“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… you start with the little things… then you start adding larger stuff. Your couch, your car, your home. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now I want you to fill it with people… Get them into that backpack, feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life.”
Walter Kirn (Author; Up In The Air)
“Maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic. It’s just the world that is and the only real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
Elizabeth Gilbert (Author; Eat, Pray, Love)
“Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket – keep it in your own.”
Walt Disney (Co-founder; The Walt Disney Company)
No one can control you without your consent.
I dated a girl in college who had a nice car. I had nothing. She would let me drive it when we were getting along. After awhile, I got use to driving her car. I started to depend on it.
She even gave me a spare set of keys, which was really cool of her (and slightly emasculating). But, whenever we got in a fight, she would take back her keys and I’d have to walk everywhere like a whipped puppy. I’d feel stupid and resent her for it even though it was her car and I probably would have done the same thing. I started giving in easier and easier in arguments just so I could use her car. I became completely controlled by it. I felt like it was always hanging over my head.
One day I had enough and bought my own car. The car was used and I had to take out a loan and managing the payments in graduate school was a nightmare but–overall–it was a great decision. I couldn’t believe how much better my life got over night. What kept me from doing this sooner?
Control Is Given, Not Taken
I used to work as a waiter at a resort and one of the managers and I became friends. He’d give me the best section of the restaurant on Saturday nights because he liked working with me and because I was an amazing waiter.
One week we got in a small argument about something that happened outside of work and he didn’t give me the best section that weekend. We made up the following week and I got the best section again. For the rest of the year I watched my step with him so he wouldn’t take away the section. I resented him for this more and more until eventually we weren’t friends anymore. Looking back, I realize this was all my fault. But why?
Avoiding Dependence And Co-dependence
Have you ever had a friend or family member get in a relationship where they are completely owned by someone else? They get a new friend or romantic partner and start changing all of their beliefs and behaviors to match this person. Or, they start doing whatever this person wants just to keep them happy—just to get an occasional pat on the head. It’s disgusting. There’s nothing more embarrassing than watching someone become dependent on or codependent with someone else. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you’re being controlled by other people, it’s your fault. It’s your fault because you’ve allowed yourself to become either dependent or codependent in a relationship. Dependence is the state of relying on others for things like a car, a job, or, in broader terms, emotional validation. Codependence is the state of relying on the needs of others, which often involves placing a lower priority on your own needs and being excessively preoccupied with their needs. Either way, it’s a painful state to be in. The only way to stay out of this state is to increase your confidence and decrease your neediness.
Studies show that dependency is negatively related to confidence and positively related to neediness. In other words, confidence acts as a safeguard against being controlled while seeking approval acts as a gateway to it. The same study showed that low self-esteem was the strongest predictor of dependent behavior. This means that the best way to cut controlling people out of your life is to both value yourself and rely on yourself more. Other people can’t do this for you. You can’t become less dependent on others by relying completely on others. The only way to become less dependent on others is to become more dependent on yourself.
12 Steps To Being Less Dependent
The best way to stay out of dependent and codependent relationships is by refusing to give other people control over your life. Here are 12 steps that will help you cut controlling people out of your life and be less dependent on others:
1. Recognize that dependence is the source of pain.
All the pain in your life is the result of dependence. If you’re sad and lonely because a friend or romantic partner won’t care about you as much as you care about them, it’s because you’ve let yourself become too dependent on them for your validation and happiness. Instead of moping around, be grateful for everything you have right now. Count your blessings, remember your past victories, and remind yourself how great you are and how many other people there are in the world to build relationships with.
If you’re angry because you’re poor and don’t have the resources to get ahead, it’s because you’ve let yourself become (or stay) too dependent on others for money and opportunity. Instead of complaining, you should be taking interviews and starting businesses and building your platform night and day to increase your independence.
2. Magnify your pain, don’t hide from it.
Moderate pain is your worst enemy. Misery, on the other hand, is your best friend. No one changes when they’re just a little unhappy. They just deal with it. They stretch out their pain like a rubber band for weeks, months, or even years while simultaneously depending on more and more people to help them keep the rubber band from snapping. Then, one day, the rubber band snaps anyway and they’re left with nothing because they’ve become completely dependent on other people.
A better strategy is to snap the rubber band right now. Realize that being dependent on others is the source of all your pain and then turn up the volume on your pain until it’s unbearable. Agony is a strong source of action. Don’t hide from it. Embrace it–temporarily. Give it a double-tap hug goodbye, then get cracking on creating a more independent life for yourself.
3. Go on a short relationship fast.
Have you heard of people going on an information diet or information fast? For a set period of time, these people give up social media, television, Internet gossip, and all forms of news. Most are surprised when they find out just how dependent they’ve become on these constant sources of stimulus. They’re also surprised when they find out how much better their lives are without most of this stimulus.
Likewise, going on a relationship fast will show you how draining some of your relationships are. A short relationship fast will show exactly which relationships you should let go of and which you should keep. The truth is not everyone in your life should be in your life. Some were only supposed to be there for a little while and others were never supposed to be there. Either way, it’s time for these people to go.
The only way to expose the people who shouldn’t be in your life is to gain some distance from them. Get away for a few days. Spend some time with yourself for once so you can see what life is like when you’re not constantly worrying about other peoples happiness.
4. Cut manipulative people out of your life.
Once you’ve identified which relationships are bad for you, it’s time to cut them loose. Don’t try to fix controlling people. Don’t waste your time working on a relationship that will never work. Too many people make the mistake of thinking they can force other people to change. You can’t force change.
When you try to force change, you give away even more control of your life–you become even more dependent. Instead, simply end the relationship quietly and cordially. There’s no need to explain yourself or create a big scene. Just walk away. Drama queens, manipulators, and other difficult people will use drama and threats to try to suck you back into the relationship. Ignore them. Over time, these attempts will fade. Remain confident in your decision. You and them will be better off for it.
Of course, you shouldn’t walk away from lifetime commitments or quit on a whim just because you’re in the middle of a rough patch. But you should carefully evaluate all of your relationships and refuse to let anyone control or use you repeatedly.
5. Master your own emotions.
Emotions are not magic. Most people believe that they have very little control over how they feel. When these people get in a mood, they stay there. As a result, they make emotional decisions, often having to spend large amounts of time and energy correcting these decisions later. It is far better to counteract negative emotions upfront. This will help you make choices based on logic rather than on whim.
The goal is to consistently make rational decisions that result in positive emotions. The truth is logical decisions bring pleasure. Decisions driven by negative emotions, on the other hand, bring pain. Stop making emotion-based decisions and start enjoying decision-based emotions.
6. Develop unwavering confidence in yourself.
Never let your confidence levels be controlled by other people. More than anything else, you should protect your self-confidence. How you feel about yourself should never be determined by other people.
Confidence protects against dependency. The more self-confidence you have, the less likely you are to become dependent on other people. But, confidence doesn’t just happen. You have to develop it. Too many people fail to realize that confidence is just an emotional state, like happiness, anger, and sadness. This means you can step into a confident state at will. Just like you can make yourself happy by acting happy or sad by acting sad, you can make yourself confident by acting confident.
The world is going to tell you over and over again to tone yourself down–to be humble and thankful for whatever scrap it throws you. Don’t listen to this garbage. Don’t let other people keep you in your place. Choose your own place. Be bold and unreasonable. Take what you want from life and always, always believe in yourself.
7. Sell or giveaway everything.
The only way to know what you really need in life is to get rid of everything you have. Of course, you shouldn’t throw away people or objects without reason. But you should take careful stock of what is in your life and deliberately decide what stays and what goes.
Once or twice a year, go through everything you own and sell or giveaway as much of it as possible. If you’ve never done this, you’ll be amazed at how freeing it is. Accumulation and dependence are two sides of the same coin. On a long enough timeline, the things you own will end up owning you.
Do you really need a garage full of junk that you’re never going to look at again? Do you need four extra coats and a dozen extra shirts that you’re never wear. Do you need 50 extra wire hangers just in case? Dump it. Get a clean slate. You’re responsible for everything you own and that responsibility comes at a price. It gets heavier and heavier and eventually it will weigh you down until you can’t move.
8. Open a separate bank account.
The worst financial advice in the world is to spend all of your extra income paying down your biggest debts. It sounds logical but–in terms of confidence and motivation–it’s an awful strategy. If you’re in debt, you’re dependent. This is okay as long as you acknowledge that you’re dependent and use the pain of it to change your situation.
Putting all of your hard earned extra income towards your current debts keeps you focused entirely on the negative. It’s impossible to feel a sense of positive growth when you’re only reducing your negative debt. A better strategy is to put 75% of your extra income towards paying down your debts and put the other 25% in a separate “break free” bank account.
Of course, you shouldn’t miss credit card payments to put money into this account. But you should find a way to put something, no matter how little–a dollar/day, even a penny/day–into this account. This growth will help change your mindset from a dependent, barely get by mindset to an independent, breaking free mindset.
9. Create something just for you.
Everyone is born in a completely dependent state. But, you’re not meant to stay in this state forever. Do you really want to spend your entire life working for other people and building their dreams, not yours? Of course not. It’s unnatural. It’s a waste of your life. You’re not meant to just make other people’s dreams come true, you’re meant to make your own dreams come true.
Slowly but surely you’re supposed to break free until you’re completely free, mobile, and financially independent with a network of like-minded people to engage with. The only way to gain this kind of independence is to start taking action on your own behalf. This means creating something just for yourself.
Start something. Whether it’s a website, blog, book, online business, or nonprofit organization, just go. Get a taste for it. See what it feels like to make something happen all on your own. Sure, as you grow you’ll need to recruit other people to help you, but what you started will always be yours. You will always have been the starting point …the catalyst …the big bang. No one will ever be able to take that away from you.
10. Invest in your mobility.
Property is a bad investment, at least in the traditional sense. Too many people are stuck in the 50’s chasing the American Dream of owning a home. Ironically, the American Dream was first used as an advertisement by Fannie Mae to get people to start taking mortgages (that they couldn’t afford). This doesn’t make sense anymore. In today’s world, mobility is the better investment.
What happened when the recession hit in 2008? People lost their jobs and had to give up their houses because they took out loans they couldn’t afford. Then those same people couldn’t get new jobs because their mobility was restricted. They could only consider opportunities that were within 1-2 driving hours of their house–the same house they were going to lose if they didn’t find a job.
The more mobile you are, the more independent you are. Period. If you buy a house that you can’t afford and stuff it full of crap you don’t need, it’s only a matter of time until everything comes crashing down. If you’re about to buy a car or an annual membership to a local gym, don’t gauge it as an expense in dollars. Gauge it as an expense in mobility. How much mobility is it going to cost you? If you have to move and sell or return it tomorrow, would you be able to?
11. Build the biggest platform possible.
Stocks and college are bad investments too. Some people get hooked on dabbling in the stock market, buying a few shares here and there even though they have no idea what they’re doing. This is a losing game because you are competing with cutthroat professionals who spend their lives trading stocks. Do you really think you’re going to out guess them?
Other people get hooked on getting degrees. They shell out thousands and thousands of dollars until their name is followed by alphabet soup. Some of these people have a dozen framed degrees but still get paid less than a plumber. Education is a great investment but college, not so much. Tuition rates continue to skyrocket even though you can get the same education online. Of course, you might miss out on some of the more fun extracurricular activities. The point is that you should not spend you life investing in someone else dubbing you smart.
Nowadays, the best investment you can make is in your network. Your network is mobile–it goes wherever you go. Your network is also permanent, no one else can take it away form you. The bank can take away your house, car, and everything else—everything but your network. As ironic as it seems, one of the biggest keys to independence is to surround yourself with like-minded people who engage with you by choice, not by force or control.
12. Contribute massively to others.
It’s impossible to be dependent on others when you’re constantly adding value to others. The quickest way to cut controlling people out of your life is to start contributing to positive people and causes. Stop contributing to people who are never going to care about you. Instead, give massively to positive people and worthwhile causes.
Don’t pretend to contribute to people in hopes that they’ll become dependent on you. And don’t contribute to other people expecting thanks, validation, or praise in return. When you give, give because you want to help others escape from the things they hate in life. Give because you want to help them live a better, more self-sufficient life.
Look outward before you look inward. By helping other people become more self-reliant, you become more self-reliant. By giving confidence to others, you become more confident. Helping others break free from controlling people will help you break free yourself.
Have you ever let yourself become completely dependent on someone or something else? How did you break free?
Leave a comment below to let me know.
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