Tag Archive for: self

If you’re a parent, you’ve more than likely experienced a toddler’s extreme desire for independence.

From age two to four, many children are determined to “do it myself.” 

But, have you ever experienced an adult who doesn’t “need help?” They’re so determined to do everything on their own they refuse to delegate, ask others for assistance or set boundaries.

Or are you the one who doesn’t “need help?” Do you pride yourself on your ability to do everything independently and shy away from situations that feel remotely interdependent or out of your control?

I am currently nine months pregnant. I’m uncomfortable, slow, and my brain capacity is lower than I care to admit. I recently met with a fellow non-profit leader and a leadership team member. I stood up to throw my water cup away and heard:

“Lauren, I can take that to the trash. Don’t worry about it!” 

“Lauren, I could’ve taken your cup with mine!” 

“Lauren, seriously, you don’t have to do that…” 

I ignored these advances and did it myself. No big deal. Then I heard my leadership team member say, “Lauren does everything by herself. Even at 9 months pregnant. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

We laughed. We moved on. But that statement stuck with me. Is it true? Am I too independent? How does independence develop in us over time? What happens when people are too independent in relationships? How often do I say, “I don’t need help?”

“As valuable as having a sense of independence is, taken to an extreme, this can actually get in the way of us being able to connect with others in a meaningful way,” says Jodi Clarke, a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Clarke says those with an extraordinary sense of independence may find it difficult to achieve emotional intimacy in romantic relationships.

In a work or school environment, these individuals may struggle to work on a team, collaborate well or share projects with others.

What makes some individuals need more independence than others? According to Dr. Amy Marschall, a Clinical Psychologist, extreme independence or hyper-independence can be a trauma response. Although, not everyone who experiences trauma will have the same response. Some people have the opposite reaction by believing they are incapable of independence.  

Trauma can refer to an event or series of events that occurred to a person, such as a car accident, death, or abuse. Trauma can also refer to mounting emotional and relational experiences over time, typically from childhood and/or adolescence.

Examples of trauma that can lead to hyper-independence include:

  • Being consistently told that it’s weak or unacceptable to receive help from others.
  • Experiencing neglect in a physical, mental, emotional, or relational sense.
  • Feeling unsafe or distrusting in a relationship with a caregiver and unable to trust those in authority fully.
  • Experiencing high uncertainty and unstableness leads to seeking control in every situation and aspect of life.

In other words, highly independent people have developed a need for self-preservation and control out of a necessity to survive. They haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to trust anyone other than themselves and build healthy, interdependent relationship skills and habits. 

After some reflection, I don’t think I’m hyper-independent. Still, I have some very independent tendencies in my relationships and roles in life.

To ensure I’m not creating an unhealthy bubble of self-dependence and pushing away those I love and care for, I’ve decided to stay aware and open by focusing on these five steps:

  1. Let go of perfectionism. Allow others to do things the way they do them.
  2. Accept there is a lack of control in every situation.
  3. Assess the cost of not asking for or accepting help from others.
  4. Normalize asking for help and avoid seeing it as a sign of weakness.
  5. Learn the art of delegation.

If you’re questioning your level of independence in relationships and relational environments, I encourage you to dig deeper: 

  1. Assess your desire for independence. 
  2. Ask yourself questions. Where did my independence come from? How extreme is it?
  3. Focus on the five steps above. 

Your relationships, family, and co-workers will thank you in the end.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash