I actually asked my friend a question once while crying my eyes out over some existential crisis I was having.
So literally in the middle of crying – I stopped and asked if I was ugly-crying.
I mean, who does that?
By the way we were sitting right in the middle of our university campus grounds, surrounded by all the lecture halls and libraries.
In plain sight.
For all to see.
That ish needs to be hidden and done in the privacy of our own home. Well mine certainly does, you’d regret opening your eyes today if you saw mine.
My friend’s awkward and extremely slow ‘no’ can confirm it.
But I remember it was not long after that ugly-crying situation that I had found myself yet again feeling really low.
I was studying for my final exams at university which would determine my career and future. I wanted to prove wrong all the people who had put me down and didn’t believe in me.
But I had missed almost all the lectures because I had been in hospital for a lot of the year. I emailed the professor incessantly and he pretty much told me that I was on my own.
I had lost the friends I had spent most of my time with over a stupid falling-out that I was still in shock over.
My family wasn’t around, everyone was in either in a different city or different country and they didn’t know half of what was going on.
I then ended another close friendship of a few years after I found out she had betrayed me.
I was alone.
The stakes were so high and the stress was too much. I remember crying and not knowing how I was going to get myself into a state where I could actually get through my exams. I only had days left so the pressure was on.
I had a choice to make.
Wallow and feel sorry for myself that I had nobody to turn to or realise I had already had everything I needed to help myself?
You bet I’m writing this because I figured it out.
Yes it’s normal and even encouraged to allow the people around you, your friends and family to help you feel better emotionally.
But we shouldn’t become too dependent on them that we can’t survive without them. Sometimes they’re unavailable and sometimes they’re not yours anymore. If you allow yourself to be so dependent, then when any painful situation strikes, you will left devastated and unable to cope alone.
Developing emotional independence is ensuring your ability to take care of yourself no matter what the situation, with or without others.
1. Know Yourself
The first thing to do is understand what your emotional needs are. When do you notice you need someone? Is it when you’re sad, angry, worried.
What events happen that cause you to need someone immediately to help you feel better?
What do they do or say that helps you to feel better?
What can you implement by yourself that will help you serve you in the same way they do?
2. Deal with your Emotions
One part of being emotionally independent is being able to acknowledge and accept your emotions and then allowing yourself to actually feel them, instead of numbing them or distracting yourself to ignore them.
Learn what works for you in your emotional well-being.
Do you need a good cry? Do you need silence or to complain about it first? What techniques do you use to help you get your emotions out?
I used to push my emotions away and binge-watch my favourite shows thinking this was going to help me feel better.
I was doing something I liked so I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that. But ignoring how you really feel and not allowing yourself to understand it, you do yourself more harm than good.
The next time anything triggers that emotion, it will feel a million times worse.
You can’t lock it up.
Let the emotion visit, entertain it for a while, and then when you’re ready, let it go.
When you know what works for you, you won’t need anyone to tell you how to feel and process your emotions. You’ll know what to do.
3. Check your Thoughts
Your thoughts and emotions are like cookies and cream. Fish and chips. Me and shawarma. They just go together.
They have a close relationship.
You really can’t have one without the other.
Whatever it is you’re thinking becomes how you feel.
If you notice you’re feeling down, listen to your thoughts straight away.
What were you just thinking? Was it negative? Was it hopeless? Were you talking badly about yourself or your situation? Were you over-analysing your problems?
When you become conscious of what you’re thinking, you realise you can have complete control over it.
And when you control your thoughts, you can choose to change the narrative. Make it positive, constructive, active and you make yourself feel better instantly.
This takes practice, but it becomes more natural the more you do it.
4. Learn how to be Alone
The more time you’re able to spend by yourself and feel comfortable, the more you realise you can ‘manage’ on your own.
I sometimes travel solo and I know for a lot of people that sounds scary. But it really isn’t.
If you can do your grocery shopping alone or get yourself to work by yourself, you can do a lot more on your own.
For an introvert of course this may be easier than for an extrovert who naturally prefers to be around people. But that’s okay. You can do it too.
Start small. Do a shopping run alone. Go to the theatre alone. Go for a walk around the city. Go to the cinema.
These only take a couple of hours. See how you feel after doing these.
It’s fine that you enjoy those same activities with other people. We all do.
But being able to do them alone starts to make you feel more comfortable and confident.
Then slowly build up on this.
Try a whole day out doing activities or visiting a place on your own. Turn it into a weekend away. Fly to another country and spend a few days travelling and exploring alone.
When you do one thing you thought you couldn’t, you start to see all the possibilities in all the things you can do!
It builds your confidence, resilience and your ability to be emotionally independent.
5. Practice Self-Care
Self-care encompasses all your needs; looking after your body, your mind and your heart.
When it comes to caring for yourself emotionally, you’re applying all the tips above and the ones you figure out from your own self-awareness.
Spending time with yourself means you know what your personal ‘self-care practice’ is that will help you.
I couldn’t tell you to eat shawarma and travel solo for a week as a form of self-care because although it sounds perfect to me, it might be a complete nightmare for you.
So that ain’t it!
Only you will know what works for you.
But your self-care practice should be a way to allow you to process your emotions and learn to deal with them.
My practice might sound like emotional eating or escaping my problems but actually these things allow me to face my issues head on, no judgement and get it all out in the open and it gives me a sense of strength and ability to manage it.
Your self-care practice should do that for you, whatever it may look like.
6. Connect to Allah
Of course, the most important of all the tips is seeking and connecting to Allah swt.
Allah gives us all that we need to be hopeful when we’re hopeless, content when we are sad and feel safe when we are alone.
Surely in Allah’s remembrance do hearts find rest.
Connect to Him however you find it best, in your salah, in the remembrance of Him, His Mercy and His Power to change any situation you are going through.
It’s comforting to know through Allah’s words from this Aya and many others that He understands our emotions and our pains.
Allah knows our pain before we’ve even felt it. He acknowledges them and guides us on how to manage them.
He gives us the way and hands the power to us to make it happen.
And no matter how many times we fall, He is always there to listen. Who best to complain to, pray to and seek comfort from?
I can now ugly-cry alone, to my friends and to my Creator! I own my emotions and I know you can too.
I would love to hear from you. Share your comments below and please share this blog post with anyone you know who may benefit.
Reflect, know yourself and create the best version of you and the life that you want.