Introversion, Independence & Interdependence

According to the dictionary independence (no dependence) is synonymous with self-government, self-rule, separation, self-determination, autonomy, freedom, and liberty.

We celebrate independence.

Yet, there is a popular old saying that no one is an island, meaning we are human and, thus, by very definition and design, social beings  who are dependent on each other.

There are songs that emphatically assert that “…people who need people are the luckiest people in the world” and “it’s a small world after all.”

As both an introvert and the eldest daughter of a very strong woman, I often struggle with these assertions of interdependence. Which should I strive to be – independent or interdependent? Can one be effectively independent and interdependent?

My mother – with only the best intentions in mind – raised her three daughters to be just as strong as she is, which meant staunchly independent. “Let yourself never ever be put down by relying on a man,” my impressionable sisters and I were taught in both word and actions from very early on. Interdependence was never discussed; not sure mom even knew such a word existed! A woman was either independent or weak – period, no middle ground. This information I absorbed and, while it has served me well in many respects, as I mature I can clearly see the damage it has wrought  in personal relationships.

For introverts, much as we love good company in relatively small doses, relating can be overwhelmingly taxing physically, emotionally, and intellectually. As such, an introvert requires separation from others to re-fuel. We can literally wither away without enough space and independence. Yet, too much of this “good” thing independence can leave the introvert vulnerable to depression and profound feelings of isolation.

I am seeing now the ego, limits and dangers of independence/self-determination and the reality, vulnerability and expansiveness of interdependence. I am learning that very little in life is black and white. As I gray, so does life!