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I can look after myself, but sometimes I simply don’t want to. Is that so bad?

Depending on others has made my life better – I am happier, calmer and more content, writes Ellie Taylor

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Sometimes I feel like a bad feminist because I rely on my dad to check and fill the oil in my car. To be completely honest, if anything goes wrong with my car, one thing is for sure: it will not be me who solves the problem.

Similarly, when I spend the weekend with my boyfriend, I often don't even check for oncoming traffic as we cross the road together. He's there and I know he's got that covered.

I rely on my mum, heavily, when I'm having a bad day; I count on the fact that when she arrives home from work, we can have a cup of tea and talk things through.

In fact, my reliance on others extends to all of my relationships: I rely on my best friends for advice, for a confidence boost, for six voice notes per day which I listen to like a podcast. I rely on my grandparents and the warmth of their electric fire when living in my parents' house becomes maddening.

It's not that I can't cope on my own. I could probably check and fill the oil in my car myself. I can certainly cross a road on my own. I can make my own cup of tea and sort through the mess in my brain. I can do all of this. Sometimes I just don't want to. Why should I? I want and need to depend on the people in my life, just like I want and need the people in my life to depend on me.

attractive young couple

Ellie relies on her boyfriend when they're together

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In the last few years, my need for others has sometimes reached fever pitch, as I lurched my way through shaky mental health and homesickness that knocked the wind out of me. I've always had a general propensity to cry at trivial things, to take things personally, and to wind myself up.

Because of this, I have come to accept that most days I will need to lean on someone at some point. Sometimes, in anxious spirals and on very bad days, I berate myself for being so dependent on the people I love. I send texts that say: 'Sorry for being so needy', and: 'I'm just being pathetic.'

father kissing his young daughter

Ellie's dad takes the wheel when she needs him to

The independence illusion

In the 1970s, Japanese psychoanalyst Takeo Doi wrote The Anatomy of Dependence. He argued that, rather than total independence and self-sufficiency, deep satisfaction comes from depending on each other in lots of different ways – being collected from the station even if you could feasibly walk home, being brought a cup of tea to wake you up in the morning, being drawn a bath at the end of a difficult day.

To put it bluntly, although late-stage capitalism encourages us to be efficient all of the time at the expense of our emotional needs and lives, we are not islands. No matter how hard we try, we will not escape the need for human relationships and connections.

Attempting to be completely independent and self-sufficient all of the time will lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation and exhaustion.

Whatever it is you believe in, whatever your lifestyle looks like, and whatever you feel about the world, the fact remains: strip everything back, and what we are left with is one another.

group of young women at dinner

Ellie's friends support her on a daily basis

What we are left with is a huge web of tiny threads: conversations and connections, loves and wishes, dreams and needs, failures and flaws, all of which crisscross and drape themselves over the people we encounter.

Lean on me 

Our legacy is less likely to be huge fame or vast wealth, and more likely to be the impression we left on the people around us. The way we kept our phone on loud in case they need us on the darkest nights. The way we kept an eye across a crowded room when they didn't really know anyone. The way we held their hand as they vacantly crossed a road, distracted by a particularly sweet baby.

In Bridget Jones' Diary – isn't this how all good articles end? – Bridget's mother begins an affair with a perma-tanned shopping channel presenter. Realising it has been a horrible mistake, she returns home, and Bridget's father forgives her.

His exact words are: "Pam, I just don't work without you."

So, like Mr. Jones, I'm concluding that it's okay to lean on the people around us. It's okay to need them sometimes, and it's okay for them to need us back. Since time began, human beings have been inherently reliant on those who surround them.

Instead of being scared of that, we ought to lean into it.

young girl having her hair done by her mum

Ellie's mum has always been there for her

Depending on others has made my life better – I am happier, calmer and more content in the knowledge that I will be held and helped when I need it. I am safe in the knowledge that I can go it alone much more easily if I have been able to recharge and fill up by leaning on someone else for a little while.

And all of this is to say: we need the smile of a stranger and we need the hug of a loved one. We need company and community and care. In short, we need each other.


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