make a difference in others’ lives, but it’s equally important we are able to fend for ourselves. Many people confuse self-reliance with ‘career’, which often results in a dual-working family, a nanny at home that cancels out one parent’s salary, and free time being the ‘leftovers’ at the end of the day. I want to be clear ‘working’ is not self-reliance.
Self-reliance (my definition): the ability — or potential — to survive and thrive on your own.
Often times, you can find a teammate or group of teammates in life. The concept of dividing and conquering can work, and it has potential to lead towards even greater life fulfillment and shared experience.
For example, you may have seen an example of one working parent growing up, and one caretaker. While this isn’t the only way to live, biologically speaking, it works out well. If the father stays home, his body learns to produce more oxytocin and he has the ability to become an excellent “Mr. Mom”; if the mother stays home, she is genetically — and hormonally — programmed to provide love for her children naturally. Meanwhile, the other parent is able to work and earn a living to pay bills, create a family impact for your community, and show love through another form of action.
I used to think of working as a better/worse scenario for raising children. I used to feel it was better if one parent were always home, because this is the example I had growing up. However, I’ve learned in time it’s not a matter of better or worse; this is simply a choice of prioritization. At any moment in time, what’s most important is knowing you have the ability switch roles, survive and thrive.
To clarify, if both parents decide to work, it’s important to know one or both of you can stop working and be able to effectively take care of your children. If one or both parents are not working, it’s important to know you have the ability to find a job that can pay your bills and provide enough stability for your family to put food on the table and a roof over your head.
In either case, taking on large expenses — which serve as a constant threat to financial security — feels self-defeating and powerless.
Likewise, self-reliance applies to many other aspects of life outside of financial health or career:
- Relationships that become interdependent are bound for failure, while relationships that honor one another for individuality lead to success.
- Love based upon giving up your energetic reserves to help someone else is finite, while love based upon channeling love from your surroundings — by being together — is bound to flourish.
- Eating that is dependent upon one person cooking in order to properly nourish yourself is self-defeating in time and can produce a primitive sense of fear; healthy eating based upon sharing love, creating conversation, and fueling the body through food is healthy and beneficial for everyone.
- Self-care based upon someone else’s wishes for you to have a better body, move more easily, or live pain-free has an expiration date; self-care based upon honoring your body’s and mind’s natural genius is invigorating and accumulates momentum over time.
- Altruism conceived through feeling bad for someone else and wanting to make a difference is admirable; altruism based upon the intention to enjoy your life to the maximum capacity through helping others is a cycle of continuous positive feedback and likely to perpetuate.
You see, self-reliance is the ability — or potential — to do what you want with your life. It’s the absence of threat, fear, or instability, because you know you’re going to be ok. And, by knowing ‘you’ will be ok, you recognize everyone around you will be too.
Today’s thought exercise:
examine your life and determine if you are dependent upon someone else in order to live a happy life; likewise, determine if you are keeping someone under your control in order to “help them” live a happy life. Neither approach is recommended, and when each of you becomes self-reliant, everyone wins.
Sent to you with love, compassion, and gratitude,
Originally published at drkareem.com on July 31, 2017.