“We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”
Learning Self Reliance
Self Reliance—sounds like some kind of course in wilderness survival where you skin your own rabbits and chop your own firewood. And if you’re reading this blog post somewhere on the prairie in 1841, perhaps that’s an appropriate interpretation (assuming they have rabbits on the prairie—I’m a little out of touch).
But in all likelihood that’s not where you are. You’re probably reading this from your home office, or corporate cubical, or iPhone. You’ve probably never killed a rabbit and think kindling is something you do curled up in bed with a hot beverage and a Tim Tam.
So much for romantic notions of a life of simple freedom. Does your involvement with modern civilization, with all this technological insulation mean you’re doomed to go through life as a servant? Do we bargain away our independence—our basic human freedoms—when we participate in society?
Well, no, actually. At least, it doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is, self reliance actually has nothing to do with either rabbits or firewood. It’s not the exclusive domain of recluse philosophers and the Amish. It’s available to all (actually that’s exactly the point)—Yes dear reader, even you can become self reliant. And, you don’t even have to give up your iPhone.
(By the way if you are reading this on the prairie in 1841, please leave a comment about the rabbit situation).
See, it’s not about material self-sufficiency. It’s not about what’s going on in the world at all. It’s about what’s going on inside. It’s about your relationship with yourself. It’s about trusting your own judgement and intuition—your own genius; choosing consciously and deliberately and speaking your truth regardless of the popular opinion. It’s about not asking for permission and not deferring to the experts; because no one is an expert on how you should live your life.
But the majority of our experience conditions us against this. From childhood we’re trained to respect authority and do as we’re told. We learn to follow rules and structures that others have laid out. We learn that there are right and wrong answers, and that it’s someone else who decides what they are.
As children we are dependent, and in our dependence we learn compliance. And while we’re supposed to outgrow that dependency as we enter adulthood, the reality is that at some level most people bring that handicap with them. They enter a world for which their schooling has prepared them not to create, not to invent, but to fit in. To follow. They don’t know themselves. And their relationship with the world is narrow and superficial.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
When I say “they”, what I really mean is, “us”. It’s we who are living in this bubble of preconditioned responses and unoriginal thinking. It’s we who are exercising but a fraction of our capacity to express ourselves in the world.
Yet we are the fortunate ones. The road of self actualization is still the lesser traveled, but it’s by far better worn than ever before. The examples are there. The knowledge is available for those who are seeking. The hard battles have already been fought. The danger is that we can now use the banner of non-conformity as yet another club for being one of the crowd. For hiding from our truly original impulses.
That voice is frightening to us.
It’s easy these days to talk about self reliance—to write essays on original thinking or blog posts about self expression.
It’s quite another thing to live an original life.
It’s easy to regurgitate the same old personal development cliches or pontificate on trite philosophical truisms that you read somewhere else.
It’s quite another to see outside the borders of your education.
It’s easy to carry the banner of non-conformity once the likes of Dyer or Emerson or Thoreau has given you permission.
It’s quite another to walk an entirely unbeaten path. To persevere when the only evidence that success is possible is your own inexplicable knowing.
It’s easy because it’s been done before.
I like to believe in my own self knowledge. But would I have discovered even this much without the wisdom and guidance of teachers like Wayne Dyer or Ralph Waldo Emerson? Could I have discovered my own self reliance, such as it is, on my own? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t think I could have done it without the help.
But that’s okay.
That’s all part of the process. It’s all part of the natural evolution—the natural calling forth of potential. We’re always surrounded by opportunities to learn—to know ourselves better. They are staring us in the face at every moment. But we only hear what we’re ready to hear. When we’re ready for the message, then the teacher appears to help us receive it.
How to live an original life
“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.”
But how can you actually get there?
How can you learn to lead when all you’ve known is following? How can you find your truth when all the world is trying to tell you the “facts”?
The answer has to be, by turning inside. By connecting to the quiet wisdom within. The source of your strength, your genius, your purpose. All the guidance you will ever need is available there. But most of us need a push. So, here are the four essential tenets. Here’s what you need to know to find your self reliance:
1. You’re enough.
You’re intrinsically worthy and valuable. You don’t have to earn your worthiness. You don’t have to prove it to anybody. You don’t have to justify yourself in any way. You don’t need anyone’s validation or approval.
2. You’re naturally self actualizing.
The desire to be more is built right into you. It’s not a skill you have to learn. It’s not a badge you have to earn. The need for self expression is embedded deep within your being. It compels you forward. It compels you to discover yourself. To be expressed. To seek answers and to realize your potential. You couldn’t stop it if you tried (though we often do our darnedest). All you need to do is stop resisting your natural impulse to express.
3. Everything you need is available to you.
You have the answers within you. No one else can give them to you. Only you can know yourself. But know that you have within you everything you need to be a fully realized, consciously expressed being and to create what you want in your life. You have the intelligence. You have the creativity. You have the resourcefulness. You have the solutions—and even if you don’t have them yet you have the ability to find them. The opportunity that is available to every one of us is unprecedented in human history. You can create the life you want.
4. This is your life.
Right here. Right now. You’re writing your own story. There’s no predefined plot. There’s no genre. You’re not guaranteed any particular number of pages.
You can look around you and see how others are writing their own stories; you can decide which things you like and which you don’t. You can follow them along a little way to get your bearings.
But the story becomes your own when you truly decide to take responsibility for your life. Not because someone else told you that you should. But because you finally understand, it’s the only way to truly live. And you’ll know that you get it when the only path you’re on is the one that you’re beating yourself.
Rabbit stew, optional.