Did you know that exercising self-reliance is a great way to increase your self-confidence? The more you act in a self-reliant (independent) way, the more certain you become of your own abilities.
Think of a toddler taking his or her first steps. One successful step leads to another that leads to another, and soon, that crawler has become a confirmed — even if shaky at first — walker.
Unimpeded by extrinsic factors, the self-confidence learned here carries over into endeavor after endeavor, from interactions with playmates to independent study in college, eventually leading to success at a first job or another adult pursuit where self-confidence can be fine-tuned and perfected.
By building your self-reliance, you can trust yourself to rely on your own internal resources in order to know when to exercise it and when to ask for help in order to build a meaningful, fulfilled life. Practicing your self-reliance helps you overcome obstacles, learn from failures, and impact your own self-worth and self-confidence.
So, how can you develop your self-reliance? If you’ve read my previous articles, you know the answer: by being aware of who you are and striving to become the best possible version of yourself. I believe the following are seven keys to making that happen:
1. Think independently. Be aware of your own original thoughts, and don’t allow them to take a backseat to the thoughts of others. Always be looking for ways to express your own creativity and think outside the box, even if it’s in collaboration with others.
2. Know yourself. Accept who you are by understanding your own preferences and abilities. Learn to be your own friend. For example, if your doctor parents want you to follow in their footsteps, make sure that’s what you want before you send in that medical school application. And, don’t be afraid to share what you know about yourself with others. Not only can others be a good sounding board, but enlisting them as your advocates can be an excellent idea all around.
3. Use your internal resources. It’s important to be aware of the good things you have accomplished. Cultivate your inner confidence by being proud of your accomplishments and being aware of your strengths. Write them down if you have to. Look for opportunities to use your strengths and internal resources. Then, take note of your successes. Be aware that fear can create a harmful internal dialogue that can challenge the best of us. Recount your accomplishments as a way to resist any impulse to give in to your negative self-talk.
4. Always strive for progress on your path to professional and personal development. Be aware of needed changes. In order to implement them, have specific, timely goals in life. Articulate them. Evaluate your impact on relationships and decision making with these goals firmly in mind. Is a particular course of action right for you in the short term? In the long run?
5. Understand your own reality. Is this your reality or someone else’s? Do your own independent evaluation of what the actual facts are without blindly accepting what someone else tells you they are.
6. Implement a continuous learning approach. Realistically assess your skillset to determine if it is adequate to support your goals. You can hardly be self-reliant if you have to depend on others to accomplish tasks that you really should be doing yourself. Get whatever additional training you need. Keep abreast of developments. Look for ways to implement your new knowledge.
7. Stay balanced. Practice self-care in order to replenish your creative energy and reduce stress. Adequate rest, nutrition and time to recharge the batteries are essential. Remember the “oxygen mask” effect: Take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others.
Now, go back and review these seven keys. Does any particular one demand your attention? If so, get after it. Change is up to you; no one is going to do it for you.
That being said, there are many situations where independence and self-reliance aren’t enough. From parental instruction to school teachers to mentors and instructors in the workplace, help and assistance not only make learning easier, they are often essential.
Perhaps you know the expression, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.” That’s the individual who never asks for help, never acknowledges his or her inadequacies. He or she simply charges ahead, completely sure of him or herself, regardless of a multitude of past failures.
As much as we don’t want to be overly dependent, we sure don’t want to go to this extreme either. The trick is to know with confidence when to ask for help.
Even though you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for it, you have to strike a balance between independence and undue reliance on others. Only practice will reveal exactly what that balance should be.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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