Autonomy and independence are both defined as the ability to self-govern, to endorse and take ownership of your own actions.
People who show less autonomy and are more dependent on others, tend to have lower self-esteem and experience higher stress. They can also develop communication problems, experience negative feelings like anger and guilt, and over time become anxious or depressed.
When we cultivate autonomy rather than co-dependency, we can develop stronger mental health and social functioning overall which leads to higher self-esteem and wellbeing. Having more independence or autonomy can help you feel more in control of yourself without needing the opinion and validation of others to move forward. This can of course, lead to healthier relationships and interactions with others.
To help cultivate your own autonomy and independence, here are five tips:
Muzzle The Negative Self-talk
When we have negative beliefs about ourselves or the things we want, they can affect our actions, and our inactions. Do you often talk yourself out of things you want? Do you convince yourself that you shouldn’t do this, or you can’t really do that? Instead of listening to your own negative mind chatter, think of these inner thoughts as representing the scared inner child within you that feels unsure. Be the supportive and encouraging parent that they deserve.
Tell yourself it’s okay to try new things, to not know everything about new situations, and to feel unsure or nervous. But, these feelings shouldn’t stop you from trying anyway. To reprogram your beliefs it’s important to create new thought statements that counter the negative ones you frequently repeat to yourself. We don’t always recognize that our thoughts are based on false beliefs. But, to get to where you want to be, it’s important to take positive action towards your desires and tell yourself thing will be okay. Reassurance is important, but it’s also necessary to take full responsibility for your actions and be present for yourself in order to identify and meet your own needs. Ask yourself “What do I need in this moment?”.
Don’t Expect Others To Make You Happy
Make it a priority to learn what makes you happy, and to take your own actions to meet those needs. When we expect others to “make us happy”, we place all of our power into their hands. We also place on them a tremendous burden because it’s impossible to truly know what the other person needs without very explicit details and knowledge about each and every element of their person. Yet, I often see people in new relationships complaining to their partner that they “should know what I’m thinking and what they did wrong.” In fact, they shouldn’t. It’s your job to tell them what you need, and if they can’t or won’t meet that need, you can only give it to yourself.
When we take on these unhealthy dynamics, we set ourselves and the other person up for failure. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make your needs and desires clear, or that you should stop expecting to be treated will respect and attentiveness. The point is that learning to meet some of your own needs without constantly having to rely on others can create a more balanced dynamic. It also allows you to nurture your partnership(s) rather than develop a co-dependency that can leave you feeling like you’ve lost your sense of self.
Don’t Doubt Your Ideas, Wants, and Needs
As children, we look to adults for validation and emotional safety. As we grow into adulthood, it’s important to learn to trust ourselves and our choices in order to lead a happy and balanced life. We all have different needs and desires and many of us received messages in our past that these things were wrong or unecessary. Negative external messaging can lead us to feel shame and self-doubt, but in order to feel like a functional and confident adult, it’s important to take risks despite our past programming. Believing in ourselves in key to changing these self-limiting thoughts. If you’re feeling unsure about doing something, try anyway and see what happens! Over time, your successes will build up and you will gain the confidence to integrate new things into your life.
Become More Self-reliant
People who lack autonomy often become “addicted” to others’ emotional, physical, and material responses to their needs. It can become difficult to let go when a situation is toxic because you depend so heavily on the other person. This can also lead to resentment, either from the person who is doing the caring, or from yourself when you don’t get what you need. When we lack self-reliance we can start to neglect our own needs and desires, or be afraid to speak our truth or end up alone. It can be hard to let go of something that isn’t right for us even when our gut is telling us so. Having self-reliance and doing things for yourself on a daily basis will help you nurture your needs and desires regardless of other people’s actions and ability to do things for you. Finding a balance between receiving from others and giving to yourself is key here.
Choose Interdependence With Others
Interdependence involves a partnership where each person is recognized and valued for what they bring to the table. It fosters healthy emotional bonds between people and the ability to maintain a sense of self. Interdependent relationships and interactions with others allow the other person to have the same sense of autonomy, while also sharing life experiences with you.
Codependent people on the other hand have few boundaries and often practice people-pleasing. Interdependent relationships allow you to maintain healthy boundaries, use clear communication, and make time for your own personal and professional interests. Your autonomy as a human being is crucial to helping you learn what you like and what’s important to you. It can also help you eliminate fears around asking for what you want, and give you the space to know your own values, interests.
Nurturing your independence, inter-dependence, and autonomy will give you permission to say no when something isn’t right for you. Don’t keep yourself small to make others happy. They will only learn to see the person you present to them, not the person you are inside. Give yourself (and others) the opportunity to have the same so you can both create a space for open communication and healthy interactions.
Copyright Authentic World Inc 2021, Michelle Thompson 2021
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Michelle. I have over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator and public educator. I’ve helped thousands of people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated dozens of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work and learned how to get out of my own way and create an authentic meaningful life for myself. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for learning these important life skills. To find out more about my life coaching program and courses, click here.
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