Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Independence and Giving it Up

Current Mood: Contemplative.

Current Song: Talking to the Walls by Finger Eleven

"I can do it myself." It's a phrase that we hear often in my house and that I use often in my relationships. It denotes that I'm perfectly capable of handling things my self. I don't whimper when I'm left alone. I can manage. It's pretty obvious I'm independent. If you know me, and my family, you know this is true for pretty much all of us.

I'm starting to find that in some cases being independent can be a bit detrimental.

In talking to some of my female friends over the last few days, I've noticed that a lot of us treat Independence and emotional unavailability congruently. To prove you're independent you have to shut out anything that might make you remotely vulnerable. This sucks a little when it comes to relationships because we make a huge show of shutting people out.

It's not right really, is it?

I think that there is something to be said about the strength of women who are able to be vulnerable, and to put that sword down for a little while. It lets us live in another moment where we're not always anticipating getting hurt or having to take immediate action all the time. Being strong is really tiring. Trust me. Sometimes you just want to take that armour off and deal with whatever at a later date.

And I think that's just fine.

As 21st Century, Gen Y women, who are always talking about being secure about their identities, we run the other way when we have to let people in. If we're so strong, why don't we trust the fact that we can take on whatever this vulnerability brings to us? Again, like so many things, it's about trusting yourself and your ability to handle uncertainty.

What do you think, boys and girls? Do we make independence synonymous with emotional unavailability? Is making yourself vulnerable necessarily giving up your independence?


Emily Jasper said...

It's funny that you are writing about this. I think about it quite frequently because I am an independent woman. I can also be considered aggressive and dominating. A take charge kinda gal. Well, when I was trying eHarmony a while back, my personality match ended up being all these doormat guys. There wasn't a way to tell the system: yes I take the lead a lot of times but I need a man who can take the reigns when I can't. I even tried It's Just Lunch where I could talk to a real person and explain this, and still the doormat matches! I want the opportunity to be vulnerable and have someone else be strong, but it didn't seem like I would get that opportunity. At this point, I'm not even looking anymore.

Mehnaz said...

I hear you!

It's really rather ridiculous that if you let down your guard, there isn't anyone to pick up.
I think that's part of the reason why we always feel the need to be "on" all the time.
Being powerful is really tiring!

Karim Kanji said...

Interesting. I used to head up a business team last decade and there was always one guy who wanted me to show my vulnerabilities so he could "trust me". So, I guess it depends on the type of situation we are in and the type of relationship we have with the people in said relationship.

Now, if we're talking about a relationship between a couple/partners I think being open and honest is important.


aka spidey

Mehnaz said...

Thanks Spidey!

I think you make a good point. For women it's often really difficult to appear vulnerable because it's about putting your heart on the line, and then unfortunately in some cases, getting hurt.

But I think that's all part of growth really, and we're a lot stronger for our vulnerabilities and being able to handle the situation when we leave it.

In business relationships, I'm not sure showing vulnerability as a woman would necessarily be beneficial. We're already known as the folks who cry at work!

Anonymous said...

The tension between asking for help and being independent is big for women. I notice that if I don't ask for help then I automatically shut people out because there is no way in for those I work with, live with or love.
I think that many women equate needing help with dependence/weakness and it's risky to rely on others. What I've learnt is that asking for help is essential to move in the direction you want to go. Opening up to others and admitting you need help creates amazing connections that feedback to you and others.
What I try not to lose sight of is that there are lots of things that I can do and I celebrate my successes, but I celebrate my relationships and connections that helped me to achieve them as well.

Mehnaz said...

Well put, Heather!

you make an excellent point. For women, it's really about navigating the grey area and the ability to realize it's not all black and white. Thanks for commenting!

Zoyah said...

This is so relevant.

You're absolutely right. If we always shut people out in an attempt to be independent, what will we be left with in the end? Ourselves. And frankly, I'm gettin' tired of the voices in my head ;)

Mehnaz said...

Z - don't worry we're all sick of those guys :)

Girl Bleeds Green said...

Emily J's comments speak volumes about my situation as well. I attract doormat guys but have zero attraction to them. I certainly have areas where I have focused on letting myself become vulnerable but I find the dating world to be a place where communicating those is difficult.

Online dating has been a disaster for me for the same reasons Emily listed and the only other place I meet men is related to "the job". I work in a male dominated industry so if I let my guard down, I turn into a potential doormat girl in the office/in the field - so I can't very well find a partner that way.

It's all so ... complicated.

Mehnaz said...

you've got it right, GBG. I think most of us run into that problem of navigating the grey area. You don't want to be "that girl" whatever that is. But essentially it's better to be authentic, than try and be something else entirely.