Our whole childhood we naive little munchkins are fully convinced that everything we do, think, and want in life serves the main purpose of instant gratification, mainly fulfilled by others. However, society will gradually drop hints to make us more conscious about the fairly destructive nature of this kind of behaviour. The older we become, the more these tiny drops of hints grow exponentially and turn into one liners thrown at us continuously like heavy rocks trying to knock some sense of reality in us. This activity is mainly exercised by adults who, willingly or not, carry the responsibility of preparing us for the largest phase of our lives. After all, growing up is one big preparation of how to (pretend to) be as much of a functioning adult in the society you are being raised in.
The main theme throughout this intense training of ‘How to Adult 101’ is independence. Doing things by yourself, handling life by yourself, survive by yourself. Build up a life with your own bare hands. It starts with the smallest aspects of the most basic actions, such as holding a spoon and later transporting the food from your plate to your mouth with that spoon. (Don’t underestimate this fine motoric skill: the stains on my shirts are deliberate witnesses of this ongoing learning process) From your first wobbly steps to writing your first scribbly words to your first soul torturing heartbreak. All these events and phenomenons are merely lessons in how to handle life and the lemons it throws at you.
Nevertheless there are people who will rely more heavily on others to get things done regardless of their age. Maybe because their parents have a hard time letting go caring for their precious gem. Maybe because in their culture parents will always stay parents, until the roles will be reversed. Maybe because they are the youngest, who tend to be the most pampered child in the family. Maybe because they are very dependent by nature. Or maybe their inner diva considers their fellow human beings as potential personal assistants and delegate any trivial task without a heavy heart to their minions. Googling something by yourself is a little too much to ask for, I suppose? Sounds extreme, yet if only I would be kidding.
In contrast, individuals like me want to do everything by themselves whenever possible, and even when not. Ev-er-y-thing. Nothing contradicts my obstinate independent nature more than reaching out to others for a helping hand. I can perfectly handle my own business and can get very agitated if anyone tries to interfere, regardless of the sincerity of their good intentions. My tiny mind has a hard time comprehending why others do not desire the same level of independence as I do. It perplexes me and secretly, I am extremely curious how they get by if they are all by themselves. (let alone being quite concerned about their chances of survival when an apocalypse will commence)
The difference could not be more striking. Asking for help comes so naturally for them whereas offering help is my automatic response. Even more, some just skip the cry for help and suddenly bestow you with this pending task that needs to be carried out. Clearly by people like me, who seem to be begging to take it upon them to fulfil their trivial wishes. So how come people like me struggle with asking even the tiniest favor?
Before one thinks I am this weird stubborn einzelgänger, which does contain some sense of truth, I do know how to reach out whenever necessary, albeit reluctantly. How many times my parents have come to the rescue whenever I showed up fully distressed, shaken to my core, and extremely devastated? And my friends who always see through my flimsy coverup of presenting hypothetical situations in order to actually address my own issues? Despite my reluctance, with age it actually becomes easier to request a bit of assistance, at least from people who make a living out of helping others. Perhaps because I supported myself for years by providing help to others and love doing so with or without receiving a pay cheque for it. Somehow, giving some kind of salvation to others is a million times easier than even considering asking a grain of it for myself.
Due to my dominating and headstrong character and being the firstborn in my family, I smoothly adopted the role of third caregiver in my family, which was amplified even more with the birth of my baby brother. Honestly, it fitted quite well in our family dynamics, so no one really questioned this process. Nonetheless, thanks to my brother’s pure innocence we were faced with reality once he asked my mother where my children were, since I was a mother too after all? Oh, the sheer joy of young children’s frankness holding up the mirrors of harsh truth for grown ups.
Moreover, another obstructing factor is this innate fear. The fear of troubling others too much. The fear of asking too much. The fear of being too much. Fighting these intense feelings of guilt and self-hatred gushing through me whenever I seek help often make my system crash severely. The risk of being rejected, and me failing to successfully deal with rejection, is the cherry on the pie.
Perhaps because I have always been surrounded by strong people (women, men, and everything in between) who were fighting their way to the top, probably leaving little room for showing weakness at all, despite it being present. Simultaneously, witnessing people around me who struggled with life may have instilled an unconscious fear in me to reach a point where dependence would be my one and only way to survive. In all honesty though, how convincing does it sound when admitting to need help while surfing on the waves of modern feminism, shouting from the top of your lungs that you can provide for yourself and you will win at life on your own? More specifically, that we women do not need no men since we are no longer damsels in distress.
Personally, I can get the electricity work again after a blackout. I can assemble IKEA furniture on my own. I know how to face a variety of authorities when caught in the tangles of bureaucracy. The feeling of accomplishment afterwards is priceless, personal victories solemnly displayed in my memory and heart. Nonetheless I never look down upon people who are not willing or able to complete these activities on their own. On the contrary, acknowledging when it takes two or more to make a thing go right is a strength on its own. However, when it concerns me, myself, and I, my judgment will be utterly harsh if I fail to complete these tasks solemnly with my own powers.
Words are meaningless when what is preached is not practised. Claiming I am independent and self-reliant must be shown to. Dare I say, must be proven to the whole world. Only this assumption is partially true. With age comes wisdom. I still consider the opinions, judgments, and images people have of me as utterly important, though the significance of their decisive role is diminishing in my decision-making as I consciously attach less importance to them. Then why am I still trying to prove that I am capable of surviving on my own? Of surviving without anyone’s help?
After a long time of dancing around this matter my feet are tired and my ears are deafened by the music nonstop playing. The person I am constantly trying to prove wrong is me. Because I am still not convinced of my own capabilities. Because I still keep questioning my survival skills in the urban jungle of the modern era. Because I still feel too weak to consider myself strong. Because I still do not value myself enough to be worthy of other people their time and energy. To my sadness I am certain there are plenty more people who hold on to their distorted vision of themselves. But we are capable enough to make it on our own. We can rely on ourselves in order to succeed. We can acknowledge all our strengths and weaknesses without dismissing our inner power. That we are worthy enough of existing. In our own lives and in others’.
One simple blogpost cannot shed all the various lights on this complex subject to provide a fully comprehensive image of it, since an abundance of factors play a role in it. Having clarified that, it suffices to conclude that full self reliance is unattainable when it is solemnly abused as a weapon of self-destruction. When it obstructs self empowerment. When it hinders you to believe in yourself. Even though these concepts contain the word ‘self,’ the concept of self cannot be constructed isolated from fellow human beings. To create a healthy form of self reliance, each and every one of us needs to find their personal balance between ‘Getting by with a little help from my friends’ and ‘Independent woman’. The line is indeed thin. Nevertheless it will be far easier keeping our balance on this line while treading it, beaming with self-confidence and more faith in our own power to conquer the world, knowing that beneath us a safety net will catch us when we fall. And to help us bounce back again on our own two feet, to continue walking on our own again.