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Becoming Fearlessly Independent

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"The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm." -- Swedish proverb

In honor of Independence Day, today we are going to explore how to become fearlessly independent!

Start by asking yourself a few questions. How dependent are you on other people? Does your happiness depend on another person's happiness? (That is actually codependency.) How much of your actual survival is dependent on others? How much of your emotional well-being and decision making depends on others' thoughts and feelings?

A healthy life is a delicate balance between interdependence and self-dependence. Having the ability to be independent positively impacts all areas of your life. Self-reliance boosts self-confidence and can increase self-love and overall life satisfaction.

When I graduated from college, I knew I was off my father's "payroll." At the time, I did not realize how blessed I was that my parents had paid for school. Immediately following graduation, I rented a room in a house for $200 a month. It was a repurposed laundry room just big enough for a single mattress. The hot and cold washing-machine faucets stuck out over my tiny bed directly above my head. I learned very quickly not to jump up without thinking first! But I loved that little room because I rented it independently of my parents, and I could afford it without assistance. I felt proud and capable. My parents and I successfully crossed into a different phase of our relationship where my dependence on them lessened as my self-sufficiency increased. Financial independence actually is as priceless as the MasterCard campaign claims.

In my practice, I find that family systems that do not allow children to appropriately separate financially encourage dependency. Free money in this scenario is not free! There are emotional strings and unspoken agreements that limit potential growth. If personal identity is too rigidly connected to the role of parent, the child is put into an emotional double bind. To separate and individuate properly means to hurt your parent and to not do so means to hurt yourself. This creates resentment and can become a generational cycle.

There are a myriad of factors that contribute to a person becoming overly dependent on others. Fortunately, there are also many interventions and emotionally corrective actions that can increase independence. If you honestly answered the questions at the top of this post, you have a good idea of your level of dependency. Ironically, to become fearlessly independent, you must be willing to accept facing your fear instead of avoiding it. There is no way around the middle of the process. The first time you draw a boundary in an enmeshed family system or in a codependent relationship, it is terrifying. The seed for real independence is planted when you feel that fear and do it anyway. With time and repetition, conversations that were once unthinkable become normal. The more we require autonomy and exercise our right to be self-determined, the more fearlessly independent we can become.

Many clients fear that asserting their independence will make them appear disloyal or that they may be abandoned by loved ones. The truth is that you and you alone are responsible for your happiness and your life. Allowing others to make decisions for you inevitably leads to resentment and blame. This victim mindset cannot and does not lead to a fully self-expressed or self-determined life.

How To Flex Your Self-Reliance Muscle

1. Be Brave
Be brave enough to suffer the consequences of your choices. This is a necessary part of learning self-reliance. Without suffering consequences, dependence is reinforced.

2. Be Wise
Be wise enough to learn from others' mistakes. It is not necessary to suffer every consequence personally. A child does not need to be struck by a car to learn that roads are dangerous and must be crossed with care. That being said, vicarious consequences can be effective teachers as well.

3. Be Informed
If you don't know an important piece of information, find it out. Ask. Get the facts you need to make smart decisions. Knowledge is power. Ignorance puts you at the mercy of others.

4. Be Responsible
Take the blame for things that are your fault. Depend on yourself to get things done. Own your actions.

5. Be Decisive
Develop the ability to think for yourself. Don't rely on others to make choices for you. As stated earlier, this leads to blaming and unhappiness.

6. Be Kind
Realize that changing any ingrained behavior takes time and effort. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your daily wins by journaling about them. Your journal entries will serve as motivation and a reminder that you can do it.

I hope some of these tips will inspire you on your journey to becoming fearlessly independent. Please share your thoughts, struggles, or questions right here with our Becoming Fearless community.

Love Love Love,
Terri

For more by Terri Cole, click here.

For more on becoming fearless, click here.

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