A disclaimer before reading this post: I am not an expert on being an independent, single lady. Between the two sisters, Paige has definitely mastered the independent lifestyle more than I have. However, she has been highly independent and extroverted since the day she opened her eyes so it came a little more easily to her than it did for someone like me. Not only am I introverted (so opening myself up to the wild, single life was no walk in the park) but I also grew up as "the baby" of the family and so I'd often find myself depending on and feeling safer in relationships rather than being out on my own. Let me explain:
Being the youngest of a family with a nurturing mother who works in insurance (so she worries about everything) and a father and older sister who took it upon themselves to plan and take care of everything, I slipped into the role as "the baby” of the family quite easily. Not that I couldn’t do anything for myself, but most things were done for me by the people who loved taking care of things. Looking back, I am incredibly grateful for my family and the way they always took such diligent care of me; but, combined with my introverted-ness and go-with-the-flow personality, I can see now how I missed opportunities to cultivate my own voice and sense of independence.
Flash forward years later to when I entered college and I no longer had my family close by to take care of things, and, naturally, I subconsciously was in search of someone else to fill the spot. Sophomore year, I jumped into a relationship with a guy who I knew was not great for me. My rose-colored glasses tunneled my vision to focus on his attractiveness and great sense of humor, plus he liked me. So that was enough, right? Spoiler alert, the correct answer is not at all.
It turned out to be quite a messy relationship—a lot of fights and too much compromising—but we stayed together for about two and a half years because, well… I was comfortable. I think he was, too. We both had someone to depend on. Eventually our differences became too great to ignore and we had an explosive breakup. But only a month later, I met a new funny, attractive guy who loved me and on a subconscious level, I was relieved I didn't have to be alone. I spent three years wrapped up in this relationship like a security blanket even though our values and beliefs were miles apart.
If the guys I dated read this, I don’t mean to minimize our time together. I was without a doubt in love with both of these people and regardless of the pain and the mistakes made, I cherish the chapters of my life that I spent with both of them. We were so young at the time and enduring the growing pains that come with emotional and psychological development. In the end, I think all parties would agree that we were not good matches for each other on multiple levels and I only wish the best for these men who helped shape in some way who I am today.
Moving back to my story, at the beginning of 2021 my three-year relationship ended and though I knew it was for the best, I had never felt more lost. I’d matured and grown enough to know that I needed time to be on my own, but I had no idea how to do that. I didn’t know what it was like to only have to depend on myself. Sure, I still had my family; but being older meant I no longer wanted to be treated like "the baby." I wanted to be treated like an independent and capable adult, but how do I ask for that? How do I undo all the conditioning that formed my dependence? How do I become what I dream of becoming?
Well, in complete honesty, it started with a lot of days by myself feeling stuck in a cloud of loneliness. A loneliness so painful, I found myself driving to the beach in tears on several occasions as I had no idea what else to do with myself. On those days I had to keep reminding myself to sit with this feeling for it to pass. I knew the longer I could sit with it, the more I would grow comfortable with it and then it would have less power over me. Weeks went by and the loneliness would creep back in, but I'd remind myself of the days I was able to work through it on my own. I'd remember the days that I survived the pain and the feeling would dissipate a little quicker every time until it no longer overwhelmed my thoughts, but merely passed by with a quick wave. Then, I got busy. I transferred my energy and focus to new hobbies and meeting new people.
There are actually three things I started doing specifically to become more independent and I can honestly say now that I feel confident I can conquer almost anything on my own. So here are my three tricks for starting your journey towards independence:
- Say “yes” to more opportunities, especially if it means doing something on your own.
- This was very difficult for me at first and honestly I still have to practice this. Being asked to go to a party without my sister or someone close? My WORST nightmare. Cold-calling businesses to work with us and scheduling meetings with them on my own? Freakin' TERRIFYING. Despite my fears, I started to take these risks (if worse came to worst, I reminded myself I could leave a situation or ask for help). In the end, I surprised myself with how much I conquered on my own. The fear slowly cultivated into curiosity and I started to embrace the unknown for all its wonderful possibilities. Just by saying 'yes' to more hangouts and parties, I became close with some really wonderful people (though there were times where I did leave a party early if I was not having a good time). Taking on more tasks by myself, I began to embody a new confidence I had yet to feel before. So say 'yes' if even a small part of you wants to try something new.
- Lean into the power of Google (a tactic inspired by my sister).
- Most of us have cell phones or computers, right? Did you know you can learn pretty much anything from the internet? Like ANYTHING. Instead of waiting on others to teach me something or give me an answer (as I was used to), I started to embrace the power of the internet. Paige answers 95% of my business questions with, “well did you Google it first?” I did not and sure enough, the answer was usually on the first page of searches.
- I learned that almost anything I had a question about or didn’t know how to do, I could learn from Googling it or looking it up on YouTube. Knowing I have this resource for endless amounts of information has helped grow my sense of independence. Only problem now, I am obsessed with Googling everything.
- Find what you like to do for “me time” and then schedule time for it.
- Sometimes being alone can feel extremely lonely, especially after a breakup or a big life change. By finding the things you prefer to do by yourself, alone time can actually be hugely restorative, especially if you're introverted like me. There are things I prefer to do with other people, so I don’t try to do those things on my own (otherwise the tasks just make me feel more lonely). However, I love going to the beach alone; I love solo hikes; I love playing my uke alone; and I like to go to coffee shops by myself to work on creative projects. Take time to do some exploring and find enjoyable solo endeavors to help you rejuvenate! As the cliche goes, the longest relationship you will ever have is the one with yourself so it's essential to take the time to get to know you and nourish that relationship accordingly.
The journey isn’t easy and there will likely be parts that feel unbearably painful, but the independence that awaits you on the other side is well worth it. Your potential is limitless; it's time to start embracing it for what it’s worth.