"Don't depend on anyone"
Updated: Nov 17
I was recently on a call with a professional community builder whom I just met. As we were wrapping up she relayed to me, "my big lesson this year was, don't depend on anyone. I got burned depending on one person this year and I won't ever do that again. I'm now in hyper self-reliance mode."
My heart sank as I heard this remark and I wanted to call out, "Nooooooooo, that's not the answer here!" But rather than argue or try to persuade her in anyway I just acknowledged her feelings. Then it was time to say goodbye.
Finding the right lesson for growth in such moments where there's pain and disappointment is really hard. From the outside, it's clear that embracing self-reliance is antithetical to building intentional community.
What she's actually doing is a knee jerk reaction to try and protect herself from suffering again in the future. Sadly, it won't work for a few reasons.
For starters, you can't be in community with other people and not experience feelings of disappointment or pain. Just like loving hurts; a lesson I was recently reminded of when my kid's beloved pet guinea pig died. Being in community with others comes with all the joys and challenges of dealing with messy and beautiful people.
Above and beyond that, it is impossible for any one of us to be entirely self-reliant. We depend on being a part of the pact to survive. That it's possible to be wholly independent and thrive is a common limiting belief upheld by our society.
It was hard for me to standby and bear witness to a blatant disconnect between the struggle and the opportunity for growth. Yet, I'm also intimately familiar with this space as well. I've been there - rationalizing "a lesson" out of a "failure" that entirely missed the mark for deeper growth to occur. Instead, such misconceptions perpetuated a cycle I was eager to break.
Talk about being stuck in a loop! This is a common pattern for lifelong learners to fall victim to. Looking for a lesson that becomes obfuscated by a deep seeded desire to avoid discomfort, hurt and pain.
I found myself stuck in this pattern over the summer. When I was still in the first few months of recovering from my surgery, I noticed my energy levels were inconsistent. Some days I felt great and productive. Other days I felt lackluster and foggy headed. I had set intentions for myself and I wasn't fulfilling them in the time I expected. So I fell into a pattern of thinking I wasn't good enough.
"I just need to do more." I lamented to my mastermind group as I shared the lesson I was internalizing meant I wasn't doing enough to make sufficient progress on my goal in the time we had together.
Then a colleague chimed in, "I don't think that's the lesson for you here, Ariana. I don't think you need to do more. I think you need to prioritize differently so you're making the best use of your time and energy."
This comment forced me to reckon with another often ill-conceived belief perpetuated in our society - if you're not getting the results you want you have to do more and do it better!
The notion that more is the answer to all our problems only benefits those seeking financial gain for the woes of the masses. And in fact, it keeps us perpetually disappointed, stuck in a cycle of always yearning for more and never satisfied.
My coach and peers helped me to see the true lesson for me in that moment. I needed to evaluate and shift my expectations so I stopped trying to do so much I wasn't getting anything of substance done. I didn't need to do more. I needed to be aware of my capacity, prioritize among the many options of things I could do, break down my tasks into manageable pieces, show up at my best and trust myself.
As a result of finding the true lesson, I've been able to enjoy the most successful year in my business yet. I've had meaningful client work, launched a new offer, updated my website, completed a photo shoot, hosted Rosabella Tea and Cookies, wrote weekly blog posts, and focused on relationship building.
Embracing the deeper lesson has enabled me to experience transformational growth.
If this person I met before were one of my coaching clients, I would have dug deeper in the conversation by asking questions to better understand where this perception or lesson was coming from. From there we would have uncovered the deeper opportunity for growth so she could break free of a frustrating pattern that was holding her back.
I had a client with a similar mindset I worked with years ago. He struggled to thrive as a leader because he distrusted people on his team. They felt that distrust and became disengaged, which just fueled his misgivings even more. He had a bold vision for the organization but no matter what he did to try and improve their performance he felt perpetually disappointed, which is why he asked for my help.
As we started working together, we deconstructed the interaction dynamics between him and his team. We identified a limiting belief and found it stemmed from sayings he heard often as a kid, "you can't trust anyone" and "everyone's out to get something for themselves."
No wonder he was struggling. The lesson he internalized from his teams' failure to deliver in the past was, "I just can't trust anyone to do a good job."
By uncovering this limiting belief, as well as its origins, we could go deeper to see the real issue at hand. He needed to work on his communication style, so he was less abrasive and more empowering. He made a few subtle shifts in how he was showing up in conversations and those tweaks enabled his team to make meaningful contributions to the organization.
Had my client stayed fixated on the initial lesson he internalized he would have continued to feel disappointed, frustrated and stuck. Instead, he had the foresight to get help, recognizing that a little outside perspective along with expert guidance goes a long way. And he did the work of deepening his self-awareness and shifting how he showed up so his intentions matched his impact.
Finding the lesson in trying moments where we feel we have failed is the mark of a lifelong learner. Gaining the perspective needed to shift out of a counterproductive loop so you internalize a lesson that propels true growth is the mark of wisdom.