Back in 1999, in the song Independent Women, the ladies of Destiny’s Child issued the following command: “All the women who are independent, throw your hands up at me.” And I don’t know about you, but when Beyoncé tells me to throw my hands up at her, I see only one option: I throw my hands up – way, way up – and I proclaim my independent spirit in her general direction.
It’s an attractive concept, after all. Certainly we all would like to say that we are independent, that we take charge of our own stories, and that we have a reason to throw our hands up in celebration of our self-sufficiency. But sometimes that’s just not the case. Sometimes we are dependent. Sometimes we find ourselves relying on other people more than we rely on ourselves. And honestly, that’s OKAY. Life throws some curveballs, and we are not meant to handle everything on our own.
However, there is definitely such a thing as relying too heavily on other people. In any relationship – be it a friendship, a romantic relationship, or otherwise – it can be problematic when someone else’s desires, goals, thoughts, or emotions eclipse your own. Over-reliance on another person can cause you to lose confidence, delay your ambitions, and neglect your own needs. And that’s just not cool.
So look, here’s the deal: I’m sure the people in your life are great. Your friends, your parents, your siblings, your coworkers, your boyfriend, whoever else – I’m betting all of these folks are top notch, hilarious, brilliant, beautiful human beings who deserve your love and affection (at least I hope that’s the case).
But if any of these relationships are causing you to lose your sense of self, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reclaim some independence in your life. Here are four ways to be more independent:
Make decisions alone
So often we crowd source decisions that we could easily make on our own. Sure, it’s helpful to get someone else’s opinion every now and then, but sometimes it just inhibits you from being confident in your own judgments. This goes for big decisions as well as seemingly insignificant ones. For instance, are you trying to decide between ordering a Cobb salad or a veggie burger? There’s no need to consult your dinner partner to see what they’re having. Believe it or not, you can just pick one. Are you unsure if the email you just drafted makes you sound casual or crazed? Fight the temptation to show it to your friend or whoever happens to be around for feedback. Just read through it yourself and send it. While it seems minor, giving yourself the freedom to make your own choices can have a big impact.
Get to know yourself better
If you feel that you’ve been losing yourself a bit lately, it might be because you are focusing all of your energies on someone else. It’s time to check in with yourself. Take some alone time and reconnect with something that you love. Do you love to write? Get writing. Do you love to kickbox? Get kickboxing. Whatever it is, make it a practice that is just for you and no one else. And while you’re at it, schedule this time for yourself regularly. And by “schedule,” I mean physically write it on a calendar just like you would any other important event in your life.
Focus on things you admire about yourself
Just a reminder: you’re fantastic. You have special skills, a unique worldview, and you deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. But you don’t need me to tell you that. You need to hear it from yourself. Get out that notebook of yours, and write down at least ten, yes TEN, things you love about yourself. Ignore that voice in your head that keeps telling you the lie that it’s selfish to appreciate things about who you are. Instead, replace it with a voice that says, “I’m awesome, and here’s why!” Once you are in tune with positive qualities in yourself, you will be far more likely to want to work hard for the amazing individual you are.
Learn to give yourself emotional support
If you’ve taken a Psych 101 course, perhaps you are familiar with the term locus of control. This idea essentially relates to whether you see yourself as being in the driver’s seat of your life. Those with an internal locus believe that their own thoughts and choices affect the world. Those with an external locus tend to feel controlled by events, people, and circumstances outside of themselves. If you’re lacking independence right now, it’s likely that your locus of control is a bit external. In times of stress or pain, you tend to wait on others to come into your life to affect your emotions. But true independence comes when you find that you are able to give yourself emotional support, when you realize that your feelings exist inside of you and that they can be soothed by you as well.
That being said, allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t shrug them off as no big deal. Really experience them, and give yourself space to find out for yourself what makes you feel comforted. Remember that you have the ability to affect change in yourself and in the world around you.
And after you do that, go ahead and throw your hands up at me, you independent thing you.