Do you ever feel like you must choose between being independent and authentic (yet alone), or in close relationships (yet codependent and people-pleasing)?
Many of us have internalized the message that our primary value in the world lies in what we can offer to others. Maybe we learned this in our childhoods - perhaps we were put into a position of parenting our parents and supporting them through their own struggles and challenges. Others of us learned this as we got older - maybe friendships were contingent on what we could offer, rather than who we were as people. There is plenty of societal messaging that underlines this idea - we are often encouraged to objectify people and discard them if they aren’t giving us what we want. Ultimately, this can lead us to a place of feeling as though we must be who others want us to be, rather than who we truly are.
Sometimes when we notice this, we can over-correct. We go full-speed into independence: “I don’t need anyone! I can rely on myself.” That way, you might think, I can be who I truly am - and you might begin to associate being alone with being free. It might feel too uncomfortable to be your full self and take up space with others, so it feels easier to either go along with it or exit entirely. Still, we’re social beings and we need belonging, and this can lead us to feel as though we have a stark choice to make: give up ourselves to be in relationship, or stay alone and be our true selves.
This is a tough state of affairs. In each of those choices, we’re giving up something very important. We need connection, and we also need to be able to be our authentic selves. It can be difficult to know which to choose: dependence, or independence?
“Along with the other animals, the stones, the trees, and the clouds, we ourselves are characters within a huge story that is visibly unfolding all around us, participants within the vast imagination, or Dreaming, of the world.”