Have you ever heard of the saying, “Too much of a good thing can be bad for you”? Do you have any personal qualities you think would apply to that? Many of you probably said things like “hardworking”, “generous”, “forgiving”, “ambitious”, or “empathetic.” And while, yes, it is true that having too much of these strengths can turn them into weaknesses if we’re not careful, another one people often overlook is being too independent and self-reliant.
How so, you ask? Well, being too independent can often make us more isolated and emotionally distant from the people around us. We rely on ourselves too much that we end up making people feel like we don’t trust them or want them around. And this kind of behavior most likely stems from a traumatic experience, studies found, that taught us to trust ourselves and only ourselves to get us through life (Muller, Sicoli, & Lemieux, 2000).
With that said, here are 8 tell-tale signs that you are struggling with hyper independence:
1. You’re a very private person.
Has anyone ever told you you’re “so secretive and mysterious all the time”? Do people constantly tell you you’re “such a closed book” and that you should “try opening up every once in a while”? While we all certainly have a right to our privacy (and no doubt, that right should be respected), there’s a difference between being a private person and wanting to keep ourselves completely closed off from others.
2. You’re a workaholic/overachiever.
If you’re the kind of person who always likes to be busy and tends to throw themselves into their work/studies, being “hyper independent” could be a possible reason why. You focus more on your career and your academics because you’re scared to let yourself have a life outside of those things. You keep yourself preoccupied because you want to have an excuse to cancel plans, not spend time with loved ones, or be by yourself for long periods of time.
3. You don’t delegate tasks.
Every time you’re in a position of power or a leadership role, your biggest weakness is always your difficulty delegating tasks to others. Whether it’s for work, school, or social events, most of the time you just end up giving yourself all of the most important tasks and handing out only the easy and inconsequential ones to everyone else. Or, if not, you also have a bad habit of micro-managing everything to make sure all the tasks are done to your liking. In short, you don’t trust other people to do the things you need them to do and would rather do it all yourself – which brings us to our next point!
4. You have a hard time asking for help.
No matter how much you might be struggling, you never ask anyone else to help you get out of a sticky situation. And it’s not because you’re too prideful or too arrogant, either, but because you don’t want to ever have to need other people. You may also have a problem trusting others and believing in their good intentions, as well as a fear of being seen as a burden or nuisance – all of which are signs of hyper independence (Purshouse & Fleming, 2003).
5. You’re used to doing everything by yourself.
Whether it’s grocery shopping, watching a movie, running errands, or eating out, you’re used to doing everything by yourself. You spend your time and money on your own terms, and you only go out with other people when they invite you, not the other way around. And while it’s definitely important to have a good relationship with ourselves and get comfortable with being alone sometimes, the same goes for socializing and spending time with loved ones as well.
6. You decide everything by yourself.
You make all the most important decisions in your life by yourself and rarely ever ask other people for their input or opinion. You don’t really consider what they think would be best because you want to make those choices by yourself and only yourself. And while you might think that’s a good thing, it actually shows just how much your sense of “hyper independence” is alienating you from those around you (Sperling & Berman, 1994).
7. You struggle with long-term relationships.
Whether it’s love or friendship, you’ve always had a hard time maintaining long-term relationships. And if you’re being honest with yourself, you know it’s because you tend to keep the people you care about at an emotional distance. You feel uncomfortable opening up to them or getting too intimate with them, and you always worry that you spend too much time together. You’ve also been told that you’re not the best at making people feel wanted or needed, and you never chase after anyone who leaves.
8. You dislike needy people.
Whenever you see someone acting even the slightest bit needy, you immediately turn and run the other way. You don’t like it when friends keep asking you to spend more time with them or when family members text and call you a lot. You feel easily smothered or suffocated by other people’s attempts to get closer with you and are often quick to shoot them down. Why? Because you think being needy is a sign of weakness, and no one should ever need anyone else but themselves in your opinion.
Whether it was a toxic relationship, a falling out with a friend, being abandoned by a parent, or some other kind of traumatic experience that made you the way you are now, it’s okay. It’s good that you learned to cope with it in your own way. But you don’t have to keep letting it define you and the way you look at the world.
Yes, being independent is good. Being independent means you are strong and self-sufficient. But there’s nothing wrong with needing other people every once in a while. In fact, it’s only human! We all need love in our lives; we all crave companionship and affection; we all want to feel accepted, appreciated, and understood by other people. And no matter how hard we might try, we can’t do everything all on our own.
So while it may not be easy at first, we have to do our best to open up to those around us and allow ourselves to trust again, to ask for help when we need it. It’s scary to need someone or want them around, and even scarier to let ourselves love them, but having close, meaningful relationships with others is what makes life so worthwhile.
As the famous American lecturer and author Brene Brown once said, “Vulnerability is the only bridge we have to build connections with others.
- Muller, R. T., Sicoli, L. A., & Lemieux, K. E. (2000). Relationship between attachment style and posttraumatic stress symptomatology among adults who report the experience of childhood abuse. Journal of Traumatic Stress: Official Publication of The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 13(2), 321-332.
- Sperling, M. B., & Berman, W. H. (Eds.). (1994). Attachment in adults: Clinical and developmental perspectives. Guilford Press.
- Purshouse, R. C., & Fleming, P. J. (2003, April). Conflict, harmony, and independence: Relationships in evolutionary multi-criterion optimisation. In International Conference on Evolutionary Multi-Criterion Optimization (pp. 16-30). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.