Self-Reliance is a peculiar and popular American myth. The ‘self-made’ person is woven into the fabric of the American Dream . . . I’m sure you know the narrative . . . Starting with nothing except determination and a dream . . . someone goes from the mailroom to the boardroom . . . from the french fryer to the franchiser . . . from the street lit corner to the bright lights of center stage . . .
And so on. . .
America is presented as a land of opportunity for those who believe in themselves and never give up, alone in their vision, solitary in their quest. We are folklored with stories of people who know how to make things happen and who overcome and persevere.
That’s the story line.
Here’s the truth: No one — absolutely no one — accomplishes anything completely by themselves. Every explorer, every pioneer, every artist, every inventor, every entrepreneur, every scientist . . . every one of them has needed and has been given help and support along their path. No person has ever existed in a cultural or social vacuum. No one can claim that they have not been assisted by the efforts of others who have come before them or by those around them. We are all influenced, inspired, challenged, and fundamentally bettered by key people at critical junctures.
This is a HUGE truth that either gets left out or glossed over in the passing down of the American Dream.
None of us are ‘self-made.’ This is rarely acknowledged in the main part of the story. Over several generations now, the result of this omission has been the creation of a secondary myth: That asking for help is a sign of weakness; that seeking guidance for private and personal doubts and questions is somehow to be less than ‘strong,’ somehow less than.
The first myth is a fairy tale, easy enough to see through and to dismiss. But this secondary underlying myth is killing us, sapping us, and ruining our chances at true happiness.
The myth of Self-Reliance was never based in actual experiences. It’s an egotistical fantasy. Self-Reliance is a spiritual and emotional maladjustment. It does, however, seem to be a necessary ingredient in our current recipe for deadlock and distress.