How We’re Duped by the Lure of Self-Sufficiency (and what we can do about it)

Under the stillness of the cold night sky, our normally busy household sat in silence as my family slept soundly. It was after one in the morning and I was swallowed up in my Kindle, devouring what would become my favorite novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing.” While Delia Owens masterful words spun a tapestry of mystery telling the fictional story of Kia’s coming-of-age, I got a download from the Lord that tore through the fabric of my own, very real story.  

You’ve despised and abandoned the part of yourself that needs people.

It was like a light came on in a room that had been full of darkness for ages. For as long as I could remember, a nagging frustration and anxiety swirled around my relationships. I lived most of my life feeling unloved, despite knowing better and having loving people around me. I was disconnected and unable to receive what I longed for most. Those words that dropped into my consciousness were like lightbulbs flickering on and my spiritual eyes had to adjust to this abrupt enlightenment. A few things started coming into focus as the words replayed across my heart, this time with more revelation. 

You’ve despised and abandoned the part of yourself that needs people… and that’s such a fundamental part of what it means to be human.

The words despised and abandoned had a tangible heaviness to them. They settled in my gut, forcing out a sob. I began to weep so loudly that I woke up Michael. I lacked the words to explain what Truth had just released in me, so I told him I was okay and to go back to sleep. As he groggily obliged, I began to unpack this revelation.

It has been a year and a half and I’m still unpacking it.

The words that struck such a deep chord of truth within me put me face-to-face with one of my most life-robbing tendencies: self-sufficiency. Furthermore, I realized that in my commitment to self-sufficiency, I’ve denied my soul one of it’s greatest needs: self-acceptance. If needing people is a fundamental part of what it means to be human—and it is—than despising and abandoning that part of myself meant I was living in a gross amount of unacceptance towards my own humanity.

No wonder my soul wasn’t at rest.

We live in a society that celebrates independence. We clap our hands for the people who seem to “have it all together.” We glorify those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and—without help—manage to “get it done.” We don’t have time for needy friends and we most certainly don’t want to come off as one. There is no doubt society applauds the idea of needing “nothing from nobody,” encouraging us on in our pursuit of self-sufficiency.

But society’s value clashes with our Creator’s design and the discrepancy between the two has left us tired, lonely, disconnected and struggling.

To be clear, there is a healthy level of self-sufficiency we need to survive. We need the skills to be able to take care of ourselves and our family so our households run smoothly. This isn’t the self-sufficiency I’m describing. What I’m referring to is emotional independency. It’s building up walls and keeping people out to feel a false sense of emotional security. It’s safeguarding ourselves from rejection, pain and abandonment by never really letting people in on what’s happening inside our hearts. However, when we build walls instead of boundaries, we don’t just keep out the bad people and the painful emotions. We keep the good ones out, too. We disconnect from the people we love and ironically, we reject and abandon ourselves in effort to safely avoid those same situations from others.

To abandon ourselves is to deny our needs and desires. It means suppressing what we’re feeling instead of working through it. It means responding to pain with anger because that feels less scary than being honest about our hurt and disappointment. It means saying yes when we want to say no, and no when we want to say yes. It’s allowing outside pressures and perceived judgement to shape our choices, rather than our own convictions and moral compasses.  It looks like attempting to manage another person’s perception rather than bringing the truest, most honest and authentic version of ourselves into every situation. It looks like avoiding hard, awkward but real conversations rather than embracing them as essential to growth.

We were created with an innate need for connection. In fact, connection is such a crucial part of our existence it’s actually been proven as the anecdote for addiction. Mind blown. If we aren’t living connected, we are more vulnerable to attach ourselves to the things in life that promise satisfaction but fail to deliver. Healthy relationships are a key component to living a fulfilling life, and healthy relationships begin with self-acceptance.

A healthy relationship is a relationship where both parties are seen and known. It’s impossible to be seen and known when we’ve built walls around our hearts. That’s what self-sufficiency has been for me. A wall around my heart that says “if I don’t need you, you can’t hurt me.” Little did I know how badly I was hurting myself.

Whether we deny our needs or not, they’re still there. And unmet needs lead to dysfunction, no matter how far we suppress them.

I’m learning what it looks like to embrace my own humanity by expressing my needs unapologetically. Before I had some miles in on this particular journey, I got into a heated exchange with Michael. We both have highly demanding lives and instead of leaning into each other and facing our personal difficulties together, we were in the habit of blaming and resenting one another when things got stressful. During one of those outbursts I actually said out loud “I’M SORRY I’M A HUMAN BEING WHO HAS NEEDS!”

Dramatics aside, I was sorry. I’d much prefer to not have any needs I couldn’t meet myself. That’s a much safer place to be. But that’s not how I was made—that’s not how you were made—and that’s not how life works.

I’ve since learned how beautiful it is to have needs. How my neediness attracts God’s sufficiency and being sufficient in Him is so much more fulfilling than the empty pursuit of self-sufficiency. I’m learning how expressing needs within relationships has the power to build trust in a way no other practice can. Most importantly, I’m learning how to validate myself and my needs, even when I don’t feel validated by others.

I’d like to share with you a few practical ways I’m untangling my heart from the net of self-sufficiency and embracing the neediness that makes me human.

Stop comparing.
I can be in the bad habit of looking at other peoples’ lives (at least the parts they show on social media) and thinking I should be able to do as much as them. They look like they have it altogether, why can’t I? Well, for starters, they’re not me. They don’t have the same history, emotions, demands, values, schedule, physical make-up, etc. as I do. Just because they seem to have it all together doesn’t mean it should be easy for me to, too. It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy. I’d push it further to say it’s the thief of that and so much more. Don’t look at someone else’s life and use it as an excuse to beat yourself up or invalidate your own needs.

Accept help with gratitude.
Did you enjoy my blog post last week? If so, you partially have my friend Lyndsy to thank. I woke up that morning heavy with the demands of the day. House chores, kid nonsense and a post burning on my heart with no time nor solitude in which to write. Out of nowhere, Lyndsy texted me and asked if she could borrow my kids for a few hours. My gut reaction was “no way!” She has four kids of her own, she didn’t need to add mine to the bunch! However, I needed her to take my kids in the worst way. I needed time alone to write and get my feet back underneath me. I knew her text was a life raft sent from God Himself and I took her up on that offer. Guess what? Her kids had a blast. My kids had a blast. And she and I spent part of the afternoon together, sipping a dalgona coffee and catching up. It was good for us all. I’m so glad to have a God who loves me and friends who listen to Him when He nudges their hearts. I’m so thankful that He is the provision of each of our needs when we’re humble enough to let Him—and those He uses—in.

My kids and my friend Lyndsy’s kids enjoying each other and the sunshine as I enjoyed my time alone to write.

View needs as a deeper invitation for love.
One of the most transformative things happening in my marriage right now is our view of needs and their affect on our relationship. No longer are our personal needs a declaration that the other person doesn’t measure up. No longer are we suppressing our needs and in-turn manipulating the other person to help us because we are too dysfunctional to have a mature conversation. Now, we face our needs and demands together. Rather than our needs dividing us against each other, they’re fostering honest communication and bringing us together as a team. Healthy relationships are built on trust and one of the best ways to build trust is to express a need and have that need met by the other party. Needs give us an opportunity to grow in love in a way nothing else can.  

See stress as a trigger that you’re over-extended.
Instead of sucking it up and keeping it moving when I’m stressed out and frustrated, I’m using stress as an invitation to take a step back and rest. I ask myself, what’s really going on in my heart? What do I need to maintain my peace? If that means saying no to some things, clearing our schedules and drawing boundaries, I commit to doing those things and I don’t feel bad about it. Again, my job isn’t to manage another person’s perception of me. If my “no” or my “boundary” causes someone to judge me as falling short in some way, that’s on them. I need to learn to live from my convictions and stress is a signal that my convictions have been speaking, but I might not be listening.

Stop judging.
Judgement sucks. Period. We don’t have God’s vantage point and we aren’t built to judge. Often, I judge myself and fall short of my own standards. This is when needs are suppressed and I “suck it up and move on.” Spoiler alert: You can only “suck it up and move on” for so long before you desperately crash and burn. When a need comes up, stop judging whether it’s legitimate or not. Stop saying “I’m fine” when you’re not and instead, invite that need to clue you in on what’s really going on in your heart. Practice validation rather than judgement and your sense of wholeness, peace and joy will increase as you grow.  

I’m beginning to embrace what I once despised and celebrate every messy and unpredictable part of what it means to be human. I’m finding that as I receive more and more of this grace for myself, I have a deep well to draw from and refresh others.

Did you see yourself within my story and my descriptions? Do you struggle with the lure of self-sufficiency? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.

12 thoughts on “How We’re Duped by the Lure of Self-Sufficiency (and what we can do about it)

  1. This is so good. So relevant and I will say as a man I’ve always believed I feel like it’s shameful to rely on others. Men are pressured to handle our problems and not share them. This is reinforced by mainstream media. I grew up watching Westerns where the main character is usually a sojourner who only needs himself, his horse, and his gun. Opening up is not something men are taught and are often looked at as weak for doing.

    You really nailed this. Thank you for your vulnerability.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You really captured a lot here. No matter how much we know we are loved by God, we all set unrealistic expectations of ourselves. We all have times we feel insufficient, and some times it’s more often than others, as a parent, a child, a friend, in our marriage, and even in our careers. Your vulnerability and relatability are very much appreciated. It’s nice to know we are not alone and there are ways we can work to overcome it, grace is a great start! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful response! We are most always our own worst critics and our self-judgements can really hinder us from living the abundant life we were created for. So glad you could relate to these words. And YES! Grace is always a great place to start. ❤️

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  3. So good Brittany! Once again I can easily put my name in place of yours in this story and own it. I love your vulnerability and willingness to “let it all hang out!” Thank you for sharing your journey with us. 👏🏼🙌🏼🥳🥰

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  4. Great thoughts! Some things have come up recently that have made me take a step back and reprioritize. Some of that included blocking some social media friends – not because they were negative people, but because they were (seemingly) perfect and I couldn’t take the comparison stress! Between that and a few other changes, I have found that my quick-to-react personality at home has relaxed a bit. Also realizing “it’s not always what you do in life, but who you raise” has given me some hope and inspiration as well. 🙂

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    1. Wow, “comparison stress”— never heard of that term but boy is it relevant and true! I “suffer” from it as well! I always feel so much better when I’m mindful about spending less time on social media. I love that quote you shared as well. Thank you for the thoughtful comment and for taking the time to read my post!

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