My Two Cents: Resisting Dependency

d“I am thankful to those who said no to me, because of them, I did it myself.”

Albert Einstein.

Ben Carson, in numerous of his interviews, fondly recalls his mother’s struggle. He often says that she refused to go on welfare, regardless of their poverty level, because she never saw anyone come out of it. Indeed, dependency is an emotional addiction. Some people acquire it during their childhood and others acquire it later in life. If certain steps are not taken to ensure you don’t fall into the trap that is dependency, you might find all you do requires affirmation and action from a secondary party. In the university, more specifically the architectural courses, dependency is an easy vice to acquire, and sad to say, more so if you are female.

It may take time to fall out of the trap of dependency but it is well worth it. I for one was deluded into believing that it was my right to have someone do some parts of my work for me. This changed after I met someone who found a way of saying no and creative ways of making me do it myself. It definitely took quite a long time to accept my new found lone-ranger status but it was well worth it.

In our profession it is essential that we learn to shun dependency because this way we grow and learn more when we do it ourselves, remember clarity comes with engagement. Understand that I in no way mean that we should not seek help in solving problems and design options from others. I mean the deliberate delegation to another party of an entire part of the design process with full knowledge that it is an essential part in our profession. No one has the desire to be a half-baked anything, and if you do, you need to get off this blog and don’t come back until you are ready. (seriously!!!)

So, for the ones who are ready, here are the steps I continually use to get myself out of the vicious trap.

  1. Ask Yourself the ‘What If’ question.

At least half of the graduate architects (and student architects) reading this blog know this phrase, commonly used by the immediate former Department chairman, Juma. What if? What if you did it yourself? What is the worst that could happen? And what is the best that could happen?

I assume the worst that could happen, if you follow the guidelines on time management from the last blog entry is that you will have work, maybe not as good as your counterpart might have had (because of his/her experience) but it will be yours. Then again it might be better than your counterpart’s work, but you will never know until you exert yourself.

I recall one student who hired the services of a ‘mercenary’ (as we often refer to them) only to get work that was worse than any first years’ work in his university. This student ended up doing his own assignment, which in the first place he was more than able to.

2. Tell  yourself the, ‘Let me try it first’ line.

At my first job, just before I left, a new secretary was hired. She was full of life so to say and was always ready to serve. She amazed me so much because when she had a task, she would always try to find solutions before asking any guidance from our boss. It would have been much easier to ask the boss for direction but trying to find her own path hard as it might have been gave her exposure to other sources of information on several other issues.

Following the path of least resistance is popular because it is much easier, but the rough hard path smooths out our rough edges and in turn changes us to better individuals. Asking for help is great, but to learn more and discover new hidden treasures why not try it yourself first. And if you still need the help after that, then ask. At least the person helping you will have a base to start from.

3. Give Credit Where It is Due.

Look at your former achievements then allocate credit. If you got an A in studio in first year and all your models were done by your third year friend, then that is Her A. If you take this model, you will eventually feel the need to get your own grades and credits. I recall feeling so defeated in my sixth year class, and I had all these reasons why I deserved help with my model. But I was broke as hell, so I couldn’t hire any mercenary. My husband clearly wasn’t going to help me because of his busy schedule at work and neither were my classmates, because they had their own problems. So there I was, cutting each of my contours myself and roofing all my little cottages. It was an amazing experience and even though I got some last minute finishing help from my two friends, the end product was mine and I was and still am proud of the result it gave me, because the credit was due to me!!

Never underestimate the power of doing things for yourself! A simple thing like doing your own model may not apply in our current architectural work force but the confidence you get from it, can propel you to do greater things.

4. Stop giving Excuses.

We all know this is the main reason we start the dependency vice is because we give ourselves excuses. Excuses as to why we can’t do it, as to why we shouldn’t do it, as to why we must get that help. Well, if you really want to better yourself then this has to stop. In my second year of study I gave myself excuses severally. I told myself that I wouldn’t get a good grade if I didn’t get help. Funny thing is, I didn’t get a good grade even with that help. And looking back, I was better suited for the job. We need to just shut that little voice in our heads down and try.

5. Do Even the Little Things.

A habit is formed after repetition of a certain act. We may not notice it but in our everyday life we might be practicing dependency that will later make us feel entitled to outside help in big things. Simple things like making your own bed, going to buy your own lunch instead of sending your colleague or maybe just creating your own Christmas text rather than forwarding the usual ones can make a big difference to your own thinking. Your mind is a great tool that needs to be nurtured to what you want to be.


We need to do ourselves a favor and just try. Remember, one day we might not have the luxury of having our mercenaries at hand. When the curtains fall on our dependency game who are we going to call? Will we always tell our bosses, our clients, ‘Just a moment, let me ask my design guy, or my section guy, etc’ Or worse still what happens when we can’t reach our mercenaries? Believing in yourself may take time and practice, put in the time and work and confidence will literally ooze out of you, because guess what, you did it by yourself.

Have any thoughts on this? Leave a comment below, like, share and follow me for more posts. Until next time, that was my two cents.


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