Takeaway: None of us can go through life alone, but sometimes, we need more independence. In this post, I'll explain the tips I share with my therapy clients on how they can become more independent.
We all rely on others to some extent--there’s nothing wrong with needing others. Leaning on people for support is part of being human.
As young children, we rely on our parents for everything. In our teenage years, we slowly start to venture into the world and have some personal freedom--yet still ultimately rely on the adults in our lives.
Even in adulthood, we need other people. None of us can go through this life completely alone.
With that being said, it’s also important to feel confident in yourself and your abilities. It feels good to know that you can trust yourself to make your own decisions and handle things on your own.
Becoming independent can be easier said than done.
However, with a little practice you can feel more in control over your life. Read on for my top tips on how to become independent.
People don’t just wake up one day and magically become independent (though wouldn’t that be nice?) Independence is a trait that takes practice to build. These skills can help you do that.
The first step to becoming more independent is knowing what you want--and acting on it. If you’re consumed with the idea of what other people think or want, you’ll never gain true autonomy.
It’s not a bad quality to consider the opinions of others. However, when you value the thoughts and feelings of other people over your own, you undermine your own authority.
If you really want to be more independent, it’s essential to get to know yourself: your personality, likes and dislikes, needs, and goals. You can use journaling, meditation, time in nature, or whatever fits your personality to gain a deeper understanding of yourself.
Having time alone to build independence seems obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Many people struggle to eat alone at a restaurant, go shopping by themselves, or even be at home without another person there.
However, part of learning how to become more independent is developing the ability to not only be alone, but to enjoy time with yourself.
Use this alone time to be with your thoughts instead of pushing them aside or focusing too intently on others. Time with yourself is also great for fostering the hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but having time alone will help you gain a sense of self-sufficiency. The more you practice, the more you will feel comfortable spending time by yourself.
Believe it or not, confidence isn’t something you either have or you don’t--or at least it doesn’t have to be. Self esteem is something that you can intentionally build over time.
Challenge yourself to think about the things that you like about yourself. They can be related to your physical appearance, personality traits, or any talents or skills you have. Write these down and display them where you can see them often, and add to the list whenever you can.
You can also build confidence by talking back to the negative voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough--it’s not true!
Working on your self esteem can help you roll back your dependence on other people and give you the boost you need to start making decisions yourself.
Many people can find it difficult to become more independent. It can be challenging to figure out what’s holding you back from having more authority over your life.
Sometimes, past experiences in life can keep you from moving forward in a way that aligns with your values and goals. There can also be other factors in your life that leave you feeling more reliant on others than you want to be.
Therapy can help you make sense of this all. With the support of a therapist, you can uncover what’s preventing you from becoming more independent and learn new skills to be your own person.
Becoming more independent involves standing up for yourself. If you constantly bend to what other people expect of you, even if it doesn’t align with your values, it will be difficult to ever feel truly independent.
There is a common misconception that you need to be aggressive in order to stand up for yourself. However, you don’t need to be rude or harsh in order to advocate for yourself.
Self-advocacy may entail standing up for yourself when someone hurts your feelings, sharing your thoughts in a group, or telling people what you need or how you feel. It can be done in a calm yet firm way.
Standing up for yourself shows that you can have your own back in difficult situations instead of having to rely on someone else. Practicing this skill can help you feel more independent.
Part of learning how to become independent is learning how to support yourself emotionally. Of course, it’s always important to keep supportive people in your life that you can rely on. However, it’s unrealistic to think that they will always be there for you in the specific way that you need them to be at the exact time you need them to be there.
It’s important to foster your ability to be your own support system at times. Using coping skills like breathing exercises, walking, taking a hot bath, or other self-care activities are ways of showing yourself love and support.
Building your capacity to be there for yourself can help you grow your independence since you won’t need to constantly rely on others for support.
Are you still feeling unsure about how to become independent? In therapy, you can learn more about yourself and find strategies to help you step into your own.
Justine is a licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in White Plains, NY. She helps teenagers, young adults and families struggling with anxiety, depression, family conflict and relationship issues. Justine is also the host of the podcast Thoughts From the Couch.