What if I told you everything you need is within you? While it is nice to have the support and love of other people, you don’t need it. Self-sufficient people attract healthier relationships. When you learn to be more independent, you reject toxic interdependence and promote happier relationships.
Community, social supports, friendships, and family have their place, but they are not responsible for your happiness. If you can learn to find fulfillment in your life independently, then all interactions outside yourself are a bonus.
This article will outline independence and how you can be more independent. We will also discuss 5 ways you can learn to be more independent.
What is independence?
From a human perspective, independence means “not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.” It also means being free from external control.
There is a balance to be struck, as too much independence can lead to isolation and sometimes loneliness. So please be careful in your quest for independence.
As children grow up, they are often referred to as dependents, which is the opposite of independent.
They rely on their parents for everything. It stands to reason that parents control children when they are young. But as they mature, it is natural that they will want more independence. To be able to make decisions independently and have the freedom and flexibility to do things without their parents.
For children to be given more independence by responsible parents, they may be expected to earn the trust of their parents and prove themselves to be responsible. Consider the teenager who has just passed their driving test. They no longer rely on their parents for lifts.
However, they may only be allowed to borrow their parent’s car if they contribute to the fuel costs and return it by a specific time.
It’s not only other human beings that we can be dependent on. Addicts are dependent on their source of addiction to function.
True independence often comes when we live a thriving and healthy life.
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Why is independence a good thing?
According to the Delaware Psychological Services, independence is associated with several positive attributes, which include:
- A boost in confidence and self-esteem.
- Reduced stress.
- Increase in happiness.
- Enhanced decision-making skills.
- Improved inner peace.
- More fulfilling relationships.
The more we rely on other people, the lower our self-efficacy.
When my parents split up, my mum suddenly became the only breadwinner and house organizer. She learned to decorate, including tiling and plastering.
With each new skill, she learned her belief in what she was capable of increased. As she realized what she was capable of, the rise in her self-efficacy helped give her the motivation and confidence to try her hand at other tasks. Eventually, she managed a whole new self-build project.
Would she have been able to do this if she hadn’t separated from her husband? I very much doubt it.
Independence helps us learn new skills and improve on old ones.
This study found patients with spinal cord injuries who highly value being functionally independent experienced more significant depressive symptoms when their disability symptoms increased.
Consistent with this finding, they experienced a drop in depressive symptoms when their disability symptoms decreased. In summary, our relationship with independence is very personal.
5 ways to be more independent
With the benefits associated with being independent, why not make now the time to push yourself out of your comfort zone?
Here are 5 ways to help you be more independent.
1. Learn new skills
Go and learn a new skill. Maybe it’s something you did as a child, or perhaps it is something you have always been interested in.
When we learn new skills, we open our world to new opportunities. New skills are a personal investment.
The extent of your knowledge or expertise is not dependent on another. You have the ability within yourself to take in new information and grow.
We this in now detail in our article on how to develop a growth mindset.
Here are some ideas for new skills to get you started.
- Build a website, or start a blog.
- Start an evening class in creative writing.
- Sign up for a 6-week vegan cooking program.
- Use YouTube to learn how to paint.
- Buy a specialist magazine and practice nature photography.
- Look up knitting for beginners on Google and make a scarf.
No matter your age, you are always young enough to learn. When you are a student of life, you work your brain, which helps keep your cognitive functioning fresh and agile.
2. Engage in hobbies and interests
When you follow your hobbies and interests with passion, you are likely to meet new people and see new places. Our hobbies and interests can open our world.
Spending time on your hobbies and interests is vital for your well-being. It keeps you true to yourself and encourages you to honor your needs.
I know too many people who discard their interests and adopt the interests of whoever they are dating. It may seem fun initially, but if you do this long-term, you will lose yourself and eventually become isolated from everything that once helped you feel like you.
Of course, it’s lovely when there are hobbies in common with our romantic partners. But it’s vitally important that you cling to your identity and have some interests outside this relationship.
If you are in a relationship with no hobbies or interests away from your partner, it’s time to get some.
If you want tips to help you find some, here's our article on how to figure out what makes you happy.
3. Boost your health and well-being
To be more independent, you must be in good health.
I’m sure you don’t want to rely on carers or nursing homes until you are nearly at the end of your life. Yet, many people of all ages require support to function. Of course, a lot of this is unavoidable. But, there are also many scenarios for which this is avoidable. Health is complex, and I’m not here to blame or shame anyone.
To make sure you hold on to your independence as long as possible, keep yourself healthy.
- Walk at least 8,000 steps a day if you can.
- Eat healthily.
- Sleep well.
- Rest appropriately.
Remember, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. And that’s when your health can become a slippery slope away from independence.
4. Beware of codependency
As we know, being dependent is the opposite of being independent. And codependency is catastrophically damaging.
Codependent relationships are where you put the other person and their needs before your own. Not only is it an extreme dependence on another, but these emotional and mental attachments are complex.
In a codependent relationship, often, one person gives themselves entirely to the other and relies on them. In contrast, the other person gives very little and uses manipulation to maintain this cycle.
Ultimately, codependent relationships are toxic for all involved, particularly the codependent person.
If you think you are in a codependent relationship, please look at ways to make this relationship healthier. If you struggle to do this alone, I strongly recommend you seek the help of a therapist. You owe it to yourself.
5. Spend time by yourself
If you want to be more independent, you must spend time alone. And when you spend time by yourself, learn to be happy with who you are. Get to the point where you actively seek out solitude.
Not many people have the confidence to go to go to the cinema by themself. If you are someone who avoids these types of activities by yourself, perhaps you can build up to it. Embrace the solitude instead of feeling self-consious by being alone.
If you live in a busy household, take yourself on a coffee date or go for a walk. Being by yourself allows you to check in with your inner self and helps build your confidence.
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There is a balance between striving for independence and isolating yourself. Social connections are essential for your well-being, but so are self-efficacy and building confidence and self-esteem. It can be freeing not to have to rely on anyone else.
Do you consider yourself to be independent? What's your favorite tip to be less dependent in your life? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.