Finances & Money

Are you too self-sufficient?

For some of us, the word “Help” is a very bad 4 letter word. Sometimes we’re so intent on doing things ourselves that we lose touch with our friends, families, coworkers and, eventually, ourselves. Peggy Collins writes about something she calls “Self-Sufficiency Syndrome” in her new book appropriately titled “Help Is Not a Four Letter Word“.

What is Self-Sufficiency Syndrome?

Ask yourself a few of these questions first, and maybe you’ll be able to answer it for yourself:

  1. Do you often feel that the only person you can trust is yourself?
  2. Do you think that admitting a mistake will make you look stupid or incompetent, and then people won’t trust you?
  3. Do you feel a special sense of superiority over other people?
  4. Would you rather just do a job by yourself than have to deal with someone else?
  5. Do you have trouble finding and keeping friends?

If you answered Yes to most or all of the questions above, there’s a chance you’re a “Self-Sufficient”. Don’t get me wrong, self-sufficiency is a blessing in many situations, but it can also be a major hindrance to your social, psychological and financial advancement.

Employers love self-sufficient employees because they’re low maintenance, love to work, and are usually very productive. But they’re also bad at delegating and are poor team players. In groups of friends, they can be admirable leaders and will accomplish any goal, but they can lack the ability to empathize with others during hard times. They just don’t like to show their emotions, because doing so would show weakness.

I’ll admit that when Peggy sent me the book to review, and I began reading a few pages, I said “This isn’t me. I’m totally capable of asking for help. Actually, I might be too needy!”. However, I read the book because I can name a least 4 people in my life who fit exactly into the mold of a described Self-Sufficient. But how did they get to be so self-sufficient?

Here are a few examples from Peggy:
– They had to take care of a seriously ill or dying parent early in life
– They grew up in a household with self-sufficient parents
– They had to take care of a parent dependent on alcohol or other substances

Generally, the self-sufficient child grew up needing to stay self-sufficient, or was driven by the praises of others. Again, I highlight that self-sufficiency is an admirable and desirable trait by many people. Often, the self-sufficient’s family had a very strong hand in molding them to do things on their own, without complaining, crying or asking for help.

But if you’re a self-sufficient, and you recognize the problems it causes in your life (along with the benefits), how can you fix it? This trait has been ingrained in you for so many years, that it’s part of your personality and habits. Peggy helps walk you through identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and how to move towards a more dependent lifestyle, while maintaining your independence.

The book was very enlightening, even for someone like me who is not self-sufficient. It opened my eyes and helped me understand why certain friends and family members just don’t seem to be able to connect to others or ask for help. Now I just need to decide to whom to give the book.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Hmm. I answered ‘yes’ to some of the questions, and there’s no specific reason why I should be so self-sufficient. Maybe I should work on this some.

  • Perfect post for me at the perfect time!

    I’m a stay-at-home mom of a preschooler and am currently experiencing extreme hip pain associated with my current pregnancy. The frustration of not being able to exercise or do little things like, oh, grocery shop, has worn my nerves down to little raw nubs. And then I think of all the things I’d just like to do, things for *gasp* fun, and I get so sad and angry.

    Then my husband gets to go to some fancy restaurant for some work thing (slowly chipping away at our debt but I MISS good restaurants), and he gets all the fury of my rage. Not that I tell him. No, because I can take care of myself, thank you very much.

    Just last night I was telling myself that I NEEDED to let him know how bad things are. Let’s just say it’s not the first time I’ve had this conversation with myself. By this morning I’d screwed up the courage to tell him and spent a good amount of time crying in his arms.

    I feel less alone. He feels like a hero and has been calling to check on me all day. Making me feel even better.

    I always thought this was just one of my quirks, but if people are writing books about it maybe I’m not such a freak. I’ll be sure to put this book on my “to read” list.

  • Eh, I’ll take my chances. I’ve already talked to one about it (who has probably read this article already), another doesn’t ever read, the third probably would question why, and the fourth is actually accepting of it.

Leave a Comment