Independence is something a lot of us crave as teenagers – but once it’s thrust upon us we don’t always know how to handle it. Learning how to take care of yourself is an important life skill, but independence isn’t just about being able to cook your own dinner or pay your own bills; it’s also about being comfortable in your own skin and with the life choices you make.
What makes it difficult?
Being independent can be difficult for a number of reasons. We might not feel confident in our own abilities, fear failure or judgment, or simply get stuck in the habit of depending on others. We’re social creatures, so it’s natural to rely on each other for support, but this doesn’t mean allowing others to dictate how you live your life. No one else has as good an insight into your mind as you do, nor do they have to live with the consequences of your life choices.
If we want to get to know someone better, we spend time with them; understanding your own mind works the same way. It may seem antisocial to ditch your friends, but it’s a crucial step in becoming independent. Take the time to do activities you would normally do with others by yourself instead. Walk around the city, see a film, or eat alone in a cafe. What do you order from the menu when you’re not thinking about what everyone else is choosing? What do you notice about your city when you’re not distracted by others?
The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself, so take the time to think about what really interests you and what values are important to you. Knowing who you are will help you to make decisions that are right for you.
Build up your resources
Spending time on your own is great practice for those inevitable moments in life when you will find yourself alone. Whether you move abroad, start a new job, or go through a break-up, there will be times when you won’t be able to rely on anyone else. It’s okay if you feel lost at first, but you’ll have already laid the groundwork to help you use your own resources to figure things out. It could be as simple as having the confidence to ask someone for directions when you’re trying to find your way in a new city.
Trust your instincts
Sometimes, the hardest – but most rewarding – part of being independent is being able to say no to things you know you don’t like. Are your parents pushing you to study a subject you don’t enjoy? Or perhaps your friends want you to go out every night when you’d rather stay at home? By gaining a better understanding of yourself, you’ll grow in confidence and be able to stick to your guns in difficult situations. Whether it’s discovering how you like your coffee, or realising a particular career isn’t right for you, every step is important!