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Do you see yourself as being an independent woman? As someone who has it all together? I had always seen myself as this strong independent woman who didn’t need help from anyone to get what I wanted in life. I had my career, my possessions and I thought I had it all… but then I realised that wasn’t really what independence was all about.
It wasn’t just about what you have… it was also about how you felt about yourself and those around you. So I started researching ways to gain independence, especially for women who may never have really experienced it.
What surprised me was people’s understanding of what it meant to be independent. So many people focused on the practical aspect – the ability to change your car tyre or lightbulb, choosing to go out with your friends on a weekend, owning your own car… they rarely included the emotional and mental aspects too.
So here’s what I’ve found to be 10 effective ways to gain independence, to feel fantastic about yourself and to start taking control of your life.
Remember, these aren’t things that are going to happen overnight… you can’t just wake up one morning and be fully independent by doing everything on this list. But you can take small steps towards more independence each and every day.
1 – Spend some time reflecting upon yourself.
Self reflection is a skill that requires a lot of practice. If you’re new to this you might like to use some tools to help. I really like the Mastering Your Mean Girl book by Melissa Ambrosini to get you started.
You can’t truly be independent until you know who your independent self is. You need to be brutally honest with yourself. Be honest about your shortcomings. This isn’t a major newsflash – we know it already. None of us are perfect. And we aren’t meant to be.
Spending time reflecting upon yourself gives you the foundation for other important steps to becoming independent, such as understanding your own wants and needs, knowing your strengths and weaknesses and learning to be assertive. This step gives you the confidence to be independent.
2 – Learn to enjoy alone time.
Introverts Rejoice!!! When I was younger… around the time of my early twenties… I loathed being alone. I would thrive when I was in a group, I felt more comfortable there and I felt like I had a place. When I was on my own I felt awkward and scared.
Now I look back and realise it was because I was too scared to do what we just spoke about – reflect upon myself.
These days I can’t get enough alone time!! I love it. And because I’ve learned to love it, I have learned how to use this time to rejuvenate myself.
This is something that a lot of introverts already know – time alone can help you recharge your batteries. But this step isn’t exclusively for introverts. Extroverts can gain a lot of benefits from alone time too.
When it comes to taking steps towards independence, being comfortable and learning to enjoy alone time is essential. It allows you to acknowledge that you are enough. That you, on your own, are enough.
It’s so easy as an extrovert to fall into the trap of ‘needing’ other people. Needing to be around others and being co-dependent.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time with others – most extroverts still thrive on group interaction and get their energy from being around others. It simply means that you need to learn to be okay with being on your own sometimes too. Even if that alone time is just sitting in a cafe, reading your favourite magazine and watching the world go by.
3 – Understand your finances.
This is a HUGE factor in being independent. Gone are the days when you can just happily swipe that piece of plastic and have no idea where the money is coming from, or how much of it is left. I cannot stress the importance of understanding your finances, not only from a ‘put on your big girl panties’ point of view but also from a practical side of things.
Whether you love it or hate it, money is what makes the world go round. You need it, I need it, some have it, some don’t and we all try our best to earn more of it.
It is imperative for you to know where your money is coming from, where it is going and what it is doing for you in order for you to be independent.
This isn’t a ‘don’t rely on your husband for money’ thing, it’s not a feminist movement, it’s a smart move. It allows you to be confident with your actions, if you have the money, buy what you want but know how much it is and where the money is coming from.
I am so passionate about it I even wrote a whole post about financial habits of successful women.
4 – Change your vocabulary.
How often do you use the word ‘can’t’, ‘don’t’, ‘won’t’, or ‘shouldn’t’ – or any other negative contraction? Especially when talking about yourself. And it’s not limited to these words either – it’s any negative response to remark, particularly those directed to yourself.
‘I can’t reach that goal, it’s too big for me’
‘I don’t look good today, I feel awful’
‘I won’t be able to do that’
‘I’m not good enough to feel amazing’
‘I’m not smart enough’
‘I don’t have the skills’
‘Everyone is better than me’
The list goes on…
How can we ever expect to feel good about ourselves if we use such negative words when describing or talking about yourself?
What about when someone gives you a compliment? Do you say thank you or do you deflect and respond with a negative comment about yourself? Like you’re trying to prove them wrong…
Independence and confidence go hand in hand. One simple step to boost your confidence is to change the way you talk about yourself. Change this simple words – remove them from your vocabulary. Talk only in positives when referring to yourself.
Yes you can have a bad day still and be cranky at the world – but that is one day. Not your whole life.
Do it now – say one positive thing about yourself. Go on… louder… How does that feel? Awkward? Say it again. And again. Until it doesn’t feel awkward. Until you laugh at yourself for talking out loud and hope no one can hear you incase they think you’re a little crazy (who cares anyway…). Now start doing this all the time. Every day. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.
5 – Understand your own wants, needs and desires.
What is it that you truly want? What makes you happy? What do you need to get by each day?
Need isn’t a dirty word. We all have them. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs even outlines the basic human needs we all have, including relationships, intimacy, sex and the need for self fulfilment. We all have needs, which are different to your wants and desires.
Understanding your own wants, needs and desires is a powerful thing. It allows you to form the foundation for becoming more assertive. If you know your wants, needs and desires, you know then that you can be assertive in asking for them and confident in making them happen.
What you want in life, in your relationships, from yourself, in your career forms the basis of your goals. These are the things that you work towards and chase after.
Your needs are what you need in your life to get by, to make you happy, to reach that self fulfilment. As we talked about earlier, for a lot of introverts it can be that need to spend time alone. Maybe you need to spend time being creative, perhaps writing is a need for you. You can narrow this down even further to the needs you have in your day to day lives – perhaps you need 8 hours sleep otherwise you become mega lady demon. It’s okay. Own your needs.
Your desires are your happy place. It’s what you fill your vision board with. It’s your dream, it’s what makes you tingle with excitement and makes your heart skip a beat. These are the most fun part of this step. Have you ever just let your mind wander off and think of your desires? Do you desire a beach holiday, perhaps you want to travel or buy your own little country cottage.
6 – Know your strengths and weaknesses and play to them.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is part of the self reflection step, and can make all the difference to your life. Seriously.
I used to think that I could do it all. Especially when it came to my business. And if I didn’t know how to do it then I’d learn. Ask any successful business woman if this is a smart move if you want to run a mega successful business and they will laugh.
Businesses hire people according to their strengths, why should your life be any different?
I know that one of my weaknesses is perfection paralysis… I tend to hold onto things and not release them until they are perfect. Which they never are. Ever. So, I’ve decided to hire an editor to check over everything which gives me peace of mind that what I am putting out there is well written and easy to understand as well as being grammatically correct (because let’s face it… sometimes I suck with grammar and spelling – I know when to use their, they’re and there but I mix up affect and effect… you know?).
As for my life, I know that for the most of the time, I can’t really function after 9pm at night. Sure I can have a conversation with the hubby, drink a glass of scotch and watch a bit of Netflix, but ask me to do anything that requires in depth thought and I’m lost. So I don’t do it.
The same ideas can be applied to your day to day life. You don’t have to hire someone to do everything for you, but know your strengths and work with them. Do you function better when you have a schedule? Then use one! Are you unable to function until you have your coffee? Then make sure you can grab one quickly of a morning.
Understand yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses and play to them.
7 – Get to know your personality.
Think personality tests are a bit of a joke? Don’t be so quick to write them off… I’ve used personality tests before to hire staff and I often have a read over my type to remind myself that it’s okay to be me.
You can take your personality test here for free to give you a simple outline of who you are…
Funnily enough, when I first started using personality tests I was a very strong ENFP – and over the years I have evolved to include more introverted tendencies (but still a very secure ENFP).
But what does this have to do with independence? It all falls under getting to know yourself better and learning how to be confident in who you are. That’s why self reflection is so important to start off with, and most of the steps along the way are building on different areas of this.
8 – Make yourself a priority.
When was the last time you did something just for yourself? For the majority of us women, we tend to put everyone else before ourselves. Whether it’s family, our children, our husbands or our friends – it always seems that everyone else’s needs are more important than ours.
But this is not the way it should be.
Making yourself a priority is so important.
You cannot possibly take care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. Running yourself into the ground and not making yourself a priority can have negative impacts on your physical and mental health.
Understanding the importance of making yourself a priority will allow you to grow your independence even further. Where you don’t need someone else to put you first because you are capable of making yourself a priority and you know you can make yourself happy and satisfy your own wants needs a desires.
9 – Be assertive.
Do you ask for what you want? Do you stand your own ground or do you find yourself agreeing with others just because it’s ‘easier’.
Being assertive can be difficult for some and in no way does this mean you have to be a horrible person, rude or abrupt. Assertive is in the middle of passive and aggressive. It’s where you want to be.
When I talk about assertiveness and learning the basics of how to be assertive there are two simple words you need to know.
Yes, and No.
The key is knowing when to use them.
Yes – I do want to take this time for myself away from my work, my family and friends.
No – I do not want to give up my alone time to help you move house.
Reverse those two words and you have passive behaviour.
Saying yes and no surprisingly takes a lot of practice. Saying yes requires you to be your own advocate and stand for what you want and what you believe in. This can be scary for people who haven’t put themselves ‘out there’ before.
Saying no can be equally as daunting – especially for those who fall under the ‘people pleaser’ category. These are the people who would rather everyone liked them and that there was no conflict.
To start becoming more assertive, look for simple small steps initially. Maybe a friend has called up last minute to ask you to lunch, but you’ve planned to spend the time working on your business or relaxing by yourself. If you’re alone time is important, then it’s oaky to say ‘no thanks’ (always remember manners goes a long way). You’re saying no to your friend and yes to yourself.
Once you get used to saying Yes and No when you want to, they will start to flow more easily.
10 – Learn how to forgive, yourself included.
There’s a big misconception about forgiveness. Some people tend to believe that ‘forgiving’ someone is saying their behaviour and their actions were okay. That’s not the case.
Forgiveness is not an external act. You never need to tell anyone if you have forgiven them or not. Forgiveness is completely internal. It is saying that you’re no longer going to allow that behaviour, that action or that incident have a negative impact on you. It is allowing yourself to move on from that moment. And it is one of the most essential things you can do to becoming independent.
Going through these steps of forgiveness allows you to take ownership of who you do and do not allow to have an impact on how you feel about yourself and your life. It’s like saying ‘this person did a really shitty thing. I acknowledge that and I forgive them and that behaviour is no longer going to affect me. I love who I am and I am happy.’
In this forgiveness process, the most important person you will ever need to forgive is yourself.
We are so so hard on ourselves! It’s crazy.
I often go through this forgiveness process with myself and a lot of the time it can be for the same thing over and over. But each time I give myself permission to be forgiving and to let it go, I feel so much better.
One of the things that keeps popping up is that I am a working Mum. I work as a Paramedic as well as running my own business. Life gets crazy busy some days and I feel the guilt start to creep in. So I go through the forgiveness process.
Usually my inner dialogue goes something like this:
‘Even though I work a huge number of hours and have to be away from my gorgeous son while I’m at work, I know I am doing a great thing. I forgive myself for this and I love who I am as a mum.’
Even typing that made me feel so much better.
Forgiveness is important for independence because it can help to allow you to take back control over how you feel and stops others from being able to make you feel certain ways.
Remember, forgiveness isn’t saying that the actions someone else took were okay, it’s about moving forward so you don’t have this impact in your day to day life. (If you do need help with overcoming a trauma or event, please seek professional help from a counsellor or psychologist who can work with you directly). Forgiveness helps you feel in control of your life.
Being an independent woman isn’t about how other’s see you, it’s all about how you see yourself, your self confidence and your self-worth. If you want to gain more independence and take control of your life, try some of the tips in this article. Your future self will thank you for it.