Confessions of a Lone Ranger

by Jo Anne Nelson on January 22, 2010

I have a confession to make: I am a recovering Lone Ranger – someone who expects to take care of everything by themselves with little or no help from others.

My parents were masterful role models for this. How could they have been anything but Lone Rangers? Each lost their fathers at very early ages. Their mothers were left alone, bearing full responsibility for providing for their families during the Great Depression. As I understand it, neither of my grandmothers had significant communities of support – one could say that they became Lone Rangers by default, not by choice.

I learned to escape to inner worlds and outer activities that allowed me periods of solace and solitude. Being blessed with a certain athletic gift, I became an accomplished gymnast, Junior Olympic diver, and a college scholarship athlete in track and field. Notice the pattern here? All were sports for committed Lone Rangers.

Because of early events in my life, I learned to be a keen observer of others. I became a creature whose moods and actions were largely formed in reaction and anticipation of others’ – a perfect place for a Lone Ranger to hide out.

Yet, I was and remain intensely curious. I wanted to know why we are the way(s) we are. My curiosity drove me to become a student of life – one who observes and studies how we learn, grow, change, and interact with those around us. For many years, I focused my curiosity on others. Lone Rangers are really good at keeping their internal focus on others and away from themselves.

Along the way, something happened. Somehow, I found the incentive and a way to step off the Lone Ranger track – to begin the process of building a level of self-awareness like the one I had mastered in observing others. Through building self awareness and exploring the broader worlds of relational and community dynamics, a time came when I made the conscious choice to take a different path.

For those of us in her grip, The Lone Ranger inside rides into our lives every day to help us do whatever we need to do BY OURSELVES. In her logic, if we don’t do it alone, we are incompetent, stupid, lazy, less than… (fill in whatever adjective fits).

What I’ve learned is this. If, by whatever means I can build the awareness to observe me being me, then I have the opportunity to choose a different course. I can learn to see the limitations of what I am doing and ask myself if I am happy with my actions and the results they produce.

If it’s working for me, great! I keep on keepin’ on. If not, I can decide to make a change. Usually, this requires asking for help. This is a very scary moment for a Lone Ranger. What will it mean if I don’t have all the answers? Will people think less of me? Will I totally fall apart?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Lone Rangers are all bad. In fact, they often have many very positive traits. Lone Rangers are typically very capable people who are good at fulfilling commitments and capable of taking care of multiple tasks quickly and effectively. Lone Rangers are often very engaging, gregarious, and funny.

However, Lone Rangers need to understand the game they are playing in. If I want to be a member of a high performing team and culture, then it’s all about “we”, not “me”.

If you’re curious about whether or not you are a Lone Ranger, here are a few questions for you:

  • Do you ask others for help?
  • Are you open to accepting help from others?
  • Do you think that if you don’t do it yourself, it won’t be done ‘right’ or at all?
  • Are you able to listen to the concerns of others?
  • Are you a member of a team? Of a community of support or common interest?

I know that my automatic response has been to retreat into Lone Rangering. But I am happy to report that after years of practice, my tendency to fall into Lone Rangering has diminished substantially.

I still need to ask myself periodically, how is my inner Lone Ranger affecting my course? If I see that she is looming large, I need to take a moment to assess the costs of her influence. Am I OK with the costs, or are they too high? If they’re too high, what support do I need to help me change? What do I need to learn? Where will I turn for help? Who should I ask to coach me as I learn?

So often it seems that fear gets in our way and prevents us from taking the actions we need to take to make a change. We can lull ourselves into thinking, “there’s always tomorrow”.

My wish for you is that you will make tomorrow today.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: