What Is Emotional Independence And How Do You Achieve It?
Updated July 20, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
Do you feel that you are in control of your own emotions, or do you feel your emotions are reliant on the behavior of others? Being in control of your emotions, no matter the outside influences is called emotional independence. Many people struggle with achieving emotional independence despite its importance. With that being said, achieving emotional independence can be difficult, as many factors cause others to depend on others. Before discussing how to achieve emotional independence, let’s define it.
What Is Emotional Independence?
Emotional independence is about being autonomous and governing your own emotions. Unfortunately, emotional independence is not discussed in everyday life. It is very rare for you to hear someone talk about teaching their kids to be emotionally independent. It is also uncommon to hear of someone struggling with emotional dependence. This could be because emotional independence comes naturally to people as they mature out of childhood. However, it can be very difficult for some to manage and take control of their own emotions.
For people who have not achieved emotional independence, their emotions depend on others’ behavior. Typically, their behavior and emotions are dependent on someone close to them, like a romantic partner or a friend. They are always asking other people for their opinion on them because they want to please them. People who are not emotionally independent have a great fear of being rejected, ignored, not liked, or criticized. The way they view themselves is typically not positive, and they usually have very low self-esteem. Their self-image is very weak, and they don’t think they are worth anything without the person they are emotionally dependent on. They are very negative towards themselves and will change what they say, do, wear, or even believe in feeling more accepted by their partner. They feel like they can’t live without their partner and would be worthless if they left. This is not a healthy way of living.
What Causes Emotional Dependence?
If you are struggling with emotional independence or know someone who is, you may be wondering what causes it. As you know, parents have a large impact on their children, whether they know it or not. One of the most common causes of emotional dependence is a parent influencing it or watching a parent who struggles with it. Another common cause is trauma, where someone heavily controlled the person or hurt by their actions. Having difficulty in being emotionally independent can arise for no apparent reason, as well. No matter the cause, it is very important to learn how to achieve emotional independence.
Ways To Achieve Emotional Independence
It is very important to be emotionally attached to your partner, but what makes it go from healthy to unhealthy? If you’re sacrificing your true self, emotions want, and needs for your partner, that is not healthy for either of you. You should strive for emotional independence to better yourself, have a healthy image of yourself. Prioritize yourself and take control of your emotions.
- Let Go
The first thing you should do when trying to become more emotionally independent is to let go. When you are dependent on someone, you are constantly trying to please them and feel great pressure to be perfect all of the time. It is time to let go of that. This is much easier said than done, so start by taking little steps. First, stop asking your people for their opinion of you, whether that is what you’re wearing, listening to, watching, or your personal goals. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others, you should express yourself however you want.
Many emotionally dependent people don’t understand that people are in their lives because they already like them. For example, your romantic partner liked you when you two met and decided to get in a relationship with you. No matter how low someone’s self-esteem is, they need to understand there are positive traits. So, learn how to let go of your fear and plan how you will be happy, emotionally secure, and in control of your thoughts. Your friends and loved ones don’t want you to constantly be acting a certain way, especially if that isn’t your true personality. And if you do start to let go of trying to make everyone happy and the people around you disapprove, they don’t need to be in your life anyway.
- Establish Boundaries
Once you have started taking steps toward emotional independence, you will need to set boundaries for yourself. Make sure you know and understand your values so you can express boundaries to those around you, especially a romantic partner. Don’t be silent. If something is making you upset, be vocal to your partner. Set boundaries around the people in your life, giving you their opinion. If you were constantly asking for others’ opinions before, they might still be in the habit of giving their opinion frequently. This can be very damaging when trying to make progress towards becoming emotionally independent. You may have to say, “I appreciate your opinions politely, but I am trying to make myself happier from now on.” The people in your life should respect this.
- Work On Your Self Esteem
Your self-esteem is very important on your journey to emotional independence. You need to be confident in yourself for it to work. Now, if you have always had low self-esteem, you can work on it and make it better. Take care of yourself, do things you like to do, and spend time with people who genuinely make you happy. You may have to cut out people who try to manipulate your emotions and who try to tear you down. While this can be incredibly difficult, it is important to set yourself up for success. You don’t need people in your life who are manipulative and controlling, as they can hold you back from achieving your emotional independence.
In an article by Allision Abrams, forgiveness is a great way to start building a good self-image. You may need to forgive the person who caused you to be in the habit of being emotionally dependent. Or, you may need to forgive yourself for getting yourself in a hurtful situation. Abrams also reminds readers that they are not their circumstances. Your self-worth is not found in the circumstance you are in. Everyone will go through a less than pleasant circumstance in their life. It is important for people who are emotionally dependent on understanding this. If you have a romantic partner who has been hurtful to you, do not find your worth in what they did. If a friend has given you an unwelcomed opinion, do not obsess over it and allow it to affect you. Your worth is far greater than that.
- Make Your Own Decisions
When it comes to making decisions, some need to be made as an individual. What are you making yourself for lunch the next day? You don’t need to ask your partner what you should make if you are the only one eating it. If your friend doesn’t like who you are interested in romantically for no reason, don’t change your mind about them. Take control of what decisions you can make without asking someone. This will give you more and more control over your emotions. You are free to make your own decisions as long as your decision does not directly affect someone else.
- Take Control Over Your Emotions
While it is normal to get your feelings hurt, get angry, or feel annoyed by someone else’s actions, you should feel control over your emotions. If you can’t go a few days without having an emotional breakdown after someone says something to you, you may be emotionally dependent. Learn to recognize when you feel out of control over your emotions and remember that you are the only person who should decide how you feel. No one else should intentionally try to control and manipulate your emotions. This is a sign of a toxic person. If you are in a relationship with someone who has too much control over your emotions, intentionally or not, couples counseling will likely be very beneficial for you. A counselor will help you and your partner pinpoint why you are emotionally dependent and help you resolve the issue.
Achieve Emotional Independence
As you go about getting your emotional independence back, be yourself, and focus on improving your emotional control. Let your partner, friends, and family know what you like and don’t like. Do not rely on others to tell you what you like or don’t. Do not allow the actions of those around you to determine and dictate your emotions. You will love the change once you are living for yourself and not anyone else. Dress how you want, believe in what you believe in. If you don’t know what you like because you have been caught up in doing things for other people, learn more about yourself. Do things that interest you, take up a new hobby, learn a new skill. Being in a relationship takes two people working for it. However, you shouldn’t be sacrificing who you are to make someone else happy. You deserve to find happiness within yourself and feel in control of your emotions.
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