As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day here in the US, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of independence and how central it is to our culture and identities. We’re raised as modern women to be independent, and I’ve always worn my independence with pride and honor. My mother married young (compared to my generation), and she instilled in me at a young age to be self-sufficient and resilient. The idea of being dependent on someone else for my survival was anathema to me as a young woman. I hated the thought of having to give up my independence and become dependent on anything or anyone—it made me feel controlled, small, and kept.
When I transitioned from being single to being part of a couple, and then from being a couple to being a family, I felt my independence slip from my grasp. I watched in horror as going grocery shopping by myself came to be the equivalent of freedom itself. I’m no longer an independent woman, I said to myself. I mourned this lost part of myself, unsure of how to approach my new way of being.
The duality of dependence and independence aren’t the only choices for being in relationship with others. As I’ve grown as a woman, a wife, a mother, a family member, a human being, I’ve come to embrace a third way: interdependence. Interdependence really is the truth of our existence, and it often gets outshined by it’s flashier cousin, independence. The truth is we need each other to survive in life and admitting that is not weak. On the contrary, it’s an incredibly courageous revelation.
Recognizing our interdependence helps us claim our place in the ecosystem of our own families and communities. For me, interdependence looks like giving and receiving. It looks like a diverse forest ecosystem rather than a lone pine tree or a one-crop factory farm.
Questions to ask yourself. What do I need from others? What do others need from me? Both questions are equally important for interdependence to thrive. The most common imbalance I see in women is ignoring the second half of the equation—what do I need from others? If you’re ignoring what you need from others in order to avoid feeling “dependent”, the ecosystem of your life won’t be in balance. I see this happen a lot with my clients who are driven leaders and often feel lonely in their professional field or in their marriages.
The other common imbalance I see is people confusing something that they need with something that someone else needs. For example, a parent over-protecting their child because they have a need for reassurance. Or, a spouse over-caring for their partner when the nurturing is something that they need, but don’t know how to give to themselves. Sound familiar at all?
To experience a thriving, balanced, interdependent family and community ecosystem, I invite you to do two things:
- Accept the truth of interdependence. We need each other and there’s nothing weak or wrong with that fact.
- Get very clear on what you need from others in your ecosystem, and what others need from you.
This requires reflection, honesty, and courage. Identify what your needs really are first, so you aren’t confusing the needs of others with the needs of you.
Enjoy the process of playing with this idea of interdependence and then let me know—how do you feel about this idea of interdependence? How are your building a thriving, fulfilling, interdependent ecosystem for yourself?
Happy Interdependence Day!