Many adolescents enjoy a new feeling of independence when they hit sixteen. High school and college seniors feel the same pride when they graduate. Many people feel empowered and self-sufficient when they move out and find their new home.
Independence is a trait that people of every culture bear to some degree. While those living in certain Asian countries may value interdependence over independence, American culture strongly prioritizes independence.
Tune in to the American radio or pore through an American book and the word independence will reappear several times. Schools and politicians in the U.S. promote various forms of empowerment, touting values which tie to personal independence. However, the pursuit to be fully independent is unhealthy. In order to avoid the risks associated with excessive independence, focus less on becoming fully independent and more on being equally interdependent.
Americans strive to be independent and many consider themselves independent. In contrast to various East and South Asian peoples, American culture promotes individual independence. According to the U. S. State Department, “Americans value independence and self determination,” often prioritizing the “role of the individual.”
The State Department believes independence develops self-sufficiency and self-reliance. However, certain Asian countries, such as Japan, may be more interdependent.
In one Japanese study, university students undertook a supplementary lecture and then took a questionnaire. According to the findings, 77% of the subjects publicly identified themselves as interdependent and 69.4% of participants expected everyone else to act interdependent. Although the study’s subjects were university students, their self-proclaimed interdependence suggests different perceptions of interdependence and independence in the U.S. and Japan.
Too much independence can cause an array of problems. Over-emphasis on self-reliance in particular can be harmful. Being extremely independent to the extent that you avoid asking others for help at all costs can increase the risk of depression. People in these positions lack the support to rebound from negative events or to prevent those negative events in the first place.
As the drive to be excessively independent persists, individuals lose social support. In the U.S., the need to be independent ties to individualism. According to social psychologist Geert Hofstede, “Individuals are expected to take care only of themselves and their immediate families” in this system.
In being self-reliant and independent, individualists may not receive the aid they need. Hofstede’s renown Cultural Dimensions Theory lists the U.S. as one of the most individualistic countries. As a result, members of America’s loosely-knit society have minimal support to fall on.
To avoid higher risks of loneliness, depression and a lack of social support, you should balance the need to be both interdependent and independent. While American society promotes independence as a form of empowerment, its dangers can disempower you.