Radical Self-Reliance - Creation.begins

Radical Self-Reliance

couple atop mountain landscape
High Expectations
14 March 2024
Notebook standing upright on a table open to a page that reads "Be your own hero"
Searching for a saviour
28 March 2024
couple atop mountain landscape
High Expectations
14 March 2024
Notebook standing upright on a table open to a page that reads "Be your own hero"
Searching for a saviour
28 March 2024

Radical Self-Reliance6 min read

Sylvia Plath once said, “If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” While this quote may seem rather cynical at first glance, it actually offers a powerful perspective on self-reliance and personal growth. By shifting our focus from what we expect from others to what we expect from ourselves, we can become more emotionally self-sufficient and take greater responsibility for our own lives and all our experiences therein.

Too often, we place unrealistic expectations on the people around us, expecting them to fulfil our emotional needs and support us in the exact ways we want, often to their personal detriment. We are inherently selfish people by nature, who cater to our own needs before anyone else’s, and this is a good thing. The issue is when we find ourselves among people who have no idea how to manage their own emotions and needs, and demand that other people do it for them. This can lead to disappointment and resentment when those people inevitably fall short of our expectations, because most of them are just as inept at managing their expectations. But what if we flipped the script and focused instead on what we can provide for ourselves and leave others out of the equation?

By cultivating self-reliance, we can learn to meet our own emotional needs and take ownership of our own lives. This doesn’t mean cutting people out of our lives or rejecting their support, but rather learning to rely on ourselves first and foremost before we depend on others. When we expect more from ourselves and less from others, we give ourselves the power to create the life we want regardless of what others do or don’t do, because we are taking the responsibility of figuring out our needs and wants, and developing the skills and abilities and resources to attain them.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we should never ask for help or seek support from others. It simply means that we recognize that we are ultimately responsible for our own emotional well-being and personal growth. It means that we don’t rely on people who don’t have the capacity. It means we allow people to show up how they want to, instead of forcing them to show up only how we want them to. By releasing others from the burden of our expectations, we free them to show up in ways that are authentic and meaningful for them, creating healthier and more fulfilling relationships in the process.

peacock walking in a garden

photo by Daniele Buso

Cultivating Radical Self-Reliance

The first step is to identify your personal needs and wants. Develop a clear understanding of your own emotional needs and desires by making a list of your desires and determine how many of them are really yours versus what society or your parents or your spouse expect of you but that you don’t expect of yourself. Determine what you want to make real, and what you can release. Simplify the list to help prioritise what you’re more ready for now. This will help you take greater responsibility for meeting those needs and pursuing your goals on your own steam, rather than relying on others to do it for you.

As always, you must continue to treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a close friend. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks, and that these are opportunities for growth and learning. Being radically self-reliant isn’t about doing it all yourself. It’s about not being overly reliant on others who might not be available. You still have to get your rest, you still have to be compassionate with yourself, you still have to balance your life, you still have to take care of you. Self-reliance means relying on yourself for your care needs as well, ensuring that you have what you need to be happy, energised, motivated, and inspired.

It is important to adopt the belief that your abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. This will help you take ownership of your personal growth and development, rather than expecting others to do it for you. By developing a growth mindset and attitude, you will accept the fact that even if you aren’t as capable to do achieve what you want right now, you can still educate yourself, and learn and practice what you need to know or be able to do. Those wins that you’re celebrating are all stepping stones taking you closer to being able to achieve anything you set your heart on.

Single sapling poking out of fine sand

photo by Jeremy Bishop

And as you are moving forward and saying “yes” to anything that benefits your journey and progress, you also have to set appropriate boundaries and be willing to say “no” to anything that hinders your journey. Communicate your needs and expectations as clearly as you can to others, informing them of your standards and availability. This will help you maintain a sense of independence and self-reliance, even in your relationships with others. Just as others are not available to you all the time, you can’t be available to everyone else all the time either. You will progressively get better at balancing when you dedicate your energy on your own pursuits, and when you can be there for the people who are important to you.

You obviously don’t want to neglect your people, nor make them feel like you don’t need or want them in your life. Learning to communicate adequately may be important here, to be able to adequately inform others when you can be available for them and when not. Remember that community works best when everyone is simultaneously taking responsibility for their part in the community and also being committed to the greater well-being on said community.

Take responsibility for your actions, for your thoughts, for your behaviours, and for your choices. Rather than blaming others or external circumstances for your problems, you can become more aware of how your choices have led you to where you now are, and learn from them. Self-awareness is a big part of self-responsibility, and will empower you to make positive changes and take control of your life.

human gazes across a cityscape at sunrise

photo by Christopher Sardegna

Finally, remember that self-reliance doesn’t mean isolation. We work best in a team, in a community, but that community works best when the majority of its members are all taking responsibility for themselves, standing strong individually together. When we are all living large, celebrating and sharing in each others’ wins, we create a community that is even stronger than its individuals. And we are stronger because we aren’t relying unnecessarily on the others, each of us putting in 100%, or as much as we can within our own abilities and emotional space. It’s okay to seek support and guidance from others when you need it, but remember that ultimately, you are responsible for your own life and choices, just as everyone else is.

By practicing these tips and cultivating a sense of radical self-reliance, you can take pragmatic and positive control of your life, and create a sense of independence and empowerment that will serve you well in all areas of your life.

So, let’s take inspiration from Sylvia Plath’s words and shift our focus from expecting things from others to expecting more things from ourselves. Let’s empower ourselves to create the lives we want and release others from the responsibility of fulfilling our emotional needs. When we do this, we open the door to greater self-reliance, personal growth, and more authentic connections with the people around us.

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