Rugged Self-Sufficiency

Once upon a time, there was a cowgirl named Becky. Becky’s mom and dad worked hard, sunup to sundown, to provide for the family. By the time she was a teenager, Becky milked the cows, fed the chickens, and watered the horses before school. She was proud of her ability to help, and her parents were proud of her for doing so. Becky’s family lived far from town, so visits to the doctor, dentist, lawyer, and banker were only for “emergencies.” Becky’s grandfather had passed away from complications of a small cut on some rusty barbed wire. The family mourned for a few days, then her parents said, “Gotta’ move on and get back to work. Death is part of life. Don’t burden anyone with your tears, y’hear?” Tornadoes, drought, and floods killed a few cows and some chickens, but Becky’s family persevered. Becky learned to be self-sufficient.

Six generations later, Becky’s descendants are living on small farms and in big cities. They all have her rugged self-sufficiency values. To ask for help in any area of their lives would be a disgrace; an admission of personal failure. So if they get sick, they figure it’s because they didn’t eat well or exercise enough. If they have a personal tragedy, they suck it up or stuff it down. And while many of them are “successful,” none would stoop to the low point of asking for professional help with something as common as money and business.

Becky’s family is completely fictional and not based on anyone I know. Recently I found myself trying to solve a business problem on the Internet so I could avoid hiring a professional to do it. My thinking went like this: It’s business; I have an MBA; I should be able to figure this out. Right? After a few hours I remembered I have been around long enough now, MBA regardless, to know when to ask for help. It seems the older I get, the sooner in the process I accept this fact. I am quicker to make the doctor appointment; call a therapist; reach out to a spiritual mentor; and, yes, hire my own lawyer, investment manager, and financial planner. That doesn’t make me a failure. It makes me healthier and smarter. But in my roots, somewhere, there must be a cowgirl who expects she should do it all herself.

Ever been stuck in the self-sufficiency rut? What got you out? Or are you still there? Asking for help isn’t a disgrace. It’s what smart, healthy people do.

Holly Donaldson

Holly P. Donaldson, CFP® writes and consults on the psychology of money. Her fee-only, product-free financial planning practice focuses on increasing financial self-efficacy for those seeking a financial navigator to help them make good decisions. She is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch." With a fully virtual practice in Seminole, Florida, she primarily serves clients located in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater areas. Holly will also work with clients who are a good fit located elsewhere in the United States.

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