How independent do you think you are? People tend to assume they’re independent the moment they move out and stop relying on their parents for food, shelter and clean clothes, but dependency is never that clean-cut. We may be in denial, but most of us are still more dependent than we are independent in life and no, it has nothing to do with doing your own laundry.
Dependency & Co-Dependency
Most of us hear the topic of codependency discussed in two fields: relationships and family. There are articles upon articles about co-dependent familial and romantic relationships, from people being trapped in narcissistic-codependent dynamics due to their upbringing to millennials still living at home with parents in their thirties.
It’s dangerous and naive, however, to assume dependency only exists within these two categories; a woman can consider herself extremely independent in her relationship but can actually be entirely dependent upon her status, or a man can think he’s independent because he’s never borrowed money, but he is desperately dependent upon the opinions and validations of his peers.
Having a healthy level of independence when it comes to your romantic and familial relations doesn’t indicate that you are a truly independent person. People can be unhealthily dependent on a variety of things such as alcohol, external validation, money, certain foods, time structures, rank, opinions, makeup and social media. People can become dependent upon their possessions, their children or even their therapist all in the belief that these things complete them, make them significant or can potentially “fix” them and make their lives better.
Those who are dependent find it difficult to be alone, they expect their partners to make them happy and feel like they’re nothing when they’re ignored or overlooked by friends and colleagues. Dependent people believe they’re suddenly not good enough if they gain a few pounds in a month and are scared of being socially shunned and deemed as lesser than for not conforming to the latest trends.
These things may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but being dependent on anything other than yourself can cause you to put your life on hold. It can stop you from going abroad because you don’t have anyone to travel with and can prevent you from starting projects or doing things on your own; it makes you less confident in asserting yourself and disagreeing with others as well as making you overly responsible for fulling other people’s expectations.
Developing a Sense of Self-Reliance
The answer to achieving true independence isn’t to live a life of isolation, have no friends and children and be an island of self-sustaining love and strength. Independence doesn’t mean that we sacrifice community, connection and intimacy (we wouldn’t be able to thrive without any of these things as an individual). Instead, true independence means adopting a healthy and secure sense of self-reliance.
Being self-reliant means you are comfortable with your own company; you can stand to be alone for hours, if not days with your own thoughts and not feel the pressing urge to text your friends, check social media or drown yourself in alcohol and junk food. Self-reliant people enjoy spending time with themselves at a cafe reading a book, learning a new skill, going to the gym and going to events and meetups by themselves to meet new people and not be afraid of putting themselves out in the world.
Self-reliant people are masters of their own emotions. They know there’s little use in bitching and complaining about their boss, their friends, the news or the weather because they recognise bitching about their emotions isn’t conducive to being productive or personal growth. This isn’t to say that they deny their emotions, bottle them up and become a robot, but they choose not to become consumed by worthless emotions and instead share the purposeful emotions such as grief, love, sadness, fear: emotions which, with the support of others, can make us stronger and more resilient.
Self-resilience means living in a way in which you recognise that you don’t need material things, external validation, money, or a partner to feel fulfilled. Self-resilient and, thus, truly independent people, rely on themselves for emotional stability, strength and validation, and it is through their steady and unwavering self-reliance that they help and love others more authentically and selflessly.
“When you reach the point of becoming independent of external events, you’re truly free.“– Steve Pavlina