Is Being Too Independent a Bad Thing?

June 6, 2012

in Life Lessons, Relationships

Woman in 1950's ad

My idea of hell on earth.

Fiercely independent.

That is how Ben from Dad of the Decade described me in the intro to his guest post here in April. When I read that, it made me pause. I remember feeling shocked that someone I met through Studio30 Plus just a month before knew that about me. How was it possible I conveyed my “fiercely independent” nature to him in such a short amount of time?

Independence is a wonderful quality to possess. Being financially secure, self-reliant, creating your own happiness, and knowing accomplishments were achieved on your own is a satisfying feeling. Conversely, to be described as needy and dependent, knowing whatever happens in life is because of another’s efforts, would be horrific. According to this independent woman at least.

When “fiercely” needs to be inserted to describe the level of independence, it begins to border on being a problem; it means asking for and accepting help is a challenge. This can affect reaching a depth of connection with another as well as robbing oneself of experiences that are more fulfilling because they were done with another.

For example….

When faced with the possibility of surgery to remove pre-cancerous cells from my cervix a few months ago, the discussion about the procedure went like this:

The Boyfriend (TB): You need to tell me the time and date so that I can be there with you.

Me: I don’t need you there. I will be fine.

{Long, awkward silence}

TB: That wasn’t the answer I was expecting from you.

{Long, awkward silence}

As soon as I told The Boyfriend I didn’t want him there, I regretted it. But with two moments of silence in which to retract the statement, I could not. I was terrified and wanted him with me for the procedure, but I could not overcome my fear of using the n-word (need). He was hurt and shocked by my response, yet there was nothing I could do to ameliorate the problem.

Another, less serious example….

With The Boyfriend staying with me one weekend, we had some free time in the afternoon. He asked what I needed help with in the garden, knowing that I was just beginning to weed, edge, trim, and lay mulch for the season. After repeatedly protesting, he somehow ended up in the garden, shovel in hand. It turned into a fun afternoon with us laughing and enjoying each other’s company while working on my garden beds.

Could I have cut all the beds on my own? Yes, but it would have taken a lot more time and been less enjoyable than working on this project with a partner. I learned a lesson the day in the garden. I am also discovering the answer to the question in the title of this post.

Yes, being too independent can be a bad thing.

Independent Woman

Letting someone in, experiencing all the challenging times and the mundane chores together, makes life sweeter and more enjoyable. It also builds a stronger bond in a relationship.

I am happy to be an independent woman.

I just want to shake off that adverb: fiercely.


{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacki June 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Wow, I am pretty sure that was me writing your post. I am also fiercely independent and my S.O. has become an expert on “helping” me without me feeling like I am getting help, or asking for help. Good luck on letting go and letting him in.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I need your well wishes Jacki. It’s not going to be an easy thing to overcome. I have a very patient, loving man in my life though. And he probably doesn’t believe I can shed “fiercely” and loves me anyway. I want to try though.

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Cat June 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I’m so with you girl. I’ve been told multiple times by people who love me and know me well that there are times when I need to back off the independence a bit.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Good luck with your struggle to be too independent too Cat!

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Jen June 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Over the past several years, I’ve been working on being more independent. It is scary to feel like you “need” someone. The challenge is striking that balance between being too independent and needy. Either one can be a turnoff not only to a partner but friends as well.

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Naked Girl in a Dress June 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Jen,
It’s terrifying to think I need someone so while you are coming at independence from a different angle, we share the same feelings about it. Balance with everything in life is best. I just struggle to strike the right balance in some areas.

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Kimberly June 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm

So many times your words strike straight into my own issues.

I once broke up with a guy because he wanted to pump the gas in my car. When it was raining. And cold.

I must learn to find a middle ground. I must learn that it’s isn’t an all or nothing situation.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I loved you before this comment, but I love you a little more now. Really bad things like being a gentleman and pumping gas for us can be a total turn-off, right?? It would be fun to share a glass of wine and share stories. I hope it happens one day.

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Kimberly June 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I think we’d need a whole bottle…but I’m game :) I’m so glad I found your blog…and, therefore, found you…xoxo
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Kimberlee June 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Great topic! I get accused of being “too” independent or as others call it “stubborn.” I’ve gotten a biopsy to make sure a lump on my breast wasn’t cancer alone… most people thought I was crazy. I’ve pulled my back out trying to move furniture by myself haha I don’t like to ask for help. I like knowing I can do certain things for myself :)

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Naked Girl in a Dress June 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Oh, you are in the “fiercely” category with me! I am also described as stubborn. I guess it goes with fierce independence.

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David June 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Nicely worded and very relevant to some recurring themes we are seeing today. I’m of the firm (not quite fierce) opinion that we are all human persons – who happen to be male or female – and who are by our very nature relational beings. We are designed to live in community. Healthy boundaries sure – and each sex rounding the other out in a nice different but equal mix. We should delight in the needing of one another and enjoy sharing. The rough patch comes in our own flaws which leads us to broken or unhealthy relationships. But tangled up or not, we should all look to being healthy and interdependent instead of the all out pursuit of loneliness – and being fierce all the time!
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

“Healthy boundaries” is something you wrote in your comment. That will be part of this series David!

Thank you for your thoughts and you have excellent points as usual.

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Marie Nicole June 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I once asked a friend why nobody ever came to help ME when I needed it. She told me that I always made it so obvious I didn’t need help (and by didn’t need I think she implied how I showed signs of not wanting).

I had the same procedure you did. Like you – I toughed it out alone. I told nobody about it other than my boss since I needed to miss work. It was a long day. Other than the 2 hours needed for the hospital and the driving back and forth I worked a 10-hour shift.

I easily forget that the first tree to break is the tougher one that doesn’t bend… I’m learning – and obviously you are too!
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 6, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Thank you for sharing your stories Marie; both were immensely helpful as was the comment about the tougher tree. That’s a great reminder. Yes, I am learning and trying to grow.

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Zaida Yap June 7, 2012 at 8:29 am

I am always to wanting to be independent, I never think of what people may say about it, I don’t care!haha.. Being independent just proves how I can stand alone without any others help, but maybe some help when lifting something very heavy, LOL! Thanks for posting! :)
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 7, 2012 at 8:34 am

Thanks for visiting Zaida! It is a good feeling to know you can take care of yourself and create your own happiness.

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Classic NYer June 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

I think I’m the opposite of you. I tried being independent once, but it didn’t work. I’m a needy little btch now. I outsource everything. I don’t even open jars myself if my husband is around.

I’m a mess, I know. Oh, well.
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Naked Girl in a Dress June 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm

You will probably live to be 100 because you are outsourcing while I am a bundle of self-imposed stress daily. Good for you.

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Brian November 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I don’t understand why women are so weak that they have to constantly tell people they are strong and independent. How many guys do you hear saying they are strong and independent? Never. I have never heard a guy tell me he is strong and independent. It’s a bunch of bullshit. It doesn’t sound to me that you are strong at all. You are confused and don’t know what to do because you have been brainwashed into following a feminist ideal and listening to too much girl power. Remember a lot of your gains are a result of affirmative action and favoring women in scholarships and feminized education. If women don’t get what they want they will bitch and complain about it until they do.

Prepare for a lonely life. If you won’t budge most guys will not put up with that. Strong and independent women are not appealing.

And I know what he was thinking during that awkward silence.

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Naked Girl in a Dress November 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Brian,

Actually, my blog isn’t filled with posts where I repeatedly declare I am strong and independent. But that’s really not my issue with the comment.

In this brief comment you called me weak, brainwashed, and confused. You also state that any successes I have had in my life are a result of affirmative action and scholarships favoring women. Oh, and you state I should prepare for a lonely life because “guys won’t put up with that” (strong and independent types, right?). I am sorry for you that you need a woman to be weak and dependent (since strong and independent are such horrible traits) to feel confident in yourself. Unfortunately, in 2012, the vast majority of women are happy being capable, productive people in society.

Also, at 43 I take umbrage at the “girl power” comment. I am a woman, not a girl.

I have a general rule to not argue with sexist men; it’s a waste of time because you will live angry and resentful the rest of your life–regardless of what I try to convey to you.

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Nicole November 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Sounds like someone is a bit threatened by articulate, educated, self-aware women. We’re hard to manipulate. We bite back. Whatever… ANYWAY…

It’s so strange this post resurfaced today… I, for the first time in a year and a half, accepted a substantial amount of help (meaning, beyond chore help or favor help) from Geekface. It took a lot for me to accept it. I was immediately grateful at the offer, but so hesitant to say yes.

I had a few trial sessions with a personal trainer and I really, really loved it. They are having a special on training packages, but I couldn’t afford one on my own. He offered to help me pay for it. It was hard. But, it clearly made him happy to hear me say “Yes. Thank you.” I first asked, “Are you sure?” And his answer was simply, “I love you.” How could I say no? It made both of us happy. And he’s so supportive of my goals, no matter what they are. This time, he showed that support this way. And I am so grateful for it.
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Naked Girl in a Dress November 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I am so happy this post resurfaced at the right time because it meant you could share this great story. Thank you for showing me progress is possible, even if it is uncomfortable. I am allowing Sean to help, but he is often then met with, “Are you sure” or “Am I asking for too much help?” He is patient, letting me find my way.

Luke September 25, 2016 at 7:49 pm

What Brian is saying is partly true. A lot of this world was created by men for women. The fact that we made life so much easier for women to excel outside of the home as well as in shows how much men love women in general. By telling a man who wants to help the woman he loves to fck off is like stabbing him in the back. We thrive on achievement. But we also thrive on the happiness of women. Only feminist warp these natural, loving urges in men into hateful ways to oppress women. Do you want to teach your sons not to care about others? Tell them not to offer help to someone when they can? That’s the way to do it.

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@bluenotebacker November 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Wow. Okay. Wanting to comment on that but will only comment on the original post.

I know a few “fiercely” independent women, some who are “too proud” to accept help or assistance that might make their lives a bit easier. It’s not uncommon in my experience.

As someone with what I’ll call “the helper instinct” or “caretaker gene,” I run into situations where my offered aid is shunned and I may even be pushed away for it. I just like the feeling of helping those I care about. It’s not even a man-woman thing.

I think sometimes, “What can I help you do?” is mistaken for, “I don’t think you can do it, let me.” I’ll argue that’s never why I’m offering a hand.

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Naked Girl in a Dress November 29, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I have that helper gene, too. And yet I am the last to accept help. Surprisingly, Sean is the first person I have openly accepted help from, and even ask for help at times. Maybe it is because of the relationship, or I am learning. Regardless, life is easier when you allow others who care for you to help.

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Nicole November 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Hey Buddy, good to bump into you over here. :-)

You know, I know logically he won’t think I’m incapable or falling short if I ask for/accept help. I totally impose that on myself. I feel as though I should be able to do everything and anything I need on my own. Which, logically, again, is kinda silly. I never push him away for it, I feel tremendous guilt and self-imposed admonishment.
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Jeanie November 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I love this post, and I’m glad you put it out there. It’s not as black and white as the gentleman before me implied. Most independent women are loving, kind, smart and… soft. You don’t have to give up one to have the other. You don’t have to be ‘fierce’ in order to be independent. Your day in the garden says it all… you can be both independent and interdependent, which is the best of both worlds. Thanks for putting this out there!

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Naked Girl in a Dress November 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Thank you, Jeanie! I agree that we can be capable and independent, but also loving, kind, and soft. I also believe we are multi-faceted.

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SuzRocks November 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Hmmmm….not sure what I should say in regards to Brian’s comment. I don’t consider myself a feminist, b/c I think a lot of them are whiny, spoiled brats, but I also think his comment is full of BS.

I really related to this- I’ve always been the independent type, the one who thought I didn’t need anyone (and was this a result of the feminist culture that says men are expendable and superflous? Maybe). Even when I found someone, I told myself that I didn’t ‘need’ him. And technically…I don’t ‘need’ him for me to survive the physical aspect of life. But I want to need him.

Show me a two fiercely independent people in a relationship/marriage and I’ll show you a marriage that’s about to go in the dumps. Tried it…doing better this time around.
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Naked Girl in a Dress November 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Being too independent is a challenge, which is why I am trying to improve in this area. I also agree with you; independence has nothing to do with feminism.

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Sean November 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I think *somebody* didn’t get enough hugs as a little boy. I suppose it’s good that everybody who visits is allowed to comment and speak their mind, however, that right is a bit dependent on the assumption that he HAS a mind. Brian’s comments are the kind of observations made by somebody who’s perpetually unhappy with their own life. If you weren’t strong and independent you’d be weak and needy, and if you weren’t weak and needy you’d just be a bitch. I’d agree there was probably a strong, assertive man or woman that denied him that caused his issues.

As for your fierce independence; I for one think you have GREAT balance. Being able to be there for you, help you with things, and get your help in return is part of what makes this relationship so special. Thanks for being exactly who you are.

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Naked Girl in a Dress November 30, 2012 at 6:24 am

Thank you for embracing who I am, which means dealing with some push back at times when the independent streak pops up. You are a wonderful partner, Sean.

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