Self-Reliance

Updated: Oct 11, 2020


An excerpt from Terry Cole-Whittaker’s book, What You Think of Me is None Of My Business

“Self-reliance depends on knowing deep within yourself that, no matter what’s going on in your life, others are not your source. It’s knowing that, while you do need other people and do choose to react with them, they are not responsible for your happiness.”
“People may be the avenue, the channel, through which your happiness, well-being, and prosperity flow, but they are not the cause. The source is…your Higher Self, your True Self. You and I, each one of us, are like fountains from which love can flow. Unhappily, we often see ourselves as containers into which things are poured. But your True Self, like a clear spring, is outflowing with your [Higher Self] as the source.”

I have thought long and hard about my childhood and my lack of self-worth. I grew up in a toxic household, rife with dysfunction. It’s not helpful for me to continue to pick apart my past in an attempt to find the reasons for my struggles. A therapist once said how easy it is to be distracted off the path of healing by trying to figure out what caused the hurt in the first place. Where the real work lies is in taking the knowledge in hand and moving forward with healing.

I still at times find myself nit-picking the past looking for reasons why. The real question is what do I need now to help me move forward. I have been a student of self-reliance since then. Slowly building my inner fortress over the years, defining my likes and dislikes, my safety and triggers, my boundaries and holding them all in a vessel of gentle, loving respect.

In Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson says:

“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now.”

When I find myself grimacing with discomfort over what I should have said or worrying my choices upset other people, or feeling not good enough, it’s a huge flag for me to pay attention. Another opportunity for growth. When these growth opportunities arise, I can choose to beat myself up and continue to feel less than or I can take a step back from myself and ask what is really up? What am I feeling? Taking this step back, I believe, is into my Higher Self. I stand in strength and wisdom when I ask the what’s up questions.

There have been days I’m walking on egg shells around myself because I feel I react to everything. Other days it’s smooth sailing. I know every time I catch the flag waving and I learn from the FOG that shows itself, it’s another step forward into acceptance of who I am, that I’m doing the best I can.

Every day we sit in silence; every time we are inspired; every moment of loving ourselves builds a stronger connection to our Higher Self. I once had a student tell me she didn’t have a Higher Self. What she was really saying was she never took the time to build a relationship with her Higher Self. I pointed to the open door so she could start the journey. The decision was up to her.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • I like the idea of self-reliance. I’ve always thought of it as related to the ego. But it can be a relationship with one’s higher self. That sounds yummy!

  • The term “nit-picking the past” is familiar to me. It’s about moving beyond that, taking steps to move forward. It’s hard to do. Setting the intention is the goal.

  • Whenever I’m thinking about the past, I’m usually blaming someone else. I’ve learned so much here. To connect to my authentic self. To be true to self. What others think of me is none of my business. Life is a journey -- I’ve found that idea helpful. If I just did some gardening, which I really enjoy, and catch a look at how I look, it’s okay however I look. I feel grounded in that thinking where I’m not caring what others are thinking. It’s the same with doing artwork which I also love. I am grateful for those moments when I can find those activities where I am connected to self and don’t care what others think. It’s a challenge, with slips along the way. I’m exploring how to be authentic.

  • I loved the line “student of self-reliance”. When I do it and rely on self, I feel empowered. It's a good feeling. The reading made me feel stronger.

  • The reading made me think of therapy I’ve had in the internal family systems approach. I learned about Self-reliance with a capital S. It’s reliance on the higher energy. Self-reliance with a small s is reliance on the smallness of me.

  • It is freeing when I don’t care what others think. It’s mature. Besides, most people aren't thinking what you think they are thinking. I’ve been looking for a job, and after the interview, I reflect on what I said, whether I said it correctly. Then I remind myself that if I stay true to myself, that is what’s important. If I didn’t get the job because they didn’t like my answer, then I didn’t want that job. I don’t care what others think. Being true to self is freeing.

  • A 5-year old told me, “I’m tired of moving backwards.” It was so funny to hear it from her 5-year old perspective. It reminded me of the way we back up to run forward – get a running start.

  • I used to be in a relationship with someone and I’d obsess about all the things she did wrong. I began to put a cap on the obsessing: one minute to obsess then let it go. Acceptance of myself and a situation helps me move beyond and move forward. The idea of not focusing on the why is also important: learn it if necessary and ask other questions, like what can I do to move onward.