As a society, we have become very dependent on other people.
Of course, when we are children we have to rely on others. Children need others to provide food, shelter, safety, and the right environment for them to grow and achieve their potential. We organically become more independent as we progress through life. Yet some people never fully transition to self-reliance and total independence. They go from depending on their parents to depending on their partner or some other close relationship in their life.
The truth is as a culture we have a tendency to rely on others far more than it is necessary.
Depending on your life circumstances, you may be dependent on people for emotional support. Or financial support. Or for your sense of self.
Perhaps you are someone who seeks the approval of others. Or needs to be in a relationship to feel okay. Or your financial well-being is dependent on your parents or your spouse.
At certain developmental stages and life stages, certain dependence is appropriate. For instance during adolescence, it is appropriate to seek approval of others as it is part of growing up. Anyone who studied Piaget knows about the imaginary audience and personal fable of adolescence. Teens may mistakenly believe that everyone around them is watching and judging them, scrutinizing their every move, and can become painfully self-conscious as a result. But this is a phase we all experience (although some people never seem to outgrow it).
There is also nothing wrong with moving back in with your parents after college while seeking employment or staying home with your kids when they are young and depending financially on your partner. Or when you reach your golden years, depending on the assistance of others to help you, is often needed. Different life circumstances can create extenuating circumstances where we need to depend on the support of others.
Yet over the course of life, being independent, is vital to being a well-rounded, healthy functioning person. Being independent means being able to take care of your own needs and to make and assume responsibility for your decisions while considering both the people around you and your environment.
reliance on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others.
Being independent and able to support yourself, in all aspects of life, remains the cornerstone of a well-adjusted person. Independence refers to all aspects of your life including financial, career, emotional, personal beliefs and values.
It is extremely empowering knowing that you are in control of your own life and your own choices. Financially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. You do not need the validation or support of others to be okay. Human nature being what it is, you may prefer it, but you do not NEED it.
There are many forms of dependence on others people struggle with but some of the most common include codependency, financial dependency, and emotional dependency. Often times such issues are what lead people to come to counseling.
Signs of codependency include:
- Having difficulty making decisions without advice and reassurance from others
- Having difficulty assuming responsibility for your life
- Having difficulty communicating in a relationship
- Having difficulty disagreeing with others out of fear
- Valuing the approval of others more than valuing yourself
- Lacking trust in yourself and having poor self-esteem
- Having fears of abandonment or an obsessive need for approval
- Having difficulty starting projects or doing things on your own
- Having an unhealthy dependence on relationships, even at your own cost
- Having anxiety or negative feelings when alone
- Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Having difficulty managing and defending personal boundaries
Signs of financial dependency:
- You feel resentment or anger because the money you receive seems to come with strings attached, but you’re too scared of being cut off to say anything.
- You have never been able to financially support yourself through your own endeavors
- You lack even the most basic financial know-how, such as how to balance a checkbook or read a bank statement
- You’re in a physically or verbally abusive relationship, or you’re simply unhappy with your living situation, but you worry you won’t be able to support yourself if you leave
- You lack self-confidence and ambition and are scared you can’t support yourself
- You have no idea what your family income level, net worth, or cash flow is
Some symptoms of emotional dependency:
- Constant and obsessive need to be close to other people
- Constant insecurity about the future
- Feeling of not being good enough to be with the other person
- Obsessive fear of losing love
- Constant feeling of guilt if they don’t pay total attention to their partner
- Acceptance of psychological and physical suffering, for fear of losing the relationship
- A constant and dominant feeling of anxiety
Many forms of dependence can lead to emotional distress.
At the end of the day, you only have yourself to fall back on, so it is a must to be able to handle things on your own. All relationships end at some point or another, that is an inescapable truth. You never know when someone you depend on may pass away. Or leave. In life, anything is possible.
Many people do not want to make choices on their own because they do not want to be responsible for the outcome. Taking responsibility can be terrifying. It is easier to blame others than to take ownership.
Taking ownership means embracing your power to create your own future.
As a clinician, many people come to counseling because they are unhappy about a certain aspect of their life. Yet before a person can change, they must take ownership that their choices and behavior that has gotten them to this point. It is NOT the same thing as taking blame.
Taking ownership means you have CONTROL over your life. Until you take ownership for your actions or failures, it’ll be very difficult for you to develop self-respect or even have the respect of others.
A person cannot be independent and simultaneously not take ownership for their life. Everything in your life requires you to take ownership: the good, the bad, the ugly.
A lot of people don’t want to hear this truth. I hear clients offer up excuses in sessions time and time again for an aspect of their life they find undesirable. We all indulge in this from time to time but at the end of the day everything in your life is a result of the choices you have made.
Your finances…your responsibility
Your relationships….your responsibility
Your health…..your responsibility
Your career….your responsibility
Your (underage) kids…..your responsibility (once they are adults, THEIR responsibility)
Your happiness….your responsibility
Your peace of mind….your responsibility
To take responsibility for your life, is to take responsibility for your thinking, feeling, speaking and acting. You create your life with your thoughts, feelings, words and actions.
Stop blaming your partner, parents, economy, your upbringing for your misfortune.
Stop complaining. Complaining is another form of blaming and playing victim as if you have no choice. If you do not like something, leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it.
Realize happiness is an inside job.
Be the gatekeeper of your life and refuse to have a rerun of the same bad behaviors, thoughts, and experiences of yesterday if they do not get you want you want in life.
When you take responsibility for your life and experience, you step into a place of calm confidence. When you are independent, you feel calm because you know that you are consciously in charge of yourself and that you can choose how you respond.
Standing on ones own feet is important. If you feel this is a struggle for you, counseling may be a good place to start the process of becoming more independent.
To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):
Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC
Anew Counseling Services LLC
617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649