Having a fun, busy, and fulfilling social life is obviously a great thing. But if you can't seem to spend an evening alone, or positively hate the idea of going somewhere solo, then you might need to work on being more independent.
For those who avoid it at all costs — or have yet to give it a try — venturing out alone can definitely seem kind of boring. And for some, even a bit scary. (Eating lunch alone? Forget about it.) But trust me when I say the art of spending time alone is an essential life skill — and one that just so happens to be good for you.
"We need to be able to be comfortable with ourselves by ourselves," says psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez, in an email to Bustle. "We must be able to take that time to ourselves to work through ... issues and be truly comfortable just 'being.'"
Whether that means hanging out alone on the weekend, happily turning off your phone for a few hours, or simply making a decision without consulting a friend, independence is something you can get used to — if you're willing to work on it. Below are some signs that it may be time to do just that.
1. You Feel Awful When No One's Around
If you feel like a total loser every time you're alone, take note. Not only is this an awful feeling, but it's a mindset that can severely limit your chance at independence, clinical psychologist Dr. Lyssa Menard tells me. It means you'll probably never let yourself travel alone, or eat alone, or experience the joy of seeing a movie alone. But it also means you're relying too much on others to boost your self-esteem. And that's not a good thing.
2. You Don't Know How To Have Fun By Yourself
While a constant influx of texts and invitations sure is appreciated, you can't rely on your friends to fill every moment of every day with fun and excitement, relationship expert David Bennett tells me. If you live for those invites, it'll lead to feeling like a loser (see above) when no one calls. And, it can keep you from truly getting to know yourself and what it is you'd like to do.
3. You Stay In Unhealthy Relationships
Sure, your friends aren't the most supportive. And your partner isn't exactly the greatest. But hey, they're better than nothing, right? This is a common trap people fall into, and it's "often ... due to a fear of being alone," Menard says. If you find yourself wondering why you keep toxic people around, this could be the reason.
4. You'd Do Anything To Keep Your Friends Happy
Do you go to great lengths to keep your friends happy? If so, it could all be a desperate attempt to keep them in your life — lest you have to spend time alone. This is especially the case if you find yourself sacrificing your own needs and desires, Menard tells me. Not cool.
5. You Kind Of Melt Down When Someone Cancels Plans
When you rely too heavily on validation from friends, it's not uncommon to feel utterly crushed when plans fall through, Martinez tells me. You might feel lost, or sad, or ignored — instead of just saying "oh well" and moving on with your day. Clearly, the former is not the healthiest of reactions.
6. You Have An Unbalanced Calendar
Take a look at your calendar. Is it packed to the brim with social engagements? If so, think about why you say "yes" to everything. Are you afraid of disappointing people, or losing friends, spending time alone — or all of the above? If so, it may be time to back away, reevaluate your priorities, and take the time to figure out what would truly make you happy.
7. You Run Everything By Your Friends First
Part of being an independent person is trusting your gut, and going with your intuition. So take note if you simply cannot make a decision without running it by your people first. "It's fine to occasionally get fashion advice, or ask a friend what she thinks about your new mate," says licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky, in an email to Bustle. "If, however, you find that you get antsy without your friends affirming your [every move,] it's time for a change."
8. You Let Your Friends Sway Your Opinion
Perhaps even worse than needing constant advice? Letting your friends sway your opinion, Bennett tells me. Independent thinkers welcome all sorts of advice, but they don't always take it. Keep that in mind the next time you feel like you might fold under pressure. And then start trusting your own instincts.
9. You Stay In When Your Friends Aren't Around
While it's perfectly fine to stay home and do nothing, don't do it just because your friends aren't around, relationship expert Samantha Daniels tells Bustle. This is a sign that you're relying on other people to plan your day and decide what you're interested in. And that is not a habit of happy, independent ladies.
10. You Need Constant Distractions
When you aren't quite there yet with the whole "single lady" thing, don't be surprised if you feel the need for near-constant distractions, Martinez tells me. It takes a while to be OK with hanging out alone — just you, yourself, and your thoughts. But remember that the more you hate it, the more necessary it is to do.
11. You Hate Being The Decision Maker
If you absolutely hate calling the shots, it may be "your sense of self is dependent on other's approval," Odessky says. This might show up in the form of agreeing to any movie, or any restaurant, or any vacation spot. ("Sure, I'm down for whatever" being your favorite and only phrase.) While agreeableness is sweet, it's often a symptom of a fear of independence.
And that's definitely something you can, and should, start working on.
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