Allow your self-care to involve others.

When I attended a workshop at the University of Santa Monica in 2017, I learned about a term that would change my life. Dr. Robert Holden, the British psychologist, author, and expert in the field of positive psychology and well-being, was giving a talk. I was mesmerized. As he talked about the ways we unconsciously block our own happiness and success, he used a term I had never heard before: dysfunctional independence. I had certainly heard of independence, but never considered it could become dysfunctional if taken too far. That idea ran through me like a bolt of lightning (Oh no, I’m totally doing that!)

Robert would later become one of my greatest teachers, mentors, and friends. He’s taught me so much about happiness, success, love, and being the hero of your own life. Here’s an excerpt from his transformational book, “Shift Happens,” about what happens when independence becomes dysfunctional.

How Do You Know if You Are Dysfunctionally Independent?

Independence is unnatural and not clever. There are 6,000,000,000 people on the planet, and you are trying to “do” life on your own! So the key question is… What are you defending against? Be open to some additional help and insight. Shift happens when you stop flying the flag of independence. Here are a few telltale signs:

  • You are exhausted, because [you] insist on being self-sufficient.
  • You are too proud, arrogant, scared… to accept help.
  • You look cool, but that is because you are cut off from your feelings.
  • You try to heal on your own. At best you might buy a self-help book…
  • You are in competition with everyone because you will not join with anyone.

For many of us, self-sufficiency helps us attain a certain level of success. It’s important, however, not overly idealize autonomy. Studies show we benefit enormously from other people in terms of emotional balance, life satisfaction, and overall wellbeing.

If you’re feeling down, don’t hide it. Tap your tribe, be willing to connect with them, and ask for help when you need it. According to the American Psychological Association, connecting with others is also essential to being able to bounce back—something most of us are striving to do after the last two years of isolation, disruption, and distress.

Today, allow self-care to include others. Friends, mentors, coaches, and therapists who listen well and help you remember we’re all this together are critical to health and wellbeing.

Coaching Exercise: List five trusted people in your life. Consider scheduling a time to connect with each one over the next few weeks as an act of personal leadership and self-care. We all need each other now more than ever.

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