Why Your Independence Is Keeping You From True Greatness

Anna Smith
Hi, there! I'm Anna Smith, the founder and writer behind Anna Elizabeth Events, a lifestyle blog designed to inspire stylish and crafty living for 20-something's around the world. When I'm not at home writing new content, giving unwarranted advice, or cooking up a decadent recipe for the blog, you can find me out and about in the city with my moody, Chinese shar-pei and my extremely dapper boyfriend. Follow my journey and city adventures through my blog and social media outlets. http://www.annaelizabethevents.com/blog

For the most part, as millennials, we are known to be an extremely independent generation and we hold great pride in knowing that. The sweeping generalization is that, as post-college graduates, we’re not dependent on anyone. Whether it’s a job, a significant other, our parents or otherwise, it’s all disposable. We can do it on our own. We could start a business, travel the world, or raise a child by ourselves with no questions asked. We’ve been there, done that twice. Or… so it seems.

I’ve noticed the articles about 20somethings on the Internet are usually titled along the lines of, “The Sexiest Thing a Woman Can Be Is Independent” or “Why ‘Don’t Worry About Money And Just Travel’ Is Actually The Best Advice Of All Time” or “The 10 Reasons Why Your Corporate Job Is Going To Suck.”

So, I ask myself, “is it possible to be too independent?”

I mean, this sounds ridiculous, right? Too independent. It feels like I’m saying too wealthy or too successful. That just seems idiotic.

However, according to Stephen Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” we’ve only come halfway if we’re valuing independence over interdependence.

That is, if you’ve managed to come past the point of dependence, of course. You are simply unable to become interdependent if you are not primarily independent. You can’t leap from relying on your parents with every move you make to becoming a successful person who values high-quality relationships.

So, if you find that you are at the point of dependence in your life, unfortunately this article may not apply to you. However, if you have graduated to the point of independence, then you are mentally and physically able to become interdependent. It’s true that, as independent members of society, we can form our own thoughts and even survive entirely on our own. We’re clearly not dependent on others, but we haven’t realized our full potential yet, either.

So, is it possible that we are actually sabotaging ourselves by remaining too independent rather than appreciating the importance of relationships with others?

This is one of the very first topics that Stephen Covey mentions in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” He says this is essentially the first step to becoming genuinely happy and successful in the long run. Covey defines this concept as a “Maturity Continuum,” which is an “incremental, sequential, highly integrated approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness.”

Sounds complicated? At first glance, it may appear that way but, stick with me here.

Covey says independence is more mature than dependence, but it’s not everything.

Today’s society, though, makes independence the most important quality to achieve, the goal everyone aims for. For self-improvement, independence is placed on a pedestal while other qualities, such as teamwork, communication and cooperation, are tossed aside.

This is where it hit me. Now, we’re not the only generation that has done this. However, millennials seem to be leading this “independent” movement as of late, blindly convinced that it is indeed supreme.

Covey says the cause is simply our reaction to dependence – to having others control us through those adolescent years. It’s a rebellion caused by our parents telling us what to do, feeling financially dependent, society attempting to define us, and others trying to use or manipulate us.

We are rebelling by placing independence on a pedestal and refusing to believe that anything other than, “I can (and will) do it on my own” should be our mantra.

As Covey explains, “The little understood concept of interdependence appears to many, to (mirror) of dependence, and therefore, we find people, often for selfish reasons, leaving their marriages, abandoning their children, and forsaking all kinds of social responsibility – all in the name of independence.  The kind of reaction that results in people ‘throwing off their shackles,’ becoming ‘liberated,’ ‘asserting themselves,’ and ‘doing their own thing’ often reveals more fundamental dependencies that cannot be run away from because they are internal rather than external.”

It’s not solely millennials that are acting in this fashion, but it does beg the question — is this why hookup culture exists? Is this why we would rather swipe right each night, hoping to come across a short-lived romance than make a genuine commitment? Is this why we are “the generation of entrepreneurs”? Is this why many entertainment websites designed to inspire millennials choose to praise traveling solo over settling into the corporate world?

I’m not saying that the entirety of millennial behavior is negative and I don’t have the answers to these specific questions. What I’m gathering, though, is that millennials prefer to be seen as independent creatures rather than interdependent because they assume that it is too closely related to being dependent.

“Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won’t be good leaders or team players. They’re not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organized reality,” Covey says.

As Covey explains in this concept, for millennials to become the greatest that they can possibly be in society and in life as a whole,

We need to value strong relationships over self-sufficiency.

To do this, we must be able to see the differences in interdependence and dependence, and accept that we cannot act in a defensive manner because of our remembrances of our adolescent years.

Let’s look at it this way: say you live in a solely independent population. You are on your own and totally unable to trade with others. Every single item that you need — water, clothing, food, transportation, etc., you must locate, create and/or gather entirely on your own. Just imagine living one day in this self-reliant society.

Now think about that in terms of today’s society, how ineffective that must be for each person to work independently to acquire the goods and services we need rather than work together in this process. It’s an extreme scenario, but the point is that our society would be ineffective if everyone valued independence above all else.

Millennials shouldn’t have to feel that they are dependent if they recognize the need for genuine love and commitment, a steady job, assistance from others, or otherwise.

In order to achieve the highest level of happiness, success, and satisfaction in the long run, we must move on from valuing independence as our way of life, to understanding the need and the importance of interdependence and high-quality relationships.

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