Are There Downsides To Being Too Independent?

Today in popular culture, we celebrate the independent woman. From Destiny's Child's "Independent Women Part 1" to the Miley Cyrus track "Flowers," we know that following our own path without asking permission from anyone is always going to be the most fulfilling. After years of not even being considered "persons under the law" in some countries, today many women no longer have to rely on men for financial support (via Famous 5 Foundation). Now, we are the role models we have been waiting for. We create our own futures, we make our own choices, and we take care of ourselves. By living an independent life, we show how rewarding it is to achieve success and happiness, and we get some pretty banger pop tunes to go with it.

But in evaluating your life, both professional and personal, have you ever wondered if maybe you might be too independent? Hear this out: Have you ever urgently needed someone else's support or help, and refused it? Do you try to do it all — be the best at work, at home, in your hobbies, and in your relationships — even though you're burning the candle at both ends? It turns out that taking the weight of the world on your shoulders (and your shoulders only) might actually be detrimental to your own health and happiness. Here's what you need to know about hyper-independence.

Hyper-independence is a result of previous trauma

Do you have an inability to delegate tasks? Do you often shirk off support from your social circles, especially when you need it? Do you sometimes take on dangerous responsibilities without asking for help from others who are more skilled? Do your relationships suffer because you don't value their contributions? If so, you're not just independent; you might have "hyper-independence," which trauma therapist Simone Saunders (who holds a Masters in Social Work) told Shape occurs when someone has, "a fear or extreme discomfort with allowing others to support or assist them, even if it is to their detriment." 

Saunders says some characteristics of this trait include the assumption one can do it all without asking anyone for support, and it's rooted in childhood trauma. "Some of the childhood experiences that result in hyper-independence are childhood emotional or physical neglect — emotional neglect is when a parent does not respond enough to a child's emotional needs during the brain development period." Saunders goes on to explain that often these children must in a way "parent" their own parents and take on tasks too mature for their age. "These experiences teach the child that their caregivers are an unreliable source of stability and safety and that they need to provide it for themselves."

Saunders warns that hyper-independence can be detrimental to a person's well-being and relationships because of the way it affects others. 

Your relationships may suffer from hyper-independence

When friends, family, partners, and other loved-ones interact with someone with hyper-independence, they may be put-off, and thusly the relationship fails. That's because people are naturally social, want to help those they love, and offer solidarity or support, which is often rejected by someone who wants to do everything themselves. This can lead to conflict and a breakdown in communication and trust. "People who tend to reject well-intentioned help from others may be seen as having too much pride," Dutch business psychologist Jan P. de Jonge told The Daily Mail. "Another downside of being too independent is that it can be perceived as not having enough respect for 'the other person.' Although it may be harmless to be seen as independent, too much of it can be seen as having little regard for the alternative voice, another's point of view, or contribution."

Clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Marschall writes that because hyper-independence is a response to previous trauma, you might find that this response no longer serves you in the present moment (via Verywell Mind). Acknowledging the benefit this response once had, while processing and moving past that trauma, might be a way to mend relationships, ease stress and anxiety, and allow yourself the grace to depend on others again. Marschall stresses the importance to find a balance between self-sufficiency and a willingness to rely on and work with others, and your best tool to achieve that is therapy, which can change your outlook