In the history of the USA, Frederick Douglass’s name features heavily. Frederick was a prominent human rights activist during the anti-slavery movement and history has it that he was the first African American to hold a high rank in the USA government. Frederick was also a renowned author and one of his articles – My Escape from Slavery – offers useful insights into the theme of self-reliance. He writes:

“The fifth day after my arrival, I put on the clothes of a common laborer and went upon the wharves in search of work. On my way down Union Street I saw a large pile of coal in front of the house of Rev. Ephraim Peabody, the Unitarian minister.

I went to the kitchen door and asked the privilege of bringing in and putting away this coal. ‘What will you charge?’ said the lady. ‘I will leave that to you, madam.’ ‘You may put it away,’ she said. I was not long in accomplishing the job, when the dear lady put into my hand two silver half-dollars.

To understand the emotion which swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I had no master who could take it from me — that it was mine — that my hands were my own, and could earn more of the precious coin — one must have been in some sense himself a slave.”

The online Merriam Webster dictionary defines self-reliance as reliance on one’s efforts and abilities. The excerpt above aptly captures the freedom that comes with the knowledge that you are able to do things on your own. It also demonstrates that nobody will take from you that which you have earned through hard work.

Douglass’s exhilaration on realising that he had the ability to make money using his own hands is palpable. And that is the same feeling we get when we liberate ourselves from the belief that our life is dependent on someone else other than God.
Undoubtedly, when we rely on others, we give them power over our lives. And in as much as no man is an island, it is imperative to learn how to survive independently and it is the responsibility of every parent to teach their children this virtue.
Self-reliance touches on virtually every aspect of our life. Financially, we should strain to meet all our needs and wants without seeking help from someone else. The secret to being self-reliant financially is living below our means for we cannot spend money and have it too. This is the principle of delayed gratification.

Of course as time goes by, your financial standing will also change and you will afford things you used to wish for. But until that time comes, turn the feeling that you have ‘less-than’ into a system of belief that you can make do with what you have.
Emotionally, build your self-esteem and self-respect to avoid the feeling that your happiness and wellbeing is tied on another being or thing. Understand that you have the power to control your feelings and you are more capable and smarter than you think.

In addition, learn to trust yourself for this is the foundation for independent living. Socially, the need for human bonds cannot be underscored and while the idea of self-reliance is to live independently, maintaining close-knit relationships is important in creating true self-reliance.
All in all, simply learn to fix your own problems.

Published January 2017