When we don’t get what we want in our relationships and we lose ourselves in our own neediness, then to be happy, we have to figure out how we can provide ourselves what we’re not getting from someone else. We have to figure out how we can make ourselves feel secure, warm, loved, comfortable, important, and safe—all on our own.
How do we do this? From personal experience, I can tell you, it’s not easy. It takes work and practice to move away from those times when we’re dependent to the point that it causes conflict. Before we can do anything, though, we first have to admit we’re being needy. We don’t often recognize this, because our heads are full of the other person and we think we’re unhappy because we’re not getting what we want.
But the moment we become aware of our dependency, we can start the process. And we can become more independent in a great number of ways. Here are some suggestions:
Live intentionally by developing a “practice” that is centering and grounding—like meditation, yoga, going to religious services, going on retreats, attending workshops or conferences, and listening or reading spiritual literature.
Work on becoming happier on a daily basis. The Psychology of Happiness states that certain activities help people develop happiness, such as:
- Random acts of kindness
- Smiling more
- Routine exercise and taking care of our physical well-being
- Living a spiritual life
Set a new goal in your life and work towards that goal. Challenge yourself. Stretch beyond where you are now and “lose” yourself in the process. This is known as “Fow.” Developing a flow in your life can be liberating and will definitely add to you becoming more independent.
Develop characteristics that allow you to have healthier relationships. Relationships, according to some studies, are the key to happiness, physical health, overall life longevity and well-being. But if you want to have healthy relationships, you need to develop whatever characteristics you have to develop to have the kind of relationships you want.
Make an appointment with a therapist. Consider therapy; the right therapist can be instrumental in helping you to become more independent.
For those who are single: Instead of looking for someone to scratch your needy itch in a bar, nightclub, or dating sites that aren’t working for you, just stop. For example, if you’re trying a dating app or going out to bars as a way of looking for love, and that’s causing strife for you, try something different. Stop putting yourself in situations that only cause you pain.
These are all suggestions that can help someone slowly become a more confident, independent person. But I know situations often come up in which a person has to make a decision right then between being dependent and independent. Like when you’re in an argument with someone close to you (such as an intimate partner, a family member or friend) and it’s making you miserable. This happens to any of us at any time. It’s important to take that step back and become more independent.
But that’s easier said than done. Here’s some advice on how to handle those tricky situations where a burst of independence is needed:
Quickly run through the Independent Enough steps. Get the thoughts of the other person (or situation) out of your head and be quiet with yourself. Become self-reflective to understand how you’re being too dependent. Decide how you want to act differently in this situation and others like it. As you plan ahead for “next time,” you are strengthening your resolve and deciding to live your life differently. That will help with the situation at hand, as well. Then, practice carrying out your decision.
Remember that you’re okay. Tell yourself you are satisfied with who you are—your life makes sense. Remember how strong you are. How okay you are. That you are confident with what you’re doing and who you are. Don’t say this jokingly like a “Saturday Night Live” skit, say it and believe it.
Be present. The following practices can be very helpful in regaining stability, balance, and getting our heads back to a good place.
- Intentional breathing
Zone out for a while, but not too long. Don’t let mindless activities become a habit, but they can be helpful for short periods as a distraction. “Losing” ourselves for a bit can often be comforting.
- Watch a movie
- Watch Game of Thrones. Because if you think your life is bad…
- Play Solitaire or Candy Crush
Keep occupied with something that is satisfying for you. Again, this is about focusing on something else. But this is different than distraction. Work on something that will make you feel good about yourself—like something you’ve been putting off that will give you a sense of accomplishment. Exercise is also a great way to do something nurturing and rewarding for yourself, even if you’re like me and don’t like to exercise.
Call, or be, with a friend who you do not “need” at the moment. No single relationship will ever provide us with what we want all the time. So, if you want to talk to your husband or wife and they’re not interested, call someone you know who would be. And if you don’t have anyone else you can call, it might be time to start developing new friendships.
If all else fails, pretend to be strong. Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Being strong and independent doesn’t mean aggressive—it means strong in character. Strong in who you are. Confident. Self-assured. If you don’t feel that way, think of someone you know who is and act like them. Role models can be helpful.
The information in this blog is not exhaustive. It’s meant to simply give a few ideas on how to become more independent in our relationships. Be creative and look at your own life and your relationships and make your own decisions on how you’ll become more independent. It’s a process that is well worth engaging in.