Independence is a big deal. You can tell because we set off a gazillion fireworks every year to commemorate our Nation's favorite holiday. And we aren’t the only country that cherishes its independence. By my count, there are 106 countries that have an independence day.
Well, People Want Their Independence, Too.
Independence means a lot for a country’s sense of itself. It works that way for individuals, too. I believe that all people strive for a certain "inner" independence throughout their lifetime. Some of us find it and hold onto it, some of us gain it then let it go on repeat, while others simply never experience inner independence at all.
Three Components of Inner Independence...according to me.
Experiences with my own mental illness, and those of my loved ones, has made me believe in three components of independence. I believe those three components are self-awareness, self-love, and self-care. All are must-haves for those of us seeking independence from our stressors, our mistakes, our illness.
The first one, self-awareness, helps you to recognize those decisions that might reduce your independence and those that might enhance it. It's stopping and asking yourself why. "Self, why are you mad that guy cut you off in traffic". "Self, do you really care if that person cuts you in line at the grocery?" "Self, is it really a good idea to head into that bar at 11pm?" "Self, why are you clearly avoiding that person/situation?" With sufficient self-awareness, you are likely to have a high degree of self-appreciation, which is the first stage of self-love.
Self-love means putting a high value on your own well-being and happiness. When you know what truly motivates and drives you and what you truly want out of life, you are in a strong position to prioritize your own needs. If you love yourself, you are less likely to suppress your own needs and desires to those of others. That means you are more independent and more likely to get what you deserve from life.
And if you love yourself, you’re likely to care for yourself. Self-care, the final component of independence, is the physical part of getting what you deserve. What does self-care mean? It means doing things that contribute to a healthy life and avoiding those that detract from it. That could be something as simple as going for a walk every morning instead of sleeping in. It could mean joining a running group and letting go of toxic people instead of being with them which only makes you feel alone.
Researchers also recognize self-awareness. They believe there are two types of self-awareness. The first is internal self-awareness, which means understanding your values, passions, and aspirations. Internal self-awareness has to do with your satisfaction and contentment in life. The second type is external self-awareness, which means how other people view you in all those same dimensions. External self-awareness has to do with your capacity for empathy. Both combine to make you an effective actor on life’s stage.
You already know the basics of what makes for a healthy life:
- don’t smoke
- drink alcohol only in moderation
- exercise regularly
- keep a healthy weight
- get enough sleep
- minimize stress
Self-awareness, self-love, and self-care make up the foundation of personal independence. Make your own declaration of independence today. Resolve to be your own person by knowing who you are, cherishing yourself, and keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy. Celebrate 1776 however you choose but don't forget to also celebrate your personal independence; which to me is the most precious of them all.
Cover art by Chad Wheeler, tattooist and resident artist @singleneedle