What does it really mean to be self-reliant?

Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to be “self-reliant.” 

We talk a lot about self-reliance (or self-sufficiency) in the homesteading community, and outwardly it may seem as if the goal of “achieving” self-reliance is what ultimately drives many of us to live this lifestyle in the first place.

But what does self-reliance look like in the 21st century? Is it actually achievable, or just a pipe dream?

Is it even possible to be truly self-reliant?


Is self-reliance a delusion?

A few years ago, Forbes published an article titled Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance is a Delusion.

In the article, the author explains that he’s a big fan of “shows about doomsday preppers, homesteaders, survivalists, generally people who live off the grid,” citing Live Free Or Die and Homestead Rescue as a couple of his favourites.

He then goes on to say that “there’s a central delusion in these shows that is never far from my mind when I’m watching these shows: off the grid people are not self-reliant, but instead are mooching off of the civil society, government, and safety net the rest of us contribute to.”

What the WHAAA???

He continues, “the people in these shows often describe a very romantic vision of the lives they have chosen [and] the ethos underlying it. They describe themselves as fully self-reliant, and criticize the rest of society as being dependent and lacking in this self-reliance… they nevertheless benefit tremendously from society.”

The author argues that even the most hardcore, off-the-grid homesteaders still rely on modern tools, resources and material goods (even if they’re second-hand) that they are not able to produce themselves.

He also says that most homesteaders will (at some point or another) rely on modern medical treatment, and that they benefit from social systems and services like private property protections, rule of law, and the military which provides them with safety and security.

He concludes that “self-reliance is for the most part a myth. Unless they live in an extremely remote region, use all homemade tools, and will refuse the safety net if they need it, most homesteaders are far from self-reliant.”

Let’s unpack this…

What does self-reliant really mean?


Unpacking the myth of modern day self-reliance

I’ll begin by saying that the author of this Forbes article is not completely wrong. Most (if not all) homesteaders do benefit from society in one way or another, and will eventually need to rely on others to provide for them in some way. But this has always been true for homesteaders, and indeed, for humans in general.

We are complex, social creatures and we live in an increasingly complex world. It’s difficult if not impossible to achieve complete self-reliance and independence. And besides, that’s not the goal of most homesteaders anyway. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

The fact is, even back in the pioneer days, homesteaders still had to go to town to purchase or trade for goods they couldn’t produce themselves, and they still relied on their neighbours and friends to help out with larger projects, exchanging goods and services, etc.

As folks aged, they relied on the younger members of their families and communities to help care for them, and many even called the doctor and relied on the medical system of the day when necessary. 

Even back then, homesteaders benefitted from the protection of law enforcement and even from “government handouts” like the free land given to settlers by the government during the days of the Homestead Act.

Going back even farther, humans have always depended on each other for survival. Whether they were members of the first civilizations of the ancient times or the tribes that date back to the hunter gatherer times, very few humans have truly “gone it alone” without any outside help.

Even the family unit is inherently interdependent and so one could make the argument that homesteading family members who rely on each other for various reasons can not actually be considered “self-reliant.”

In reality, small, decentralized, local communities and strong, interdependent relationships with one another are essential to self-reliance in many ways. But then can we really call ourselves self-reliant?

Is anyone truly self-reliant??

Related: 6 Ways to Promote Self-Reliance in Your Community


Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century.

What does it mean to be self-reliant?

The concept of self-reliance has been written about many times throughout history. Some of the first and most famous literary works on self-reliance was written back in the 1800’s by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, both of whom spoke about self-reliance and preached the importance of maintaining free will and autonomy over one’s own life.

In his famous essay appropriately titled Self-Reliance, Emerson wrote “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” 

By “a foolish consistency” he was referring to conformity, and was making the case that one should think critically and follow his or her own instincts and judgment (ie. rely on one’s SELF to decide what’s best for them, rather than relying on systems and “the state” to decide for them).

In Thoreau’s famous book Walden (which was all about his experience living a self-reliant lifestyle in a log cabin on Walden Pond), Thoreau wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

He also wrote that “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” 

Both Emerson and Thoreau (who were friends) seemed to believe that self-reliance is mostly about upholding the core values of independence, individuality and self-determination. 

While this can (and often does) entail relying on one’s own skills and abilities to produce or procure what’s needed rather than relying on others, it can be argued that self-reliance is more of a mindset, an attitude and a way of life rather than a strict adherence to surviving only off of what you can do and produce alone with your own hands.

Even Henry David Thoreau lived on someone else’s land (Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly owned the land next to Walden Pond). He traded homegrown beans for rice and other commodities he couldn’t produce himself, and he likely used tools that he didn’t make himself to build his log home. And he almost certainly didn’t make the the ink or the paper that he used to pen his legendary essays on.

But in comparison to the rest of civilized society, he was definitely much MORE self-reliant than the average guy (or gal).

Which brings up an interesting consideration:

Maybe becoming completely self-reliant IS a delusion. Maybe it’s just not possible. But maybe that shouldn’t be the goal anyway.

Instead, maybe self-reliance is about the constant pursuit to be MORE self-reliant, even if absolute, 100% self-reliance is never truly attainable.

And despite what others may say; Despite the opinions of a suit-clad, New York City-based economist and Forbes contributor who admits to believing this lifestyle “seems like a hard life,” I would argue that complete and total self-reliance isn’t the point or the goal.

In fact, I don’t believe there is an end goal! Self-reliance is an ongoing pursuit, or journey, if you will. And it’s a noble and worthwhile one.

Not to mention, it’s precisely this ongoing pursuit that keeps things interesting. If anyone were to ever “achieve” self-reliance, what else would there be left to work toward?

The pursuit – the JOURNEY – is what drives us.


Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century.

What I know for sure…

What I know for sure is that self-reliance shouldn’t be regarded as an all-or-nothing venture. Just because one can never attain complete and total self-reliance doesn’t mean the only other moral option is to give up trying altogether and conform to modern society’s standards and expectations.

We are an “all or nothing” society it seems. We often think that if we can’t do something perfectly, what’s the point of even trying?

But as with just about everything that’s worth doing, working toward greater self-reliance and independence is worth doing imperfectly. Don’t be dissuaded by a lack of experience or knowledge or by where you live or even what you’re “legally allowed” or physically capable of doing. Even one small step toward being more self-sufficient is a step in the right direction.

My advice is to start with your mindset. I wrote a post about this way back when I started blogging, all about the traits and attitudes that make for a successful homesteader. I believe that having the right mindset is a foundational first step on the path to any goal or dream you’re working toward.

Then take it one step at a time. Have realistic expectations and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly and all at once. Take comfort in the fact that no matter where you are on the journey, you’ll never run out of interesting and empowering new skills and things to learn and try.

Above all, enjoy the pursuit. At the end of the day, it’s the pursuit of our goals and dreams that makes life worth living. Actually achieving them only provides a momentary high.

I’ll leave you with one final quote by Henry David Thoreau (whose literature I definitely recommend reading!)…

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

In other words, you do you!

To the pursuit of self-reliance! To independence and individualism! And above all, to the pursuit of dreams, and to never letting the haters stop you in your tracks;)

What does self-reliance mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Ready to take the next step toward greater self-reliance?

While we may never achieve total self-reliance, we can work toward becoming MORE self-reliant and less dependent on corrupt and unreliable systems and industries who consistently put their own interests ahead of ours. But it can be tough to know where to start or what to focus our attention on, and it can be even more difficult to go it alone. 

That’s why I decided to create the Society Of Self-Reliance—a monthly membership and private community that focuses on the many different aspects of self-sufficiency.

From growing and preserving food to crafting your own herbal medicine to learning basic construction and survival skills to creating greater financial independence, you’ll find step-by-step information on a wide range of topics in our library of nearly 150 video lessons (and counting!). Plus, every month we deep dive into new topics during our monthly live group coaching calls and in brand new video tutorials. But perhaps most importantly, we have a private space (away from the prying eyes of social media) where you can connect with other like-minded folks who are walking the same path as you. Because remember: A strong community makes for greater self-sufficiency for all!

* For a limited time, when you join the Society Of Self-Reliance, you’ll be entered to win two free tickets to the 2024 Modern Homesteading Conference! Plus, right now you can still take advantage of introductory pricing and join the Society for just $20/month (or get two months free when you purchase an annual plan!)

If you’re ready to take the next step on your self-sufficiency journey and reclaim your independence, click here to join me and other Society members on the inside!

I hope to see you there:)







  1. lisa lombardo

    I have a hard time taking someone seriously when they talk about self-reliance if they haven’t even tried this lifestyle. I don’t ever expect to be completely self-sufficient but at least I’m trying!

    • Anna Sakawsky

      Amen to that! It reminds me of the famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…” In other words, it’s much easier to do nothing and criticize from the sidelines than it is to strive for something difficult that may be impossible to achieve perfectly, but is still worth pursuing.

  2. Lorraine

    Good points and love the quotes. Many people consider me “a granola” because I cook from scratch and use very little process foods. I like to eat “real food” that taste good with herbs and spices that we grew in our garden or picked up at a farmers’ market or what my husband hunted for meat. I consider myself “a modern day homesteader” for I like my indoor gas stove, washing machine, dish washer, refrigerator, freezer and of course indoor bathroom. I am more in tune to what I purchase and consume. I prefer to repurpose anything I can for another use, can, dry and freeze food, make my own cleaning products. I only produce one garbage a month and I could go longer but just want to empty the can after a month. I live the reduce and reuse concept all the time and always try to think of ways to do this more than I have for years. I mend clothes rather than throwing clothes out. I cut old t-shirts for rags. I love to do some crafts when I can find some spare time as well. I love to decorate with real greens, pine cones and assorted dried plants and seeds from the outdoors for afterwards I can compost it all. There is so much all of us can do to help Mother Earth stay healthy. We all have our limits on what or what not we are willing to do and that is okay but any little bit by everyone helps. I prefer to enjoy friends and family at wherever they are at in life and not be judgmental for we all can only try our best and keep our sanity at the same time. I enjoy being in tune with nature and enjoying the outdoors and trying my best to keep the environment and my home healthy with taking the time to do all I do. It is time consuming but I find it satisfying to care about Mother Earth and all she has to offer us to enjoy. Love watching wild life so much. My husband says, we are easily entertained. I enjoy following you for you keep it simple, positive and very productive in your creating.


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Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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When homesteaders hit the road for a summer road trip…

What am I missing?

@modernhomesteadingconference here we come!

(Yes, a week early, but we’ve got important business on the way;). Will I see you there???

#homesteadersbelike #homesteading #roadtrip

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The Modern Homesteading Conference is just a few short weeks away, and I have TWO free tickets to give away to one lucky winner.

This is a live, in-person event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on June 28th and 29th. I’ll be there speaking and teaching alongside expert homesteaders like Joel Salatin (Polyface Farms), Melissa K. Norris (Pioneering Today), Carolyn and Josh Thomas (Homesteading Family), Lisa Bass (Farmhouse On Boone), Anne Briggs (Anne Of All Trades), Lisa Steele (Fresh Eggs Daily), Robyn Jackson (Cheese From Scratch) and more!

Comment “ENTER” below and I’ll send you the link where you can submit your details and enter to win!

I’ll be drawing a winner this Thursday, so make sure to enter by tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 5th) if you wanna win!

May the odds be ever in your favour 😉

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For Mother’s Day this year, my husband is teaching our daughter to empty the dishwasher on her own. It may seem like a small feat, and for anyone who has kids who already do this and more, this may seem like nothing to celebrate. But for all of the moms who understand how much quicker and easier it is to just “do it yourself,” slowing down and allowing our daughter to take ownership of this even if it’s not perfect or takes twice as long is a huge milestone, both for her and for us as parents!

While it may sometimes feel like the work that we do day in and day out is just mundane and repetitive, the way we show up every day over many years with our children will have a huge impact on the type of people they’ll grow up to be.

What we teach them—the skills we pass on and the values we instil—will help to shape who our children become as adults, and who they become as adults will help to shape what our future world looks like.

It may seem as simple as emptying a dishwasher, but what this really symbolizes is that we’re raising a capable human being who takes responsibility for contributing to our household and is a valued member of our family. And since she will someday grow up to run her own household, possibly be a mother herself, and contribute to our future society, that means that we, as parents, (and especially us moms!), have immense power to shape what the future looks like through the simple actions we take every day to teach and empower the next generation.

All of that to say, thanks for everything you do moms! You are more valued and powerful than you know.

Happy Mother’s Day, and may someone else be doing the dishes for you today!

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Hot cross buns are an Easter tradition in our house, so naturally I wanted to learn how to make them at home.⁣

They're surprisingly easy to make with just a few basic ingredients, including flour, dry active yeast, milk, eggs, sugar and spices, plus raisins or, more traditionally, dried currants and/or candied citrus peels. ⁣

Click the link in my bio to learn how to make your own and enjoy hot cross buns fresh out of the oven this Easter!

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I’m not always so good at sharing all of the awesome stuff I’ve got going on in life and business here on social media. When you’re a full time homesteader, business owner, editor, mom and wife, sometimes IG falls by the wayside 😬

But I just had to pop in this morning to let you know that I’m doing something I’ve never done before, and offering anyone who would like to try out my online membership program—The Society Of Self-Reliance—the opportunity to join for just $1.

Yup, you read that right: Right now, you can get unlimited access to The Society Of Self-Reliance for an entire month for just $1!

Here’s what you get access to:

🌱 Over 150 video lessons to help you build your skills in the kitchen, garden, workshop and home.

👨‍🌾 A private community of amazing people sharing their on journeys and supporting you in yours.

🫙 Our monthly live group coaching call, where you can ask questions and where I offer personalized help and guidance on your homesteading journey.

🌿 Exclusive bonuses: Get downloadable digital copies of my Home Canning Handbook and the annual edition of Modern Homesteading Magazine for free (regular $40 for both), as well as access to other bonuses, like my gardening and preserving masterclasses and bonus interviews with other top homesteaders.

I’m only offering this deal for a limited time, and after it’s over, the membership cost will be going up. But if you join now for $1 and decide you love it, you’ll still be able to continue with your membership for the introductory price of just $20/month (or $200/year).

However, if you decide The Society Of Self-Reliance just isn’t for you right now, you can cancel any time.

All you have to lose is $1, but what you have to gain is priceless:

—> Independence and self-reliance in all areas of life.
—> Security and confidence in your ability to provide for yourself and your loved ones in good times and bad.
—> Freedom from complete and total dependency on “the system”
—> Skills and knowledge you can pass down to the next generation.
—> Fellowship and community with other likeminded folks.

And so much more!

Comment “Society” below and I’ll send you the deets!

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Me shopping for Easter candy for my kids, and walking out empty handed because it’s all full of absolute garbage!

I don’t mind my kids having sugar now and again, but I draw the line at food dies, seed oils and artificial ingredients. (Or at least, I try!)

Hey, we’re not perfect, and yes, our kids will get Easter candy on Sunday morning. Ryan has already bought some and I’m sure he didn’t check all the ingredients like I do! I’m fine with the 80/20 rule most of the time. But the meta question here, is why are these types of ingredients allowed in foods to begin with? Especially food marketed toward kids!

Yes, it’s “junk food.” I don’t expect it to be HEALTHY. But it could be made better by omitting the known carcinogenic ingredients that have been linked to everything from ADHD to hormone imbalances to cancer!

Folks, we must demand better. We DESERVE better, and so do our kids.

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We said goodbye to a family pet yesterday. My mom has had Zoe since I was a teenager, and Evelyn has grown to love her during her visits with nanny.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a family member, human or furry. But we don’t shelter our kids from death either. Evelyn was with us when we found our rabbits dead. She went with my mom to say goodbye to her other cat a year ago. And she knows where the chickens go when it’s their time.

Having a healthy relationship to death is important. It is, after all, the only certainty in life.

Today Ryan is heading down to clean out his dad’s place after he passed last week. They had a strained relationship, so our kids never knew him as their grandpa. But still, it’s never easy.

It does, however, teach us to be grateful for every day we’re alive, and to appreciate the ones we love while we’re still together, because you never know how much time you have left.

RIP Zozo ❤️ See you over the rainbow bridge 🌈 🐾

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When I first started homesteading, gardening, and trying to be more self-sufficient, I had no idea what I was doing. Everything was new to me, and I had no one in my life to teach me the ropes.

I’m not a second or third or fifth generation homesteader. I’m a born-and-raised city girl who had to figure it out on my own, using books from the library and resources from the internet, and advice from random strangers on social media.

While these free resources have taught me a lot, I’ve also come across lots of bad (or just wrong) advice online, and sadly, I’ve dealt with a jerk or two in the comments section of public Facebook groups.

Eventually I did invest in online mentorship and my success from there was exponential. Now, less than a decade after leaving the city in pursuit of our new life as homesteaders, I’ve not only learned how to grow an abundance of food and troubleshoot all kinds of plant issues to ensure a healthy crop and successful harvest, but I’ve learned how to be more self-sufficient in just about every area of life.

I’ve learned how to
🌱 grow my own groceries
🫙 can and preserve my own food
🌿 make herbal medicine and natural products
💵 create multiple income streams
🆘 prepare for a wide range of emergencies
and more.

Plus, with my husband’s help, he can also
🛠 fix or build most things
so together we’ve got a wide range of skills that allow us to live a more empowered, self-reliant life.

Now I want to help you do the same…

I recently reopened the doors to The Society of Self-Reliance—my private membership program where I teach you the skills and mindset you need to become more self-reliant in every area of your life.

Not only do you get access to nearly 150 step-by-step video tutorials (and counting), you also get monthly live group coaching calls with me, and access to a private, SUPPORTIVE and knowledgeable online community of likeminded folks on the same journey.

For a limited time, you can join The Society for just $20/month (or get two months FREE with an annual membership!).

Come, join a community of people who will lift you up and ensure you DON’T starve 😉

Comment “Society” below to learn more!

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Never before have we had access to so much information at our fingertips. Whether you have a question you need answered, are looking for a tutorial to walk you through a specific task or are searching for a recipe to help you figure out what to make for dinner, all you have to do is Google it.⁣

But the problem is that there's no real way to be sure whether the information you find on line is genuine. Is the person who wrote or shared it actually sharing their own experience, or are they too simply regurgitating answers that they Googled?⁣

As we barrel full speed ahead into the era of AI and deep fakes, it will be even more difficult to know whether the information you're getting is even from a real human!⁣

While it's definitely an exciting time to be alive, so many people are feeling overwhelmed, and are craving a return to the analog world; To a world where information was shared in the pages of trusted books and publications, or was passed on from human to human, from someone who held that knowledge not because they Googled it, but because they lived it, experienced it, even mastered it.⁣

That what sets Homestead Living magazine apart from much of the information you'll find online: We don't have staff writers, we have experienced homesteaders sharing their hard-won wisdom in each issue. And while we do offer a digital version, we're also now offering monthly PRINT issues for U.S. subscribers (Canada and elsewhere hopefully coming soon!)⁣

Plus, until the end. of January, you can get your first 12 issues of Homesteading Monthly for just $1.00!⁣

No matter where you are on your homesteading journey, if you've been feeling overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information and the noise of the online world and have been craving a return to the real, the tangible and, quite frankly, the human, Homesteading Monthly was made for you. ⁣

For homesteaders, by homesteaders.⁣

*** Comment "Homestead" below and I'll send you the link to subscribe! ***

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