As my hometown celebrated its sesquicentennial over the Fourth of July weekend, there were plenty of fireworks, timely traditions, conversations about our village’s creation, and independence as a defined community. I thought it would be enjoyable to continue on that theme of independence and how it’s most valuable if you embrace it.
What does it mean to be independent? I believe this is a word, much like success, or love, that each person defines differently. According to the Webster dictionary, it is defined as: “freedom from outside control or support.” While this definition may initially conjure up a land, or township, I think it is also applicable to an independent human being.
Independence is something that I imagine each human is seeking; feeling confident within our choices and actions, that we are defining ourselves with them, and thus standing independent as our own person. Thoughts, actions, beliefs, decisions, words, aspirations, fears- they are all saying something about who we independently are. When I hear the word independence, it seems to be closely followed by the word, ‘evolving’.
I think it’s safe to say that independence happens as we begin to investigate ourselves, resolve who we are, and begin to work through any areas that may be holding us back from our full desires. When we feel confident that we have refined our stance, and polished it with trial and error, to confidently stand tall, that’s what allows us to take actions that best reflect our developed independence.
Independence often takes courage—I’m reminded of a coaching client who desperately wanted to lose weight. However, it turned out that this release of weight was being outweighed by the primal need to belong. Her entire family was overweight, and a great deal of their interactions together revolved around food. Losing weight could mean not being able to, or possibly not desiring to, participate in that world in the same way she had always known. What if her family rejected her? Or became angry with her? Or judged her rather than supported her? What if she could no longer relate to them? It’s these deep beliefs that can challenge our sense of belonging, and put our independent desires, and self-expression, on the backburner.
And what is independent in your family? Maybe it’s the one who breaks out and goes to college? Maybe it’s the one who devotes their life to tending to their aging parents? These represent two very different life directions, but both requiring clear, independent decisions and actions. It’s funny when you look at it from this perspective, because you wonder how anyone could ever judge another person’s independent choices since we are only seeing them through our own filtered definition.
When I think of independence, it can be easy to envision an isolated territory, with borders that encapsulate it; creating a set perimeter. This could also translate to boundaries within ourselves that are deeper reflections of our self-love. The more we hold ourselves dear; that we embrace our unique soul, the more clear our boundaries are with others and often ourselves. The beauty of being a human, though, is that these boundaries are within our control to stretch and expand. Using ‘independent’ to refer more to the ‘free thinker,’ than the isolated mindset; questioning why we believe what we believe, or why we hold the stances we do on major life topics, or the ‘shoulds’ of life,
I mean, think about the independent mind that insisted the world was flat, and the independent mind that challenged that belief. There is often risk involved in standing independently, against the fibers of family or community, but as it is, we all now know the earth is round.
And then we have to question- where do roles come into play? When we embrace the title of employee, employer, husband, wife, angry teenager- we also tend to lose our independence. Mind you, I believe it is possible to serve our duties in these roles from an independence stance, but again, it requires a conscious choice.
So, as we scrub the residue of the Fourth of July fireworks from our sidewalks, I ask you to consider where you stand strong as your independent mind, body, and spirit in your life? Are there areas you hear a voice calling you in one direction, but yet you are still moving in another? What would that independence look like, and how would it best serve you, your family, your community, and the planet?
Within each of us is a unique voice, a singular expression, and I believe that sharing it forward, living in it; that is the ultimate independence. That independence revolves around spreading love, and that’s how I would define it.