How self reliant are you?

Posing young tiger IIphoto © 2009 Tambako The Jaguar | more info (via: Wylio)

Humans are social animals and it is difficult to work without help from other humans.

But some of us make a habit out if it. We look upto a colleague or a family member or a friend to help us get things done. Some people have been so used to this kind of help for such a long time, that they consider getting help almost a birth right.

I think things work best if we provide equal value in return for the services we receive. When I say we are social, I mean we are intelligent enough to understand that we do a lot of different, complex things. Each one of us is good at certain tasks. We do the things we are best at and we let others do what they are good at. Then we barter. Its all good and fine when we work this way. But when we don’t develop our value enough and still expect to gain value from others, or we are lazy and ask help for what we can do ourselves, we have created an imbalance.

Those of us who seek help regularly, won’t even realize how much power we give away from ourselves. We have created a dependency for ourselves. We have a lot of uncertainty about things because we depend on others. We feel constantly stressed and caged. We develop low self esteem. We feel frustrated and angry when we don’t get this help. We get together with people who do similarly, people who are constantly looking for others to do what they can do themselves. Those who will feel hurt when we don’t help them. We know this but we want to keep our friends. So we have to help them when they ask for it. Sometimes we get frustrated with their unreasonable demands. Arguments and bad feelings follow. It happens the other way round too.

When asked why don’t we do things ourselves, we answer back with a question, “What can I do?”. If you are used to taking help, it seems a mountain of a task to look for ways to do things yourself. The temptation of just asking and getting things done is very strong. At such a point, you need to ask yourself – “Would I rather be a slave to the whims and fancies of other’s or would I make the extra effort to have freedom in my life?”. Won’t you shed your laziness and negative attitude once, to try make a positive life for yourself. The effort may seem a lot but the rewards are greater.

Becoming self reliant does not mean you turn away from colleagues, friends and family and become a loner. On the contrary, you create more value based relationships, as against need based relationships. You provide some unique value that others need and vice versa. Value based relationships are so much more empowering and uplifting. People truly cherish your company if you have some unique value. Of your own volition, you may offer help to the other people at times. Other people do the same. And such help comes as a pleasant and sweet surprise, one that is nice to have but not that you can’t do without.

Help given of someone’s own volition is good. Help sought once in a while, due to a legitimate necessity you cannot fulfill yourself, is fine. Help expected and sought on a regular basis, out of habit, is not. I think in the long run, relationships work best when neither party is heavily dependent on the other. If you are expecting your friends or family to help you whenever you want, I think you are headed for trouble.

When I joined my first project, I had almost no knowledge of things. In the beginning I depended a lot on help from others. My life was miserable in the first year of software development. I had a lot of stress, frustration and low self-esteem. Then I decided I will have to get good enough to be able to do things myself. I worked in the programming language Java. I decided to take a certification and put aside everything else to prepare for it. During the day I worked, then in the evenings I studied. After a few months preparation, I took the Sun Certified Java Programmer Test and did very well. Them I took another, related test. Suddenly, for the first time in my professional career, people started coming to me, instead of the other way round. My self esteem grew by leaps and bounds. I could do most of my work by myself and did not have to seek help often. I felt free from the stress of waiting for someone to come and do my work for me.

Java has a lot of frameworks built upon it. I was not good with all of them. There were others, better at those, whom I had to seek out for help a few times. But after the tests, I could barter help. I could help the people I was taking help from. This experience was different from before. A lot of people who avoided me before, started liking me. I made some different kind of friends, those who were good at what they were doing. New opprtunities to learn and do things started coming my way more often. I was trying less and doing more. Work became fun at last!

Here is how you can start.

1. Create some value of your own. This is the single most important advice I can give you. Get very good with something, be valuable. When you create value, you get two advantages. You get a taste of what it takes to create value. Consequently, you stop expecting others to share it with you for nothing. Secondly, you now have something to trade with. You can seek help from others and offer them yours in return, right away or later. Creating value is not as daunting as you may think. When I started preparing for my certifications, the activity itself gave me a lot of joy. I was fed up of asking help and the thought that I was working towards making myself free, brought me back to my preparation again and again.

2. Can you do it yourself. This is for the lazy ones. For each thing you want to ask help with, ask yourself whether you can do it. If you can, you better do it yourself. If you want to taste freedom and a positive sense of self worth, you will have to do this. It is only as difficult or as easy as making up the mind to do it.

3. Get off your bum and out of your comfort zone. Pick something that is very important to you, that you have to do quite often and need help with. See how much of it you can do yourself. Maybe you will have to learn a few things. Learn them. Don’t ask for help until its really necessary. You will have to be the judge here. Creating necessity where it does not exist will only hurt you. You just have to stick in through the beginning, it keeps getting easier and more fun after that.

4. Accept full responsibility for your life’s direction. To begin becoming self reliant, you have to start holding yourself responsible for your life. If you point at others for your troubles, you take away the power from yourself and put it in others. Accept the responsiblity. They say, with great power comes great responsibility. I think it holds true the other way round too.

If you know people who have this tendency, you can help them. Refuse them help in small doses. They won’t like you for it now but if they ever become self reliant, they will come back to thank you for it.


  • Jyoti
    November 22, 2010 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    I am glad that you wrote this article and would like to share a recent experience with the readers. I am appearing for an exam in which Mathematics is one of the two papers. I don’t feel very easy with a few topics in Maths and always looked up to my spouse to teach me those. Thankfully he refused to help me and asked me to teach myself. Although I felt angry at that point and thought him to be a proud person, eventually with introspection, I realized that he is being my true friend.
    I am still learning not to ask for/expect help and your ideas will surely facilitate and strengthen a good habit in me. [:)]

    • Rahul
      November 23, 2010 - 1:13 am | Permalink

      I am glad it was of help. I will suggest against making an obsession with not taking help. It does better to focus on creating and exchanging value.

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