When I grew up, I took being independent as a wonderful compliment to the being that I was trying to create - a tough, kick-arse little girl who was adventurous, rowdy and a little wild. To be honest not much has changed there. But the flip-side of having such a strong identity in place, is that now, in my adulthood, I have found that some of the traits of being this independent woman have been less in my favour.
I call these group of traits Independent Woman's Syndrome (IWS). If you have it, you are already nodding your head in agreement. You can feel what I'm about to talk about. It looks like this:
The traits of Independent Woman's Syndrome
· Thinks she can do it all herself and often doesn’t accept help, may get angry at even the suggestion of needing help or when getting given offers of help! [But underneath may be overwhelmed]
· Is highly independent and takes charge in work, play, social, business and may be even in relationships [But underneath may be craving more intimate connections or someone else to take the lead, but is scared to appear dependent, needy or at worst weak and irrelevant]
· You’ll rarely see her cry/breakdown/complain – she’ll get on with it in the public eye [but she may outwardly display as angry while underneath she is hurting]
· Might come across as a bit cold, not nurturing or uncaring sometimes if you try to talk to her about your problems [she actually is intimidated by your vulnerability - see below].
· Is happy to do things by herself - work, play, travel, movie dates, road-trips etc [But secretly wishes she had a partner in crime]
· Probably already knows how to fix her bike, her surfboard, change the oil in her car and a million other things [But also LOVES having others do this for her, but hell if you ask to help her!]
· Dislikes, feels triggered or doesn’t enjoy hanging out with feminine women [they remind her of the softer side of her that she has categorised as being weak]
· Has more male friends than female friends (or enjoys male company more than women) [She doesn't 'get' females]
· Wont tolerate hearing your negative stories over and over again –she believes that you gotta do something about it! [Okay, well you kind of do...]
· Has a presence about her, that attracts easily and lets you know she’s arrived! [A lioness, a commanding queen, a force]
· Views vulnerability as a sign of weakness [but she is dying to open and spill her heart]
· May have serious break-down moments [but quickly covers it up or has them and never tells a soul]
· May be aloof and keeps her (emotional) cards close to her heart.
· Usually strong in energy or physicality or both!
Do these resonate with you?
When I started this whole personal growth journey, I was really looking at how to stabilise my emotions. Somedays I felt on top of the world and other days I felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. A lot of it had to do with this persona of independence that I had so carefully crafted, strengthened and reinforced through the years.
I was now no longer in the position to ask for help - it seemed like a loss of self, an embarrassment to who I had created, a shame to my identity, a declaration of weakness and another strike for female empowerment.
Basically in my years of training to become independent, I had learnt a very (wounded) masculine way to handle the world.
That meant shutting down feelings. That meant not talking to others about my problems. That meant doing everything possible to appear all over it!
Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of good things in being an independent woman. It's great to know that if push comes to shove, you can truly rely on yourself. You don't need anyone.
But if this fierce hold on independence stops you from connecting to others or from asking for help, it's no longer a good strategy.
I've learnt that the hard way. From years of "being independent" I created such a strong identity that I found it hard to change the way I related to the world. And even when I wanted to change, I found myself fighting myself. This is the ego.
The ego says "don't ask for help, it will make you appear weak". When the truth is, it won't. There are times when you simply cannot do it on your own. There are times when someone else's expertise is needed.
There are times when you do need to be broken and held and given space to piece yourself back together.
The ultimate cost of such an unhealthy sense of independence is stress. I was so obsessed with appearing "well-functioning" that I had convinced myself that there was only me.
My independence stemmed from actually feeling that I was alone. I had developed this sense of independence as a strategy to combat my feelings of being different when I was a child and later the divorce of my parents. I was the only one that I could rely on. There was no one else.
Over the past four years this has started to unravel. I have seen my independent, strong woman identity being more hindering than helpful. It has stunted my growth in relationships, business and self-care.
By not asking for help, I was limiting my potential.
How could I possibly become more than I currently was, if I stuck to always doing the same thing over and over again? How could I possible reach my goals, without the support and help of other people?
A big block in me overcoming my unhealthy independence, was that I viewed feminine qualities of emotions and vulnerability as weak. I came to realise that this was not true. In fact they are characters of strength. To enable yourself to truly FEEL and MOVE THROUGH an emotion, to be open enough to be vulnerable shows a certain strength of character.
When I blocked my emotions and refused to be open and vulnerable, I was acting out of cowardice, not strength. I feared that people would judge me.
But, sadly there are always going to be people who judge you and to know that and willingly step into the lion's cage is a true show of strength and courage.
Real strength and independence comes from channeling your true, creative source energy, enabling you to be who you want and do what you want while weathering the criticism that comes your way.
But first, you must become vulnerable.
Authenticity is reliant on vulnerability. To learn, grow and step more into your limitlessness, you must be willing to say "I don't know everything" and "I can't do everything". To be in more loving and real relationships you must be willing to say "This is me. ALL of me." To step into love with yourself you need to be willing to say "I need your help now, just as I know you will need mine one day".
So dear reader, what could you ask for help for today?
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Here are a few more questions to help you on your journey:
- Which of the traits described above apply to you?
- Can you see when you decided you needed to be independent?
- How does being this way help you? How does it not help you?
- If you find it hard to ask for help why? What beliefs do you have around the idea of asking for help?
- What character/identity do you strengthen when you don't ask/do ask for help?
- What does independence mean to you?
- What characters and traits would an independent person have?
- What lifestyle would an independent person have?
- Review what you have written. Does this feel TRUE and OBTAINABLE to you?
Did you enjoy this blog? Do you have comments? Please message below I would love to hear your thoughts. Also - feel free to share if it resonated and helped you xx