The difference between self reliance and self sufficient

Self Reliance & Self Sufficiency – What’s The Difference?

The difference between self reliance and self sufficient

Self Reliance or Self Sufficiency, what’s the difference?

People tend to use these terms interchangeably. I have been guilty of it too.

However if you dig into it a bit, there is a difference in their meaning.


Self Reliance

Being self reliant is about not being dependent on external “flows”.

Self reliance is relying on one’s self. One’s own powers. It aspires towards non-dependence. It’s a quality. A personality characteristic. It’s about “you”.

Note that what one makes, obtains, or gets, may be more (or less) than what is “sufficient”.


Self Sufficiency

Being self sufficient is either obtaining, having, or producing the resources one needs.

Self sufficiency (sufficient). Sufficient quantities of what one needs.


The Difference Between Self Reliance and Self Sufficient

Given the variance or distinction between the two definitions above, you might say the following:

Both self reliance and self sufficiency are about you.

Self reliance involves the conviction, dedication, fortitude, and skills in order to reach or aspire towards a goal (or result) of self sufficiency.

I look at self reliance as being more about a person’s determination and skill whereas self sufficiency is more about the resources, the stuff.

It’s you and your self reliance that may lead to obtaining or producing resources.

Does that make sense?


Can You Really Become Self Sufficient?

Even with a self reliant attitude and skill sets, can you actually truly become self sufficient in terms of survival resources?

Sure you can – to varying degrees of extent. That’s some of what I write about (and you comment about) from day to day.

It certainly and definitely is NOT easy (to get closer to self sufficiency). However each and every baby step that you take is a step in a good direction in terms of being better prepared for external systems breaking down. Weaning yourself off of dependence.

Dependence on what? Well that’s up to you. There are LOTS of dependencies living in today’s modern world. In fact, given our massive population and dense urban, suburban regions, there’s no way so many people could survive without modern dependencies and system “flows” into the region, for example.


These are just some of the basics. But to become self sufficient even marginally in these areas will require a great deal of good old self reliance for starters.


Self Reliance & Sufficiency Beyond Just “You”

Note that self reliance and self sufficiency can apply to more than just “you” (or one person). It might also refer to a group. Perhaps a neighborhood. A region. A country. Get the idea?

However most discussions with these terms within the prepper / preparedness realm often deal with the singular person or smallish groups. I’m just pointing out how it can apply to a ‘bigger picture’.

Just like how the Unites States once was pretty self reliant and self sufficient. Today most of our ‘stuff’ (and a good portion of our food) is from other countries. But I digress.

I just wanted to point out the distinction between these two terms, at least how I view it. (I searched online too, and it appears that the statements above are in line with what I’ve read.)

More: Can You Even Imagine The Pioneer Family Surviving The Frontier?

Similar Posts


  1. I believe that many in the prepper community are like myself, that is, someone who has always been “self reliant”. My simple definition of being self reliant is someone whose first thought when a problem arises is to take care of it yourself, not to call in an “expert” or professional. Following this philosophy leads to acquiring skills in many fields. Not necessarily becoming as skilled and knowledgeable as someone who does these things for a living, but good enough to take care of things as they arise.

    Self sufficiency is a natural progression of self reliance. Growing or fabricating life sustaining necessities, or eliminating the supply chain we have become dependent on. That is infinitely tougher than being self reliant. Thus the attraction to sites like MSB, where folks can share their trials, errors, and successes as they travel that road to self sufficiency.

  2. Intresting thoughts ,,,,the question leads me to think of the mountain men of old as a example of both thoughts ,,, as to be self reliant ,, and self sufficient but question self sufficient most mountain men of the time depended on resupply from back east ,and it’s the same today ,,,,I don’t know anyone who is truly selfsufficent ,, I don’t want to live like a pre white man Indian,,, I hear bichs about the white man this and the white man that ,i ask ,,you know how to make a stone knife ?? Duh, boy oh boy the things one hears ,, years ago just for kicks I spent some time in a tepe ,,talk about a bad idea ,,,and yes I took a deer with a bow and arrow ,,,won’t do that again ,,,,,,,
    Yep we are self sufficient , as long as we can get resupply ,,,
    I think a lot of folks tend to have less than realistic ideas about some things ,,,,
    First off most of the folks on the blog are just too old ,,self included ,,, as a older. Fart I know what limits we face ,,,,,i use to run 7 miles before breakfast ,ha now I haven’t run in years,, can’t ,, we are only as selfsufficent as our groupe ,,,
    Alone you are toast,,,,,,,,
    Just the thoughts of one that’s been there ,,think long and hard before you set out on the river of no return ,,,

  3. Agree whole heartedly with both Dennis and Homesteader,
    Self reliance definitely, but self sufficiency i believe will be difficult for any modern man, or woman.
    I believe we can achieve it to varying degrees but unless a complete change of needs, wants, ideals and perception i believe it will be difficult.
    Good piece Ken, quite thought provoking,

  4. Interesting article. I can be both self reliant and self sufficient, but as Tommyboy pointed out, to varying degrees. I think self sufficiency has an element of time in it. I can only go so long before I need or desire to restock by obtaining or bartering for certain items. Points to the fact that long term we need to plan on working back to a workable society after a shtf event.

  5. But this country of many self reliant individuals can become totally self sufficient. We have the resources, the talent, … all we need is the resolve. However, there are a few conditions that must be met – control by dictatorial corporations cut, the swamp cut, the 22 million illegals cut, factory farms cut, cut the Fed and bring back the gold standard, …. ya, I’m holding my breath.

  6. Tommyboy, oldhomesteader, Minerjim,

    I think we are all in agreement. Self sufficiency goes back to the origin of mankind, the beginnings. As a college educated follower of the sciences, the one thing I agreed with Charles Darwin’s theory was the survival of the fittest. The combination of intelligence and a gradual learning of techniques of survival led to where we are today.

    There was a huge mortality rate during the early days of that journey from living in caves, making of improvised rudimentary tools, and nomadic hunting and gathering, to where we live now. Only the strong survived. Modern society has “evolved” though, to where the strong subsidize the weak, and the weak have grown in numbers to the point that they demand more and more of those that produce. If and when that support system is suddenly pulled out from beneath them, chaos will prevail…… for a while. Then the process repeats itself.

    Like oldhomesteader said, I have no illusions, at my age and slow decline in physical abilities, about my chances alone. I’m not worried for myself. Death is inevitable for everyone and I know I’m a heck of a lot closer to that day than I was as every day passes. I do worry for those that I care for. All I can do is, hopefully, share my knowledge with them, lead while I still can, and hope they have the fortitude to carry on when I’m gone.

    1. Dennis
      Hopefully, the knowledge you share include, history, manual skills, survival skills, food raising skills, … go to any college or university and see how many have any of this knowledge or the desire to learn – near zero.

    2. Dennis,
      Spot on,
      For myself, i know im going, what is troublesome is those close to me, family wise, do not share any interest in anything i know, do, have developed etc, no interest, so with that in mind what do i do?
      Its sn odd feeling to know that all you have done and learned etc, ends with you.
      Stuff i guess i just shouldnt think about, but honestly is why so many times i feel jile just running.

      1. Tommyboy,

        Yep. I have been getting an urge lately to write down some of my life experiences in a manuscript for my grand children. But then, I start thinking that would be vanity on my part, to think they wouldn’t learn what I have, on their own.

        1. Dennis,
          I doubt any on my end would even read anything of mine, cant picture any of them wanting to know what weeds are really medicinal herbs or the differences in heat treating 1075 vs 80CRV2, why eucalyptus is better for the forge than pine or the tricks to insoling a pair of boots and the difference innall the numbers written in my reloading log book, its all going to be just junk to them

          1. Dennis and Tommyboy- you write it down and I’ll read it, since you probably don’t want to come live with me and teach it….

          2. LAUREN. ,,,, think about doing oral history for those more challenged with the written word ?, would be useful to a group ,,

          3. LAUREN ,,,,,willing to bet ,the story’s would have much to base a number of books on ,,ideas for word weaving,,

        2. Dennis, Vanity? Absolutely not. How much would you enjoy reading about your ancestors lives? I know i would love to learn more about mine from those steam ship rides across the Atlantic back in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. How did they survive the Spanish flu, the great War. the depression. We have gotten to where we are through trial and tribulation and overall the world is a better place for it. Key word there is overall. By all means, write it down. It’s history.

        3. Dennis, Tommyboy,
          I have had the same hankering, to write stuff down for the kids and grandkids. Must be on old age thing? I have been passing on work life skills and thoughts to a number of mentees, kind of pay back for all the great mentors I have had. Why not pass along all our life skills and thoughts to our kin?? Vanity? no. I disagree. if what we put down on paper helps someone, someplace down the road, it would be worth it. We may not think so now, but it would be treasure to them in the future. Write it guys!

          1. Thanks MJim
            Someone not knowing looking at my stuff would be good greif!
            But if they have a guide, this stuff is a gold mine of hard to find and hard to come by supplies and the tools to make some cool stuff, all those flat pieces of steel, dozens of em with little numbers written on them,
            Just look like 4’ long pieces of flat bar in all sorts of widths and thicknesses, but to a knife grinder, its the stuff a Christmas dream is made of,,,,
            Same with the loading stuff, or my leather tools,,, dozens of little punches with designs on em, knives, funky little tools, dozens of needles of all sorta sizes, the big plastic tub full of all sorts of threads, awls in all sorta shapes, added to the 4 dozen or so hides and well you get the idea

          2. I agree. Write it! How I wish I had anything written of my grandparents farm life, or even my parents’ life growing up, or even my dad’s gardening notes. Anything. I may not have appreciated it in younger days, but now? You betcha. I would treasure it.

          3. Yup I agree with all ya all.
            Write it down.
            How many times have you heard or read ‘the lost art of…..’?
            Lost because it wasn’t past on…..not even in written form.

            Totally hear ya.

            Start writing boys. Ya never know who’ll you inspire.👍

  7. depends if you mean in the here and now or after SHTF.
    once the power goes down and resupply is not possible you will have to be both self sufficient and self reliant or go under, there wont be any other option.

  8. If we’re talking in absolutes, then absolutely not. IMO.

    None of us are sprung fully mature, fully capable, fully educated, and fully alone from the head of Zeus. At the heart of our being we are reliant upon others for our lives, often for our livelihoods, upon the earth for the air we breathe and the water we drink, and upon the sun for the food we eat. We are not made to be absolutely self-reliant. We are made for family and community; to love and to be loved.

    As we grow we increase in understanding, confidence, and morality, we become good, responsible, reliable adults, smart, capable, and skillful, if we are fortunate.

    I believe our appreciation for Ken, this blog site, and each other demonstrates that in our striving for greater independence we rely on each other for help along the way. I am grateful everyday for the MSB community.
    Just the view from my odd angle.


    1. If your interacting with a group for resupply you are not self sufficient then are ya

    2. Heres a scenario for you,,,
      You are walking away from the farm you have been trading with after unsuccessfully trying to trade a smelly badger hide for a can of SPAM, you think you are out of range, i mean who could possibly hit you at 1200m plus you have cover when suddenly a 210g match bullet comes out the front of your face and you collapse into a lump of human effluence.
      Hmmm, guess ya cant save your face and your azz at the same time can ya, nor can you overrule human nature nor the effects a bad situation can have on the human mind,
      You also can’t control what other people do, certainly not if you are a loner, as you may be an aquaintence but you are in no way part of a group.
      It could even be as simple as one of the guys you traded with thought your stare lingered on his wife a bit too long and decided to stop a bad situation before it happened,
      I get it,
      There will be and are lone wolfs,
      I also get that there are many many circumstances beyond our control, the most unpredictable amongst them being other humans.

      1. On the other hand, what you described (maybe with the exception of the distance the shot came from) happens nowadays, fairly regularly, with Craig’s List transactions.

        There are endless “what if’s” to any plan. Endless plus’s or minus’s. That said, everyone’s plan is just that, their plan. Is there a best plan? Only in one’s own mind. Why? Because no one knows for sure what’s in the mind of others.

        The old proverb (actually a line from a poem) “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray” is true. But just because that is true does not diminish the wisdom of having a plan. It’s your plan, you will have to either live…..or die by it.

      2. Anonymous;
        Interestingly enough we all could play the “what if” game for decades.

        Such as ‘what-if’ one of the “Group” does a trip and contracts a deadly ‘Black Plague’ (whatever disease) and infects the entire group?
        Same thing.
        Suggesting being the Lone Wolf, is no different that suggesting that one can-not survive without being in a MAG. Tis in not up to the thinking of the individual?

        I for one have see a many of ‘Groups’ dissolve and become enemies to part or all of the other ‘Group’ members, mainly because TSHTF did not happen in 2.4 years and the desperation that was once so urgent died away. That and the “Leaders” were not able to convince others the need anymore.

        1. NRP
          Definitely seen that many many many times in many different types of groups,
          Be it business partnerships, marriages, sports groups, gun clubs, you name it, likewise have seen many singular entities do many things that people said couldnt be done,,,
          I personally am one of them, logged by myself and successfully ran a sawmill for close to a decade by my self, everybody said i couldnt do it and my undoing? Machinery failure, and a corporate entity (group) that rather than work through their equipment failure decided to call in all the chips,,,
          That was me by the way guys, was presenting an opposing thought, the thought? No plan or situation is foolproof!,

        2. NRP,

          Jim Jones was one heck of a leader. He grew one heck of a big group. They built one heck of a community, complete with homes, self sufficient agriculture, etc.

          The fact they all died doesn’t mean their plan was wrong. The “what if” got them. In this case, “what if” you follow the wrong leader.

          Blindly following the wrong person, even if they have a good plan, can have bad consequences.

          “What if’s” arise in every plan, I as an individual need to be ready to react, adapt and overcome if you will, as they make themselves apparent. What works for me today may not work for me tomorrow. Scenarios are ever changing.

          1. P.S.- Everyone at Jonestown did not die. Some said, “to heck with this” and ran into the jungle to take their chances.

          2. But like so many people that become powerful and rich, sex and drugs bring them down.

        3. NRP and Dennis
          Sometimes, the group is cohesive and decides to go down together if necessary – Masada comes to mind.

    3. The lone wolf is glamorized in many stories and movies, Rambo, Mad Max, Postman, Die Hard, Death wish, most westerns, …. There seems to be that wish for strong individuality and self reliance. But, unless you go completely, troglodyte, you will always need other people.

    4. A loner is: a hermit, a recluse, a solitary individual, one who does NOT require human contact.
      POST SHTF life will be: part self sufficiency, part self reliance, part subsistence food growing, there will be NO outside help, NO state aid or welfare.
      if you CANT make it, grow it or scavenge it, then you WONT have it.

  10. When I worked in the Sierras, I was alone for much of the time and it was not too much of a chore or hardship for much of the time.

    Back then, I was single and young. I threw myself into projects that needed to get done and tried to stay busy. I was pretty self reliant back then. I was NEVER self sufficient though.

    My family background in farming and knowing some ranchers when I was a child showed me the folly of believing I was truly self sufficient. I had a head for figures and observation so that is why I studied economics in college. ( observation that a family of 6 will consume 6-7 80 lb sacks of rice on an annual basis.).

    One thing that was not addressed is the topic of being lonely. I left that line of work and went back to the cities and towns because I like people and interacting with them on a daily basis. Each week, I looked forward to going into town to shop for supplies and fresh fruits and vegetables along with eating food prepared by others and doing my laundry. My last and longest season, I was dating a school teacher and I was thinking of settling down.

    It took almost a decade for me to find such a career niche where I “settled down”.. I had my time in the woods/being a “lone wolf”/being an outsider. I hope many that desire that lifestyle find it. Years ago, I found it was an illusion and that I am dependent upon “the system” as much as anybody.

    Even the Mountain Men had a once yearly “Rendezvous” where the traded furs and pelts for gunflints and new locks, traps salt sugar and poultices. One cannot forget that there was a lot of whisky consumed at the old Rendezvous as well.

  11. The term “Lone Wolf” came from the fact that occasionally a “Lone Wolf” breaks from running with the pack to attempt to make it on his own. At some point in history, a “Lone Wolf” came in from the periphery of a campfire and joined the humans, close to the warmth and security of that fire, becoming “man’s best friend”. Each benefited from that bond.


    Occasionally, “man’s best friend” breaks off and leaves the relationship, goes “feral”, and becomes more dangerous and unpredictable than the wolf he once was.

    Does history go full circle?

  12. Response to Dennis:

    Lone wolf same as the origins of : “Outlaw” and/or “Outcast” of Nordic origin to be cast out from a village town council. To live outside the walls of a fortified settlement and the laws and rules that govern said settlement.

    It can get cold and lonely out away from the fire with others of your species gathered around. To rejoin society is to: “come in from the cold”.

  13. Definitions mean different things to different people, so I try to stay away from them.

    For me I am trying to be able to survive and prepare for bad situations. While still maintaining some level of modern lifestyle. By modern lifestyle I am referring to the basics like heat, plumbing, good shelter, etc.

    The way I see it for any long term SHTF event you will need others to survive with. I know some feel they can make it alone for decades, I wish them all the best. That is not for me and I feel that is not a practical long term plan. I believe you need to maintain relationships with groups, provide support, and bring skills to the table if you want to survive SHTF.

    I have no idea if that is self reliance or self sufficiency.


    1. I finally figured it out…
      I’m an Introverted Hermetic Lone-Wolf that’s a semi practicing Buddhist (never said I was a good Buddhist) with a Gin and TP problem and a dog that Farts in the middle of the night just to wake me up telling me to (sing along) “Put another Log on the Fire”. HAHAHAHA

      1. NRPp
        Ya got gin
        Ya got TP
        No problem!
        Yer dog? Sure bud, blame it on poor old blue, we know who the gassy one is,,,,,,
        A hermitoid introvert,,, pfftttt

    2. Anonymous
      I think the difference between a “lone wolf” and a “hermit’ is that a lone wolf acts one ones own initiative but moves in and out of society regularly, while a hermit signifies a longer term desire for less contact with society in general. But it is not necessary to yell, we get your message.

  15. To those that have an itch to “write it down” I say do it! And if your kin don’t appreciate or read it maybe someone on this board will!

  16. The wife and I are getting up there now and the kids want nothing to do with the homestead life . It is getting harder to do everything ourselves . We have some folks in our rental house now with good attitudes but lots of problems . They are not a lot of help . I’m planning on building another barn with a ground floor apartment for us and try to find some youngins to rent our house . Might just rent to own for them . As Clint said ” A man has to know his limitations ” .

  17. Survival is a natural tool that the Creator gave us all. We must learn to master them all and apply them too our daily lives.

Leave a Reply

>>OPEN FORUM for Off-Topic conversation

choose an alias name to comment

thanks for your comment...