“Independence is happiness.” Susan B. Anthony

Relying on others to shape who we are is the basis of codependence. It is, in effect, creating our own feelings and behaviors around something external, rather than figuring out for ourselves what our feelings and behaviors should be and look like. 

Autonomy, or true independence, is the ability to make decisions for yourself based on the things you’ve learned about the world, your experiences, perceptions, and feelings, and how you interact with the world. Independence is empowering. Codependence is stifling.

Here are five effective ways to become less codependent, and grow your own valuable independence:

  1. Get to know who you are inside. There are so many ways to do this. One is to begin journaling your thoughts and feelings about your daily activities. Then ask yourself, “Is that the truth?” and “Is that how I really feel about it?” Many times, upon reflection, we find that we’ve simply been parroting someone else’s feelings or thoughts... and that what we truly felt didn’t even come into play. Once you realize this, you can change it!

  2. Take a deep look at your beliefs. Again, ask yourself, “Are these my own beliefs?” Do your beliefs represent how you truly feel? You may just be reaffirming what’s familiar, instead of what you really feel.

  3. Learn the art and skill of being assertive. This isn’t something that comes naturally to most people, but it is a skill that can be learned and honed to perfection. There is great freedom in being able to properly assert yourself. Practicing assertiveness will go a long way towards being a more independent person.

  4. Stop second-guessing your decisions. If we’re used to being codependent, we come to decisions based on how others will feel about the decision. When we develop our own independence, there will be second-guessing our decisions. This second-guessing is a bad habit that can be eliminated by replacing it with the good, healthy habit of having confidence in your own decisions - that those decisions are the right decisions.

  5. Learn to put yourself first. This is extremely difficult for anyone in a codependent relationship, as others’ needs have always come first, at the expense of our own. At first, this will feel unnatural and even “bad”. You’ll feel very guilty. That is a sign that it’s an unhealthy habit. Realize that putting yourself first isn’t selfishness - it’s taking care of you first so that you can care more fully for yourself, and others. When you are healthy and cared for, it gives you the power to send that energy rippling outwards.