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How to Be Emotionally Independent & Stop Using Others for Happiness

If your emotions are dependent on how other people treat you, then you need to learn how to be emotionally independent. Here’s how you can do it.

how to be emotionally independent

In the modern day, we’re surrounded by so many things and people that it’s hard to figure out where your own voice and emotions come from. But there is good news! You can learn how to be emotionally independent, it simply takes time and effort to reach your goal.

Are you a people pleaser?

Maybe you’re dependent on your iPhone, perhaps you’re addicted to social media, or maybe you’re so keen on pleasing everyone else that you ignore that nagging inner voice telling you to do what YOU want to do.

The bottom line is this—you cannot be truly happy when you’re pleasing everyone else or comparing your life to others. If you’re dependent on something or someone, you’re never truly in control either.

Wouldn’t you rather be pleasing yourself, the one steering your own ship? [Read: How to live a good life that you will love and cherish]

What does it mean to be emotionally independent?

Some people may not be familiar with what it means to be emotionally independent. An emotionally independent person has an inner resilience in which they know that they can face and solve any circumstance they face in life.

In order to have emotional independence, you have to have a strong sense of self. You can’t depend on others to make you happy or tell you how you should live your life. It also means accepting yourself and changing behaviors that allow you to find your inner strength and ability to remain calm.

Being emotionally independent also empowers you to see yourself as separate from other people. You are able to declare independence from any situations that will determine your moods, behaviors, and self-concept.

Many of us don’t realize that we’re actually dependent on something or someone else, and it’s only when that thing or person isn’t around anymore that we start to realize the extent of the problem. [Read: Emotional dependency and 20 signs you’re overly dependent on someone else]

Being emotionally dependent on something is in your head, that’s a truth, but it takes some effort to free yourself from its chains. When you’re dependent on something or someone, you’re never able to make a firm and solid decision. 

You’re vulnerable to the underhanded tactics of other people, and you’re never really sure of what you want or where you’re going. It’s not a recipe for happiness or fulfillment.

Being emotionally independent is not so easy to practice in real life. The reason for that is because it’s more comfortable to stick to our old habits and ways of thinking than to change ourselves – even if we do consciously want to change.

So, how do you even begin to change from within? It sounds like a very daunting task for most people. But we have your answers.

 [Read: Are you codependent? 14 signs you totally rely on your partner for your happiness]

How to be emotionally independent 

Not sure how to be emotionally independent? Let’s explore the subject in a bit more detail and understand how to detach yourself from relying on others for all your emotional needs.

1. Acknowledge the problem first 

You can’t make any changes in your life if you don’t acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place.

It’s not easy to admit that you’re under the influence of another person, or you’re dependent on something. But you can’t move forwards unless you do.

Sit down and think carefully. Be honest with yourself and pinpoint the thing or the person that you’re so dependent upon. Once you’ve acknowledged this and admitted it to yourself, you can move towards making progress. [Read: How to quit attracting unhealthy relationships]

2. Get to know yourself

Do you know who you really are at your very core? You can’t learn how to be emotionally independent if you’re not your own best friend. 

That doesn’t mean that you like everything about yourself. It does mean that you accept yourself for who you are. Acknowledge that you’re a whole person who deserves the same respect as anyone else.

When you’re dependent upon someone or something, it’s likely that you lack a certain amount of self-esteem. Recognizing your strengths and pushing them forward, while also acknowledging your flaws and making a pact with yourself to improve them, is the biggest step forward you can take. [Read: Is negative thinking ruining your life? 20 signs and tips to cope with it]

3. Stop beating yourself up about things that have happened

It could be that you’ve become dependent because something has happened in the past. And it knocked your confidence down. You can learn how to be emotionally independent again. First, you should explore what happened and let it go.

There is no point in dragging baggage around with you. It won’t help. Nor will it change the past. All you can do is learn from it. So, look for any lessons you can learn and vow to take the necessary steps to do so.

Accept that you might have made mistakes in the past. Embrace them and acknowledge that mistakes make you a human being. You can’t have a constant string of regrets in your life if you want to be happy, healthy, or independent. [Read: 5 life altering lessons you can learn from regret]

4. Ask yourself who you’re making decisions for

When you have a decision to make, what do you do? Do you sit down and think things through logically while listening to your own inner voice? Or, more likely, do you ask those around you what they think and go with the majority voice?

This is your life. You cannot live it for someone else.

You must make decisions that sit well with you. It’s the only way you can reach the end of your hopefully long life with few regrets. If you ask someone else what they would do, you’re always going to be living a life that’s not truly yours.

One of the most important steps towards learning how to be emotionally independent is starting to make decisions for yourself, no matter how small. [Read: How to stop being codependent and start finding yourself]

5. Understand that things and people come and go

Life doesn’t stay still and that means that sometimes you’ll wave goodbye to people you care about and things that you want to stay in your life. You don’t have control over everything. And you must let go of the reins and allow life to flow. That’s one of the biggest steps you can take towards happiness.

By becoming super-attached to things or people, you’re showing your dependence in a big way. Sure, it’s nice when people are in your life who you enjoy spending time with, but if they decide to leave your life, is it really over?

Of course not! You had a life before them. You’ll have one after too.

Dependent people develop strong attachments to people and things and when they disappear, the sense of grief can be overwhelming.

Understand that you’re a whole person in your own right and that life will flow in and around you. Either way, you’ll be fine. [Read: 12 signs of fierce attachments that are extremely unhealthy for you]

6. Own your choices, come what may

Make decisions for yourself, but also own those decisions and choices completely. If they go wrong, there’s no hiding. If they go right, celebrate them. You can’t be right all the time nor can you be wrong all the time either.

Taking responsibility for everything you do and choose in life is one of the key features of being independent. You simply can’t learn how to be emotionally independent without doing this. Sure, it’s scary from time to time. 

If you fail, you might take it hard. Remember that every failure is a learning curve that you can choose to respond to in a positive way. [Read: Should you worry about justifying your life choices?]

7. Don’t take everything to heart

People will criticize you, people will hurt you, and people will say things they don’t mean. This is life. This isn’t a reflection of you, it’s a reflection of them. As long as you’re treating people with kindness and compassion, let everything else go completely over your head.

Emotionally dependent people tend to take criticism extremely personally. They see it as a slight on their character and assume that the person giving the criticism just doesn’t like them for some reason. That’s not always the case; perhaps the criticism is meant to be constructive, i.e. something for you to learn from. [Read: How to balance asking for help and being stubborn – The secret to independence]

You’re a person with your own opinions, just as everyone else is. Don’t take everything so personally. And soon you’ll soon learn how to be emotionally independent as a result.

8. Be mindful

When you are mindful, you pay attention to the present moment at all times. You are aware of what is happening inside of you – your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

But it also means being aware of what’s happening outside of you too, such as situations and other external factors. And, you do all this with an open mind and don’t judge whether something is good or bad.

When you practice mindfulness, you can build emotional independence because it can help you increase your awareness of your reactions and responses to what happens to you *or what doesn’t happen*.

We cannot change what we don’t recognize. In other words, it takes conscious examination and choice to be mindful. When we identify our patterns of behaviors and thoughts that keep us dependent, we can become much freer. [Read: How to be more positive – 24 steps to a happy and dramatic life shift]

9. Ask yourself “why?”

Part of being mindful and becoming emotionally independent includes digging deeper into why you want to build this internal resiliency. Here are some questions to explore.

a. Why is it important for you to be emotionally independent?

b. What factors led you to this point?

c. How do you feel when you are dependent on other people or things to make you happy?

d. How has the experience of being emotionally dependent been for you?

e. What would it mean to you to become emotionally independent?

f. How do you want your life to change as a result of being emotionally independent?

g. Why do you want to have more control of your emotions?

Once you have a better understanding of why you want to become emotionally independent, then you can be more motivated to do the internal work it requires to get there. [Read: 20 positive personality traits that can change your life forever]

10. Change your thinking

It isn’t easy to change how you think because it is such a habit. But you first have to identify what kinds of negative thoughts go through your mind on a regular basis. 

The best way you can do this is by writing them down in a journal.

For example, you might think “I need my boyfriend to show me a lot of affection so I can feel good,” or “Things have to happen the way I want them to for me to feel in control of my life.”

These are called “automatic negative thoughts.” So, when you have them in your head, practice changing them with something neutral or positive.

An example might be “I am able to feel happy without anyone showing me affection” or “I can emotionally handle it when things don’t go my way.” [Read: How to think positive and reprogram your mind to stay positive]

When you change these negative thoughts with more positive ones, it will help rewire how your brain works. You can be more in control of your thoughts and actions, which is the key to becoming emotionally independent.

11. Be compassionate with yourself

Is there something you are avoiding by being emotionally dependent on other people? Maybe you feel lonely, sad, or rejected. Think about what is the underlying reason that you are emotionally dependent, and then give compassion to these feelings.

For example, you might say to yourself, “I’m feeling sad and rejected. But it’s okay to feel this way. There’s nothing wrong with me feeling uncomfortable with this.”

When you acknowledge these underlying feelings that keep you emotionally dependent and are compassionate toward them, then you can be more tolerant of difficult emotions.

We won’t have to try to get rid of the feelings by seeking the approval of another person. It is a form of self-soothing so you don’t feel overwhelmed by your emotions. [Read: How to love yourself – the 23 best ways to find self-love and happiness]

12. Learn how to self-validate

As we mentioned earlier, being emotionally dependent is intertwined with being a people-pleaser. And what a people-pleaser does is make themselves smaller than other people and change their boundaries so they can accommodate other people.

So, when you practice self-validation, you give yourself permission to feel your feelings, and you accept your thoughts and emotions. 

For example, you might say, “My feelings are justified. It’s fine to feel the way I feel. I am allowed to create boundaries with other people. It doesn’t make me a bad person.”

When you do this, you are giving space to your feelings. If you’re in a situation when it’s difficult to validate yourself, then ask yourself the question, “What would I like to hear from someone right now so that they can validate me?”

When you have that answer, just say it to yourself *as if you are the other person*. After a while, it will be more natural to do it on a regular basis.

[Read: Secret to happiness? Your uncomplicated guide to a happy life]

As you learn how to be emotionally independent, you’ll notice that you feel more confident. The more you rely upon yourself, the more in control you’ll feel, and the sense of being completely at the mercy of others will disappear. 

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...