#163 How Self Reliance Builds Self Confidence

Adventures in Sustainable Living Podcast

Episode 163

How Self Reliance Builds Self Confidence


If so often hear the question “What is the world coming to these days?” And while I would contend that the world is not coming to anything other than what the world has always been coming to, I do think that people are more fearful today than ever before. And there are several reasons for this. 


Part of the challenge in our modern society is that most of us are not taught to think and live independently. Everything we need is easily available and we are completely unsure of what to do if something goes wrong. Consequently, we are loosing our self confidence and that makes us insecure. 


A big part of being sustainable is being self reliant. A secondary benefit to self reliance is self confidence. So join me for E 163 How Self Reliance Builds Self Confidence. 


Welcome back everyone to the Adventures in Sustainable Living Podcast. This is your host Patrick and this is E163 How Self Reliance Builds Self Confidence


Good News Story of the Week


But before we get started on this week’s episode, let’s first talk about the good news story of the week which has to do with sustainable travel. 


You know I started traveling extensively for work about 15 years ago. That travel landed me in multiple states and countries as I was willing to take on any new adventure that presently itself. At the height of all of that, during one particularly busy year, I was on a plane 57 times. Eventually I grew tired of always traveling for work and simply started traveling for fun. Even with that I started to slow down over time because I became weary of not being at home. 


At the time of this production, which is December 2023, it has been at least 3 1/2 years since I have been on a plane. Much of that has to do with the pandemic and post pandemic travel difficulties. However,  I am finally getting to the point where I really want to travel again. And I am happy to say that I am now armed with a lot of information on how to do that sustainably. 


The good news is that sustainable air travel is now a part of history. Just recently Atlantic Virgin airlines made aviation history when a Boeing 787 flew from London to JFK international in the US using sustainable aviation fuel manufactured from cooking oil, waste crops and waste food. 


This type of fuel produces 50 to 70% fewer emissions that standard jet fuel. Air travel accounts for 2.8% of global emission and a 50% to 70% reduction in those emission would virtually eliminate air travel as a priority in the fight against climate change. 


Other up and coming possibilities is the use of hydrogen cells to power air travel. Presently its use is limited to short flights across Europe. According to industry experts this is just a first step but you have to start somewhere. 


So there you are folks, just one more way that our world is becoming more sustainable. 


So now let’s move on to this weeks episode about how self reliance builds self confidence and why that is so important even in our modern world. 


I truly think that part of the challenge in our modern world is that everything is so convenient, so easily and readily available that we rarely think about cultivating the skills of self sufficiency. The average person never never even thinks about it any more. Most people would ask “Why do I need to know that when I can just look it up on the internet?” 


But truly it is no one’s fault. It has been a slow progression over time. Our advances in agriculture, science and technology has resulted in almost eliminating the need for physical labor in order for us to survive. We can easily purchase anything and everything we need for our day-to-day living. Why do we need to know how to build a shelter, how to make a camp fire, how to cook without electricity? While this may be true to some degree, little do most people know that the lack of such skills is robbing us of our independence and self confidence. 


There is no doubt that technology has improved our lives. Most of us find it hard to remember a time when phones, computers, tablets, and other devices were not a part of our everyday lives. Things are easy, fast, convenient, and we truly have to do very little in order to take care of ourselves. If you want, you can even do your grocery shopping without even leaving your couch and even have these items delivered to your door. 


Most younger generations truly have no concept of how things used to be. For fear of aging myself I am going to admit that I am old enough to remember a time when things were much different. Early in my childhood in northern Georgia there were still houses and farms that did not have electricity. Practically no one had a phone. If you needed to speak with them you had to drive to their farm. 


If you truly wanted to research any topic of interest, you had to go to the library and find books by using an indexing system called a card catalog. Each catalog card contained bibliographic information about the author, the book title and physical location within the library. Basic research on a topic typically took up an entire day. These days I want to simultaneously laugh at both how simple things used to be and how ridiculously difficult it used to be to do the simplest of things. 


But technology has truly changed our lives and I will admit I would not be doing many of the things I do without having access to that technology. And I truly think that since 80% of us now live in urban areas, I am not sure things would function efficiently unless we had our present technology. 


But in my opinion, while such a technology based culture has its advantages, it also produces a false sense of security. Many of us are so dependent on this technology that we truly cannot function without it. If something goes wrong most people do not have a clue how to solve a basic problem. Most people do not even realize that sooner or later our technology dependence becomes a slippery slope and starts to be detrimental. Let’s talk for example our means of mass communication as related to our technology and how that affects our lives.  


Mass communication first began when humans started writing. But the age of widespread communication is often said to have begun in the 15th century with the invention of the printing press. Later improvements resulted in the rise of newspapers. The first true text messaging came with the invention of the telegraph in the 1840s. Then came the radio in 1890. By the early 20th century television was the newest mass media craze.

Personal computers became available in the 1970s, laptops in the early 1980s, the internet was born in 1983, the first digital mobile phone came out in 1992. And now today, we have smart phones which are truly hand held computers, a far cry from the first computer which weight 30 tons and took up 1,800 square feet. 


Think about the progression of humanity just for a moment: pictures scribbled on the wall of an ancient cave, verbal communication, written communication, the printing press, hand written letters, the telegraph, then radio, television, personal computers, the internet, and now smart phones and mobile internet. We have reached a time when we are never out of touch with the entire planet. Consequently we are constantly flooded with information about every little thing and we never stop to realize that this is actually detrimental.  


And truly humanity is at a point where globalization has  replaced localization. We are dependent on a vast infrastructure that we cannot understand much less control. No over ever stops to thing about the fact that  75% of the world’s food depends on 12 plants and 5 animal species and that is actually a bad thing. We are so globalized that one conflict on the far reaches of our planet has the potential to affect and destabilize the entire global economy. 


And guess what else, we get to hear about all of that all day every day. Consequently the vast majority of us feel insecure about the state of the world. Our insecurity is further exacerbated by the fact that we have no control whatsoever over the state of the global economy. A failing economy in another country, tense international relationships, the global price of gasoline, a lithium shortage, droughts, water shortages, poverty, social injustice, and unstable dictator, cybersecurity, identity theft, debt crisis, all end up right on our doorsteps simply because of modern technology. 


The end result of all of this information is that it promotes a general feeling of insecurity and it erodes our self confidence in just being able to live life how we want. This brings us back to the same basic question of “What is the world coming to?” 


In many respects the world is not coming to anything more than what the world has always been coming to. The future has always been uncertain for most people throughout time. Most likely there has never been a time when a people or a culture lived in the comfort of knowing exactly what tomorrow or next year would bring. Over the last 3,400 years of recorded history, the world has been at peace 268 of those years, which is about 8% of recorded human history. 


But besides all of that, our world is now changing at an unprecedented rate and on a scale never before seen. Technology is now an integral part of our lives. Social platforms has completely altered how we communicate. Automation, digitization, and now artificial intelligences, robotics have transformed various industries from manufacturing to health care. Social norms and values are changing from gender and sexuality to race and religion. An acceleration in remote working, e-commerce, and telemedicine prompted by the pandemic has now become essential.  Accelerating social injustice and what is being called the digital divide due to those that do not have access to all the technology and runs our lives.


And of course as individuals not a single one of us can control any of this. Not to mention that no one is exempt from the effects of such rapid change in our world. Furthermore, change tends to produce more change, which produces more change which accelerates more change which leads to exponential change. And that is where we are right now. 


The problem with such rapid change is that it tends to trigger one of the deepest fears in the human psyche. Such rapid change takes the appearance of instability which in turn triggers and fear of the unknown. An uncertain future, a lack of predictability, and loss of control promotes, fear, anxiety, and even reduces our self esteem and certainly our self confidence. 


So all of this begs the question of how do we actually produce some sort of stability in our lives? How do we actually produce some sort of security? How do we regain the self confidence that no matter what happens we will be okay? 



The answer to that is resilience. And what this really means is the ability to not only endure rapid, unpredictable change but too also rebound quickly into every day healthy living with the confidence that your daily needs will be taken care of no matter what. And the very foundation of resilience is self reliance. Additionally exercising self reliance is a fantastic way to increase your self confidence. The more you act in a self reliant way the more you become confident in your own abilities. 



Think about a toddler taking his or her first steps. One successful step leads to another which leads to another. This is how a crawling toddler turns into a walker. The same is true for many other endeavors in life. We start learning from interactions with our playmates, how to accomplish things, how to negotiate, how to build productive relationships.  This later turns into doing things independently. Eventually this leads to success in our first job, success in college, which leads to one success after another as an adult. 



Sooner or later you learn to trust yourself, not only trust your own judgement but also when to admit that you need help. This is the foundation of personal self reliance. Trusting yourself helps you to overcome obstacles, try new experiences, learn from your failures, all without impacting your sense of self worth and self confidence. 



I can tell you without a doubt if I new up front what I was going to have to do, all the skills I would have to acquire, all the work I was going to have to do in order to live off the grid and have the lifestyle I presently have, I am not at all sure that I would have pursued it. There was just too much I didn’t know and too many skills I had to learn from the very beginning. 



This all started right up front with just building a structure out of raw logs so that I could have a basic shelter. The only thing that kept me going was the ambition to accomplish something I had always wanted. But I will certainly say from the very beginning it was probably fortunate that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. 



For example, when I was building the log cabin and finally got to the point of designing and adding the roof braces, I had no idea how to do that. I had to ask someone who had construction experience and had them draw a design on a piece of paper. Once back home I had to figure out how I was going to get all these logs onto the roof and secure them. I also had to find a way to get a 14 foot 6 inch diameter log almost 20 feet off the ground completely by myself. But I got it accomplished.



When it came to installing the solar I know absolutely nothing about solar electricity much less doing electrical work. So, I took a 40 hour online course followed by a 2 week intensive workshop, went back home and did all I needed to do. 



As time passed and I learned more and more new skills, I was confident enough that I felt I could learn to do just about anything. Before too long I was doing things for myself that I never thought possible because I had enough self confidence to try just about anything. 



Truly the very foundation of all of this was my self reliance. I lived in the middle of no where and for 6 to 7 months out of the year I saw no one. I truly had no one to rely on. Consequently, I had to learn more and more things because I didn’t have a choice. The end result of this was my self confidence increased exponentially. But at the same time I also learned the importance of admitting my limitations and knowing when I needed to ask for help.  




How to Develop Self Reliance


So, all of that being said, how do you go about developing your own version of self reliance which in turn builds self confidence? How do you get to the point where you know that you and your family are going to be okay no matter what. 



The short version of that answer is practice, practice. The longer version is that I am going to give you a few tips and tricks, all of which have served me well. 




Know yourself



First and foremost you need to know yourself. This may sound rather simplistic but it is the very foundation of self reliance.  You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, your personal preferences, as well as your abilities and limitations. In other words, you need to start down this road a little differently than what I did when first starting on the homestead. You actually need to know what you don’t know especially when it comes to constructing the type of lifestyle you really want. But you also have to have the confidence enough to go after what you want in life despite pressures from other people and not give in to doing what people think you should be doing instead of what you really want to do.  



Think independently



The next step is to think independently. This goes right along with knowing yourself. Do not allow yourself to be strongly influenced by the opinions of others. Take other people’s opinions into consideration while developing your own conclusions that support your own personal beliefs. This is especially true when it comes to the lifestyle you want for yourself.  



Thinking autonomously goes hand in hand with trusting your own instinct. Don’t hide behind what you have learned from society or influential members of your culture. This is mere imitation and is often linked to a lack of self confidence. It you believe in something after you have thought it through then nothing should hold you back. Not to do so is simply conforming to societal exceptions for no good reason.



It is important to have your own values despite the expectations of society. And I can tell you from personal experience that the values of society swing like a pendulum. So take the time and effort to develop your own belief system based on what brings you happiness and brings value into your life. In other words, get a firm understanding of your own reality. 

Do your own research, form your own conclusions about everything. Do not blindly accept what anyone says about anything. 



The best example I can give you about this is something from my own life. I grew up in a culturally and religiously narrow minded environment. I almost as ashamed to admit that when I moved from Tennessee to Colorado I had no concept of other cultures, belief systems, and very little tolerance for other ethnic groups. I was truly a product of my environment. 



During my educational process I wanted to learn as much as I could about the world, how other people lived, what they believed. I took psychology, philosophy, and anthropology classes. I read literally a hundred different books from other religions, other cultures and even several books about the civil rights movement and all the things that went on before I was even born. It was because it was these things that set the stage for what I was to experience growing up in the southern part of the US. 



The end result is that I developed my own beliefs that were the exact opposite of what I was taught. I learned that people are just people. It does not matter where they are from, their cultural background, or personal preferences. Adopting this new belief system opened up a world of adventure for me and resulted in my living and working in numerous countries. All because I learned the value of independent thinking. 



Always strive for progress



Always strive for progress in your personal and professional development. Set goals for yourself and give yourself a time limit. Continuously evaluate whether a course of action is right for you. If not decide if you need to change what you are doing.


This is a process I go through about every 5 years. I completely reevaluate my circumstances and see if I am happy with the progress I am making in my life. If not, I change it. 



Challenge yourself on a regular basis



Try new things. Do new things. Learn new things. Don’t allow yourself to become stagnant in your present lifestyle. Taking on new challenges stimulates your brain, makes you feel for alive, and gets you excited about life again. Not to mention the fact that it will greatly increase your self confidence. 



Adopt the attitude of continuous learning



More than anything you also need to adopt the attitude of continuous learning. As I like to say, as a way of life adopt the attitude of continuous improvement through education. This way you can leverage the one thing you always control-how you use your mind to develop yourself.  


I recently discovered the TED platform, which can be found at TED.com. This is a knowledge-driven platform that is dedicated to researching and spreading new ideas and educating people on a wide variety of topics.  I am on their email list so I get daily notifications about new talks.  I listen to one talk everyday, most of which are 15 minutes or less. 



By doing so, I learn about new things, get exposed to new ideas, get a new perspective about things going on in the world. It truly helps me to just keep learning and it is also a refreshing break from the constant barrage of bad news. If you have never heard of this platform then go to TED.com.  I highly recommend it. You will no doubt learn something new and this is a great way to continue to build our self confidence. 



Don’t rely on things to make you happy



As you know, we live in a consumer culture. We are constantly encouraged to acquire more personal possessions and mainstream media attempts to convince us this will make us happier. The problem is that life is constantly changing. Anything can happen at any time. Tying your happiness to external objects will never bring any sort of lasting value because all of these things can easily be gone in less than a day.



More possessions often means more responsibility and less personal and financial freedom. It is far better to live a minimalistic life and base you happiness on experiences and good relationships with family and friends. 



Recognize and manage your habits of dependence



There are times when we all need to turn to others for help. Recognizing when we tend to do this is part of knowing yourself. But we need to mange this carefully and not miss out on the opportunity to build our own confidence and learn a new skill.  Setting goals and achieving them in our own way will not only give you a sense of accomplishment but will also reinforce your belief in your own judgement. 



Every time I am confronted with a new problem at the homestead, something I have not dealt with before, I am so tempted to have someone else take care of the problem for me. And sometimes that is simply a matter of other pressing priorities. But I also know if I get into the habit of doing that I will never learn a new skill. Furthermore, in the future if a similar problem occurs, I will still not have the knowledge to take care if it. Consequently, it often takes me longer to fix things than I would like. But in the process, I learn something new and I continue to build my self reliance and self confidence. 



Why is this important



At this point you may be asking why is this important. Why self reliance and how can that build my confidence? 



First off many of us are losing some very important basic skills as a result of our so called modern culture. A great deal of this is due to a combination of increased urbanization, ease and convenience, the technology rich environment that we live in every day, and the fact that you can hire someone to do just about anything you want. With easy access to hundreds of years of information in only seconds and the ability to have anything you want any time you want people no longer see the need to retain and practice some very basic life skills that were previously regarded as necessary for basic survival. 



And just for an example, here is a short list of skills that people no longer find important: 



Gardening and growing your own food


Making soap

Home canning and pickling

Using a bicycle for transportation

Writing a letter

Basic butchering

Cooking from basic ingredients

Basic carpentry and home repairs

Building a fire

Making bread

Foraging for edible foods

Basic animal husbandry



And this is just to name a few. But self reliance is important for several reasons.


-The most obvious is that if you always depend on others for help, what are you going to do when help is not available. 


-Self reliance cultivates the skills of critical thinking and problem solving. 


-It teaches you to rely on your own inner resources 


-Self reliance builds resilience, which is the ability to bounce back when things do not go as planned


-Self reliance promotes resourcefulness, which is the ability to find a way around obstacles and create solutions. 



And the bottom line is that self reliance means that you develop the skills to take care of your own basic needs no matter what happens. And that is exactly how you build self confidence, which is simply an attitude toward yourself and your skills where you accept and trust yourself and have a sense of control over your life. And what could be more important in our present day world where we are seeing exponential change that seems almost out of control.



Truly when you get to the point where creativity and ingenuity are your best friends, you have a solid foundation for self reliance. And self reliance is the main ingredient of self confidence. Self reliance and self confidence puts us one step closed to sustainability. And sustainability goes a long way toward creating some personal security in a rapidly changing world. 



Now I want to end this episode with a short quote from the well known Henry Ford. “I you think you can do it, or you think you can’t do it, you are right.” 



And that is a great way to think about our present world. If we sit and think that we can never build a sustainable future it will never happen. But if we think we can, then we most certainly will.  



Until next week folks, this is your host Patrick signing off. Always remember to live sustainably because this is how we build a better future.