Giving up our independence: living life with vulnerability yet strength.
Have you decided that if you want the job done you had better do it yourself? Does this leave you feeling like you’re trying to juggle life by yourself? Do you only feel connected when you read slogans telling you ‘you can make it on your own’? Are you strong and independent and secretly disconnected and lonely?
Here in the West we tell ourselves that independence is a more admirable trait than interdependence and that we can achieve our destinies on our own. We don’t have the patience to teach people how we like it done and yet we must have things the way we like them. We assume people around us are too busy to listen anyway and that we couldn’t possibly burden them with our problems or our conundrums. Managing careers, families, body image and shiny smiles whilst being upbeat and brimming with confidence all by ourselves can lead to a frustrating and lonely existence.
In the words of John Donne
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”
So what does that really mean?
It means that human beings need connection and intimacy. That we are not designed to exist being unknown and that we can use one another as resources to help one another grow. Despite the reveries of independence, research demonstrates that human beings are heavily influenced by and dependent upon positive social interactions. Our childhood experiences govern the quality of our future relationships and our ongoing exchanges shape our personalities. So despite the ‘make it on our own’ slogans we need meaningful positive interactions that feed our need for connection and intimacy and they are vital to our lives and well-being.
Having people around you is not the same as being known by people around you and to be known we have to share of ourselves. Often we are stopped from opening up. It might leave us feeling vulnerable being fully known by someone else. However, we need to take comfort in the fact that we are all pretty much the same, we all have the same need to be heard and regarded. We are all struggling with something we need help with, joyous about something else and everyone has the same need to feel good about who they are. We can become resources for one another and support one another’s lives and choices.
If being open, vulnerable and interdependent is synonymous with being hurt then consider what led to that conditioning. Consider also that who you are now is different and that you have a choice about who you would like to create meaningful connections with. Effective ways of doing this are to firstly decide that you would like to be close to other people and have them as a resource in your life and to be a resource in theirs. Give up controlling the outcomes of your interactions and enjoy the journey. Make authenticity a priority and share openly of yourself and listen intently to the person sharing with you. Allow them to sponsor your life and your growth and do the same for them.
Steven Covey, in his magisterial work, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ talks about an individual’s journey from dependence, to independence through to the highest realm – interdependence. Covey goes further to say that it is only with true interdependence that humans achieve their highest goals and ambitions. Interdependence relies upon us fulfilling the needs of others and, in turn, opening ourselves up enough to have our needs met by others.
So before we decide to open ourselves up and be vulnerable it is useful to think about how and where we can do that and most importantly who with.
Let us use this table to do that –
|Resources I have||How they contribute to my life|
|How can I access them||When I will do that|
- List all the people who you would consider your resources, those who make you feel good when you engage with them. They might be partners, family members, friends, colleagues.
- Identify how each of them contribute to your life in a positive way. Really think about this task as it might not be in ways that you expect so be really honest.
- Now consider if there are any obstacles to you accessing them and if so what they might be and how you will overcome them i.e. my partner is busy at work so to connect I will invite him/her on a date where we can talk.
- To give yourself the best chance of it happening set a clear date in your mind when you will aim to do that.
So take off the armour and open up the channels for meaningful connections, use and be used by others as a resource to love and be loved, support and be supported and to nurture and be nourished. No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.