Recently I (and this is Steph Heinatz writing) had the pleasure of meeting Mary Arczynski, a recent graduate from Virginia’s James Madison University with degrees in English and Economics.
She believes in the power of education and the inspiration of words, both spoken and written, to lift people out of hopelessness and poverty. She aspires to learn from each person she meets and to make every person she meets happier for knowing her.
Those are her words, not mine. That’s how wonderful this aspiring writer is – currently, Mary is doing a year of service working in a Title I elementary school in Denver, CO.
She loves learning, nature, reading, hiking, soccer, kind humor, tea, puns, poetry and people. We love people, too, and Mary’s writing, and are pleased to present this essay by Mary which we loved reading and asked her if we could share.
Please meet Mary here, through her writing, and enjoy this piece on men, women, life and business.
Recently, I got into a long discussion about feminism and the Kelly Clarkson song “Miss Independent” with my friend Brian. The phrase “strong, independent female” gets thrown around a lot in my generation. For me, this phrase always conjured about connotations of a financially independent female who does not rely on a romantic relationship, or a boyfriend, for money, validation, or self-worth. I always took this phrase to be an empowering compliment. But is true independence really what we want and need?
As a woman who desires to enter the business world soon, do I really want to be called independent? Will having an, “I can do everything on my own,” an, “I don’t need the help of anyone to get things done” attitude really make me the best employee, the most successful person I can be? I used to argue that independence meant that one has the ability to choose dependence, but I do not believe that is true anymore. We are ALL dependent on someone, but if that is true, then that means that someone else is also probably dependent on you—whether that is for love, for food, for support, or for a budget sheet needed for a contractual negotiation. No one is solely independent or solely dependent, rather; we are all interdependent on the skills, strengths, interactions, or work provided by one another.
Once I forego the mindset that my independence proves my ability to be a strong woman, a smart person, or a good employee, I recognize the real power that it takes for leaders to recognize the strength in others and to trust the strength in their teams. All of the leaders I respect most in my life recognize their interdependence, and the way I see that manifest in the business world is through delegation of work and appropriate recognition of the quality people working around them. One of the most inspiring things I hear people in positions of power say is, “I am always looking to hire someone who is smarter than I am.” We all have weaknesses, acceptance of interdependence allows us to seriously look at our weaknesses and find other people that can turn those same weaknesses into strengths. That can manifest in who you hire, who you ask to work on a team with you, or who you ask for advice when you do not know how to do something. It is through our acceptance of our interdependence that we empower one another and become the best employee, the best boss, and the best version of ourselves.
The song may be titled “Miss Independent,” but at the end of the song, Miss Independent falls in love. The beauty of love is that it allows for the acceptance and support of imperfection both in us and in others. It might seem radical to apply to the workplace, but most people spend equal to, or more, time at work than they do with their own families. We should surround ourselves with people who make us the best work-version of ourselves in the workplace. They should challenge us, praise our skills, and help us to surpass our limitations. When a team is not just existing as separate pieces, but really performing, the interdependent relationships are apparent, as is the love. The love can manifest in mutual respect, appreciation, or concern for how your coworker will do on his or her portion of the project—call it whatever you want. But once we recognize that not one of us can do something completely alone, trust happens, specialization happens, efficiency happens, and high employee and company performance happens.