At the beginning of the month I celebrated the fourth of July with my oldest daughter at a resort in Upstate New York. Everywhere we looked, there were families, groups of friends, and couples playing, partying, and picnicking. Although they were all there to celebrate Independence Day, it was their interdependence that truly struck me.
Every week I meet a handful of people, especially women, who make being dependent or interdependent wrong. Not wanting to be needy, they feel compelled to do it on their own. Not wanting to appear weak, they are driven to do it all. Never allowing themselves to be vulnerable, they suck up any emotion they might be feeling and deny the wants or needs they are actually longing for. When asked "How are you doing?" they automatically say, "I'm fine." They don't delegate or ask for help and take care of everything from the heavy lifting to the most minute details.
Although I am all for being confident, self-reliant, and owning how strong, capable, and kick-ass you are, I do know that for most of us, our distaste for or inability to be dependent, weak, needy, or vulnerable comes from a shadow, a disowned part of ourselves or a shadow belief, an unconscious limiting belief. Our shadows and shadow beliefs form when we are young, generally under the age of ten. And with regard to qualities like dependent, weak, needy, or vulnerable, our shadows and shadow beliefs often form as a result of growing up in an environment in which we made a decision that we needed to do everything on our own, that we could not trust others, that no one really cared for us, or only the strong survive. Shadows around not wanting to be needy, dependent, or vulnerable also could have been born out of feeling ashamed or being shamed for being too sensitive, overly-emotional, wanting attention, or needing help. For others, having a parent who they or others negatively viewed as a "doormat" or a "victim" might have consciously or unconsciously caused them to decide that they would never be like that and disown any traits that made them appear that way.
But herein lies the issue...any time your persona is birthed from a shadow or a shadow belief an inherent problem occurs. You lose your ability to choose! Even though you may love the competent, being in control, do-it-all yourself part of your personality, and I am sure that it has served you in many ways, when you disown a quality, you don't have access to it. If you cannot own and embrace your needy, weak, vulnerable self, it becomes virtually impossible to ask for help or even a hug! It impacts all of your relationships and whether you realize it or not, it creates a wall between you and others or blatantly has you keep everyone at arm's length. For many women, it also impacts them owning their femininity and sexuality.
A long-standing "do it all yourselfer," my ego would get stroked when others would comment on how much I could do and how well I could do it. Overdoing, overachieving, and being Miss Independent became my baseline way of being. That was until my divorce. I literally could not take one more person telling me, "Don't worry Kelley. You are so strong. You will be fine on your own!" In that moment, I realized that actually was one of the issues. Believing that I was so fine on my own, and that I had to do everything on my own was what I created in my marriage and how I co-created the disconnection.
Disowning my needs and wants actually kept me from the things I wanted and needed most! It impacted my ability to connect, to be authentic, and to have true intimacy.
Embracing my weak, needy, and vulnerable self has been one of the many gifts of doing shadow work. I no longer have to do it all and by myself. I can ask for help. I can honor my needs and wants, and as I honor them, so do the people who are closest to me. Embracing these weak, needy, vulnerable parts of myself has actually made me stronger since I no longer have to exhaust myself doing it all on my own!
Although I grew up watching the movie Funny Girl, it took me decades to truly own what Fanny Brice (aka Barbra Streisand) means when she sings, "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world." Admitting that I need other people has been and continues to be a blessing in my life. Even this past Independence Day, it was my being interdependent and wanting and needing to be with a very special person that had me reach out to my daughter to spend a long weekend together. And we created moments and memories that will live in our hearts forever!
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Start thinking about your beliefs about or relationship with characteristics like weak, needy, dependent, or vulnerable.
(2) Allow yourself to see how those beliefs impact your life.
(3) Make Your Declaration of Interdependence. Journal about what would be possible if you embraced and had a healthy relationship with these qualities.
(4) Identify something you can do in the outer world to embrace these qualities.
(5) Take the action that will support you in embracing these qualities.