Is Your Independence Pure Hype?

by Belinda Munoz on January 28, 2010


Independence. It seems the ultimate goal of parents is to guide their children toward independence.  Babies, helpless creatures that they are who never remain babies long enough, exhibit their capacity for independence as soon as their bones and muscles become strong enough to crawl.  Valiantly venturing away from where they are to where they can go.  Flirting with fences.  Braving the boundaries.  Poking at perimeters.  Exploring how far their lumbering limbs will take them.

Our whole lives seemingly revolve around gaining independence.  From our first steps, to our first swing ride, from our first camping trip to our first day of school, from our first date to our final foray away from home, each move is another step in the sequence of our growing independence.  With each step, we move farther away from where we once were to where we can be.  To be how we want to be.  To do what we want to do.

In no time, our lumbering limbs become history; replaced by powerful pillars, standing straight, solid and steady.

We cherish our independence.  We write books about it, pass legislation to promote it, and create rules to preserve it.

Sometimes, we even kill and die for it.

We cherish it above all else.

Until…loneliness finds us.  And it always finds us…feeling incomplete…wanting more…needing more…seeking more…

Transformation. Sometimes, the void is so big we’re moved to act.  And when we do, each powerful pillar, in all its seemingly sublime strength, begins to soften.  Starting with the roots.  Soaked in our craving to connect, our hunger for human interaction, our appetite for attachment, no matter how uncomfortable at first, we begin to find ways to thaw what once was frozen, to infuse warmth to what once was cold.

Ever more slowly, the pillars become more like tree trunks with leaves and branches.  Swaying and bending.  Outstretched and inviting.  Reaching out, offering comfort and shade, sometimes, even bearing blossoms and fruit.

This is what transformation looks like.  One that leads us to interdependence.  A state of being from which we spend many years crawling, walking, running away.  A fact of life too easily ignored and too readily downplayed in our quest for independence.  A stubborn truth that won’t go away.  Because it can’t.  Because it’s with us every step of the way.

Interdependence. And so, with a little livin’ (and hopefully a lot of lovin’), from independence, we circle back to interdependence.

Anyone who’s traveled any kind of distance knows she didn’t get there by herself.  Her parents kept her alive and got her out the door.  Her teachers taught her.  Her muses inspired her.  Her opponents challenged her.  Her critics goaded her.  Her fans sustained her…

At every juncture, we are reminded of our oneness, our togetherness, our connectedness.  Without giving there is no taking.  Without followers, there are no leaders.  Without patients, there are no doctors.  Without victims, there are no rescuers.  Without charities, there are no donors.  Without criminals, there are no prosecutors.

Without one, there is no other.  Without I, there is no you.  Without each other, there is no us.


Is interdependence a romantic notion that only foolish dreamers believe in?  Is independence more important than interdependence?  Is there hope for transformation?  Can anybody out there relate to me? 🙂


If you support women’s rights and would like some inspiration, check out this cool Girl Effect video.

If you’d like to learn about an innovative campaign to reach one million women in Africa, check out this youtube.

If you’re a California resident and would like to learn about a fantastic candidate for Attorney General, meet Kamala Harris, San Francisco’s District Attorney, a woman who rocks and whom I’ve supported since 2002.  She has written a great book called Smart on Crime that I think everyone who’s concerned about public safety should read.


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how to ollie
February 1, 2010 at 5:19 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Zen Choices January 28, 2010 at 5:52 am

It’s a paradox of sorts. We start as dependent babies – interdependent on our mothers. Then we hear the call of “independence.” Finally, the last stage is back to interdependence. But this time it has a whole new meaning. How much we are give of ourselves and allow ourselves to be interdependent has a lot to do with how happy we will be – and those around us.
There is a lot to be learned in the independence stage. I think of Thoreau and Emerson. But it’s only valuable if you can take it to a healthy interdependence stage. We’re more alike than different and the culture of independence is anti-evolutionary.


2 Indigo January 28, 2010 at 7:28 am

As the mother of a very independent 21 year old, I learned my role was never fully over. Even when she left the nest, she still had moments of reaching back and checking with me to see how I reacted to decisions she had made.

I think most loving individuals would admit in a heartbeat their interdependence. Independent from everything, family, job, home – leaves an island of one. No one truly wants to be alone in this world. (Hugs)Indigo


3 Sara January 28, 2010 at 10:59 am

Belinda — First of all, once again I loved how you presented this post. Having “transformation” be the link between independence and interdependence was perfect. Also, your language has so much texture and visual imagery to it.

I loved these lines, “Soaked in our craving to connect, our hunger for human interaction, our appetite for attachment, no matter how uncomfortable at first, we begin to find ways to thaw what once was frozen, to infuse warmth to what once was cold.”

In answer to your question, I think interdependence is the key to everything. Understanding our connections with each other through our families, our communities, our cities and throughout this world we live in is, in my humble opinion, the only way we will ever achieve a common peace. It will take transformation at many levels for this interdependence to occur…but I have faith that it will happen:~)


4 Patty - Why Not Start Now? January 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Oh, Belinda, I surely can relate. (And beautifully written, as always.)

Just last night I was thinking about loneliness. I know it’s there, more than we admit. A product of our quest for independence, as you so eloquently say. And it’s weird – we want to connect, and yet we don’t want to connect. Legions of people (like me in this instant) writing at a computer screen. How much am I really connecting? How interdependent are we truly? I know many will disagree with me and say “that’s not me, I’m not lonely.” But then they will tell the story of spending their evenings on the computer instead of in the company of those who are near and dear.

I hear my clients experiencing this, questioning this, all the time. Longing for interdependence, actually, but not knowing how to create it. Not knowing how to make the transformation, and unhook from the perceived safety of independence and the solitary life.


5 BK January 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Quoting something from Mitch Albom’s book, ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven, “… there are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”

I believe we are all interconnected to each other whether we like it or not; what we are doing each day can affect people directly or indirectly. Just as our writings in cyberspace also directly influence people who are reading them and indirectly influence the people around these people. If we choose to influence them positively, then we can be sure that we can indirectly influence the people around them positively too. isn’t that amazing? 🙂


6 Phil - Less Ordinary Living January 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

Belinda –

As always, a beautifully written and thought provoking post. I agree with BK – however much we see ourselves as independent powerful individuals we are all part of a much larger process. A lot of our suffering comes from the belief that we are separate from the world around us and a desire to try and control that. Interdependence recognizes this and we start to acknowledge that everything in the world is connected back to our us. It teaches us to step into the shoes of others and to act in their best interests rather than our own. Wonderful stuff – keep it up.

Phil –


7 Hulbert January 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Hi Belinda, I think independence “can” be overhyped if that is the only thing a person strives for. But I think it’s something that is worth fighting for an experiencing it at least once until we understand how much of it we really need. Love and connection can be just as valuable or even more valuable. It just depends on the person and their preferences in my opinion. Thanks for this. 🙂


8 how to ollie January 30, 2010 at 11:28 am

Good post… I’m always on the lookout for good blogs.


9 Miche | Serenity Hacker January 31, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Hi Belinda, this is so beautifully written, and really thought-provoking, as usual! It’s interesting how much value we put on “independence”, forgetting that it is really our nature to be “interdependent”, and that ultimately, that’s where the most meaning and happiness is.

Lately I’ve thought a lot about the American mythos and how independence is woven not only into our history but our stories and our culture, and still is to this day. In Hollywood, in our literature, and music. The emphasis on it has in someways become a detriment in some ways. We don’t ask for help. We chastise ourselves for feeling “needy”. We push our children toward it thinking it’s the best thing for them even when they’re not ready.

I’m not saying independence is all bad… of course a healthy dose and some self-reliance is a good thing. But the sentiment that trickles over into other parts of our lives and society isn’t always quite so healthy. Take for example financial independence… That’s another one, too, that can lead to not so desirable mindsets and values… like greed.

Thinking in terms of interdependence breeds compassion, which I think we could use whole lot more of.

Thanks for sharing these insights. Awesome stuff!

Miche 🙂


10 WP Themes February 1, 2010 at 9:31 am

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