Within the realm of definition, the following definition I believe describes both “Survival” and “Self-Reliance”.
A natural process resulting in the evolution of organisms best adapted to the environment. As you can see by the above definition, the art of survival comes from adaptation which is learned through being self-reliant! After all, adapting to change is what self-reliance is all about.
So now that we see that these words are synonymous in many ways, we can better understand what we have to do to affect our own Survival or Self-Reliance. Adapt to change! This is the root of all survival theory. By adapting to changes in simple conditions like weather and environment, we learn to become more self-reliant. For this reason, we practice our skills at building a shelter and fire, collecting water and food along with navigating in and out of wilderness areas.
So with the above said, is it enough to understand the building of simple shelters using man-made materials like tarps? No. To adapt to change we must plan and practice as if we do not have these items so that we can adapt if and when the need arises. We must learn to build different types of natural shelters so that we can adapt to environmental as well as weather changes depending on our situation. A simple lean-to may be completely ineffective against certain weather conditions and a nice warm debris shelter may not be the answer in a swamp. As we cannot pick the time that we get thrust into the emergency situation that becomes 'survival', we need to understand all aspects of adaptation needed to combat the above changes.
Starting a fire with a lighter can be easy within the controlled setting of a campground, but it is very different during a snowstorm or heavy rain. There are many ways to start a fire and, to be 'adaptable', we must understand several methods including the most primitive in case we need them to affect our own survival. Understanding multiple ways of collecting food and water, along with fire and shelter will help us 'adapt' to the situation and control our body's core temperature. This is the key element of adaptation that has separated modern man from all others. Through understanding all aspects of controlling core temperature whether by dressing in layers, getting closer to the radiant heat of a fire, or making a more weather resistant shelter, man has defied natures various changes and has adapted for 'survival'. Understanding the additional variables like water, food, consumption & conservation, we also control and maintain core temperature. All of these things must be understood at the most rudimentary levels to become 'self-reliant'.
My theory is, as I have said in the past when your mindset become 'survival' (life and death vs. making the best of a temporary situation by adapting through 'self-reliance') you have already set yourself up to fail. Practicing the skills, we’ve talked about, as well as in many survival books and other media, are the key elements to adapting to change. This ability to adapt to change is the true definition of 'survival'.