How to be an Independent, Autonomous Individual and Regain your Personal Power

Alasdair Forsythe
4 min readJul 18, 2019


Independence is being self-sufficient, not having to rely on anyone else. But are any of us really independent? Is it even possible to be independent? And are we really sure that it’s better to be independent?

Look at it this way: do you make your own clothes? Grow all your own food? Do you refine your own gasoline that you personally drilled for with your homemade oil-drill? Do you generate your own oxygen? Do you shine your own sun on your own patented kale?

We are all massively dependent on society and on the Earth and on the laws of nature. What people are calling independence is just exchanging one form of dependence for another. What do I mean by this? If, for example, you refuse to borrow money from your family and instead borrow it from the bank then that doesn’t make you independent, it makes you dependent on the bank. If you insist on paying for your dinner instead of your date paying then that doesn’t make you independent, it makes your dependent on your employer. There is no way out of this; even if you earn ten million dollars then you’re still dependent on the bank where it’s held.

What people are calling ‘independence’ is, when you boil it down, a belief that one should rely on people and institutions that don’t care about them instead of relying on their friends and family that do care. It’s the belief that one shouldn’t rely on those close to them. Such a person is literally alienating themselves from those people who are closest to them and will naturally feel disconnected from the community — and they are disconnected, but it is because of their own actions.

So why are people doing this and what can be done to fix it?

It’s all a misunderstanding. The person looking for independence is in truth looking for personal power, to feel in control of their own life. But independence is not personal-power, autonomy is.

Everyone has it backwards. If I lend you $1000 that doesn’t reduce your personal-power, it increases it — you don’t have a problem, I do! I now need you to pay me back and the power to do so is in your hands. If someone buys you dinner, you have not lost any power or agency.

What is autonomy? Autonomy is being in control of one’s own life. Autonomy is the agency to make your own decisions. Autonomy is recognizing your own personal power. This is something that nobody can take from you, the worst they can do is trick you into giving it away, but at any moment in time you can just take it back.

Right now you can decide “I am in control of my own life” and it’s done. You don’t have to prove this to anybody and it cannot be proven even if you try. If you try to prove that you have agency by demanding other people acknowledge your agency then you have fallen into the trap of giving them the power over whether you have power over yourself. By asking for validation you are giving them the agency to dictate whether you have agency. You cannot gain what cannot be lost. Because you can never lose autonomy, you can therefore never get it from anyone. It’s been in you the whole time, waiting for you to acknowledge it in yourself.

It’s okay to rely on other people. It’s okay that you’re not independent. You cannot expect other people to give you something that you can only give to yourself. Stop looking for it from others and you will find it in yourself, where it always has been.

And what to do with it? What is the new framework for operating in the world once you have made the decision to reclaim what is rightfully yours, to reclaim your agency, autonomy and personal power?

The next misunderstanding that often crops up around personal power is that just because you have the power to do anything you want doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. The fact that actions have consequences can make people feel, when something doesn’t go as planned, that they failed at exercising their personal power and therefore they think they’ve lost it. This is not the case. These two things, agency and consequences, are not mutually-exclusive. You have the agency to bang your head against the wall if you so choose, but just because you have the power, agency and autonomy to do so doesn’t mean that it won’t give you a headache!

To get this right you must fully accept both sides: (1) that you truly do have the power to do anything you want and no one can take that from you, and (2) that there are always consequences. You absolutely have the power to murder someone if you so choose, and if you do that you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison. So probably it’s best if you don’t do that, but to be clear it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s not that you have no power to do it, it’s just that it’s a stupid thing to do.

You have the power to choose what you want from life. No one can take this away from you, and to reclaim it you just decide to reclaim it and it’s yours! So easy! You can do it right now! Then once you have it back, just remember that now you fully have power over your own life, now that you can do anything you want, you still gotta make smart decisions :) the consequences are yours too.

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