It wasn’t so long ago that I was hauling a queen mattress off the truck. And despite the pouring rain and no help, I was determined to get this oversized, awkard necessity into my first apartment.
Okay, maybe it was a while ago (I age gracefully!), but determined 19-year-old me was so committed and so clear that even if someone offered to help me, I would have said, “I can do it on my own!”.
There is a sense of pride that comes from knowing that, when push comes to shove, we can throw our hair in a messy bun and handle it. But handling it doesn’t make it easy or fun. And, as I’m learning, doing so actually pushes away the people we want to be closer with in our lives.
Truth be told, I hated that day. Tears streamed down my face more than once. It was the beginning of my next grand adventure, the start of something in a new big city of more than a million people – a far cry of my hometown of 10,000 and a few traffic lights. It was supposed to be exciting and new and full of potential. But why did it feel so lonely?
Writing the words above, I know I’m not alone. Self-described independent woman everywhere are gathering up their courage and leaving relationships, moving to new cities, going back to school, having children on our own. They (we) are strong and resilient and resourceful. We are caring and clear and driven.
We are taking our lives in our own hands and going out and getting all the things that are important to us. And yet, many of us feel very alone.
This realization wasn’t even available to me until last year. It was a silent yearning, a longing for more, that was consistently in the background. And yet, I had no idea how much it was colouring the lens of my life.
The narrative of needing to rely on self to have needs met is something that for so many of us, myself included, starts in childhood. Parents doing the best they can with the tools they are given don’t know the effects of fighting, being pre-occupied, and not loving as the child needs and desires. The is where the subconscious imprinting starts.
Then, as we enter adulthood, those realities show up in our relationships, how we form attachments (see more on Attachment Theory), and how our needs are met. For myself, I built a deep distrust for others, carrying forward a story from growing up that people important to us leave. I had no idea that subconscious story was only re-inforcing my belief.
I would drive others away, because in my mind, that’s what people did. They left. So I learned to be independent. To deal with it. To only trust myself.
The thing is, is this went against the fabric of my soul. On a deep level, I yearned for closeness, for connection, to be able to do something as small as asking for help.
To clarify, by no means am I saying independence is a bad thing. The bigger question is: how is our current level of indepence serving us?
For me, it worked until it very much didn’t. My independence was getting in the way of the closer connections, the intimacy, and the community that I desired.
To illustrate here, all of our qualities, from ambition to independence to caring have what I call reactive states and creative states.
Reactive states are when we are re-acting from an unintegrated emotional charge, or past pain. We are creating our life to avoid something that’s uncomfortable. For instance choosing independence over the discomfort and possibility of another letting us down. We are reacting to past memories and distrust.
Creative states are when we are in our full power and have the ability to choose what we want, having integrated all the past pain and trauma. We have a plethora of choices available to us, whatever we feel called to express in the moment, as opposed to avoiding specific options due to resistance.
We are in a reactive state when we make choices and decisions to move away from something, or perhaps ignore a reality. Creative states are when all the options are available to us, and we choose based on an empowered, full perspective of our life and what we want to create.
Sometimes the presence of these states is not clear. For myself, I had no idea that my independence was born out of a reactive state of not trusting others. I just thought it was how I was.
It takes a lot courage to look at our lives from a place of, “is my way of being and my choices serving the life I want?” It’s a big question and an answer that takes time to come.
Having shifted my personal truth from “people can’t be trusted” to “relationships are what give my life meaning,” the results are clear. It took what felt like some big risks of asking for help, opening myself to the vulnerability of being let down.
But with time, the skill has been so worth it.