Being Independent: Why do some people find it difficult to become independent?

This article is Part 3 of the Being Independent series. Part 1: What is Independence, Part 2: Why do we need Independence

For most people there is a natural conflict between wanting to revert to the childlike state of being safe, looked after, care-free and absolved of responsibilities, and the desire to be strong and independent. Some people find it harder than others to become independent, and though this may be due to a wide range of reasons, some of them are described below:

a.) Physical restrictions or disabilities
Some people are inhibited from 100% independent living due to physical restrictions which mean they require a carer to help them. In such cases, independence must take on a different definition within the allowances of their condition. It is still possible for such people to be independent by maintaining mental independence and deciding on behavioural decisions, even if these decisions can only be achieved with some assistance.

b.) Low self-esteem
People suffering from low self-esteem are prone to questioning their thoughts, and looking to others for opinions. Without self-belief and independent thinking, independent behaviour is difficult to attain.

Conformity to society’s norms is a highly prevalent form of non-independent thinking which may be linked to a degree of low self-esteem, and to a desire to be liked by others. Being liked helps boost a person’s self-esteem, albeit an external effect rather than a truer and stronger internal self-belief. Being liked also contributes towards the development of harmonious relationships which enable interdependence and interdependent independence.

c.) Fear
Independence is also seen as detachment from people who love you, and in some way, the detachment needed to achieve independence can be perceived as painful rejection. Fear of rejection, separation and loneliness may be a driving motivation for holding on desperately to dependence.

Fear of making the wrong decisions, and a general fear of failure can lead to dependence on others who can aid in decision making.

d.) Inertia
A person who is accustomed to being dependent may become stuck in this familiar behaviour because it is comfortable and well-known to them. Venturing outside the comfort zone requires determination and energy. Not everyone is motivated enough to overcome the inertia, especially if they see more benefits in staying dependent than in becoming independent. They may also be in denial or fear the possibility that they may one day have no-one to depend on and will need to look after themselves.

e.) Being overprotected as a child
Children who are told that the world is a dangerous place, and are instilled with fear about how scary the world can be without an adult looking after them, are more prone to seeking dependence. Without a parent affirming to a child that they are strong enough to look after and protect themselves, a child may not believe they are capable of this.

f.) Overcontrolling parents
Some parents may instil the idea of “mother/ father knows best so always do what I say!” in their children. They often do it from a strong personal need to feel in control and to ensure their child makes the “right” choices. However in doing so, they risk making their child feel inferior or incapable of making good decisions without running them past mum or dad. This has the potential to undermine a child’s self-confidence and self-belief.

g.) Parents who belittle their children
Some parents belittle and put down their children at every opportunity, every time a child makes a decision for themselves, or acts independenetly. Parents who act in this way usually do so because they feel a sense of inferiority and need to boost their own egos. Unfortunately, in the process they may damage the self-esteem of the child, and low self-esteem can lead to problems in establishing independence.

h.) Mollycoddling parents
For some parents, it pains them to encourage their children to do things if a child doesn’t want to do it. Giving in, they may say: “It’s ok, you don’t have to do what you don’t want to do”. However, to ensure survival in the world, certain things are essential for a child to learn and do, even if they aren’t fun or pleasant. Parental insistence for certain tasks and lessons is therefore essential if they are going to bring up independent children who will one day be able to look after themselves.

The same can be said for parents who do everything for their children. These children will not learn how to deal with responsibilities themselves if parents are always doing everything for them, and will find independence a struggle.

See Part 4: Teaching Independence in Children

This is a 4 part article:
Part 1: What is Independence?
Part 2: Why do we need independence?
Part 3: Why do some people find it difficult to become independent?
Part 4: Teaching Independence in Children

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