It is interesting how one can use words but never realize their meaning. Having just celebrated our Independence Day, I wondered about the word independence. What does it really mean? I’ve been told all my life that I’m “independent.” It seemed like the context of it was helpful when I was a child because I wanted to be able to do things for myself. Our first experiences of our ability to master our environment, begins when we can say, “Mommy I do peeped all by myself,” then run to show what we did and where we did it. Later, we move on to things beyond basic bodily functions to ‘I can dress myself, ride a bike without the training wheels,’ and so on. But does this really make us “independent”?
Before I go on, what do the dictionaries tell us about independent? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines independent as “1: quality of state of being independent. 2. Archaic: competence.” Dictionary.com defines independence as “a noun: independency as the state or quality of being independent. 2. Freedom from the control, influence, support, aid or the like, of others and 3. Archaic: A competency.” Wikipedia defines independence as “a condition of a nation, country or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty over its territory. Independent is the opposite of dependence.”
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It seems to me that the confusion begins when we use a word whose meaning has more to do with politics than human development. I like to go back to the origins of things because that was the beginning of the context which may have lost its way as human beings changed the use of a word from its origins to meet changing needs. However, sometimes getting back to basics can bring clarity to a muddle.
The ‘back to basics’ for me is that when I accomplished something I was not being independent, I was being competent. Now I know why I had felt a sense that something was off when people said, “She is so independent.” In my perception this was confusing. I was still connected with myself enough to know that I needed other human beings and I was “dependent” on my caregivers. Actually, to tell me I was independent negated my competency and made my dependency needs not okay.
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But, like most children, I lived up to the predictions of my caregivers. Even though I may have been misguided, I’ve tried to live my life as an independent sovereign being. I’ve done my best not to need anyone and to make sure that whatever I was competent at was done very quietly. This core belief has not been a healthy one. I became a human doing so as to not ‘need anything or anyone,’ which is such a lie. It also disconnected me from my spiritual being – my soul.
Out of this fog I claim my interdependence. I am a spiritual being having this human experience. I have been created as a social being that needs others to give and receive love, for companionship, for health, to give meaning and make life worth living. I claim my interdependence and in that I know that we are connected to each other. Everyone and everything is part of the same stuff that life is made from, whatever you want to call it. What we do and don’t do has an impact for good or ill to those we love and those we encounter in our daily lives.