Independence is important to your sense of self. However, you need to be able to rely on others to a reasonable degree. Being healthily independent while establishing a balanced give-and-take dynamic that ensures your needs are met as you meet the needs of those around you, is called interdependence. Hyper-independence is when we only rely on ourselves, and struggle with a healthy level of interdependence. Hyper-independence is an excessive form of independence where you may struggle to trust others and choose to unduly burden yourself which can possibly lead to stress, burnout, resentment, loneliness, imposter syndrome, avoidant attachment style, anxiety and depression. Hyper-independence is often caused by trauma in upbringing and low self-esteem.
What are the signs that you are hyper-independent?
You were considered an overachiever as a child. You took tasks seriously and were mainly praised for your ability, or your achievements were expected/overlooked and not particularly celebrated. Outside of your achievements, you were not affirmed very often.
You feel a continuous pressure to work and achieve. You never feel like you’ve done enough and you don’t bask in your accomplishments. You always feel like there is more to do. This can be a result of the fact that you were brought up in an environment where achievement was expected and not celebrated, so it is subsequently difficult to take a moment to acknowledge your efforts, as it is just normal for you and hard to register as noteworthy.
You struggle to ask for help or delegate duty. The vulnerability required in needing help is difficult for you to come to terms with as it is equivalent to admitting deficiency and can make you self-critical. You feel like others aren’t as competent as you and so can’t adequately help anyway. You also don't want to be a burden or fear that you may be too much of a hassle and take up too much of other people's space/time with your needs.
You’re a perfectionist. No matter how much you achieve, you don't feel like it's enough. You have this nagging feeling that you could be doing better, despite the praise and recognition that others give you. You criticise yourself a lot and always set ridiculously difficult-to-reach standards. This can cause performance anxiety and procrastination.
You constantly expect that others will disappoint you. You don’t trust that others will care or are skilled enough to support you in the way you need. You can be there for others but find it pointless to rely on people. You think you’re the most competent and dependable. This is a protective mechanism as you may have been disappointed before and deep down you may feel undeserving of support.
You struggle to acknowledge difficult emotions in yourself. You mainly notice that you’re struggling when you have physical symptoms, you are out of touch with emotional signs like stress, burnout and sadness. You power through until your body stops you via symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, headaches/migraines, body aches and palpitations.
You are considered “the strong friend”. You’re there for everyone. You don’t let others know about your issues or rely on them, so people naturally assume your life is great and you don’t have unmet needs. Especially as you have an achievement streak in the material world! This can make you feel alone and resentful, despite you having people around you. You don't let them into your inner world to know that everything is not perfect for you.
You bury yourself in work/education - places that you can be rewarded objectively and aren't necessarily dependent on how well you connect with other people.
Due to the nature of people with hyper-independence, it is likely that you may only finally seek help when things get very bad, that can be in the form of a very strenuous relationship due to emotionally unavailable behaviours/codependency, crippling anxiety, depression, and severe feelings of loneliness. It is important that those with hyper-independent traits learn that they are deserving of support and do not HAVE to be an island. Help-seeking is a vulnerable and disappointing process, when faced with disappointment, those that are hyper-independent can internalise those feelings and quickly use protective avoidant mechanisms to prevent it from happening again, leading to further isolation. Hyper-independent people are a good example of those that may have a lot of confidence, yet have low self-esteem. Read "Self-Confidence Vs Self-Esteem - Is there any difference?" Breaking the cycle isn't easy as it requires a lot of patience, honesty with oneself and self-compassion.