Hyper-Independence Isn't The Badge Of Honor You Think It Is
Getty Images

Hyper-Independence Isn't The Badge Of Honor You Think It Is

Is your self-worth tied to what you do? Here's why it shouldn't be.


Oftentimes, in the Black culture, we place a high value on independence, particularly when it comes to achievements like getting an education, buying a house, or starting a new business. And this may be because many of us equate success with self-sufficiency. Make no mistake, independence isn’t a bad thing. But I think it’s also important to recognize that neither is dependence.

“I can do it myself.”

That was my go-to response. Even though there were times when I didn’t actually know how I was going to do it. I sure as hell wasn’t going to concede to that idea. There were even times in my warped thinking when I had convinced myself that some people only offered help (usually in the form of money) because they assumed I needed it. And I often did. But I wasn’t going to cop to that, either. I’d figure it out, and once I did, I’d feel so much better about myself. Or so I thought.

I read a meme online that said, "Hyper-independence is a trauma response to not being taken care of well." And on that particular day, it resonated with me in a way I didn't quite expect.

What is hyper-independence and is it a trauma response?


The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event. This can include the loss of a loved one, physical abuse, or being bullied. In some cases, being the witness to a life-threatening event such as an illness or natural disaster can also cause trauma.

Dr. Joanne Frederick, a licensed professional counselor and a professor at George Mason University agrees that hyper-independence can be a result of trauma and may show up in one or more of the following ways:

  • Taking on too much
  • Saying no to help
  • Having trouble with delegating tasks

For me, agreeing to projects, giving my last, and working full-time while also going to school nearly full-time gave me what I now know to be a false narrative that my self-worth was tied to what I could do rather than simply who I was.

​Because of this, I said yes when I should have (and sometimes wanted to) say no. And on many occasions, I declined help from people who could have easily lightened my load which caused me to overextend myself to the point of burnout, emotional bankruptcy, and physical exhaustion.


The thing is, my independence was connected to my pride. Being able to accomplish the things that I did was my way of saying, “Look what I was able to do. Me, a little Black girl who was supposed to be a statistic. I made it on my own.” I didn’t want to demonstrate/depict/portray an image of “not having it together” and for me, that meant doing it without help. Black women are often praised for what many have referred to as “supernatural strength'' and I, like many others before me, bought into this narrative.

At first glance, it seems like a positive attribute until you look in the mirror one day and don’t physically recognize your own reflection because while you were busy trying to be everything to everybody, you forgot to take care of yourself with food and water and sleep. And yes, that actually happened to me.

I didn’t want to admit to the people (at my church, at my school, or on my job) that I wasn’t the superwoman they thought I was. More than that, I didn’t want to admit it to myself. For so long, I felt like the people who knew me, expected me to look, act, and behave a certain way. The way I had done my whole life. And on some level, I feared that people would think less of me if I ever showed that I didn’t.


I’m learning that the difference between independence and hyper-independence is acknowledging your own limitations.

In the past, I never wanted to seem incapable or incompetent and unfortunately, I associated asking for help as a (weakness) character flaw instead of realizing that it actually takes strength to admit when you need advice, guidance, or a helping hand. It’s not a character flaw. It’s actually an honorable trait. It shows humility and vulnerability. It shows that you are human.

Personally, I think social media and social comparison have also influenced my ideas around “doing it on my own” with the “self-made” culture and all. As good as it sounds, the truth is no one and I do mean NO ONE ever made it all on their own and many great leaders in history have said the same.

How to work through your trauma

Journaling For Me GIF by The BacheloretteGiphy

The first thing you’ll need to do in order to work through your trauma is to recognize that you have experienced a traumatic event. This could look like expressing your thoughts through journaling, or talking to a trusted family member or friend. It may also require seeking professional help through counseling or therapy.

You may also benefit from the following tips:

  • The next time you feel inclined to resist an offer of assistance, take a moment to examine why. Do you truly not need the help or could delegating some responsibility actually make the situation better?
  • Consider what it would be like to let someone else handle the situation. Perhaps that could give you more time with your family or take some time for yourself.
  • If you don’t need help on the specific task they offered help on, assess your other duties to see if there are other tasks you could use assistance on.
  • Remember that dependence is not bad and that interdependence is the “secret” to getting it all done.
Youtube Reaction GIF by Lilly SinghGiphy

As I reflected on reasons why Black women may experience hyper-independence, I was reminded of a concept I learned in grad school. Relational dialectics is a communication theory that was born out of the philosophical belief of Dialectics, which is used to explain the relationship between opposing thoughts. Basically, Dialectics is the discourse between two different points of view, or in layman's terms, a contradiction. Think of it this way in terms of a Black woman versus a strong Black woman.

On one hand, the “Black woman” is a minority who is used to struggling. And on the other hand, there’s the “strong Black woman” who can do anything that comes her way. Now imagine that you have to prove one idea is true and refute the other.

The theory of Dialectics is a way to help us recognize that both ideas may exist, simultaneously. This "push and pull" ideology dates back to the classical era of Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Although called by a different name, the methodology/way of thinking was founded on the idea of two opposing/contrasting thoughts/ideas being so drastically different that they either: (1) determine one to be “true” over the other, (2) find neither to be true or (3) establish both to be true to some extent, resulting in further exploration of either or both sides. With this understanding, it’s easier to see how the two may be interconnected, perhaps even influencing one another.

Yvonne Orji Therapy GIF by Insecure on HBOGiphy

Similar concepts exist in other cultures, for example, the dynamism of the Yin and Yang. Much like Dialectics, practitioners of the Yin and Yang concept believe “the balance of emotional values in a relationship is always in motion, and any value pushed to its extreme contains the seed of its opposite.” Thus, the study of Dialectics is really about how to have a conversation that leads to truth. This is different from the eristic method, which is when someone argues just to win, and from the didactic method, which is when one person teaches another. Essentially, Dialectics not only teaches us how people argue, but it can also demonstrate how we can learn from each other.

With this understanding in mind, I wanted to examine the relationship between dependence, independence, and hyper-independence. Maybe these states of being aren’t as compartmentalized as they seem. Maybe the act of being independent is having the ability to care for yourself enough to know when it's time to let someone else who also cares, care for you.

“I could really use your help on this.”

For so long, I was the person who said “no,” before I said, “yes.” But I’m learning to say, “This is actually hard but I’m so used to doing things all by myself. I really appreciate you for offering to help.”

And I actually feel stronger than ever.

Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Featured image by Getty Images

If You're Not Skin Cycling Already, Here's Why You Should

Another day, another TikTok trend that's all the rage. Many TikTok trends are gimmicks without any scientific backing. Or, in the case of the NyQuil chicken trend that took off, just plain dangerous. However, one has bubbled up to the surface that is worth investigating. Enter: skin cycling.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.
How Yoga Helped Peloton's Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts Heal From Past Traumas

Since her Peloton debut in May of 2020, Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Ph.D., has become one of the most sought-after yoga instructors on the app. Using a mixture of hip-hop, R&B, classical, gospel, house, and funk-themed classes, the Dayton, OH native guides Peloton users across the globe, in the weekly practice of feeling connected with the body and the breath as they “root down and rise up.” With many leaving her classes feeling more grounded and anchored than they were when they started, it’s easy to see how the former Lululemon Global Ambassador and two-time Yoga Journal cover star has made such an impact. While her background as a third-grade school teacher and founder of Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp lends to her influence, her journey to becoming a world-renowned celebrity yoga instructor was not met without tragedy.

Keep reading...Show less
Your October 2022 Horoscopes Are All About Finding Flow & Alignment

October is a month of balance. With some energy moving direct and some energy moving retrograde, there is a middle ground to find this month between what is unfolding and what you are letting go. The month begins with Mercury officially moving out of retrograde and going direct in Virgo. Mercury this month is cleaning house and sprucing things up after the somewhat tyrant energy it’s brought over the past few weeks. Now that Mercury is direct, there is less interruption when it comes to daily flow and plans, and this is a good month to start setting things into motion.

Keep reading...Show less
The Myth Of The Sex Drive & How Libido Changes From Your 20s, 30s, 40s & 50s

No one prepared me for how horny I would be in my late 30s. All the elders in my life prepared me for random chin hairs, weight gain, and menopause but no one said a mumbling word about my sex drive. Something happens the closer you get to forty. I went from wanting sex here and there to wanting it all the damn time. Is there a support group for this? I can’t be the only one who has the sex drive of the Energizer Bunny. Upon my research to figure out why I felt like a cat in heat, I discovered several theories surrounding women and our sex drives–including one that says the concept of having a sex drive is a myth altogether.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive: Da’Vinchi On Protecting His Peace & Why He Prioritizes Mindset Over Looks In Dating

Da’Vinchi has appeared in many television series such as All American and Grown-ish but it was his role in BMF as Terry Flenory that helped propel his career forward. Since starring in BMF, he made his Broadway debut with Thoughts of a Colored Man and is currently shooting an undisclosed movie in Vancouver. The 26-year-old actor is beginning to see the fruits of his labor and so it’s hard to imagine that he almost went in a different direction. Da’Vinchi spoke with xoNecole’s Dana Blair for our xoMan series about acting, being a sapiosexual, and protecting his peace.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts