Adobe Spark (3)

The Tree Illusion: Individuality is a Myth

For many of us, one of the biggest myths we are told is that true strength comes from self-reliance. That we as people are most successful when we can show that we achieved success with the help of no one but ourselves. This is something that’s ingrained into our values and beliefs from an early age – we tell children to be self-reliant; we encourage people to value their own success over others.

The problem with this belief is two-fold: First, no one achieves success on their own – we all rely on the systems that surround us and the people who support us on our journeys, even if we still make our own, significant contributions. Secondly, the myth perpetuates the idea that asking for help is a weakness – that by reaching out to others, it is akin to admitting defeat. This creates a huge problem for those experiencing crisis or trouble coping – instead of believing in the power of reaching out, we feel shame in doing so, which perpetuates the other negative feelings we may be experiencing and can result in a much more difficult and painful time than if we felt comfort in seeking guidance and support.

In the following video, we see this comparison made beautifully. Take a look at how our perception of trees as individual systems is just as flawed as believing that we are alone in our own lives:

So if individuality is a myth, if we recognize that we need other people in our lives in order to be our best selves, what can we do to move past our old beliefs and embrace the role of others in supporting us throughout our lives?

  • Map your support network: Our first step should be to figure out who already exists within our support network – those people or systems that we can turn to for help should we need it. These are the people we trust, the people we can call if needed. We may have never or rarely used our support network, but it is there.
  • Identify the gaps: Once we’ve mapped our support network, we need to pay attention to those areas in our life where we don’t have the interconnection we wish for. Our support network should include people from a variety of domains – familial, social, spiritual, intimate. Who exists in your support network for each of these? What steps can you take to start filling the gaps if they exist?
  • Share gratitude: For those who are in our support network, we should prioritize valuing and maintaining those relationships as well. This can be done by simply taking the time to connect with those in our network, thanking them for what they do for us, and being there for them when needed.
  • Accept vulnerability and reach out for help: Finally, when we do experience times in our life where we need to “activate” our support network, we need to accept that it is okay to do so and actually do it. There is a strength in being vulnerable and taking this step, otherwise it would be much easier. This means actively confronting our ingrained beliefs and accepting that our reliance on others isn’t a weakness, but a gift.

Realizing our interconnection and using it to boost ourselves and others is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. By doing so, we can finally shed off the layers that keep us from truly connecting with others and finding the grace that resides in being part of something greater than ourselves.