Each July, we Americans dedicate time to celebrating our independence, and perhaps this year more so than others after we’ve endured various stages of isolation and lockdown amid the pandemic. The 4th is a time to revel in the notion of the American Dream and the freedoms that it’s meant to afford us – one where every individual is a given the opportunity to pursue a better life and assert their independence.
Independence is something we all strive to achieve and instill into others from a young age, and something we fear losing grasp of as we get older. Early on, we align independence with being granted permission to ride our bike around the block without mom or dad, getting a driver’s license, moving into our own place and setting off for college in another state.
As we age, we seek out ways to be independent by learning a new tech product without assistance, navigating our way as divorcees, traveling the country in an Airstream or doing our own home projects.
Independence is instilled in us throughout life, but seldom are we able to be truly successful and achieve our dreams and goals on our own. Even the leaders from the 13 colonies who architected the Declaration of Independence had to do so collaboratively.
Society has developed a narrative around independence as something we all should strive to achieve and embody, but what if we instead evolve our mindset to value independence as much as interdependence?
Interdependence – defined as a state where two people or things are mutually reliant on each other – has somehow taken on a negative connotation, yet it’s integral to our lives today and should be reflected in the evolving American Dream.
Being dependent on other people and things actually helps you to be independent. These are not two separate things. Anyone who thinks they’re an island is not only misinformed, but doing themselves an injustice; going through life by failing to embrace all of the positive benefits of mutual dependency.
All of us rely on other people, tools and systems, but that actually fosters and facilitates our independence. There are plenty of examples of this.
Interdependence is the healthiest type of relationship, according to Psychology Today. It’s one where “two people, both strong individuals, are involved with each other, but without sacrificing themselves or compromising their values.”
Loved ones, friends and acquaintances can be a safety net (and vice versa) for times when you’re taking an independent leap of faith by starting a new business, moving to a new state or making another move that might leave you vulnerable without a network to support you.
Look at any vibrant and healthy community, and you’ll find an interdependent underpinning. We turn to our neighbors when we need someone to watch our children or pets, or to help with projects in our homes that require extra hands.
When someone is ill or passes away, we pull together and organize a meal train for the family. Our communities play a meaningful role in supporting and sustaining us – and they’re most productive and healthy when everyone in the ecosystem is involved.
In today’s crazy housing market, finding an affordable place to live can be a tall order. It’s no wonder, then, that Pew Research reports that 31.9% of the adult population lived in a shared household in 2017, up from 27.4% in 2006.
We can’t always afford to live on our own, and people are increasingly open to the idea of homesharing with others outside of their immediate family to their mutual benefit.
Financial interdependence runs deep in our culture, and that’s neither a good nor bad thing. As employees, we rely on businesses as a means to generate income, and even on co-workers to show up for their jobs to keep the business humming so we can continue to earn and thrive.
The convenience store down the street depends on customers to keep their doors open. Even the wealthiest among us relies on businesses to keep operating so they can buy the food and other essentials they need to survive.
Stopping at the local farmer’s market to pick up some veggies or popping into a grocery store to buy milk? Those goods didn’t just show up in a poof of smoke.
The food chain is the epitome of interdependence, from the animals and plants that depend on each other for survival, all the way up to the farmers, processors, truckers, store operators, stockers and cashiers that get the sustenance into your hands that you and your family need to survive. Even if you have your own farm, chances are you didn’t build your own tractors and shovels.
Interdependence is not just relegated to people. There are endless tools that we depend on to make it through our day-to-day lives. We need tools to help us cook and clean, computers to help us work remotely when it’s our only option, TVs and radios to gain access to critical news, clothing to keep us warm.
Nothing and no one lives in isolation, so as we take time in July to celebrate our independence, let’s remind ourselves that we are not an island – and that’s OK. It’s time to reframe the way we think about interdependence, and acknowledge the way it enhances our lives, rather than detracts from them.
Getting comfortable with the notion of interdependence also paves the way for us to give and receive the help and support we need. That certainly would lead to a wealth of positive outcomes worth celebrating.
Happy Interdependence Day!
Have you considered how interdependent we are of each other? Do you think it’s more important to be independent or to learn to be interdependent? In what situations have you needed others’ support? Have you always been able to find it? Please join the conversation.