Self Reliance is a peculiar and popular American myth. The ‘self-made’ person is woven into the fabric of the American Dream….I’m sure you know the narrative…Starting with nothing except determination and a dream…someone goes from the mailroom to the boardroom…from the french fryer to the franchiser…from the street lit corner to the bright lights of center stage…
And so on…America is presented as a land of opportunity for those who believe in themselves and never give up, alone in their vision, solitary in their quest. We are folklored with stories of people who know how to make things happen and who overcome and persevere.
That’s the story line.
Here’s the truth: No one, absolutely no one, accomplishes anything completely by themselves. Every explorer, every pioneer, every artist, every inventor, every entrepreneur, every scientist…every one of them has needed and has been given help and support along their path. No person has ever existed in a cultural or social vacuum. No one can claim that they have not been assisted by the efforts of others who have come before them or by those around them. We are all influenced, inspired, challenged and fundamentally bettered by key people at critical junctures.
This is a HUGE truth that either gets left out or glossed over in the passing down of the American Dream.
None of us are ‘self-made’. This is rarely acknowledged in the main part of the story. Over several generations now, the result of this omission has been the creation of a secondary myth: That asking for help is a sign of weakness; that seeking guidance for private and personal doubts and questions is somehow to be less than ‘strong’, somehow less than.
The first myth is a fairy tale, easy enough to see through and to dismiss. But this secondary underlying myth is killing us, sapping us and ruining our chances at true happiness.
The myth of Self Reliance was never based in actual experiences. It’s an egotistical fantasy. Self Reliance is a spiritual and emotional maladjustment. It does, however, seem to be a necessary ingredient in our current recipe for deadlock and distress.
Many of us have a self-centered attitude towards change. We think it’s all about doing it ourselves. You remember some of the old clichés? “Lift yourself up by your bootstraps”–“If you want to move a mountain, you’d better bring a shovel”–“God helps them that helps themselves”
I’m sure you could add a few of your own.
We cling to these slogans like they’re the truth, some sort of folksy wisdom passed down from generations before and the essence of the message is: If you want to change something in you, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
This is not true. This is a beginner’s understanding of what real change is. You see, when we try to change ourselves by our own methods, we simply give renewed energy to the ideas and perspectives that already are not working. We tend to recycle and intensify our problems. We become frustrated and discouraged.
Learning/changing/growing all do require action and effort on our part. One of the first elements of sustainable change is the letting go of the idea that it is a solo endeavor. All by ourselves we tend to find reasons to procrastinate; reasons to take short cuts; reasons to focus on what we think is going wrong (and thus discourage ourselves) and we will completely discount the incremental positives and progress that might and should be encouraging us.
New Year’s resolutions fade by February.
The mind that is reading a self-help book is the very mind that is already deciding, while it is reading, what will and will not apply, what will and will not work. For itself and by itself.
We can only start down the path of genuine change when we are open and honest with someone who is walking the same road with us. It is in the dynamic, live, real time back and forth exchanges that we discover what we would truly like to change and how we might move in that direction.
Hey there. First time here for both of us. I hope I’ll be able to be both helpful and enjoyable.
Owning ourselves is not drudgery. Living falsely is drudgery.
We are at a new point on our adventure. We are here to share our insights and our sticking points, our joys and our sorrows. We’re discovering and sharing our humanity. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just us. So, let’s be real. Let’s be open. Let’s be gentle and honest.
And let’s have fun.