When we think of someone who is independent, we usually think of someone who can take care of themselves.
But self-reliance is only one small part.
Being independent is just as much about thinking for yourself as it is acting for yourself.
If you are highly independent then you’ll probably relate to these things that go hand in hand with autonomy.
1. Your confidence grows along with your self-sufficiency
When a baby takes its first steps, they are tentative ones.
It’s not so different with adults and independence.
Those first few steps out into the world where we stand on our own two feet can be nerve-wracking.
But with practice, your confidence grows, and along with it your self-esteem too.
With every bold move you make you start to feel a bit more badass.
In the words of Michelle Obama:
“Your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude”.
Often we think of confidence as something we either have or don’t have.
But actually, it’s like anything else — we learn it. With practice, you can grow your confidence.
Learning to be self-sufficient and comfortable in your own skin is a huge confidence boost.
Which is why it grows along with your independence.
2. You sometimes find yourself saying no to help, even when you’d quite like it
I was at the station struggling with my bags when someone kindly offered: “Let me get that for you.”
Before even having time to think, I politely replied: “Oh no, it’s ok thanks, I got it.”
I’ve always been highly independent. That means getting used to handling things solo.
It was true too. I certainly could carry my own bag. But it would have been nice to lighten my load.
I think this example highlights one of the potential pitfalls of highly independent people. You may run the risk of crossing over into hyper-independence territory.
Being capable of doing things for yourself can occasionally mean you refuse help.
Just because you can do everything yourself, doesn’t mean you need to, or that you should.
Getting support from others is a wonderful perk of living in a community where we’re all connected to one another.
I do try to remind myself that it’s good to accept help and that it’s definitely not a sign of weakness.
Neither does it mean I’m “putting someone else out” —which I think can be another concern of highly independent people.
Independent or not, we can all accept the kindness of a helping hand.
3. You make up your own mind
Independence runs deep.
It goes far beyond taking solo vacations or assembling your own fallback furniture.
It’s a state of mind. And it impacts your entire mindset.
When you’re highly independent you don’t live under the influence of what everybody else thinks.
It’s easier to stay objective and make up your own mind.
This is huge!
It helps train you to be more of a critical thinker, who analyses rather than takes things at face value.
As American educator, Marva Collins puts it: “Trust yourself. Think for yourself. Act for yourself. Speak for yourself. Be yourself. Imitation is suicide,”
When you’ve mastered the skill of independence, you’re less likely to blindly follow the crowd.
Neither will you go along with people simply to please them.
That’s why independent people are far more likely to be leaders than sheep.
4. You can be perceived as being difficult or awkward at times
And hey, maybe sometimes you are.
But at other times it’s more that society isn’t always used to people who go against the grain.
Your independence of mind can mean you have different opinions or thoughts from other people. And you’re not afraid to share that.
Your independent actions might mean that you say no to something that somebody else expects you to say yes to.
Here’s the thing:
Other people aren’t always going to like that.
Being highly independent may earn you respect, but it isn’t always going to win you popularity contests.
Independent people are often much better at suiting themselves.
That’s certainly not a bad thing. But some people can misinterpret independence as selfishness.
You saying no might feel rude to someone else. But really you are valuing yourself enough to put your own needs first.
Aka, you have good boundaries.
5. You’re clear about your boundaries
One of the best things about being independent is you’re probably not a pushover. Which means you’re far less likely to get abused and used by people.
Being highly independent means you’ve got a strong grasp of what works for you and what doesn’t.
You know your standards, your expectations of others, your red flags, and your code of conduct.
Unlike needy people, you don’t feel overly reliant on anyone. And that alone means that it’s easier to give them the heave-ho when they step way out of line.
You’re not afraid to stand your ground when you’re put under pressure.
You don’t feel responsible for other adults (you know that’s their own job).
You’re less likely to stick around in a bad relationship simply because you’re scared of being alone.
Being independent means that the relationships you have are actually likely to be of better quality.
This brings us to the next point…
6. Your independence improves your relationships
There’s a bit of a myth about independence. It can conjure up images of the lone wolf who is always going it alone.
Plenty of people imagine that being highly independent can leave you more isolated from others and be a detriment to your relationships.
But that isn’t true.
In fact, independence is wonderful for relationships.
Your connections can be fuelled by want rather than need. And that takes the pressure off.
People don’t feel burdened by you. They don’t feel obligated to take care of you.
In romantic relationships, independence can help to keep those flames of passion alive.
That’s because desire actually needs a certain amount of autonomy. Otherwise, we can start to feel stifled.
As Ether Perell explains, desire needs some distance:
“We seek intimacy to protect ourselves from feeling alone; and yet creating the distance essential to eroticism means stepping back from the comfort of our partner and feeling more alone…Our ability to tolerate our separateness — and the fundamental insecurity it engenders — is a precondition for maintaining interest and desire in a relationship.”
Rather than tearing apart relationships, independence can enrich them.
7. You’re happy in your own company
Being independent doesn’t mean you’re more introverted than extroverted.
But independence often means you’re really good at spending time alone.
That’s because highly independent people are used to taking responsibility for their own needs — both practical and emotional.
Being able to value their own company allows highly independent people greater space for self-reflection.
This gives you time to think about your own feelings, ideas, thoughts, issues, and experiences in life. You can then integrate all this to help come up with your own perspective.
In this way, alone time is like a feedback loop that continues to strengthen someone’s independence.
Whilst companionship and togetherness are important, the truth is that only you have the power to make yourself happy,
Having the independence to explore this can help with your self-awareness and self-responsibility.
8. You don’t expect life to be handed to you on a silver platter
You’re not waiting for someone else to make your dreams come true, that’s for sure.
You know that whatever it is you want in life, it’s down to you to go out and get it.
Rather than feel daunted by that, you embrace it as the empowering outlook that it truly is.
You believe that you have power and control over your own life.
Whilst you may not be able to shape what happens to you in life, you’re better at going with the flow.
That means you can take the ups with the downs.
When we accept that nobody is going to save us, we can get started with the hard (yet fun and rewarding) work of improving our own life.
Entitlement can happen when someone becomes so reliant on others to swoop in and fix things.
But independent people are the first to roll up their sleeves when it comes to sorting out their own problems.
9. You’re better at taking risks
Earlier on we talked about how independence can increase your confidence and self-esteem.
Well, a direct result of that is that you are also braver when it comes to taking risks.
Many people are not prepared to take risks and actively go out of their way to avoid them.
But along with the scary side of risk-taking, it also leads to greater opportunity and innovation.
A study on risk-taking revealed that there is a link between willingness to take risks and personal satisfaction.
The fact is that you never know until you try.
And independent people have cultivated tools that make them more likely to give things a go.