Emotional self-reliance seems to be a foreign concept for most people, at least I know it was for me. From birth, we’re taught to rely on our parents to satisfy our needs and wants in all aspects. Then we grow into our adolescence and shift that responsibility onto our peers. One day we are full blown adults and this burden gets placed upon the shoulders of our spouses, our careers, our children, and our friends.
I’d been married for 10 years when I realized just how much I was relying on my husband to regulate my emotional well-being. My whole day would be ruined if he didn’t notice my new hairdo or tell me how much he appreciates everything I do for the family. I was at an all-time low and had seriously begun to question if there was something wrong with me or if my marriage was falling apart—I was exhausted.
Until one day, it all finally clicked. Something really exciting had happened for me and almost instantly I felt the overwhelming need to post about it on Facebook. The good news in and of itself was not enough, I needed the validation of others in order to fully feel it. It was then that the stark realization hit me in the face—I am emotionally dependent.
If you find yourself swallowing this very hard and bitter pill, please know that you’re not alone. The fact that you’ve been able to face this realization is not only courageous, it’s also the first step towards breaking free from emotional dependency. Here are some steps I used and still use when I feel myself seeking validation from others:
Celebrate Alone First
When good news comes your way, pause and take a moment to cherish your feelings by yourself. Tell yourself how proud you are of you, and let it sink in. Allow yourself to be genuinely happy for you. And when you finally decide to share your news with family and friends, don’t allow their responses (or lack of response) to dictate how you feel about your accomplishments.
Compliment Yourself Verbally
Something happens when we take the time to verbally say something good about ourselves with regularity. It’s not conceited to love you and to feel good about being you, especially when you can love and appreciate others as well. I noticed that when I began complimenting myself, I became less reliant on receiving compliments from others. So now when my husband compliments me, it’s a pleasant surprise and not an expected duty. I’ve already validated myself, anything extra is a bonus.
Recognize Your Emotional Patterns
It will be impossible to achieve emotional independence if you can’t recognize your own personal emotional patterns. Do you know what triggers your feelings of insecurity? Can you recognize how your mood changes when you’re exhausted? Ladies, have you ever thought your life was falling apart but then realized you were just PMSing? Take some time to journal what emotions you feel each day, and what caused them. Recognizing these patterns and triggers will allow you to equip yourself with the tools to handle them when they show up again.
Take Responsibility for Your Happiness
I think this was the hardest concept for me to grasp. I always thought that it was my family, friends, and husband’s job to make me happy. How happy they made me and how available they were to be my emotional dump truck was how I gauged their value in my life. Not only is this completely unfair, but it’s also extremely selfish too. I didn’t realize that this also meant that all of these people were literally in control of my life. They decided how I should feel, what decisions I made, and what I thought about myself. Releasing them from this responsibility has not only helped me to have a more stable and sound mind, but it’s also allowed me to take the pressure of those I love dearly and to love and enjoy the relationships I am so blessed to have.
Becoming a fulfilled and an emotionally dependent person is not a journey, but one of the many processes that make up this thing we call life. Remember to be patient with your progress, and work.