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 discussions about narcissistic-codependent dynamics to millennials in their thirties still living at home with parents.
However, it’s dangerous and naive to assume dependency only exists within these two categories. A woman can be independent in her relationship but entirely dependent upon her status. Or, a man can be financially independent yet still reliant on 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. They can become dependent upon their possessions, children or even their therapist all because they have an underlying belief that these things complete them, make them significant or can potentially “fix” them.
Those who are dependent find it challenging 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 not good enough if they gain a few pounds, 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. Being dependent also 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 living a life of isolation, having no friends and children and being an island of self-sustaining love and strength. Being independent doesn’t mean that you sacrifice community, connection and intimacy (you 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 is being comfortable with your own company. You can stand to be alone for hours, if not days with your 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 are not afraid of putting themselves out into the world. They 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.
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.
However, self-reliant people don’t deny their feelings, bottle them up and become a robot. They choose not to become consumed by worthless emotions and instead share purposeful emotions such as grief, love, sadness, fear because they understand that sharing meaningful feelings with a supportive community will make them stronger and more resilient.
Self-resilience means recognising that you don’t need material things, external validation, money, or a partner to feel fulfilled. 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