05 July 2012

The Vocabulary of Self-Reliance: Independence, Self-Sufficiency & Self-Reliance

On this blog, we talk about "self-reliance," "independence," and "self-sufficiency" a lot. Each is subtly different, and here's what we mean when using them:

Self-RelianceMerriam-Webster (M-W) defines being self-reliant as "having confidence in and exercising one's own powers or judgment." Having this quality typically means having the skills and tools to fend for yourself and not need help from other people. It also requires your having confidence in that ability to take care of yourself. Quite literally, self-reliance is be able to rely on oneself both mentally and physically.

Independence: Turning again to M-W, we can see several definitions. Quite often, we are referring to independence as a synonym for "freedom," or as M-W says, "not subject to control by others" or "showing a desire for freedom." Of course, independence is sometimes used interchangeably with "self-reliance," described by M-W as "not looking to others for one's opinions or for guidance in conduct" or "not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood)." Ultimately, independence is tied intimately with freedom, however, because your experience of the latter is directly proportional to the former.

Self-Sufficiency: M-W says that this term as "able to maintain oneself or itself without outside aid" or "capable of providing for one's own needs." At first blush, this sounds pretty much identical to self-reliance. Nevertheless, it is subtly different. Self-sufficiency can be thought of as more a "process" of being able to take care of yourself, whereas self-reliance is more about the "ability" to do so.

The differences in these three terms is illustrated in the following example: In order to increase my independence, I'm becoming more self-reliant by learning more do-it-yourself skills and increasing my preparedness; I'm also providing for my ongoing needs by growing a garden and digging a well to become more self-sufficient.

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