How To Be Emotionally Independent And Stop Relying On Others For Happiness

Do you ever feel like you’re too dependent on other people to boost your mood and support you?

While it’s great to have a network of people around you who love and care for you, it’s important to be able to look after yourself.

By learning how to become more emotionally independent, you’ll find ways to improve your own well-being.

Why are you relying on others?

The first part of this whole process is self-examination – a good way to start everything, really!

It’s important to know where you’re coming from in order to establish where you want to get to and what you want to achieve.

Start by looking at why you crave this attention or approval from other people.

It sounds clichéd, but it may be something to do with your childhood.

If you grew up with parents who were divorced or separated, it may explain why you feel unstable and insecure in many aspects of your life.

Your past friendships and relationships may also shed some light on your current behavior.

If you’ve been in codependent relationships or had very close friendships in the past, you’re likely to be used to relying on someone for assurance, clarification, and guidance.

Self-reflection is key here!

Sit down and have a proper soul-searching session: we’re talking notebook, brainstorms, color-coding – the works!

Whilst this process is about finding peace within yourself and learning to be comfortable with your independence, it’s still okay to get other people involved.

You’re allowed some help along the way, and other people are bound to have interesting and different inputs that can help to shed light on your current behaviors.

Make sure you’re talking about this with people you trust, who know you well.

This is all about building yourself up, so your close friends or family members will be there to support you on your journey to emotional independence.  

Find things that make you feel good.

Next up, it’s time to create your own happiness.

We know, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s also not as hard as you think!

Start by adding one new activity to your routine each week.

It’s important to take things at your own pace – if you rush it, you risk feeling overwhelmed, burning out, and being completely put off the whole idea behind this.

Make a list of things that make you feel good, be that physically or mentally.

You might already know that exercising is really great for your outlook on life, so add in a session a week to start with.

If you don’t do much exercise at the moment, start by going on light walks to get your body used to being active.

You can work up to weekly runs or gym sessions, or you can try out swimming if you’ve not done it for a while (or ever).

Yoga and Pilates are really lovely ways to look after your body and work on your mindset, too.

It might be that creativity helps you feel good about yourself – that could be drawing, painting, or making music.

These activities all sound pretty straightforward and you might not see at first how they’ll impact you.

The idea behind this is that you start to realize your capabilities… your potential.

It’s so easy to feel like we’re not good at anything or that we have nothing interesting about ourselves, and that can cause us to be more reliant on those around us.

Our self-esteem can really benefit from having hobbies and interests, and we learn that we can do things!

Accept alone time – and embrace it!

Alone time is something that many of us struggle to get to grips with.

If you’re already aware that you’re pretty dependent on those around you for your happiness, getting comfortable with being alone will help you so much.

Going from surrounding ourselves with people who give us attention and validation to being alone can feel very scary and intimidating.

By accepting that we will be alone at some points in life, we can find ways to get comfortable with it – even enjoy it – rather than trying our best to avoid it.

By rejecting the feelings of loneliness that can crop up, we create a level of guilt and fear around it.

This means that we start to dread being alone and thus become even more reliant on other people for our happiness.

By accepting that we will be alone, we can work toward finding ways to actively enjoy it.

Alone time often feels so scary because it’s blank; endless.

We know we’re going to be on our own and that’s all we fixate on – that emptiness.

By planning things to fill that alone time, we can really start to make the most of it.

You’ll be surprised by how quickly you get used to being alone and how much you’ll manage to get done in that time, whether it’s boring work or chores or fun activities like solo movie nights, cooking sessions, or loudly singing while soaking in the tub!

Think of fun ways to fill your time in advance before you’ve got the big ‘alone time’ coming up.

This way you’ll start to look forward to being on your own rather than dreading it.

Think of it as a time for opportunity, not for loneliness.

It’s a time to get things out of the way without distraction, a time to relax with nobody else around to potentially judge you, a time to work on secret things you want to keep to yourself!

Make a list of these options and start working your way through it.

The time will fly by and you’ll soon start to rely on yourself to create these fun solo sessions, building your own life and making happiness for yourself, on your terms.

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Reframe the ‘negatives’

Having considered what’s making you feel unhappy or anxious, it’s worth trying to reframe it.

You might be convincing yourself that you can’t feel good because you’re unattractive, boring, stupid, etc.

If these ‘bad’ things are in your head for a reason, explore that.

It may be that someone has said something that you’ve misinterpreted or even misremembered.

You might remember a situation where you felt romantically rejected – it may be that you misunderstood what was going on or that there was actually another reason behind it.

Perhaps the person you were interested in wasn’t interested, or perhaps the timing was off or circumstances weren’t right for them (they were getting over an ex, wanting to be single etc.).

It’s natural to build situations up in our heads and create scenarios that may not have actually happened.

It’s also unhealthy, however, and incredibly self-destructive!

As you’re working toward becoming more emotionally independent, it’s important to let go of the ‘negative’ situations that lead you to crave attention and reassurance.

Use the power of your mind for good…

Rather than, “I didn’t get that job because I’m not smart enough,” tell yourself that it’s because there are better things ahead for you.

Rebrand things that have happened once you’ve calmed down and can be rational.

It really helps to write this kind of thing down, as it’s easy to go from feeling okay about something to jumping straight back into the anxious mindset that you started with.

Look back at your list each time you start to feel bad about something that has happened in the past.

You’ll quickly find that you don’t need to call a friend to talk about something (again!) that happened months ago.

You can simply check your journal, remind yourself that you may not be thinking rationally due to stress, and refresh the situation in a more positive light.

Get it in writing.

By working toward becoming more emotionally independent, you’ll enjoy so many benefits.

It can be really great to write down what you expect to happen as well as what you want to happen.

A lot of it is self-explanatory, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reminding yourself of every so often!

Make a list that you can refer to when you’re having a hard time. It will remind you of what you’re working toward and will also show you the progress you’re making.

Each time you come to check your list, you’ll be able to tick off more things!

It’s really satisfying to actively see how much of a difference you’re making to your mindset, so having a physical list written down somewhere will help you so much.

You can also use this list to create a mantra for yourself – start each day by reading the list aloud to yourself in front of the mirror.

Or why not create an audio recording of yourself talking about what you want to achieve (and why) to play at night while you drift off to sleep or to use as a base for a meditation session?

These actions may feel slightly silly, but remember that you’re doing them for yourself – take time to find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.

Speaking to your reflection might feel weirdly intimidating or embarrassing, but nobody else can see or hear! You’ll get used to it soon enough…

Manifest what you want to happen – visualize it happening and imagine scenarios where you’re able to do the things that you want to get out of this practice.

It may be that you want to feel more capable of making decisions alone, or that you stop relying on others to boost your self-esteem or worth.

Communicate openly and honestly.

Again, this is all about you gaining more emotional independence and learning to be comfortable and confident by yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you have to become a hermit and avoid all human contact!

Talk to the people that you trust about how you’re feeling.

Be mindful of how you’re talking about this experience – it’s important not to fall back into old habits of becoming reliant on those around you.

You can talk about what’s happening, of course, just appreciate that you now have a new level of self-awareness and do your best to stay as self-sufficient as you can when it comes to your feelings.

You don’t need to feel as though you have to go cold turkey – it’s still okay to want people’s opinions and involvement in your life…

…it’s just about learning to put a bit of distance between yourself and the approval of others.

Getting some outside perspective can be really helpful when it comes to self-work, as contradictory as that may sound!

You’ll probably find that you’re quite excited to talk about the progress you’re making, or you’ll feel great when a loved one comments on it.

Share stories of how well you’re doing with alone time, what you fill it with, and ask what suggestions they have.

See how other people handle, or have handled, similar feelings or situations.

You’ll find that a lot of people have been through something similar, or still have feelings of loneliness or a need for assurance crop up from time to time.

That’s perfectly natural and not something you need to eliminate by any means, just something that it’s healthy to cut back on.

Think of it like cake – it’s not great every day, but it’s okay to indulge every so often!

Fake it till you make it.

We’ll leave you with advice that works in most situations – fake it till you make it.

If all else fails, tell yourself how you feel and make it positive.

You can pretend that you feel great, even if you’re doing just that – pretending.

It’s important to get yourself into good habits and behavior patterns, and convincing yourself that you’re already in them is a fantastic way to make it actually stick.

It’s a phrase we roll out a lot, sure, but we love it – “neurons that fire together wire together.”

This genuinely means something when it comes to our minds and our brains.

By acting as though we’re comfortable being more independent and self-reliant, our minds will start to believe it and we’ll feel more confident in that aspect of our lives.

By continuing to act as though we genuinely feel that way, our brains will start to rewire, too.

Over time, there are certain physical connections formed in our brains that link one behavior to another.

For example, “I feel bad about myself today” can quickly, and strongly, become linked to “I need to call a friend and cry down the phone for an hour.”

The more we rely on others for our own happiness or confidence, the more our brains learn that we ‘need’ those interactions to create those positive feelings.

By linking each negative thought to something more positive, such as “I can relax and unwind at home alone, listen to music that I like and cook my favorite meal,” our brains learn that we can support ourselves emotionally.

These replacement thoughts will cut through the co-dependent ones and you’ll start to form stronger links to the independent, self-loving ones instead.

About Author

Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.