The culture in the United States centers around the concept of independence, capitalism, and making it on your own. Society praises people who can take care of themselves, are self-made, and have hard-won success while any form of dependence is looked down upon and shunned.

It is so deeply ingrained in many of us that we don’t want to admit it, so stop for a moment and think about these two scenarios and notice the emotion and thoughts that rise up in you.

  1. A 25-year-old has graduated from college, obtained a high-paying job, and has bought their first home.
  2. A 25-year-old is living with their parent(s) and experiencing different job fields to decide what appeals to them.

Being self-sufficient is rewarding, but when this is taken to the extreme and you’re unable to accept any kind of help or support, it can become unhealthy. This is called “hyper-independence,” and it can have real negative impacts on a person’s relationships, career, mental health, and more.

Hyper-independence is when autonomy and self-reliance has been taken to the extreme. Healthy independence is when you feel good about your autonomy and self-reliance but also feel good about relying on people when you need help. The balance between knowing what you can do on your own versus when you need someone to assist is that sweet spot.

Hyper-independent people typically have a fear or discomfort with allowing others to support or assist them, even if it is to their detriment. They may be unwilling to lean on their partner for emotional support, feel they need to do it all at work and home, and rarely ask their partner or extended family for support. 

Hyper-independence itself is a survival trait developed through intergenerational, childhood, or adult adverse experiences. Some of the childhood experiences that result in hyper-independence are childhood emotional or physical neglect.

  • When a parent does not respond enough to a child’s emotional needs during the brain development period.
  • Parentification: when children assume responsibilities that are developmentally inappropriate. (i.e. being a mediator for the family or being involved in financial decisions.)

These experiences teach the child that their caregivers are an unreliable source of stability and safety and that they need to provide it for themselves. When compounded with a culture that praises and promotes independence at all costs may play a role, you also see a need for control and perfectionist tendencies wrapped up in hyper-independence.

People with hyper-independence find it difficult to form connections with other people, tend to be hostile to sharing emotions, maintaining relationships, and admitting defeat. They will do all they can to avoid asking for help. They are often seen as strong-willed, highly capable individuals, leading to the misconception that total independence shows the strength of character. However, this can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and burnout. Signs of Hyper-Independence are:

  • Overachieving / Overcommitting
  • Refusing to Delegate or Ask for Help
  • Guardedness in Relationships
  • Secretiveness
  • Mistrust of Other People
  • Few Close or Long-Term Relationships
  • Stress or Burnout
  • Dislike of “Neediness”

What do you do if you suspect you are hyper-independent?

  • Start taking small, manageable steps toward allowing others to help or support you.
  • Heal and eliminate the fear of relinquishing control.
  • Delegate some tasks and carve out time for self-care.
  • Change and healing is uncomfortable, so be ready to accept that.
  • Identify how you can practice relying on individuals in your support system.
  • Forgive those who may have contributed to your trauma.

Emotional Freedom Techniques and Hypnotherapy can help in this change journey. Remember, this is not a blaming exercise but rather a healing exercise. Vulnerability is healthy for all genders and should be socially accepted in our culture. Maybe some of the tragedies we are seeing occur would not have if only we asked for help.

Watch for next month’s article on the evolution of men versus women in this hyper-independence trauma.