Our capacity to depend on others for support, love, and fulfillment is such an important part of our mental health and well-being. However, there are instances where life’s trials lead us down a path of self-reliance – a coping mechanism known as hyper-independence. In my two years in therapy, I’ve started to realize the profound impact my hyper-independence has had on me. I’ll be honest — in some ways, I love my miss independent, Sasha Fierce-esque way of life. But on the other hand, being overly self-reliant comes at a price.
How We Got Here: The Origin of Hyper-Independence
Hyper-independence is born from the realization that, at times, relying on others for emotional or practical support may result in disappointment. It often stems from experiences that have taught us that the most dependable person in our lives is ourselves.
This coping mechanism takes root when we recognize that our needs and well-being are ultimately our own responsibility. It’s a response to the unpredictability of human relationships and a desire to protect ourselves from the possibility of being let down or hurt.
The Good Part: Strength in Self-Reliance
While hyper-independence can be isolating, it also offers valuable lessons. It teaches us resilience and self-sufficiency. When we become our own primary source of support, we develop an inner strength that allows us to weather the bull shit of life with composure.
The sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing we can navigate life’s challenges independently is empowering. Hyper-independence can shape us into individuals who are prepared to face adversity head-on. As a mom, I see a lot of value in that. Life is hard, and there are people depending on me. Tiny people who can’t do much for themselves yet! Embracing my ability to meet my own needs, as well as theirs, gives me a sense of control. I can control my circumstances. I don’t have to rely on anyone to get my needs met.
The Bad Part: How We Begin to Self-Isolate
Hyper-independence isn’t without its downsides. It can lead to social isolation and hinder our ability to form meaningful connections with others. The walls we construct to protect ourselves can become barriers to the support and warmth that human relationships offer.
In our pursuit of self-sufficiency, we may inadvertently reject offers of help or push away those who genuinely care about us. Hyper-independence can close us off from the potential benefits of interdependence. Sadly, as we shut down and self-isolate, we reinforce the idea that nudged us toward hyper-independence in the first place—that life is lonely and people can’t be relied on.
Striking a Balance
We need to challenge ourselves to find a balance that preserves the strength and resilience fostered by hyper-independence while remaining open to the support and connection that others can provide.
Recognizing hyper-independence as a coping mechanism is the first step toward achieving this balance. It involves acknowledging the inner strength it has nurtured while staying receptive to the support and care of those who genuinely wish to be part of our lives.
Hyper-independence is a response to life’s challenges, a coping mechanism that teaches us self-sufficiency and resilience. However, it’s important to recognize its limitations, especially its potential to isolate us from the beauty, the connection, and the love of other people. There are people who love us, and want to love us well. We have to be receptive to letting them try.
Striking a balance between self-reliance and interdependence is the key. It’s about appreciating the strength it has instilled in us while remaining open to the richness of human connection. In this balance, we can find the true value of hyper independence – strength without isolation and self-reliance with an open heart.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.