“Self reliance is about making a commitment to becoming less dependent on others, practically and emotionally, and to building up our sense of self confidence and self-competence. It may mean learning a new skill or attending a course for example, or beginning to grow out of a childlike relationship with a parental figure.” – Dr Alex Yellowlees
The idea of self reliance is one that excites me. The first thing that came to my mind is that I should be less reliant on reply messages from my significant other, the next is that I shouldn’t care about the lack of opportunity I have in my life to meet with friends. In most other aspects of my life, I feel that I’m very self reliant. I moved away from home to a new city to study at college full-time and I took up a part-time job to supplement my income. And then prior to starting this course, I’d been working full-time and living alone for 2 years.
I wasn’t always self reliant. It is normal to rely on one’s parents in childhood but personally, I was over-reliant on my father. I think I held his hand until I was around 11, I slept in his bed periodically up to the age of 12 and I was always very desperate for his approval. If I got a good grade at school, I was only truly happy about it after my Dad communicated his approval. As I got older, this is something which he exploited. Once in high school, I’d gotten around 95% in a class test for maths – a subject I struggled with quite a bit – and upon telling my father, his response was: “Oh. Is that good?” I remember feeling incredulous and saying: “Yeah, it’s good!” It makes me sad to recall this – I was unable to enjoy my achievement because my father had denied me of the praise that I was so dependent on. He had the same, distant attitude about my struggles with Modern Studies. When I was going into 3rd year at high school, it was a subject he encouraged me to pick, which I did. Besides, I would’ve picked it regardless because politics was something I was interested in. Looking back, the only reason I was interested in politics was because it was more or less rammed down my throat at home. Anyway, I started studying Modern Studies at school and found it difficult. There was a lot to learn about voting systems, the American government and legal system – which was very different to that of the UK. Although I liked writing the essays and got good grades for those, when it came around to exam time and I had to recall everything I’d learnt – I simply couldn’t. It was too much. So I ended up with a general grade rather than a credit grade. My father was confused and said he was sorry that he had encouraged me to study it, that he thought I would’ve liked it. I tried to explain that I did like the subject but that I just found it hard. To him, this didn’t compute and despite the rest of my brilliant grades, he was disappointed.
Aside from being very reliant on my Father and his approval, I was also very dependent on my friends – when I had any – and was very easily manipulated. I got roped into helping with my one of my friends’ chores and helping at her family’s business after school. I was like a limpet, as long as I could be with someone, I’d do whatever it took. I’d undergo humiliation, exclusion, as long as someone would allow me the opportunity to be their friend. I have a memory of being very young, possibly 5 or 6, and just about begging a girl in my class to let me play with her and her friends in the playground. At first she refused and then uncontrollably I burst into tears, wailing: “But I don’t have anyone to play with!” Pity softened her then. The power dynamics that occur between children are truly disturbing. For them, falling into the role of dominance was as natural as it was for me to fall into submission. And it is not the fault of the children, these things just naturally happen. For what it’s worth though, I assign much of the responsibility for my spineless, meek behaviour to my father for molly-coddling me when I was a young child. In a way, I think it taught me that my happiness was largely in other people’s hands.
You see, what was strange about my reliance on him is that it was completely reciprocated. He depended on me just as much, if not more. I guess it could be better described as codependency. His marriage had fallen apart and he was, unbeknownst to me, addicted to heroin. It was in me that my father found solace and I grew up believing subconsciously that by being of assistance to others I would, in turn, get my needs met. He used to joke with me that my mother was jealous of our “special bond” and that’s why she’d get angry about all the time we spent together. I now know that my mother was extremely worried and rightly thought that my father was smothering me. I’ll talk more about codependency and enmeshment in another post because honestly, I could speak forever about it but what I will say is that it stunts autonomous development and it takes a long time to come from that sort of background and eventually reach a state of self reliance.
So, back to the intentions. Whilst I don’t feel practically dependent on others, I guess I could be less emotionally dependent on my friends. Sometimes I think I have transferred that need for approval onto my friends and significant other. I perhaps could benefit from keeping some things to myself and writing them down instead of sharing them. I find it very difficult to establish those sorts of boundaries because they were never there in childhood. My mother and father both often overshared and confided in me so I find it hard to know what and what not to say. But for my first intention, I’ll write things down when I feel the need to share as an attempt to rely on others less. To counterbalance this, I should make a commitment to building up my self confidence. I see myself as a confident person anyway but there’s always room for improvement. Ways in which I could build up some more confidence are making more time for my music, spending more time on my makeup here and there and actually wearing what I want. Being in a city makes me feel more inspired with my outfits but sometimes I’m too embarrassed to wear what I want to college. Doing this will no doubt lead to increased self confidence. Quite conveniently, I’m also starting some counselling this week to learn more about attachment which I hope will, amongst other things, allow me to be less reliant on others.
I feel happy about my intentions this week and look forward to following them through. My next post will be a summary of my week of self reliance. Thank you so much for reading and taking a trip with me down memory lane (I hope it wasn’t too self-indulgent!).
– SMUT ❤ xxxx