The Myth of Self Sufficiency


If you are a follower of mine, you know that many of my posts are about strategies and techniques for managing your time, space and belongings to improve your quality of life. In most situations, there are steps you can take to bring about positive change. It might surprise you, therefore, to know that I don’t ascribe to a belief in self-sufficiency.

In fact, I’ve recently been reminded of the inherent interdependence of the human condition. Here is the story:

Almost two years ago my daughter suffered a serious bout of mononucleosis. As it turns out, this kicked her into a pattern of repeated tonsil infections, requiring her to have her tonsils out almost two weeks ago. As she is an adult, we were warned that this would be a major surgery with a difficult recovery. This proved to be something of an understatement. As each day (and night) wore on, I became increasingly aware of how dependent I actually am upon others, including:

  • Doctors, who take midnight calls and provide expertise I lack
  • Nurses, who can insert an IV to provide needed medication
  • Friends, who bring food & flowers, and call to see how things are going (It truly makes a difference to know people care!)
  • Relatives, who relinquish their own agendas to come, stay, and help

The list could go on and on.

At one point or another, most of us endure periods when our insufficiency is palpable… when our inability to “do it all” smacks us in the face. Chaotic experiences can shatter our sense of control as we struggle to remember pertinent details, push through physical challenges, and tackle a long list of new and difficult tasks. The humbling truth is that we need others to make it through.

While it is rough times like these that often drive this lesson home, the reality is that no matter how smart we are or how hard we work, none of us are truly self-sufficient. For example,

  • We eat food we haven’t grown or raised.
  • We use electricity we haven’t generated.
  • We drive vehicles we haven’t manufactured.
  • We lean on expertise that we ourselves have never acquired.
  • We communicate with technology we didn’t build.

In truth, the ability to see our individual limitations is a strength. Garnering available resources is a hallmark of wisdom. While it is good to take responsibility and be accountable, it isn’t necessary (nor is it possible) to flourish in a vacuum.

As we enter a busy season and juggle a number of duties, let us remember that success is not about doing it all yourself. Rather, success is doing what you can and allowing others to do the same.

Do you struggle with the myth of self-sufficiency?

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